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Why Do Yorkshire Terriers Shake?

Written by Ella White


Yorkshire terrier sat on chair

If you own a Yorkshire Terrier, you might have noticed that these tiny pups are prone to bouts of trembling. It can be worrying, especially the first time you see your beloved dog shivering. And you’ll probably have wondered, why do Yorkies shake? 

So in this article we’ll look at some of the reasons that Yorkshire Terriers shiver. From the common causes, to the more serious.

Why Is My Yorkie Shaking?

When Yorkshire Terriers shake, it can appear to be a light shiver or tremble through to a vibration of the whole body. Sometimes it lasts a few moments, and other times it lasts for much longer. 

Most distressing is when your Yorkie starts shaking for no apparent reason – at least when we can understand what’s causing them to tremble, we can make a change and calm them down.

If you find yourself unsure about the cause their shuddering, some of the most common reasons to keep in mind are:

  • The temperature
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Illness like hypoglycemia 

The good news is, most of these causes are easy to control and prevent. So once you understand which of these factors has caused your Yorkie’s shaking, you can either change their environment or seek treatment.

Why Do Yorkshire Terriers Shake When They’re Cold?

Yorkies have trouble regulating their body temperature. This means that it doesn’t take much for them to get cold and start shivering. 

The Yorkshire Terrier is a miniature breed that has just one layer of fine hair for a coat. Other breeds have thicker, double-layered fur that helps them regulate their body temperatures more effectively – especially in cold weather.

To keep the vital organs warm in cold temperatures, muscle groups around the heart, lungs, and other organs shake, or shiver. Shivering is the body’s way of keeping itself warm, especially when the core temperature drops below its normal level. 

So if the weather is chilly, wet, or windy, it’s advised that Yorkshire Terriers wear a jumper or coat to keep warm and help prevent shaking. The same applies when they’re inside. If the heating hasn’t come on, or if your pup has cold ears and paws, pop a jumper on them or drape a small blanket over them. Rain coats, hats, and booties can also help keep them dry and warm in particularly bad weather.

Puppies and senior dogs are more susceptible to feeling the cold. So even if it feels mild to you, your Yorkie might be struggling with even a subtle drop in temperature. The most common causes for them to shake due to temperature are because they’re wet, it’s windy or drafty, or the weather is below 50 ºF. In these conditions in particular, keep an eye on your Yorkie and help warm them up if they’re shivering.

Why Do Yorkshire Terriers Shake When They’re Excited?

Sometimes when dogs are excited or overly stimulated, they can lose control of their functions. Ever seen a puppy accidentally pee when they’re all hyped up? Well another symptom of extreme excitement is shaking – so it could be a sign that your Yorkshire Terrier is super happy!

Shaking with excitement can occur when their owner returns home, when it’s dinner time, when there’s treats in sight, or when a game of catch is about to begin. As long as you can identify their stimuli, and the shaking doesn’t last more than a few moments until their anticipation is sated, there’s no cause for concern.

However, if your Yorkie frequently gets so excited that they shake and urinate or become erratic in their behavior, you might want to train them out of this otherwise unproblematic habit.

Why Do Yorkshire Terriers Shake When They’re Scared?

Like humans, dogs' fears are unique to them. Some might hate water while others love to swim. Some might hate being picked up while others thrive on cuddles. And some might hate loud noises while others are unphased.

Many fears in dogs come from past traumas, while some are just instinctive and natural to them. Shaking is a common response to fear, and though distressing for both you and your Yorkie, it can help you to understand what they do and don’t like. 

If you think your Yorkshire Terrier is shaking in fear, immediately stop or remove them from the situation that is causing their anxiety. For example, if shaking begins when they are picked up, put them down. If another dog has spooked them, get them away. Yorkies trembling in fear will not subside on its own. It will continue until the threat is removed.

Though shaking in fear is not physically dangerous for your dog, it is still not good for them and should be prevented whenever possible. The more your Yorkie feels fear, the more they will lose confidence and become nervous by nature.

Once you know that a situation, event, or environment causes this response in your dog, you can begin counter-conditioning or exposure training. Helping your dog overcome their fears can be a long road, but for dedicated owners it’s a rewarding experience that results in a happier, well-socialized Yorkie.

Why Do Yorkshire Terriers Shake When They’re Sick?

A more serious cause of shaking in Yorkies is Hypoglycemia. Caused by a rapid drop to their blood sugar levels, this illness can cause shivering and, in more severe cases, can be fatal. As well as full-body shaking, Yorkies with Hypoglycemia might appear weak and dizzy or have trouble walking.

A drop in blood sugar levels severe enough to cause Hypoglycemia can be brought on by stress, or changes to their diet. 

If you’re switching your Yorkie’s food, it’s advised that it’s introduced gradually over 4 weeks without any sudden changes that can cause a shock to their system. Toy breeds also require two full meals plus snacks on a daily basis. So going a long time without food could cause Hypoglycemia.

If the imbalance of sugar in their bloodstream is affected by stress then, like fear-triggered shaking – they will need to be socialized out of this fear. Stress to the level that can cause Hypoglycemia is usually only caused by big changes to their environment like moving home, massive overstimulation, or a huge shock to their system like a near-death experience.

To help prevent this, puppies should be socialized as soon as possible to help prevent the development of anxiety and nervousness.

If you think your dog is shaking due to Hypoglycemia, the best course of action is to take them straight to the vet who can correct their blood sugar levels. For a temporary fix while you make your way to the vet, rubbing a small amount of honey into their gums can help stabilize their condition. Make sure your honey does not contain xylitol or any other toxin before putting it in your dog’s mouth.

If your dog is diagnosed with Hypoglycemia they will likely be put on an IV drop to stop their shaking and raise their blood sugar levels. But don’t worry – the prognosis is good in healthy adult Yorkies (though puppies and seniors are more at-risk) and they should be back at home in no time.