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Home > Dogs > Why Is My Boston Terrier Shaking So Much? 10 Vet Explained Reasons

Why Is My Boston Terrier Shaking So Much? 10 Vet Explained Reasons

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Dr. Emma Chandley

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There are many different reasons your Boston Terrier may be shaking. Some of these reasons are completely harmless and a normal part of your dog’s daily routine, but some may be a sign of a serious health issue. It is important for Boston Terrier owners to be able to identify whether the reason their dog is shaking is normal or abnormal.

To help you determine whether your dog’s shaking is something to worry about or not, read this vet-written guide.


The 10 Reasons Why Your Boston Terrier Is Shaking So Much

1. Cold

Boston Terriers do not have very thick coats so they may be prone to becoming cold very quickly, especially in colder climates. If the temperature has dropped or is unusually cold, and you notice this is when your dog starts shaking, it might be that they are trying to warm themselves up. If so, you can put a dog coat on them or move them to a warmer area.

2. Excitement

Some dogs can physically shake when they are really excited. Boston Terriers are especially excitable. They may quiver and shake when they see their owner or another dog they like to play with. They may have seen you pick up their favorite toy or start getting their food ready. If they are only shaking when something exciting is happening, it is likely that this is the reason, and it is perfectly normal behavior.

Red Boston Terrier
Image Credit: safepaws, Pixabay

3. Anxiety

Your Boston Terrier may be shaking because they are anxious. If your Boston Terrier feels threatened or stressed by something, they can start to shake or tremble in response.

Some dogs have a nervous disposition and react to things in their environment. Common sources of anxiety for dogs include loud unpredictable noises, for example, fireworks or thunderstorms, and separation anxiety.

4. Old Age

As your Boston Terrier gets older, they are more likely to encounter age-related issues. Some of these issues may cause shaking. Things like muscle weakness and joint pain are common causes of shaking in older Boston Terriers. Your vet will be able to determine if your dog’s shaking is likely an age-related issue or something else that needs to be addressed.

5. Pain

Your Boston Terrier may be experiencing pain or discomfort, and this can make them shake or tremble. They may have injured themselves or have a chronic issue that is hurting them in some way. Boston Terriers are prone to having orthopedic problems such as spinal issues or luxating patella (where the kneecap moves out of its original place in the knee joint). These can cause pain and discomfort and may make them shake.

boston terrier dog at clinic with owner
Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

6. Illnesses

There are some diseases that can cause shaking in Boston Terriers. One of these is canine distemper virus. Other causes include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Cancer (especially if it affects the nervous system or structures in the skull)
  • Liver disorders
  • Idiopathic head tremors
  • Rabies virus
  • Shaker syndrome (also known as generalized tremor syndrome, this is a central nervous system disorder)

7. Ear Problems

Some dogs can have an ear infection or a foreign body in their ear. Either of these can cause your dog to shake their head and shiver or tremble. They may hold their head at a funny angle and suddenly start to jerk about and shake.

8. Seizure Activity

Your Boston Terrier may be experiencing a seizure or seizure-like activity. Shaking and trembling may be the first sign of a seizure developing, or it may be the actual seizure occurring. Seizures can have serious health consequences, so it is very important to seek veterinary attention if you think your dog has experienced one.

seal and white boston terrier dog lying on the carpet
Image Credit: Stephen Albi, Shutterstock

9. Exposure to Toxins

There are lots of things that your Boston Terrier may eat that are poisonous or toxic to them. One very common sign of toxin ingestion is shaking or trembling. If you think your dog may have eaten something they weren’t supposed to and they start to shake, contact your vet immediately.

Depending on the time frame, it may be possible for your vet to make your dog vomit to bring the toxin back up, or they may be able to give some other medication to prevent the toxin from being absorbed.

Common toxins your Boston Terrier may ingest include:
  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine. This is highly toxic to dogs. The type of chocolate, amount eaten, and the size of your dog will determine how badly your dog is affected. Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of theobromine, and it takes a smaller amount of chocolate to poison smaller dogs. If you have a smaller Boston Terrier that has eaten dark chocolate, there is a higher chance this will be a toxic dose. Typical signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and restlessness. Severe poisonings may also include shaking, tremors, and seizures.
  • Coffee. Coffee contains caffeine which is a stimulant. It also contains theobromine, the toxic ingredient in chocolate. Signs of coffee toxicity include shaking, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol can have a profound effect on dogs. It can cause shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. If a large amount is ingested it can cause collapse, unconsciousness, and even death.
  • Raisins and Grapes. Raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. Clinical signs of toxicity include increased thirst and urination, shaking, trembling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and collapse.
  • Xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs. It causes their blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels and can cause shaking, seizures, liver failure, and death. It is found in many products such as sugar-free chewing gum, cakes and biscuits, peanut butter, and even toothpaste.

If you are concerned about your dog being exposed to something poisonous, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline.

10. Temperature Too High (Hyperthermia)

If your Boston Terrier has a high fever, has overexerted themselves or just overheated due to hot weather, they may experience shaking. This is a life-threatening emergency. If they are too hot and they cannot cool themselves down, this can quickly lead to multiple organ failure. You must take your dog to your vet immediately if this occurs.

Closed up smiling female Boston Terrier showing her tongue and bending ears in backyard under natural light
Image Credit: Siva Nattharom, Shutterstock

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How to Help Your Boston Terrier If They Are Shaking

There are a few different things you can do to help your Boston Terrier if they are shaking. Bear in mind this does depend on the underlying cause of the shaking. You will need to have your dog checked over by your vet before you try anything at home as it is very important that your vet rules out any serious health problems that could be the source of the shaking.

Once your vet has confirmed there is no underlying illness there are a few different things you can try.

  • If you live in a cold climate or winter is coming, you may want to invest in a coat for your dog. There are many different types on the market and lots of different styles too.
  • If they get overexcited, it may help to exercise them. Lots of focused attention and positive interactions will help them to burn off some of that pent-up energy. You can throw a ball for them or play chase with them. They will love to engage in a game with their owner.
  • A dog behaviorist may be able to help your dog if the shaking is due to certain behavior issues. There are various methods of conditioning and training that can be carried out to combat stress, anxiety, fear, and other behavior problems that might cause shaking.
  • If you think your Boston Terrier may have separation anxiety, you can try some enrichment activities and toys to distract them and focus their mind. There are puzzle toys that are available that can release treats over a certain period of time. You can leave something that smells of you for your dog to snuggle up with. Crate training your dog can sometimes help with anxiety depending on the situation.



Boston Terriers shake for many different reasons. Usually, the reason is harmless and does not require any dramatic intervention. You can gain clues as to why they are shaking by paying attention to their immediate environment and the situation they are in, for example, a cold climate or an exciting social occasion.

There are some situations where shaking can be a sign of a serious health issue. This is why it is important to get your dog checked out by your vet, especially if you notice them suddenly start shaking out of the blue or there are other alarming clinical signs you have noted.

Featured Image Cfredit: Zakharova_Elena, Shutterstock

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