Dr. Marc is a veterinarian guest blogger for Pets Best Insurance, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.
First let’s start with clarifying what shivering (or trembling) is versus what a seizure is.
A seizure is when the dog suddenly loses all body control, paddling their legs, jerking or convulsing. It can last for a number of minutes. To learn more, visit Dr. Fiona’s blog post on dog seizures.
Shivering is when a dog can make eye contact with you and respond to you, but its body is shaking. Shivering can vary from minimally, to a lot, but the dog still has control of its body.
6 Reasons Your Dog May Shiver
1) The most common reason a dog shivers is due to being cold. A normal dog’s temperature may be as high as 102.5 F. Since a dog’s body is warmer than a persons, just touching your dog won’t accurately let you know if they’re cold or not. So be careful during the winter months with dogs being outside, especially little dogs.
2) Dogs shiver due to anxiety or fear. Thunderstorms, fireworks, travel, or any type of environmental change can cause dogs anxiety or fear. If your dog has severe shivering and anxiety in these situations, they may benefit from an anti-anxiety medication during the stressful periods. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate your therapeutic options.
3) Dogs shiver with excitement. For example there may be a squirrel outside they really want to go chase. Or before being fed, they see the food going in the bowl and they start shivering with anticipation.
4) Dogs shiver because it’s a learned behavior. This occurs when a dog shivers and it results in a desired response. For example, every time Fluffy shivers, mom says, “poor Fluffy.” Fluffy then gets picked up, wrapped in a blanket and showered with attention. Fluffy quickly learns that just by shivering she gets the attention she wants.
5) Shivering can result from medical and physiologic problems. The pain or illness can cause dogs to shiver. It’s important to find the underlying problem so that it can be addressed. In addition to shivering from the pain, the pain itself can induce anxiety in the dog, resulting in more shivering.
6) There are also some toxins that can cause a convulsive response in the animal. This convulsive like behavior could be misconstrued as shivering, when in reality it may be a much more serious issue.
If your dog’s shivering seems out of the ordinary, or like it’s resulting from a serious issue, you need to visit your veterinarian. They can help if there is a medical issue or possibly prescribe medication to help.
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