Why Do Chihuahuas Shake?

Ever wondered why your Chihuahua shakes? Don’t worry, despite their small stature, it’s unlikely a result of them being frightened of you. In the following article we’ll look into why your Chihuahua shakes and shivers, whether you should be concerned, and what you can do about it.

????  Chihuahuas shake and shiver to keep warm due to having a high metabolism. Animals with high metabolisms tend to burn more calories, rather than having a surplus that is stored as body fat that would otherwise insulate them against the cold. Hypoglycemia and nervousness may also contribute.

But, there’s more to this story, read on to find out why some days your Chihuahua seems to shiver even more and some simple steps you can take to ensure your Chihuahua’s comfort.

Metabolism A High Energy Breed

You’ve probably noticed, especially if you own multiple Chihuahuas that play together that they’re very high energy dogs. I often joke that my two little guys have two speeds, 0 and 100.

They either tear around the house with seemingly unending supplies of energy, or they’re fast asleep.

And while that’s not all that uncommon for many dog breeds, who often sleep up to 12 hours per day, this is especially the case with Chihuahuas.

But, all this activity comes at a cost.

Your Chihuahua uses a lot of the energy they consume from their food (calories are just units of energy after all), and do not to have a great deal of surplus calories available that would otherwise be stored as body fat to shield them from the cold.

Animals with higher levels of body fat are more capable of withstanding the cold. This is why polar bears for example have very high levels of body fat, in fact half of their body weight is fat, which helps withstand the extreme cold of their environments.

They Feel the Cold

Originating from Mexico, a warm to hot climate throughout most of the year, Chihuahuas really aren’t well-equipped to deal with the cold.

Their lean frames mean they have more surface area compared to overall mass, and as a result tend to lose body heat faster. This is also the case with people, as smaller framed people tend to feel the cold more. And, as Chihuahua are the smallest dog breed of all and typically short-haired they’re even more affected.

Long-haired Chihuahua’s fare slightly better in the cold, but not by a great deal.

Why Do They Shake and Shiver?

Shaking, and shivering are involuntary movements that serve to speed up the flow of blood around the body. Essentially the animals muscles begin to shake rapidly and this warms up the body by expending energy.

Dogs actually have a higher body temperature than humans (97.6 – 99.6 compared to 101 – 102.5 degrees) but that counts for very little if they are unable to insulate against the cold.

Essentially if it feels cold to you, it will also feel cold to most dogs, especially smaller breeds, who don’t have the benefit of wearing warm clothes in the cold.

Other Signs that Indicate your Chihuahua is Cold

Shaking and shivering are not the only indicators that your chihuahua is cold. Other signs include:

  • A tucked up tail and a bent over position
  • Whining or appearing anxious
  • Lethargy
  • A reluctance to go outside, or wanting to go inside when they are out
  • Ears that feel feel cold to touch
  • Limping or lifting of paws (dogs paws are more sensitive when they are cold)
  • Curling up into a ball

Problems Associated with Cold and Chihuahuas

Sickness and Cold

Chihuahuas, like most dogs and people, are also more prone to illness if they are cold. That’s not to say the cold can make them sick directly, but if your Chihuahua is shaking and showing signs of being affected by the cold there is a higher chance of them becoming sick as they’re immune system is under heavier strain.

It’s also a fact that in colder weather viruses that cause illness are spread more easily and a dog’s respiratory system can be under more strain as the bronchial tubes constrict due to the colder weather.

Can Chihuahuas catch colds from people?

No. Dogs are not affected by the same viruses that result in cold and flu in humans. So, there’s no need to avoid your pet if you happen to have a cold. However, dogs can catch viruses from other dogs that are unwell,  causing cold and flu like symptoms that are quite similar to those in humans suffering from a respiratory illness.

Toilet Training

Your Chihuahua will be reluctant to go outside in the cold to do their business, especially during winter. As a result toilet training may become an issue.

Because of this reluctance to go outside, you may need to consider a litter box.

This needn’t cause a problem once the warmer months roll around. Your little companion is certainly clever enough to distinguish the difference, but a litter box all year round really isn’t that big of an issue for small dog breeds in any case.

Things You can do to Stop your Chihuahua Shaking

To stop your Chihuahua shaking and make them more comfortable you need to increase their body temperature. You can put a coat on them and have a warm bed and blanket available, but there’s a few additional things you can also do, or avoid doing:

  • Don’t let them get wet
    Especially in colder months, if your dog happens to get wet e.g. they are outside in the rain, dry them with a towel asap
  • Dress them in a puppy coat
    A coat will not only serve as an extra layer of insulation it will also serve as a shield against wind chill
  • Have a warm comfy bed available with extra bedding
    When dogs are cold they love to curl up into a ball to maximize body warmth. You can make this easier for them by offering them additional bedding to nestle into
  • Don’t walk them in winter
    If the temperature is below 40 degrees avoid taking them outside for walks
  • Keep the inside of your home warm
    Just because you are impervious to the cold, don’t forget about your dogs. Ensure the thermostat maintains a warm, comfortable environment within your home
  • Warm weather booties
    You could also consider warm weather booties for their feet. All dogs are particularly susceptible to feeling the cold in their paws, which are more sensitive than other parts of their bodies.
    * This is why Chihuahua often lift their paws like they are offering a handshake when they are feeling the cold.

Addition Factors that may cause Chihuahuas to shake


While less of an issue, Chihuahua’s like most dogs may shake if they are nervous or frightened.

Contrary to their small stature Chihuahuas are not overly timid. However, if they are around larger dogs, have been in trouble or are feeling guilty about something they haven’t yet been in trouble for, nerves may certainly cause them to shake.

Low blood sugar

Around 10% of Chihuahuas suffer Hypoglycemia (aka low blood sugar). This is another cost of their small size and fast metabolism. Generally speaking, the less body fat, the lower the blood sugar.

The best way to counter this in small dogs is to distribute their meals more evenly throughout the day, and have them eat breakfast as soon as they wake up, as blood sugar levels are likely to drop even further during the evening. Regular, smaller meals tend to help regulate blood sugar levels. So, while you may choose to feed your larger dogs 1-2 times per day, smaller dogs can benefit from 3-5 smaller meals throughout the day.

Otherwise, keep a sugary water solution on-hand and administer as required, particularly if you notice a lot of shaking that seems unrelated to the cold.

Final Points

Chihuahuas are known to shake and shiver so above all else, when you notice this behavior don’t panic, it’s common, but it’s also a sign that they are uncomfortable.

The best thing you can do is ensure they are warm and make adjustments with regard to walking and toilet training, especially during the colder months.

Lastly, if you notice your Chihuahua shaking pick them up and give them a cuddle, you’d be surprised how much this can help raise body temperature, and besides who doesn’t need another excuse to make a fuss of their Chihuahua.