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Have you ever watched your dog shake, tremble or shiver in warm weather and wondered why? While it’s tempting to think that trembling or shivering is a result of being too cold, there are many other causes to consider.

Thermoregulation (temperature control)
Shivering is a very effective means of creating body heat, and is a normal response to decreasing body temperature. When a dog has a fever the body’s thermostat is reset to a higher temperature. When the temperature attempts to drop back down to normal, shivering occurs in order to restore the new, elevated temperature set point.

All of these emotional responses are capable of evoking trembling in some dogs. Quinn, one of my dogs becomes a quaking, quivering mess during thunderstorms.

Trembling can accompany pain, whether due to acute trauma or a more chronic painful condition. Be aware that not all dogs demonstrate trembling in response to pain- trembling is simply one of several symptoms a painful dog may exhibit.

Medical disease
A variety of underlying medical issues, ranging from kidney failure to hormonal imbalances, can produce trembling.

A variety of toxins cause trembling as one of the earliest neurological symptoms. Some examples include chocolate, antifreeze, and snail bait.

Muscle weakness
Atrophy or weakness of muscles, particularly those in the hind legs, often causes trembling. This may be the reason that hind leg trembling as a result of age-related muscle weakness is so common in older dogs.

Small dog trembling
For many very small dogs, trembling appears to be just a normal fact of life. Theories abound as to why, but none have been documented to be true. Trembling is always cause for concern, particularly if it is out of character for what you know to be normal for your dog. I encourage you to contact your veterinarian particularly if:

  • The trembling continues for more than an hour or two.
  • You observe any other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, etc.
  • You identify a potential toxin in the environment that your dog may have accessed.


As is true for most medical issues, the sooner the cause of your dog’s trembling is identified and properly addressed, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Questions for your veterinarian

  • Why is my dog trembling?
  • Is some sort of treatment necessary?
  • What other symptoms should I be watching for?


By Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your companion.

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