Long haired merle Chihuahua laying on the sofa

Why Do Chihuahuas Shake?

Chihuahuas are small dogs with a lot of personalities. They’re known for being feisty, lively and full-on! However, Chihuahuas are also very sensitive little dogs. They often display their emotions through their body language. 

Chihuahuas shake for many reasons. The most common reasons are that they have a high metabolism, are cold, or are excited. But there are also some more serious reasons why a chihuahua may shake, like if they have hypoglycemia, arthritis, GTS, or poisoning.

Let’s delve deeper into each reason and work out why your Chihuahua is shaking, shivering or trembling. 

You may want to resolve it. However, remember most Chihuahua shaking is expected, and there may not be a resolution sometimes. It’s just having clarity to soothe your worries.

High Metabolism

NORMAL

Chihuahuas have a high metabolism, which means that their food doesn’t stay in their bodies for very long. The food is quickly turned into energy. This energy needs to be released, and one way your Chihuahua can do it is by shaking its body. If you think this is why your Chihuahua is shaking, try taking them for a bit of a walk. 

Find the perfect Harness here for a Chihuahua! 

Coldness

NORMAL

Chihuahuas are tiny, and they feel the cold more than any other dog breed. This is because they have a low fat to body ratio. If you think your Chihuahua is cold, try turning up the heating, adding extra blankets to their bed, cuddling them, or getting a little jumper.

Emotional Shaking – Scared, Upset, Anxious

NORMAL BUT CAN BE REDUCED

Considering Chihuahuas give off a big front around other dogs or humans, sometimes they get scared, upset or anxious—all these emotions cause havoc on the brain of a Chihuahua. The brain then starts to release a lot of adrenalin. These sudden bursts of energy from the release of adrenaline can cause your Chihuahuas to shake, tremble and shiver to try to expel it from the body.

If you feel that your Chihuahua is emotional shaking, understand what is happening around your dog at the time of shaking. I.e. is it loud, or are you near a busy road, or a big dog, perhaps in the car? 

Anything that could frighten a child can scare a Chihuahua. The best way is to remove your Chihuahua from the situation without too much fussing, or they may start to think that there is a scary problem. 

Depending on what is happening around them, you can complete some desensitisation training with them. 

The most important thing is to understand what is causing the emotional stress to then try to deal with that because shaking isn’t the problem. Shaking is expected in this case.

Bear in mind that sometimes just showing day to day leadership to a dog is enough for emotional shaking. Your dog can trust you to handle any situation where these scary, anxious and upset emotions may occur.

It’s like saying, “Hey, I got this! no need for you to get emotional.” 

I asked some Chihuahua pet dog owners why their dogs shake, and the outcome was mainly at the vets, which is a situation that not many dogs like. In this case, you can’t desensitise them. Often a vet can make them feel more comfortable by speaking nicely and softly, but in these cases, it’s out of your control entirely.

Recommended Read: Should I Get A Chihuahua? If you already have a Chihuahua, you can also learn more about your dog here. 

Desensitisation Training

Desensitisation training is where you set up a controlled area and replicate what is causing the emotional stress on your dog, for example, if your Chihuahua is scared of travelling in the car. 

You would take your Chihuahua in the car for short bursts at a time, take their favourite toy, and a few little treats. Do this often, and in time, your dog becomes desensitised to being in the car.

Leadership Training

Leadership training falls under obedience training, the basics of dog training, as listed below.

  1. Sit
  2. Stay
  3. Place
  4. Come or Here
  5. Down
  6. Heel
  7. Leave it

Recommended Read: Why Is My Chihuahua So Aggressive?

Excitement

NORMAL

Chihuahuas love to play, greet us at the door, and generally love human contact. However, all this excitement often comes in the form of shaking. This type of shaking is again normal there is no problem. After a while, the shaking will settle down, and you can help this along by just showing calmness through your body language.

Perhaps you have just got in from work, and you are just so happy to see your dog. Dogs are great at picking up our emotions if you are excited to see them. Your Chihuahua will often match your emotion, resulting in shaking, trembling, and shivering.

Serious Reasons Why (Rarer Causes)

If you have thought to yourself, none of the above matches why your Chihuahua is shaking, perhaps they are shaking right now, not from any of the above list of reasons why a dog shakes. Below rarer reasons could be a possibility. It’s good to know! This way, you can decide to contact your veterinarian.  

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar

RARE, BUT POSSIBLE MORE SO IN TINY BREEDS

Many breeds of dogs can suffer from low blood sugar. This includes smaller dogs, which can be more affected throughout the day since they have high metabolisms. If their blood sugar drops even a little, they might shake. These attacks usually occur when a dog hasn’t eaten for a long time. Try feeding your dog small amounts of food often instead of two large meals. This way, their body will burn off the food more gradually.

