My Dog is Shivering or Trembling

Like humans, dogs shiver or tremble for a wide variety of reasons. They will most commonly do it when they are cold, hungry, anxious, or frightened. Some dogs will do it if their blood sugar is dangerously low or immediately prior to having a seizure. Some of these are fairly alarming reasons, so it is best to try to figure out the reason why.

What to Look For

Evaluate your dog's overall health first by mentally reviewing your dog's past few days, including his appetite, thirst, and bowel and bladder habits. Assess your dog's current environment for temperature, comfort, stress, and potential or perceived threats. Finally, perform an overall body evaluation like the one described in “My Dog Is Stiff” [not available online].

What to Do

Ask yourself the following questions to ascertain how to proceed:

  • Did your mental review reveal any inconsistencies in your dog's routine over the past few days? Inconsistencies in behavior could easily be caused by electrolyte imbalances, hypoglycemia, nausea, or the undesirable side effects of being thrown off a normally predictable medication schedule. The sooner your dog's routine returns to normal, the better.
  • Does your dog show any signs of pain or discomfort? Pain is often a cause of trembling. If you suspect that pain is the reason behind your dog's problem, try treating the pain with an anti-inflammatory. See “How to Treat Your Dog with Anti-Inflammatories” [not available online].
  • Did your examination and mental review uncover any potential stresses and/or fears that might be adversely affecting your dog? Sometimes something as simple as a distracting treat or walk is enough to break the cycle of fear/stress and the shivering/trembling complex of behavior. In other cases, serious medications are needed to get a dog under control. These circumstances require the help and judgment of your veterinarian.