Is shivering an indication of pain?

April 13, 2012

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dog can tell us what ails them? Dogs are considered as family members. It is therefore not surprising if dog owners would worry if something out of the ordinary is noticed in the pet. A vet or even a dog expert can easily discern that the dog is not its usual self. How about new dog owners? How will they be able to tell that something is wrong with the pet? As a pet dog is commonly considered as the youngest member of the family, one that cannot verbalize what it feels, knowing the normal behavior of the pet would be a big help.

I have rescued a dog from the dumpster. The dog is all bones with welts and oozing wounds all over the body. It is apparent that the dog was abused. After months of regular vet visits, the dog (we named him Lax) is now in the peak of health. Lax have stopped scurrying in the corner whenever we have male guests. The family was surprised when the dog started whining and shivering at the sight of the coiled whip my son got from a souvenir shop. Lax panicked and tried to vault. We finally realized that the nervous reaction that makes the dog shake was triggered by the sight of the whip. Dogs are intelligent animals but their intelligence is not at par with humans. In spite of this fact, dogs that have had a traumatic experience will shiver when exposed to the distressing situation. We have deduced that the many scars on the dog’s body were caused by the whip of an abusive owner. Shivering in this case was caused by fear and anxiety. Nervousness can make a dog shiver as well. Dogs have different personalities – some would be dominant and others would be submissive. A small dog faced with a dominant and large dog would shiver and cower. This kind of shivering should not worry the owner. After the dominant dog is gone, the wee (and yellow) dog would act as if nothing happened.

Shaking or shivering is an indication that all is not well with the pet. Shivering can be indicative of discomfort. Humans shake when they are cold. The same thing is true with the dog. A dog that is bathed when the weather is cold would be seen shivering. Shivering is a very basic reaction to cold temperatures. Dogs left outdoors with inadequate shelter will shiver in freezing temperature. Dogs with short coats would be most affected as the coats would provide poor insulation against the cold. Shivering can be due to an illness. Some canine diseases have shivering as a clinical symptom. Leptospirosis, severe internal parasite infestation, autoimmune diseases are some of the health concerns that will cause the affected dog to run a temperature. Fever will make the dog shiver.

A dog owner should not be complacent if the pet is seen shivering especially if it is apparent that the shaking is not caused by cold temperatures. Although not so common, the shivering of the pet can be attributed to pain. An injured dog has the tendency to hide to nurse the pain. A dog in pain will hold the body tense. Shivering will be the muscles’ response to the tensing of the body. Pain would be an unfamiliar sensation. The pain that makes the dog shake will be aggravated by fear and anxiety.

Cold that cause the dog to shiver will be easy to resolve. We humans can feel if it is chilly thus the shivering pet can be given a blanket or taken inside the house. Anxiety, fear and pain that cause the shivering can be difficult to identify. It would certainly be difficult to know that the dog is in pain especially if there are no external injuries. To be on the safe side, take the pet to the vet’s STAT!

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