A trembling or shaking dog wrapped up in a blanket because it is cold.

Dog trembling or quivering is often associated with small breeds, like chihuahuas, but dogs of any size can experience the shivers and shakes. Many things can cause shaking or trembling in dogs. 

Sometimes the culprit is obvious. Is your small dog shaking because he’s cold or happy to see you? Those are easy fixes. But if your dog suddenly starts to tremble for no apparent reason, it’s important to contact your veterinarian to rule out the possibility that an illness or injury is to blame. 

Does your dog shiver or tremble? If so, read on for potential causes. The team at Bayside Animal Hospital is here to help you understand why your favorite canine companion is shaking or trembling and what you can do to help your four-legged friend.

Illnesses and Medical Conditions

Shaking or trembling could be a sign that your pet is sick. Medical conditions that cause tremors include:

  • Distemper (most often seen in young dogs not yet fully vaccinated)
  • Motion sickness 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Liver disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • An injury or overexertion during exercise
  • Joint disorders


Tremors can be a sign that your dog has eaten something poisonous, like chocolate or the sugar substitute xylitol. If you suspect that your dog has ingested something toxic, contact a nearby vet or animal emergency hospital immediately.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome

This mysterious condition has no known cause and was first noted in small, white dogs such as Maltese and West Highland white terriers, although it can strike dogs of any size, breed, or fur color. Symptoms usually appear between 9 months and 2 years of age, and are managed with steroids.

Old Age and Pain

Senior pets are prone to tremors (particularly in their hind legs) due to pain, arthritis, or deterioration of their joints. 

Anxiety or Fear

Dogs may shake due to anxiety, stress, or fear. A dog may shiver or tremble in response to a specific trigger, such as loud noises from fireworks or thunderstorms. Some pets experience stress when around new people or pets. Separation anxiety is another cause of shaking or trembling in dogs. 

A behavioral consultation can help us pinpoint the source of your dog’s stress so we can come up with effective ways to mitigate your best friend’s discomfort.

Why Does My Dog Shake? 

If your dog’s quivering doesn’t have an obvious cause that is easily remedied, it’s important to schedule a thorough examination with your veterinarian. If we suspect a medical condition, we might request diagnostics such as bloodwork. Your pet could just be prone to the occasional bout of tremors from something as simple as excitability, but you’ll have peace of mind if you know what all the shaking is about.

If your dog shivers or trembles, don’t hesitate to contact us at (916) 791-8387. We are here to help!