Why Is My Dog Trembling: Shaking or Shivering in Dogs

When is my dog’s shaking normal and when should I be concerned?

Purposeful shaking off water, debris, or stress is a natural reflex for dogs. A well as your dog might shake from happy excitement—within reason, that is not a cause for concern either.

There are, however, situations when shaking or trembling is a problem and signals a health red flag. Examples include:

  • stress
  • pain
  • hypothermia
  • hypoglycemia
  • poisoning
  • trauma
  • Distemper
  • kidney failure
  • Addison’s disease
  • inflammatory brain diseases or seizure disorders
  • neurological disorders
  • neuromuscular diseases (e.g. myasthenia gravis)
  • liver disease leading to hepatic encephalopathy
  • medication side effects
  • white dog shaker syndrome

In other words, if you cannot readily see the reason for healthy shaking, you have a problem on your hands. While small dogs are most likely to shake for harmless reasons, they are also at the highest risk of life-threatening cause for shaking.

Further information: Shaking, Shivering, and Trembling in Dogs

Why Is My Dog Trembling: Shaking or Shivering in Dogs


Many small-breed dogs shake at the drop of a hat. Daughter’s Chi shakes even when she gets excited to see somebody. She’ll shake when she’s anxious or scared, or cold—and she does get cold easily. Just because it is common for her, it doesn’t make it healthy.


Fear, anxiety, and stress are detrimental to your dog’s health. Stress floods the body with hormones that serve a purpose in short-term situations to facilitate fight or flight. However, long-term stress damages health.

Dogs can get stressed out for a variety of reasons, including:

  • unfamiliar situations
  • strange people or animals
  • thunderstorms and other noises
  • separation
  • veterinary visits

If your dog tends to get stressed out to the point of shaking, take measures to help them feel better about themselves and the world around them. Work with a trainer and your veterinarian to change the way your dog feels about the world. Your dog will be happier, healthier, and live longer.

Further reading: Dog Adrenal Hormones: What is the Difference between Adrenaline and Cortisol?

Feeling cold/hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your dog becomes unable to maintain their body temperature. .Prolonged exposure to cold isn’t the only possible reason. Your dog might also suffer hypothermia when they are wet, submerged in cold water, or seriously ill.

Technically, your dog is hypothermic when their body temperature drops below 99°F (37°C). Make no mistake; being too cold is just as dangerous as being too hot.

Shaking is an initial sign of your dog being too cold. As hypothermia progresses, shivering becomes more violent, and your dog will become sluggish and confused. Eventually, the shivering stops—your dog might be suffering from severe, life-threatening hypothermia.

The shivering might also stop when severe hypothermia set in.

If your dog has been out in wet, cold, and windy conditions and becomes lethargic, unresponsive, stiff, and/or uncoordinated, they are in trouble and need to get someplace warm and receive medical attention right away.

Further reading: Hypothermia in Dogs: What Happens in a Dog’s Body with Hypothermia?

How much cold a dog can tolerate depends on their size, breed, coat, age, health, what they’re used to, and even individual constitution. JD has less tolerance to cold than Cookie does even though he’s bigger. He even has less cold tolerance than Jasmine did and she was quite a bit older. So even though they are the same breed, about the same size and both have had the same opportunity to adjust to weather changes, we have to make allowances for the difference.

One thing to remember is that when it’s damp, raining and windy it doesn’t even have to be that cold for your dog to develop hypothermia.

Note: A dog can also suffer hypothermia when they cannot thermoregulate for medical reasons, such as shock or kidney failure. General anesthesia can also lead to hypothermia.


Hypoglycemia describes a situation when your dog’s blood sugar (glucose) drops too low. Given that glucose is the fuel on which your dog’s body runs, it is a dangerous situation.

Small dogs (especially small breed puppies) are especially at risk. Lethargy and uncontrollable shaking are the signs to watch for. Untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and even death.

Other symptoms associated with dangerous hypoglycemia include:

  • disorientation
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures

Further reading: Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in Puppies


Certain toxins can cause tremors in your dog, such as chocolate or snail bail poisoning.

Other causes

Shaking or trembling can also be a sign of pain, injury, poisoning, kidney disease … almost anything that makes a dog feel bad. Particularly when other symptoms are present, do not wait to see a vet. Breaks my heart to read online questions such as, “my dog has been vomiting all day, has diarrhea and it’s trembling, what can I do to help him at home?”

It breaks my heart, even more, when somebody’s dog “has been really quiet and weird, trembles and shakes, not eating and barely drinking, barely active, hiding …took him to the vet twice this week … the vet told me to monitor him since it doesn’t seem like an emergency since he’s not vomiting or having diarrhea.”

If my dog was shaking or trembling, with or without any other worrisome symptoms, I’d want a definite answer and a plan to help them.

Unless they were just that excited to see me. Any reason other than that calls for an intervention to make them feel better.

Related articles:
Is Shaking or Trembling an Emergency?
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: The Big Picture

Further reading:
Shaking, Shivering, and Trembling in Dogs

Categories: ShakingTrembling

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. If my dog was trembling without a clear reason, I would take her to the vet. I didn’t realize how many different things could cause shaking though.

  2. My Plush shivers from nerves. My Treeno does it all the time and no one knows why. He’d had the issue his whole life so where just rolling with it

  3. Wow reading your list of possible reasons for dogs shaking blew my mind. I would have guessed shaking after bath time, nervousness, or being cold, however I didn’t even think of something like hyperglycemia/blood sugar issues. This is very informative. I’ll be pinning this post!

  4. Great information here! Like you, I would want some solid answers as to what is happening with my dog in that scenario. Indy shakes a lot – Like, all the time… However, it was determined over the years that its simply due to the fact that he gets excited so easily. It makes it hard to tell, sometimes, if there is something else going on. Dav, however, does get scared to the point of shaking during thunder storms unless I’m holding her. That’s why we cuddle up together at the first sign of a storm. It breaks my heart to see her that upset, so I’ll do whatever I can to help calm her.

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