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Shakes

Why Chihuahuas Shake

Overview

It is not uncommon for a Chihuahua puppy or dog to shake. Some refer to this as trembling or shivering. In fact, so many Chi's shake that some mistakenly believe that it is a trait or characteristic of the breed. It is very common, however there is always a reason why, and there are steps that you can take to stop or at least decrease the shaking.

Ruling out Health Conditions

There are some serious conditions that can cause shaking; and these should be ruled out. It should be noted that in most cases there will be other signs and symptoms aside from trembling. Possible but rare reasons for shaking include: 
Poisoning - If a Chihuahua has sudden and violent shaking, one must rule out poisoning. 

This may include the ingestion of certain foods (chocolate and raisins are two toxic foods that dogs may ingest), or other common poisons including household cleaning solutions, insecticides, or human medication.

Other signs of poisoning are vomiting, dry heaving, swelling of the face, loss of bladder and/or bowels, drooling, coughing up blood and/or severe weakness. 

If you suspect this, immediately call your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680, or the Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. Note that charges may apply when calling the poison helplines. 
Kidney disease - While this must be mentioned as a possible reason for trembling, kidney disease or kidney failure is a very serious health crisis that involves many more signs aside from shaking. Some of these are: pale gums, mouth ulcers, bloodshot eyes, an odd ammonia smell (due to a buildup of waste products in the body), weight loss, a dulled coat, weakness, difficulty breathing, disorientation, and loss of balance.
Ear infections - If you suspect an ear infection, veterinary care is recommended. A Chihuahua's ears may need to be flushed out and medicated drops given. In most cases, you will be sent home with antibiotics to give to your puppy or dog for several days. Signs of ear infection are: a bad smell emanating from the ears, shaking of just the head, and/or rubbing the head against surfaces such as carpeting or a wall. 
Injury - When a dog is moderately to severely injured he may shake uncontrollably due to the shock of trauma and/or pain.

Since Chihuahuas are an 'under-the-foot' dog and one that is often carried, they can be stepped on or dropped; Trauma is the 2nd leading cause of death for this tiny toy breed.

While there may not be outward signs of blood or cuts, internal injury is a possible cause for shaking. Behavior will be very off, the dog may whine or cry. He may limp or favor a certain part of the body. Any suspected cases of trauma should be evaluated by the veterinarian.

The Most Common Reasons Why a Chihuahua Shakes

Low Blood Sugar 

What happens: This breed tends to have a high metabolism and in turn is prone to dips in blood sugar levels. A minor dip can cause shaking.  A severe dip will cause other symptoms including drowsiness, confusion, and even fainting. 
To help prevent this: Chihuahuas of all ages should be fed small, frequent meals and snacks. Most Chi do best with 3 small meals per day and 3 to 4 snacks.  Distributing the food in this way allows the body to receive a steady supply of fuel and nutrients.

It is also important to be sure that the kibble you give to your Chihuahua is high quality. This is because low quality foods often contains fillers, and these are often undigested. Ingredients that are not digested and pass right through the body will not do anything to prevent sugar levels from dropping.  
You may wish to read more about feeding guidelines for Chihuahuas, which covers top recommended brands and feeding tips. Or, if you need some help in choosing healthy snacks, look to the best types of snacks for Chihuahuas
To help treat this: If the shaking is minor and there are no other symptoms, this can be treated by offering a small healthy snack. Something with peanut butter, like Old Mother Hubbard Natural P-Nuttier Mini Biscuits is a good choice. 
For young puppies, or Chi of any age for that matter, that resist eating, an alternative is to offer a teaspoon of Tomlyn High Calorie Nutritional Gel. This is a high-calorie, nutritional gel that is super flavorful (malt) and is easy to give since it does not require chewing. Most puppies lick this off a spoon. It'll deliver a boost of vitamins and minerals and a fast source of energy. 

If there are other signs including: Dizziness, weakness, trouble walking, disorientation and/or excessive sleepiness, it may be a sign of hypoglycemia (a dangerous, rapid drop in blood sugar levels). 

This should be immediately treated at home by rubbing honey onto the puppy's gums. The pup should be brought to the veterinarian or closest animal hospital ASAP. In severe cases, an IV may be needed to stabilize a puppy or dog, and bring sugar levels back to normal.
Feeling Chilled

What happens: This breed - due to its very small size and low fat-to-muscle ratio - has a hard time regulating body temperature. Even if you feel just fine, there is a good chance that if your Chihuahua is shaking, that your dog is feeling chilled. 

This top reason for shivering is often overlooked since many people assume that trembling is normal, and therefore do not take steps to help a Chi stay warm. 

Aside from being able to feel cold even if you may feel that your home is at a comfortable temperature, other top reasons for getting chilled include rapid changes in temperature, such as when transitioning from the warm outdoors to an air conditioned house, or when entering a store that is colder than the temperature in the car.

A Chihuahua may have an immediate reaction and shake right away or it may be delayed. 

The delayed response is one reason why the cold is not considered right away as the cause. An owner may assume that since their dog has been in the same room for an hour or so, that shaking cannot be related to the temperature. However, when there is a change in environment, a dog's body will work extra hard to stay warm. If a Chihuahua has trouble in the regard, at a certain point, the body will begin to fail at this.

Shivering is the body's mechanism to stay warm. When a dog's core body temperature drops, a shivering reflex is triggered. Muscles begin to shake in very small movements and this creates warmth by expending energy. An episode of trembling can be very taxing on a Chihuahua, both mentally and physically.

To help prevent and remedy this: Keep rooms warm, try to keep your Chihuahua out of drafty areas, and put clothing on your puppy or dog to see if this stops the shaking. Even just a light shirt or sweater may be enough to insulate the body and prevent shivering. 

In the winter, a lined vest or coat can be worn outside. When it is raining, you may find that your Chihuahua does better when protected, since a wet coat can cause a deep, penetrating cold. 
Below are some cute and comfortable clothing that fits even tiny Chihuahuas. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4 items. 
Fear/ Stress

Feeling nervous can make a Chihuahua shake to varying degrees. Fear and anxiety are conditions that no loving owner creates; rather, there can be underlying issues that cause a dog to be fearful or anxious.

Some dogs that shake do so from a history of past abuse. Sadly, animal abuse is widespread over the entire world and many of the dogs that receive such mistreatment are trained to be terrified. If you know or suspect that your dog has been neglected by a past owner, expect it to take time for the Chihuahua to feel safe and at ease.

Even without past mistreatment, a dog may still have fears that cause him or her to shake. A Chi may run under the bed when hearing a noise, cower up to you when your phone rings, or shake when you try to pat him.

Dogs with fears of 'every day' elements need to have a calm, peaceful home with slow introduction to new people, situations, and triggers. Owners should rely - via both words and actions - that there is nothing to be afraid of. Yet beware of smothering a dog too much; this may reinforce phobias. 

Acting in a matter-of-fact way can show a dog that certain noises (such as the doorbell or the phone ringing) do not warrant a negative response. And, similar to how it can help a shy Chihuahua, socialization training can help a dog slowly adjust to new elements and learn to tolerate them.
Other Helpful Articles: 
Helping a Chihuahua That Has Allergies - A great guideline to help identify top triggers, and treat common yet troublesome signs including severe itchiness. 
Chihuahua Barking Issues - The top reasons why a Chihuahua will bark up a storm, along with exact steps to curb this. 
Curing Chihuahua Bad Breath - If your Chi has stinky breath, see the top reasons why this occurs, and how you can resolve this. 
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