Why does my dog shiver for no reason?

Updated April 17, 2017

Shivering in people is normally the physiological response to cold temperatures. In dogs, however, these episodes may be caused by seizure activity, ingestion of toxins, fear, pain and nervous system disorders. For this reason, if your dog begins to exhibit shivering episodes, it is best to have your veterinarian rule out serious medical conditions.

Behavioural Causes of Shivering

Dogs get excited all the time. With excitement comes the shivering, the psychological reaction to the specific stimulation or what makes them excited. With time, this may develop in a pathological condition that results in constant shivering even under normal circumstances. Anticipation and fear also triggers shivering. A consult with a dog behaviourist will help explain the causes and possible ways to correct this behaviour.

Low Temperatures

Some dogs are just not designed to withstand low winter temperatures. Toy breeds and short-haired breeds are particularly vulnerable to the cold. Puppies and small dog breeds have difficulty keeping warm because of their low body fat. If this is the case, dogs can be warmed up by using a hot water bottle wrapped up in a towel to avoid burning in their bed. Providing a dog sweater for your pet will also keep it warm during the winter months.


Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, is common in small dogs like toy breeds -- chihuahua, Pomerian, Maltese or Yorkshire terrier. Due to their low body mass, small dogs have difficulties maintaining their blood glucose at normal levels. A dog's glucose levels will be low when it has not eaten for a considerable period of time. Hypoglycaemic shivering episodes can be remedied by eating honey or syrup rubbing it on their gums. If not treated quickly, though, the dog is at risk of loss of losing consciousness and having seizures.

Ingestion of Toxins and Drugs

Some toxins like hexacholorophene, bromethalin, organophosphates and mycotoxins are known to result in generalised tremors. Also, some drug therapies have been documented to provoke shivering episodes. Discontinuing the drug therapy will stop these episodes. Always consult a veterinarian and read the side-effects of your pet's drug before starting a therapy.

White Shaker Syndrome

A condition that is often misunderstood is white shaker syndrome. It affects medium to small dog breeds, especially the ones with a white coat. The most common affected breeds consist of white-coloured coated Maltese, Bichon frise, poodles and West Highland white terriers. Affected dogs tend to shiver in situations of excitement or when stressed. These dogs improve once treated with corticosteroids. The tremors normally resolve during the first or second week of therapy.

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About the Author

Cristina Garcia has been a freelance writer since 2009 when she published her first travel ebook. She is a zoologist and has several years of wildlife research experience studying wild canid ecology and behavior. She holds a master's degree in geographical information science from the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., specializing in satellite remote sensing techniques for ecology.