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Why Do Small Dogs Shake? (And How To Prevent It!)

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Thursday 1 April 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
why do small dogs shake
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We can all picture the stereotype of small dog breeds: shaking and yapping. However, there is some truth behind this. Smaller dog breeds will often tremble more often and for longer periods of time. But why do small dogs shake and could it be a cause for concern?

From feeling fear to cold, the causes for your little dog shaking are vast. Therefore, if you’re wondering how to stop your dog from shaking, we first have to identify the cause. Trembling in little dogs is not always a worry, but it can indicate an underlying health concern. This is why we have explained the main causes for dog shaking and how to help.

Why Do Small Dogs Shake?

Below we have summarized and explained the top six causes for your little dog shaking.


Like us, when our furry friends get cold they will begin to tremble. This is a behavior that occurs to help warm up our dogs. The shivering is the unconscious tensing in our dog’s muscles to try to generate warmth when they feel cold. We know in ourselves that when you are cold, you can’t help but shiver, and neither can your dog friend. If you’re hoping to identify this shivering, be aware of the temperature your dog is in and if they have enough fur or layers to keep them warm. It is also important to note that small dogs are more easily affected by the cold because they have less fat and body space to keep them warm.


Your dog’s body will also shake when they are ill or feel sick. Before your dog vomits it may begin to tremble, and for a period of time afterward. The body will often do so due to an adrenaline increase. This often happens in preparation for retching. It can also occur when your dog is ill in general and its immune system is attempting to fight off pathogens and lower its temperature, in the case of a fever.

Anxious/Afraid or Nervous

Anxiety or fear will start the production of adrenaline in your dog’s body. With growing anxiety in your pup, their adrenaline production will increase alongside this. This is because of the purpose of adrenaline within the fight, flight, and freeze response. This is used in scenarios of fear of danger and is meant to help your dog react to anything harmful and gauge whether to flee or fight. Therefore, the adrenal gland releases the hormone adrenaline to adapt your dog to that situation better. It does so by redirecting your dog’s blood and increasing oxygen production. The blood targets major organs and muscle groups whilst more oxygen is provided to muscles needed for fast movements. This allows the body the best chance at escape because the muscles are better prepared for movement.

After the use of adrenaline, your dog’s body becomes both slightly exhausted as well as twitchy due to the tension in its muscles for that period of time. This leads to shaking in your dog.


Many people believe that negative situations are the only ones to cause an adrenaline response in dogs, but this is not accurate. Exciting situations can also cause higher adrenaline production as it is a situation your dog is hyper-focusing on and gets emotionally overwhelmed with. This leads their body to tap into that flight, fight, and freeze response leading to adrenaline production. As already mentioned, adrenaline redirects your pup’s blood flow and heightens the oxygen intake being directed to muscles. This helps your dog to use all their energy for movement in the possible scenario that they may need to.

However, your dog does not need this aid when excited. Your pup’s body cannot understand this though and continues with the response until your dog can calm down. When they do so, the trembling will begin as the body starts to get back to normal.

Muscle Weakness/Injury

When your dog has an injury they will attempt to minimize movement, pressure, and interactions with that area. In the case of a leg injury, your dog may keep their leg raise and try to not walk on it at all. Therefore, the shaking may arise due to them spending so much energy and effort attempting to keep their leg elevated. Therefore the exhaustion from this exertion may lead to your dog shaking from muscle exertion.

Muscle weakness is another cause of your dog shaking. It can have an impact regardless of whether the weakness is in one area or all over their body. Your dog is constantly pushing themselves to live normally despite their struggle with movement, and this overexertion leads to muscle fatigue which causes shaking.

Serious Conditions

Unfortunately, frequent shaking can be caused by diseases or conditions. Neurological conditions, genetic mutations, and muscle weakness are common causes for shaking and are symptoms of something bigger. Weakness is a sign that something is wrong, this is accompanied by general lethargy and a change in behavior often indicates your dog is struggling to gain the energy to feel normal. This struggle may result in shaking as a result of exhaustion.

