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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 steps that an owner can take to stop or at least decrease the shaking.

Serious Medical Conditions

An owner should first eliminate the possibility of a medical condition. While it is rare there are a few very serious health conditions that can cause shaking. 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: 
Chihuahua wrapped in blanket
Poisoning- With 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), 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 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680
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 will be needed. The 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, rubbing the head/hears against surfaces such as carpeting or a wall. 
Injury - When a dog is moderately to severely injured he may shake uncontrollably. The Chihuahua breed is an 'under-the-foot' dog and can be stepped on or dropped. Trauma is the 2nd leading cause of death for this tiny toy dog. 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 

This breed tends to have a high metabolism and is prone to dips in blood sugar levels. A minor dip can cause shaking. To avoid this, it can help to feed a Chihuahua 3 meals per day, plus snacks. Distributing the food in this way allows the body to receive a steady supply of fuel and nutrients.

If the shaking is minor and there are no other symptoms, this can be treated by offering a healthy snack. For very young puppies, 1/4 cup of Nutrical supplement can help. Especially helpful with undersized Chihuahua, it offers a fast, additional source of energy. You can find this supplement in the Chihuahua Specialty Shoppe

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 ASAP (or the closest animal hospital). In severe cases, an IV may be needed to stabilize the Chi and bring sugar levels back to normal.

The Cold

This breed - due to its very small size and low fat-to-muscle ratio - has a hard time regulating body temperature. The number one reason that a Chihuahua shakes is due to being cold. And this is a shame, since many people assume that shivering is normal and therefore do not take steps to keep the dog warm.

Although you may feel that your home is at a comfortable heating level, a tiny dog such as the Chihuahua may be feeling very chilled. A Chihuahua may also feel cold when there is a rapid change 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 the 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. At a certain point, the body will begin to fail at this.

Shivering is the body's mechanism to stay warm. When the 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. It can be exhausting both mentally and physically.

To avoid this, keep room's warm, try to keep your Chihuahua out of drafty areas, and put clothing on your puppy or dog. Even just a shirt or sweater will insulate the body and prevent shaking. In the winter, a heavier sweater or coat can be worn outside. When it is raining, a Chihuahua should be protected as well since a wet coat can cause a deep, penetrating cold. 
Fear/ Stress

A nervous Chihuahua can 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 and 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.

If you are certain that your Chi has not been mistreated, your dog may still have fears that cause him or her to shake. Your Chi may run under the bed when hearing a noise, cower up to you when the telephone 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. Comforting a dog that shakes due to nervousness only reinforces the idea that he is rightfully afraid.

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. 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.
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