shaking chihuahua

Why Is My Chihuahua Shaking?

We’ve all seen this at one time or another, a little dog shaking in its boots. Most likely it’s a toy breed like a chihuahua or a Yorkie. We may have seen it, but have you ever caught yourself wondering why a chihuahua shakes? There are many reasons that contribute to the chihuahua shake, some of which are concerning while others are nothing to worry about.

Let’s break down why a chihuahua and other small or toy breeds shiver and shake, to help you identify if it’s something you should look into and if there is a way to prevent it.

Why Does my Chihuahua Puppy Shiver?

chihuahua puppy with immature neurological system
Image by unidiotafeliz on Pixabay

If it’s a puppy we’re looking at, particularly one that is very young (we’re talking about younger than 2 months old), then the shaking can be considered normal. It shouldn’t last for too long, maybe around 1 to 2 weeks after you bring it home, but it should subside after your chihuahua’s neurological system fully matures.

What if my chihuahua puppy still shakes after 2 months?

All that being said above, you might wonder what it means if your puppy is still shaking after 2 months, or well into adulthood. There could be serious conditions behind the shivering such as encephalitis, or other types of infections. Don’t stress too much, because keeping up with regular health checks, vaccines or titer tests can lower this risk.

Below are some of the most common reasons why chihuahuas shake. If you have ruled out the milder causes or you don’t feel that your chihuahua fits into any of the categories, then we would suggest contacting a vet immediately for blood tests or MRIs.

Why Do Chihuahuas Shake So Much?

why do chihuahuas shake so much
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

It is cold

We shiver when our body temperature lowers, and the same is said for all dog breeds, chihuahuas included. Chihuahuas shake because the temperature is cold, which is why vets and breeders will often advise small to toy breed owners to dress their dogs for the weather.

Chihuahuas have a higher metabolism than regular dogs (we’ll cover this in detail later), which makes it difficult for their little bodies to regulate internal temperatures. For this reason, their body will shake, shiver, and tremor to keep warm.

This type of shaking is preventable if you bundle up your pooch in cold weather or turn up the heat!

Your chihuahua is shaking due to hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is another reason why chihuahuas shake. Unfortunately, low blood sugar is a chronic issue, and it plagues about 10% of the chihuahua population. There are other symptoms associated with hypoglycemia, but not all chihuahuas will have all of them.

You may see lethargy, uncontrollable shaking, and a big lack of energy as well if your dog has low blood sugar. We would suggest diagnosing hypoglycemia sooner rather than later because if left untreated, it could lead to complications and even death.

Thankfully, hypoglycemia is not difficult to address. Spead your dog’s meals throughout the day, rather than concentrating on two big meals at the beginning and at the end. If your dog is currently on a 2-meal diet plan, switch it to 3, 4, or even 5 times a day.

A way to treat low blood sugar is with, well, sugar. You can keep some sugar water handy with a tiny squirter. If you notice your dog is starting to shake, just give him a few drops of sugar water.

It’s anxious or frightened

They can be emotional creatures and the famed chihuahua shiver may just be a symptom of your dog’s emotions. When your tiny dog is afraid, worried, anxious, or frightened, the shakes may start to happen regardless of body temperature.

Your dog may shake to the point where he relieves himself! As a way to curb accidental urination due to trembling, you should make sure your dog gets a chance to go to the bathroom before coming in contact with anything that may trigger their fear or anxiety.

It’s important not to scold and blame your pooch if he does accidentally eliminate his bladder because it’s really not his fault. Urinating due to trembling does not count as a potty accident. You don’t want to further exacerbate your dog’s already heightened emotions by getting angry.

Your chihuahua is excited

Alternatively, your chihuahua could be experiencing emotions on the other end of the spectrum and still display the same shakes and urinate accidentally. Like we said above, this behavior does not equate to potty accidents and your dog should not be punished. At most, just make sure your dog relieves himself before he comes into contact with anything that may excite him.

Any type of shaking that happens due to emotions, a lot of it can be prevented through adequate socialization at a young age. Breeders, trainers, and vets will all agree that socialization is a key part of raising a happy and well-rounded dog.

Of course, you will have to wait until your dog is fully vaccinated before you take him to the dog park, on a walk to say hello to other dogs, puppy training classes, and daycare. We’re going to remind all dog parents that socialization isn’t only about interaction with other dogs. It’s also about meeting new people, seeing new places, and exploring the world with their noses (and sometimes tongues, but watch what they’re eating!).

Enough socialization will make your dog more immune to excitable or triggering things, people/animals, and circumstances because, well, he would have experienced it before! That’s why socialization is really helpful for anxiety as well.

Allergic reactions

Yes, it’s possible for chihuahuas to develop tremors and shake uncontrollably due to an allergic reaction. It could be to the environment, or your dog could be allergic to some type of food. If you suspect your pooch is suffering from an allergic reaction, you should first decipher if it’s because of something in the environment or if it’s in his food.