Preventing Your Small Dog From Shaking

In order to prevent your dog from shaking, you have to identify the cause. If the worry is their health, always take them immediately to the vet. This means you should be aware of any other worrying symptoms or changes in your dog’s behavior to identify if this is the cause.

You should also be aware of the situation they are in when they begin to shake. If it is when you get home, this is most likely your dog shaking due to excitement because of your arrival. However, if it is when a stranger arrives or a loud noise occurs, it is most likely due to anxiety or fear. These situations do not need interference with their shaking. However, if you want to help your dog, work on calming agents. Essential oils, working on a more steady routine when leaving and exiting the house, and helping with their general anxiety can minimize their shaking here.

Another cause you should look out for is if it is cold, not just generally, but for your dog too. Small dogs are especially susceptible to the cold which is why you have to be aware of it. Also take a look at your dog as an individual, those with less to no fur or thinner coats will most likely need a dog coat to combat the cold and prevent shaking.

preventing dog from shaking
Find out the cause to stop your small pooch from shaking.

When to See a Vet?

You should go to visit a vet for your dog when their shaking either interferes with their life, or if it is accompanied by other worrying symptoms. This is especially important if a puppy is shaking. Some signs you should keep an eye out for include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Limping
  • Change in behavior
  • Lethargy

Although it could be a simple explanation without too much worry surrounding it, you need to be aware that leaving your dog without a vet visit could be a great mistake. The cause could be malnutrition and be corrected by a diet change relatively easily. Or it could be the start of something more worrying that requires immediate treatment such as Addison’s disease. Although a highly manageable and treatable disease, without intervention it can even lead to death.

Why Small Dogs Shake – FAQs

All the information can be a little confusing sometimes and you may still have more information about why your small dog is shaking. That’s why we have provided this handy FAQs section to clarify and answer any other questions you may have.

Why do small dogs always shake?

The causes that lead to a dog of any size shaking will affect a small dog more quickly. When your little dog is outside in winter they will get cold much more quickly than a large dog because their size means the cold can affect them much more quickly. Similarly, your little dog’s hormonal response to anxiety or fear may react much more quickly than that of a large dog. However, we can also consider that smaller dogs may shake more because they are more anxious due to their height. Being small may make them feel more vulnerable and this can lead to anxiety more often and then shaking.

How do you stop a dog from shivering?

It depends on why your dog is shivering. If your dog is trembling because they are cold, you need to provide them with thermal clothing, heating, or remove them from the cold location in order to prevent their shaking. Whereas, if it is due to an adrenaline response then you need to help your dog to feel more calm in exciting or anxiety-inducing situations. On the other hand, if there are any symptoms that may indicate poor health, take them straight to the vets to assess what is going on.

Why is my dog shaking after taking a bath?

The two causes for a dog shaking after taking a bath is due to their anxiety/excitement about the bath and the situation, or it may be that they are cold. Ensure that your dog’s bath is not too hot nor cold and that afterward they are being properly towel-dried or you are using a hairdryer on not too hot/cold of a heat. As for minimizing any anxiety or excitement during bath time, you will need to make the experience as quiet and gentle as possible for your dog.

Is shaking a sign of pain in dogs?

Shaking can be a sign of pain in dogs, it does not necessarily need to be accompanied by other symptoms to signify pain. It can be due to an injury or even internal pain, but usually comes from muscle weakness or exhaustion. If you have any concerns be sure to go for a vet visit.

How do I tell if my dog is in pain?

There are other symptoms apart from shaking that may indicate pain. These may include:

– Limping
– Behavioral changes
– Whining
– Your dog may try to push you away from touching a certain area
– A change in appetite

Every individual will display different symptoms to express pain. It is important to know what is normal for your dog, and if you notice something is wrong, go to the vet.

Usually shaking is not something to worry about. However, it is important to be aware of when it could be a concern. Monitor when your dog shakes and keep an eye out for any other symptoms.

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