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Brrr!…Why Do Dogs Shiver?

Q&A: Why Do Dogs Shiver?

Happiness, stress, disorders, and pain are the most common reasons for the “why do dogs shiver” mystery.

Talk about vague!

Sorry to keep you shivering with wonder, but…

Keep reading, because we help you differentiate between this wide range of dog emotions.

CC Image “A Cold Stare” courtesy of capt_tain Tom/Flickr – Thx!

Shivering, trembling and shaking all seem to be a natural thing to see, especially in some dog breeds more than others.

We usually pass it off as fear, nervousness or something else that isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

On the other hand, if your dog has never trembled or shivered before…

It might be a scary time!


It’s times like this that we are most likely to wonder what in the world makes a dog shiver in the first place.

I mean, sure, we could expect it after a shower or if they’ve just come in from the cold…

But what about times when nothing out of the ordinary has happened?

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We thought it would be best, just in case dog shivering can be caused by something serious, to go ahead and get the nitty-gritty on the topic and pass it along.

We believe in the old saying, “better safe than sorry.”

…  So keep reading to find out why do dogs shiver.

What Does It Mean If Your Dog Is Shaking?

As it turns out, some dogs shake and tremble just because they are so stinkin’ happy!

Their “happy dance” when you get home can sometimes be followed by a case of the shakes just because he hasn’t completely calmed down from the joy of having you back.

After all, he thought you were never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever coming back!

Dog Shivering Induced By Stress

Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games when your dog has a shivering episode.

He might be experiencing anxiety, which is causing the nervous reaction of shaking, trembling or shivering.

You’re more likely to see this type of shiver if there are lots of unfamiliar people or pets around, if you’re visiting your vet, if there is a thunderstorm with lots of thunder and lightening or if fireworks happen to be going off.

These are the most common anxiety triggers, but lots of other things could cause it to happen.

When stress is the spark behind the shiver, it’s likely to also be accompanied by your panting or salivating or even some type of bad behavior, such as chewing on the furniture or urinating in the house.

In some instances, you might even see your dog exhibit some type of aggression like growling.

If anxiety seems to be the norm for your dog, you might want to talk to your vet about the possibility of behavior modification or even medication.

Some dogs do well when simply trained to deal with situations as they learn they are in no possible danger.

Others, however, need medication because it is simply out of their ability to self-manage these feelings.

Dog Shivering Caused By Disorders

If you have ruled out triggers for anxiety related issues, and he isn’t overly happy, then your dog could have some type of disorder that causes the shivering.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome can be one of them.

Also known as Generalized Tremor Syndrome, it can cause tremors throughout the entire body in dogs that are still young.

It’s not specific to breed either, so it’s possible that any dog can have it. It’s usually taken care of by prednisone or some other corticosteroid.

Distemper can also start with shivering or dog seizures.

It’s often accompanied by a lot of discharge from the nose, coughing and fever.

If your dog hasn’t had his complete round of shots, he’s more prone to this disorder.

There isn’t a cure for distemper at this point, but the symptoms can be managed by your vet while your dog’s immune system goes to work.

In some cases, kidney disease can be to blame for shivering and shaking that seems to come from nowhere.

Along with the shivering, you might also notice that your dog wants a whole lot more to drink, and then urinates a lot more as well.

This is another disorder that doesn’t have a cure, but it can certainly be managed with the right treatment and therapy.

Trembling or shivering is also a symptom of Addison’s Disease, which is caused by insufficient cortisol levels in the dog’s body.

Other symptoms include a sudden lack of energy, tummy problems and no desire whatsoever to eat anything.

This is a disease that is misdiagnosed often, and when that happens, more severe situations can come up.

If you notice these signs, be sure to ask your vet about the possibility of Addison’s Disease.

Shivering Caused By Pain

Shivering and trembling is definitely a symptom of pain.

It’s one of the main ways they respond to pain from such things as dog arthritis, joint pain or injury.

In fact, shivering may be the only sign of pain, aside from yelping if you try to move him. The pain could also be from a bone fracture or even a herniated disc, and shivering may be the only outward symptom.

It can be obvious that your dog isn’t quite himself when you try to play with him and he doesn’t want to, or if he’s not interested in taking a walk.

A distaste for activities he’s normally really excited about can point to something being wrong.

In the case of shivering, you can’t rule out pain for sure, especially if nothing else seems to be causing it.

How To Stop Your Dog From Shivering

The best way to figure out how to stop your dog from shivering is to know exactly why it’s happening in the first place.

As we’ve already seen, there are several reasons shivering can happen. Granted, it’s most often associated with excitement or a chill that hasn’t quite worn off yet, but there are several other reasons as well.

Once you’ve figured out why your dog has a shiver, then you can work towards stopping it.

If he’s cold, warm him up.

If he’s excited, calm him down.

Simple enough.

However, if you know it isn’t either of these, then you should probably get to a vet.

The other options can become dangerous quickly, and you certainly don’t want a life-threatening situation on your hands!

In Closing

So, dog shivering can often be a normal thing.

On the other hand…

Shivering can also be a symptom of something dangerous.

Have you ever had a dog that shivers? If so, what did it turn out to be? Did you have to make a visit to the vet?

If you have time, please take a moment to share your story with us!

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