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Is it an Emergency? Shivering, Lethargy, and More


In part I of this article, we discussed the common complaints of vomiting, diarrhea and limping, and when you should panic—or, more often, not—when you note these signs in your pet. In this, the second part, we will discuss the common complaints of shivering/shaking, and weakness/lethargy.

What if my dog or cat is shivering/shaking?
Often, we will receive calls of panic when a pet owner notes that his or her pet is shivering and/or shaking uncontrollably. Pets may shiver or shake for many reasons—pain, fear, anxiety, nerves, or simply being too cold. There is even an endocrine disorder called Addison’s disease which can cause excessive shivering as well. We often see dogs shiver and shake during thunderstorms or July 4th fireworks. Some will even respond this way if there’s a lot of unusual noise nearby because of construction or sirens.

If the shivering is truly temperature related (which it usually isn’t), chances are you’ll be a little too cold as well, or you’ve just brought your furry canine in from the very cold outdoors. If neither is the case, his or her shivering is most likely not from being too cold.

Finally, there’s pain as a cause of shivering or shaking, and this is a very common reason. The difficulty here is trying to determine whether or not the degree of pain, or the source of pain, should be of concern enough to panic and take your pooch or kitty straight to your veterinarian or to an emergency facility. Often this is a judgment call, but here are a few guidelines. If the shivering and shaking is accompanied by excessive panting, this is usually a sign of stress, and more intense pain or discomfort. If you see, or feel, an obvious problem—a grossly abnormal limb indicating a possible fracture, an extremely bloated or tense abdomen indicating a possible bloat, pancreatitis, or other intestinal pain, or extreme stiffness (as if your pet doesn’t want to move) especially in the neck or back with or without gait abnormalities or ataxia (appearing as if your pet is drunk and wobbly), which may indicate a herniated disc or a muscle problem along the spine, you want to seek veterinary medical attention as soon as possible—the sooner the better.

If you don’t note any of the above symptoms, you might try giving your pet a veterinary approved, species appropriate, pain or anti-inflammatory medication if you have any in your home “pet medicine cabinet.” In a pinch, for dogs, you can try a buffered aspirin or Ascriptin (which is aspirin with antacid) at a dose of one baby aspirin per 15 to 20 lbs of body weight, or one adult aspirin or Ascriptin per 60 to 80 lbs of body weight. Do not use any more than once, and do not use any other “pain” medications for your dog or cat without first checking with your veterinarian. Note that acetaminophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, can kill a cat! If the subtle pain symptoms persist, see your veterinarian for some more specific diagnostics or for more aggressive treatment.

What about weakness/lethargy?
This is often one of the more challenging symptoms because the presentation is often very subtle, and can mean so many different things. If your pet is suddenly “ADR” (Ain’t Doin’ Right), we usually try to rule out the other obvious symptoms we’ve already discussed. First, it’s never a bad idea to take your pet’s temperature. If you don’t already own a thermometer for your pet, get one! A normal temperature for your dog or cat is somewhere between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F (up to 103 degrees if they are nervous or stressed). If his or her temperature is over 103.5 degrees, you should consider a veterinary visit. Generally, if their temperature is normal and they aren’t exhibiting other more serious problems (vomiting/diarrhea, limping, shivering/shaking, obvious pain, etc.), and you don’t note a bloated abdomen or white gums (which could indicate blood loss or blood cell destruction from an acute bleed, a clotting disorder, or an immune system disease), I usually advise my clients to give it a day or so before panicking—especially if the pet will still eat and go for a walk. If you can’t identify any obvious cause, and by 24 hours your pet is still lethargic or won’t eat or want to go for his walks, it’s time to make that visit to your veterinarian or to the emergency facility.

Very often we’ll also see pets, especially dogs, become somewhat lethargic because of muscle soreness after overdoing it (exercise-wise) at the dog park or the doggie day care facility. We also see pets act a bit too mellow because of psychological issues (a change in their routines or schedules, changes in your routine or schedule, the loss of another family pet, etc). Dogs and cats can actually exhibit signs of depression, and it often manifests as lethargy. This more subtle form of weakness or lethargy is usually not an immediate concern, but if tincture of time and a little extra attention doesn’t solve the problem, then make that appointment to see your veterinarian.

