My Dog is Shivering: Harmless and Dangerous Causes

Why is my dog trembling? The involuntary, in very short, quickly successive jerks in the dog can have many meanings: for example, trembling is to be understood as a natural reaction to cold, excitement, or joy, but also as a sign of fear, pain, illness, or poisoning. Petime has listed the 13 most common reasons our best friend is trembling, from harmless to dangerous.

Small and White Dogs Tremble More

That’s just how it is: some dogs, especially very small breeds, tend to tremble for no apparent reason by their very nature. This constitution is known, for example, from Rehpinschern, the Prague Rattler, and Chihuahuas. An unusual phenomenon is also the “White Dog Shaker Syndrome”, a neurological disorder caused by breeding that only affects white dogs, mostly West Highland White Terriers, Poodles and Maltese. In other dogs, the tremors usually have specific causes or triggers.

Muscles Tremble After Exertion

After a strenuous hike or a long trot next to the bike, it can happen that your darling reacts with temporary muscle twitches. Intensive strain and great exertion are the central triggers here. After demanding activity, tremors can also show up in the resting phase or during sleep. There is nothing to worry about. These involuntary movements serve to relax the muscles. This is a natural mechanism for regeneration. The tremors should go away after a reasonable rest or nap.

Intense Dreams

After an eventful day, it can also happen that your four-legged friend has particularly intense dreams. This can also cause twitching or muscle tremors, but it is not dangerous. The tremor in sleep is used to process experiences.

Old Dog is Trembling

A dog is just a living being: some dogs get a bit “fussy” in old age so that they often tremble for no apparent reason. In some dogs, after a certain age, the hind legs occasionally tremble. Both are in principle harmless, but if in doubt you should have it clarified – especially if the age of your four-legged friend is still in the middle range. If your darling “trembles with age”, you should clarify whether he has musculoskeletal problems that you can alleviate.

Dog Trembles in the Cold

The classic: Muscle tremors also serve to raise the body temperature when dogs are cold. The breed and height of the dog play a central role. Small dogs, dogs without an undercoat and senior dogs freeze faster and are more prone to shivering, especially in winter. Play it safe and make sure that your darling does not get hypothermic and possibly get sick as a result. It is not a lot of effort to put on a dog coat or raincoat for a walk-in wind and weather (for small dogs it is advisable at 5 degrees Celsius because of the proximity of the belly to the ground) and to take a warm blanket with you for the rest area or the visit to the inn.

Dog Trembles With Joy

Now it is about to burst: Our four-legged companions are simply bundles of emotional energy! With positive arousal, it can happen that the dog gets into a frenzy of joy. This outbreak is accompanied by wagging tails, barking, yowling as well as hopping, jumping, and prancing – and perhaps trembling. Do not worry! Return the excitement with the same enthusiasm or “if necessary” with reassurance in order to slow your darling down a bit. Differentiate the real trembling with enthusiasm from the acting attempt to get treats – some dogs are first-class actors when it comes to small “hunting successes”.

Trembling With Excitement and Nervousness

Has your little bully seen a squirrel again? Excitement and nervousness can also shake “Bellos” nerves and make them tremble. Before, during, and after the hunt (whether desired or not), during fireworks on New Year’s Eve, when something specific is imminent or something unforeseen happens: especially dogs with a rather nervous temperament can react quickly with tremors. As soon as your four-legged friend has calmed down, the shaking will subside by itself.

Trembling From Fear

Trembling from fear is relatively easy to read from a dog’s posture and behavior. If the tremor is associated with a crouched body, large ears, pinched tail, and growling and/or baring teeth, this indicates a fear response. Fear, especially in small dogs, can be triggered by an unfamiliar situation, unexpected noises, strange dogs, or strange people. As the “pack leader”, ensure a feeling of security, take your darling in your arms to calm down if necessary, and keep calm and serenity yourself, because this is how you show your four-legged friend that everything is in order. Nevertheless, do not train your darling to be afraid by overly comforting and petting them in unfamiliar situations, but rather ensure that your dog follows you and trusts you at an early stage with calm and security, and thus can cope with new situations.

Trembling in Pain

Many dogs tremble because they are in pain. The spectrum ranges from relatively harmless to worrying: The pain can be caused by digestive problems, injuries, overheating, strokes, or dangerous organ diseases. If your dog is shaking persistently for no apparent reason, the first thing you should do is check for injuries and then investigate other possible causes.

Illness-related Tremors

Sometimes tremors are a common symptom of illness. The most well-known triggers of disease-related tremors in dogs include the contagious and dangerous viral infection distemper, creeping renal insufficiency, and Addison’s disease, which occurs primarily in large breed females. Parkinson’s is also a disease that manifests itself through tremors, among other things. If you suspect one of these triggers, you should visit your veterinarian or a veterinary clinic immediately.


Serious thing: a very typical and pathological case of tremors is epilepsy. Like humans, dogs lose control of their bodies in the process. An epileptic seizure usually has three phases. In the beginning, make sure that your dog cannot injure itself further. Initially, the dog shows restlessness, possibly with increased salivation and vomiting, as well as barking and yowling. In the second phase, muscle twitching and trembling of the limbs set in. The dog may become unconscious. In the third phase, the twitching slowly subsides. The dog stumbles and often looks confused. In doing so, he can temporarily lose control of the bladder and bowel. The last phase is sometimes accompanied by great hunger and increased thirst. Statistically, around two percent of all dogs suffer from epilepsy. Dog breeds such as Beagle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, or Labrador are more likely to get sick than other breeds. From a medical point of view, epilepsy is one of the diseases of the brain; according to current knowledge, it cannot be cured. The regular and disciplined use of medication reduces the risk of further attacks to a minimum.

Gastric Torsion

The symptom of tremors also occurs when the stomach rotates, often accompanied by other symptoms such as circulatory problems and restlessness, severe pain, a hard stomach, and shock-like conditions. Many dogs choke without being able to vomit anything. Always keep these symptoms in the back of your mind, because if this suspicion is confirmed, you must immediately go to the clinic with your darling. There is an acute danger to life. When the stomach is twisted, the animal’s stomach has twisted once around its own longitudinal axis. Triggers can be violent movements while playing or romping around after eating or squeezing too large portions of dry food. Large dogs have a significantly higher disposition for this clinical picture. Dog breeds that are particularly badly affected include Irish Setters, Great Danes, and Dobermans. Therefore, please never encourage your four-legged friend to make lively movements after eating, but instead provide for a digestive break. You should rest after your meal!


Poisoning can affect the entire body of the dog. The tremor is often coupled with side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, excessive salivation, cardiovascular problems, shortness of breath, restlessness, and blood in the excrement and vomit. Poison bait, poisonous wild plants, but also human food (grapes, chocolate, onions, sweeteners, and alcohol) can cause symptoms of poisoning in dogs. If there are signs of poisoning, the dog should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.

Trembling – Between Harmless and Dangerous

Most of the time, the reasons why your darling is shaking are harmless. You should watch your dog closely. It often helps to simply ensure well-being, psychological security, and warmth. If your dog trembles frequently, persistently, or suddenly, there may be serious and even acutely life-threatening factors behind it. Most of the time, additional and clear symptoms are also shown. Therefore, pay particular attention to side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, limping, yowling, and apathy. If you can establish a connection between the tremor and the symptoms listed, act quickly. Please present your animal to a veterinarian immediately!

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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