Have you changed his food lately? Have you introduced anything new into his diet? Is the season about to change? Did you and your dog visit any new places in the past few weeks? These are all questions that will help you figure out what it is that’s causing the shaking and it’s not just a lack of body fat or body heat.

There are no specific tests as of now to determine food allergies. The best way to find out what your dog is allergic to (if it’s food) is with an elimination diet. An elimination diet is where you limit the types of protein your dog consumes (because it’s usually beef or chicken that triggers allergies in dogs).

It will take a while, around 2-3 months before the allergens pass through your dog’s body, which means you will have to stick with a particular diet for that long before you can be sure if it’s the cause of the tremors or not.

Allergic reactions commonly come with other accompanying symptoms such as feet licking and itching, ear scratching, and head shaking to name a few.

Old age

As dogs get older, and this is not specific to chihuahuas, they can develop tremors in their hind legs. In some rare cases, the tremors can affect all four limbs. Rest assured that these tremors shouldn’t impact your dog’s mobility.

Talk to your vet if you’re not sure if the newly developed shivers are due to old age. Your vet should be able to determine the answer with a checkup and maybe some tests. If the case is old age, then there shouldn’t be too much to worry about.

It’s suffering from injuries or poisoning

If your dog is injured, the pain could cause your dog’s legs to shake. The issue could be even more devastating and stem from poison or toxic foods. If your dog is poisoned and a symptom is shivering, then it is likely to manifest in other dogs as well if you are a multidog household and other dogs have also come into contact with the poison.

Other than the shivers, other signs of poisoning include nausea, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. If you think your dog ate something toxic, please go to the vet straight away.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that causes seizures and uncontrollable convulsions is another reason why your small dogs have tremors. The difference between just trembling and a full-on seizure is the stiffening of the limbs, and an episode isn’t likely to last as long as a persistent tremor.

Other than the tell-tale stiffening and violent jerking, your dog may also drool, have his eyes roll back, or even foam at the mouth. If your dog suffers from regular seizures or epilepsy, please get it diagnosed sooner rather than later, because the condition is manageable with the right medication.

Canine distemper

Canine distemper is something vaccines should protect against. If your dog is caught up or passed the titer test, then this is not a risk. If you have a puppy that is not fully vaccinated, then we would strongly advise against taking your dog anywhere except in your backyard.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Another name for generalized tremor syndrome (GTS) is white shaker dog syndrome. As the name suggests, this is a generalized condition without a known cause. It used to predominantly affect small breed white dogs such as Malteses and some terriers, but it is also seen in dogs of other breeds and sizes now.

Don’t worry, because if it’s GTS, it is manageable with treatment, but your dog needs to be diagnosed first. The symptoms of GTS usually show themselves around 9 months to 2 years old. If dealt with, dogs with generalized tremor syndrome can live relatively normal lives.

Chihuahua Shaking Myths

shaking chihuahua with neurological disorder
Photo by wkn from Pexels

There are some dog owners that believe shaking in a chihuahua is to be expected, and they think nothing of it. While it is true that these shivers are often associated with toy breeds, and predominantly present in chihuahuas, the cause could be something serious.

Just know that your dog won’t shake without a reason. It could just be GTS, but it could also be a neurological disorder. The safest bet to make sure that your dog is healthy is to get vet checked.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my chihuahua to stop shaking?

The first step to getting your chihuahua to stop shaking is to find out the reason why. Is your dog shaking due to its high metabolism and lack of body fat? If so, then your main job and solution to shivering is to keep your chihuahua warm. When it’s cold out, make sure your dog is dressed for the occasion.

Even if you’re just at home, turn the heater on and keep the room temperature slightly warmer. You should also make sure to monitor your dog if he is known to have low blood sugar levels.

Why is my chihuahua shaking more than usual?

If your chihuahua is shaking more than usual, then you should figure out if there are other signs that could indicate why. For example, it could have been something as simple as excitement shakes, but if your dog is getting up there in age, it could be a tremor he’s also developing due to old age. This type of tremor usually develops in the back legs but can affect the front legs as well.

Why do dogs shake when not feeling well?

If your dog is trying to power through the pain, the shaking could be his way of handling the overwhelming stress. Dogs could also shake when they’re feeling nauseous or if they have somehow ingested something poisonous. Bacterial and viral infections or something as simple as an ear infection could also cause your small dog to tremble.

Conclusion

Shakes and tremors are not unique to chihuahuas. We have also seen our medium to large breed dogs shake as well (especially when they’re close to the vet’s office!). As we mentioned, not all of the shaking is concerning, but it’s unfortunate that the trembling can be an indication of something more severe.

If there is ever something you are not sure about, we would suggest booking a vet appointment to get your dog checked out. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Better to be that “worrisome parent” than the “irresponsible parent”, right?

Most of the causes of Chihuahua shaking we mentioned above can be managed and maybe even cured. The key to giving your dog a good chance at recovery is early diagnosis.

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