I hope this information and these guidelines will help you better understand and evaluate your pet’s symptoms and problems, will put your minds at ease a bit, and, hopefully, save you some time and money.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Dog vomiting home remedies

  • Limiting the food intake of dogs allows his gastrointestinal tract to recover. However, do not starve him and do not feed him a large quantity of food.
  • Ice chips can counter dehydration caused by vomiting.
  • Ginger has carminative properties that will give relief to his stomach. Most dogs do not enjoy the taste of ginger. As such, you may mask it by mixing ginger with warm coconut milk or putting ginger powder on the bread with honey.
  • Feed him with a bland diet. Plain white rice, plain chicken, or plain meat will suffice.
  • Include chicken broth on your dog’s diet. This will help him with dehydration. It is best to make it at home rather than buy a commercial one that may contain harmful additives. Only use newly cooked rice as the leftover rice has much less starch.

Did these tips help the condition of your dog? Find out more pet care tips in our pet health blogs! Don’t forget to share it with your friends!


Here are some of the less common reasons your dog might be shivering:

If shivering is accompanied by lethargy and loss of appetite, your dog may be feeling lonely and depressed. if you have only one pet and they spend a lot of time at home, they can get lonely and depressed after long stretches of alone time. When you’ve been busy at work, with other responsibilities, your pet can start to feel neglected. Take some time to let them know they’re loved, play with them, go for a walk, get them a new treat and see if their mood picks up.

  • Excitement

Maybe your dog’s not in a bad mood, maybe they’re in a good mood! We expect dogs to wag their tails and shake happily when excited, but when they’re overwhelmed with joy, when they see an old friend for the first time in awhile, when they get a new toy, they might tremble and shake in a way that looks more like shivering. It’s like when you see your crush and get a chill up your spine.

  • Eating cold food

It’s warm, your dog doesn’t seem to be cold, they don’t appear to be sick, but they just keep shaking. It may be that they’ve just eaten something cold. This can happen with smaller dogs. In the Wintertime they may go outside and take bites of snow and catch a slight chill, or they can get ahold of frozen meat and so on. In this case there’s not much to do but help them warm up, turn on a space heater, feed them a snack and put their sweater on them if they don’t mind wearing clothes.

  • Distant thunderstorms

Even if the thunder and lightning haven’t really kicked in yet, the distant rumblings of a thunderstorm, and even sparse fireworks, can get a dog shivering and shaking. Dogs have sensitive hearing and they may be sensing a storm that’s still a ways off. Just comfort them however you usually would. Many dog wear storm vests to keep them feeling safe when a storm is passing.

  • GTS

GTS, or generalized tremor syndrome, may seem scary, but it’s a treatable condition. Symptoms usually kick in between 9 months and 2 years of age, and it can be treated easily with prednisone.

On the scarier end of the spectrum, a dog who is shivering may be dealing with a seizure disorder like kidney failure or an under active adrenal gland. If you’ve already ruled everything else out, then it may be worth considering that your dog needs a trip to the vet. Shivering seems to be a symptom that shows up with just about every condition and illness a dog can experience, but professional diagnosis will help you get to the bottom of it!


Why is my dog lethargic and not himself? Causes of lethargy in dogs

Lethargy means sluggishness, drowsiness or dullness. A dog who’s lethargic may show no interest in going for a walk, even though that’s usually the highlight of their day, or they might not want to play or eat. Sometimes lethargy in dogs can be due to the weather, perhaps it’s very hot, or being tired out after an extra long walk. But it can also be the first sign that something’s not quite right with your dog.

Lethargy, weakness and sudden tiredness are common signs of illness in dogs, but they are rather vague — lots of different problems can make your dog appear lethargic and weak.


Watch the video: School Education, Lesson 3: Diabetes - Management of Classroom Emergencies (July 2021).