More serious low blood sugar will have symptoms below. You must contact your vet. 

  • Lethargic
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of control of bladder and bowels
  • Excessive shaking for a prolonged period

Arthritis 

RARE, BUT A POSSIBILITY, ESPECIALLY IF YOUR DOG IS OLD

Some older dogs shake a lot because they’re in pain. If your dog is old and shakes mainly its legs, talk to a vet. Arthritis is a common problem in dogs, and your vet can help you come up with a plan to make your dog more comfortable, like giving it tablets to control the pain or joint support tablets.

What is the age when a Chihuahua is considered an old dog?

Chihuahuas can live up to 16 years old, and they are considered older dogs at the age of 12.

Recommended Read: Is It Worth Getting Insurance For An Older Dog?

Generalised Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

RARE

Generalised Tremor Syndrome is also known as steroid responsive tremor syndrome. However, please remember that this is very rare! If your dog is aged between 9 months and two years, this could be why they are trembling. Your dog will need a veterinarian’s help. They will resolve it with a treatment of corticosteroids. 

Read MoreGeneralised Tremor Syndrome here from VCA Animal Hospital Vets.

Xylitol Poisoning

RARE BUT CAN HAPPEN IF NOT CAREFUL

Hypoglycemia is a serious health problem. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, and when a dog eats food items with this, it can cause poisoning and hypoglycemia. Since Chihuahuas are so small, they only require a tiny bit of xylitol for it to affect them. Xylitol is found in many human food products such as chewing gum, sweets, cakes, low-fat yoghurt, and low-fat jelly. 

Xylitol is a replacement for sugar. However, it does not affect humans in this way. A dog’s pancreas goes into overdrive and releases so much insulin that it damages the cells in a dog’s body, which then causes hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) will cause your dog to shake. 

Signs of xylitol poisoning include:

  • Bloated stomach
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Hunching over
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Whining

If you think that your Chihuahua ate anything with xylitol, take them to the vet immediately.

Learn about which humans foods are safe and which foods are unsafe:

Allergies

RARE IF OVER SIX MONTHS OLD

Dogs suffer from allergies just like us humans, and in fact, they are pretty standard. Generally, you will learn that your dog has an allergy within the first six months of their lives. They have had the chance to try different foods and treats by then. 

However, if you are aware of new treats or food, then it’s certainly a possibility that your Chihuahua is trembling because of an allergic reaction to the food. 

If your dog seems to be allergic to a new food or treat, stop giving it to them and return to what they were eating before. Take the food or treat to the vet for help. Your vet can do a test to see if your dog is allergic to it.

Epilepsy

RARE

Dogs also can suffer from neurological disorder epilepsy, just like humans. The seizures usually happen when your dog is excited, eating, falling asleep and waking up from a nap. Dogs usually act between seizures, but they often look different to the typical shaking, trembling or shivering when attacks start. The dog can drool, stiffen, foam at the mouth, twitch limbs, and pass out. 

Epilepsy is mainly treated with medication. If you think your dog has had an elliptic fit, visit the veterinarian. Also, bringing along a video of the attack will help the vet diagnose your dog.

Canine Distemper

RARE

Canine distemper is a virus that affects puppies and adult dogs that have not had all their vaccinations. It is a very dangerous disease that can cause shaking in Chihuahuas. However, it also comes with other symptoms such as a fever, coughing, and discharge from the eyes and nose.

If you think your dog might have canine distemper, you should take it to the vet as soon as possible. Treatment often includes antibiotics, physical therapy, and airway dilators. It’s also essential to make sure your dog drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Why do Chihuahuas shake when they sleep?

Chihuahua shaking when they are asleep is a sign that they are dreaming, and this type of shaking is perfectly normal behaviour. Most dogs dream when they are sleeping. 

How to stop my Chihuahua shaking?

To stop a Chihuahua from shaking, it all depends on why your Chihuahua is doing this since there are so many reasons why. Your first step is to work out why they are shaking. For example, Chihuahuas have a high metabolism which makes them shake. This shaking is expected. Some Chihuahuas are cold and will need an extra blanket or jumper, and some are shaking through excitement and will require a calm environment to stop shaking. 

Firstly you must understand why your Chihuahua is shaking. As you can see, there are so many reasons your Chihuahua may shake, tremble, and shiver. It’s not as simple as just stopping something that is the secondary cause of something else.

Chihuahua with a Mexican hat on
The Mexican hat looks great on a Chihuahua.

Do you want to learn about the history of the Chihuahua dog breed? Here I have written a detailed timeline from when they originated in Mexico that you may find interesting.

Good luck! 

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