Puppies shiver for a variety of reasons, some normal (even beneficial) and some potentially hazardous. Shivering can be a sign of happiness, coldness, active dreaming or illness and it is important to know which your puppy is experiencing. Understanding why your puppy shivers can help to provide the best care possible and to allay any fears you have.
If your puppy shivers in his sleep, it may be the result of intense dreaming. After 20 minutes asleep, your puppy will fall into a deeper rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which dreams are normally experienced. Although puppies only enter into this deeper state of sleep for short periods, they are sufficient to produce shivering, vocalizations and body movements. If this is the case with your puppy, the shivering you witness is completely normal and you don't need to intervene.
Puppies do not reach their normal temp of 101.5 until 2 - 3 weeks of age. As a result, they begin to shiver a lot at around this age as a way for the body to warm itself (just as in humans). Before then, they are unable to shiver and are at risk of hypothermia, which is why their mother (or you) must provide all of their warmth for them before they reach 3 weeks or so. Afterward, they are more able to warm themselves (to an extent) via shivering when their body temperature falls below normal. While it is not abnormal for puppies to shiver when cold, take steps to warm your dog or the area where he spends most of his time if you find that he's shivering too frequently. Try using heating pads, hot water bottles, a heat lamp or extra blankets.
Excitement is a normal reaction when your puppy greets you on returning home, or sees his mother or siblings after being separated. Shivering or trembling is a natural byproduct of overexcitement. When excited, your puppy may exhibit all manner of frantic behavior including jumping, barking, urinating and shivering or shaking violently. While it may seem scary at first, there is nothing wrong with the puppy.
Puppies who have not yet had all their shots will sometimes exhibit shivering as a result of illness. Distemper is one of the most common causes and is the result of a virus. Sometimes your puppy may eat something that does not sit well in his system. Shaking can occur along with nausea in these cases. Poisoning can also cause shivers and may occur if your puppy ingests anything hazardous or toxic. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your puppy's shivering is due to an illness.
By Robert Morello
About the Author
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.