Why Is My Maltese Shaking?

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Does your Maltese shake like a leaf in the wind?

If so, you may wonder what could be causing this behavior. Is it because they’re cold? Is it a medical issue? Or could it be something else entirely?

To help you get to the bottom of this, here are a few potential explanations for your Maltese shaking.

maltese shaking

Common reasons for shaking in Maltese dogs

Let’s start with the most common reasons for shaking in Maltese dogs and how to address them.

Cold weather

This is often the first assumption when a Maltese is shaking.

While Maltese dogs are known for their long, flowing hair, they have a single-layered coat that doesn’t provide much insulation against the cold. As a result, they start shivering and shaking to generate body heat and keep themselves warm.

If your Maltese has a short haircut, or you suspect that cold weather is the cause of their shaking, make sure to provide them with appropriate protection such as a doggy sweater or jacket when taking them outside in chilly temperatures.

Additionally, ensure that they have a warm and cozy spot indoors where they can retreat to if they feel cold.

In case it’s too cold for them to be outside, consider shortening their walks or finding alternative ways to provide exercise and mental stimulation inside. Pee pads can also be used indoors for potty breaks during extreme cold weather.

Potty time

While we’re on this topic, it’s important to address another common reason why your Maltese might be shaking – they need to go to the bathroom!

Maltese dogs have small bladders and may not be able to hold their urine for long periods of time, especially if they’re young or have health issues.

Since they know they can’t go inside the house, they may start to whine, shake, or show signs of restlessness.

To prevent accidents indoors, ensure you establish a regular potty routine for your Maltese. Take them outside at consistent intervals throughout the day, such as first thing in the morning, after meals, and before bedtime.

Attention-seeking behavior

Shaking doesn’t always mean that your dog is cold or uncomfortable. Sometimes, it can be an attention-seeking behavior.

Maltese dogs are known to be affectionate and love being the center of attention. If they feel ignored or neglected, they may resort to shaking as a way to get your attention.

If your Maltese is shaking and you’ve ruled out any physical discomfort or need for potty breaks, try spending some quality time with them. Engage in interactive play sessions, cuddle with them on the couch, or simply give them some extra love and attention.

However, don’t do this every time they shake, as this can reinforce the behavior and lead to them shaking for attention more frequently.


Dogs tend to shake when they’re feeling overly excited or stimulated. In fact, this is how they naturally release excess energy.

You may notice your Maltese shaking when they see their favorite toy or when they’re anticipating something exciting like a walk or playtime. This is considered a normal behavior for dogs and is nothing to be concerned about.

If anything, it helps them cope with their excitement and prevents them from becoming too wound up.

Old age

Similar to old people, as dogs get older, their muscles and joints may become weaker, leading to uncontrollable trembling or shaking. This is often seen in senior dogs and is typically a result of arthritis or other age-related conditions.

Provide your aging dog with proper care and support during this time to help manage their symptoms. This includes providing them with a comfortable and supportive bed and engaging in regular exercise tailored to their abilities.

You should also consult with a veterinarian about any medications or supplements that could help alleviate your Maltese’s symptoms.

Anxiety and stress as a possible cause

Maltese dogs are very sensitive and can easily become overwhelmed by loud noises, new environments, or changes in their daily routine. When they feel anxious, shaking can be a way for them to release tension and calm themselves down.

If you notice that your Maltese dog shakes primarily in certain situations, such as during thunderstorms or car rides, it’s likely that anxiety or stress is the underlying cause.

Other symptoms of anxiety or stress in dogs may include excessive barking, panting, pacing, drooling, and hiding.

To help them manage their anxiety and reduce shaking, be sure to create a calm and secure environment for them. This could be a quiet room with their bed and favorite toys, or a crate where they can feel safe and protected.

Taking your dog for regular walks or engaging them in play sessions can also help release pent-up energy and promote relaxation.

In addition to this, you can try using calming aids such as lavender essential oil, bach flower essence, or calming music specifically designed for dogs.

There are even calming treats available that are made with ingredients known to promote relaxation, such as hemp seed, chamomile, valerian root, and L-theanine.

Zesty Paws Calming Chews for Dogs - Composure & Relaxation for Everyday Stress & Separation - with Ashwagandha, Organic Chamomile, L-Theanine & L-Tryptophan – Peanut Butter - 90 Count

Medical conditions that could cause shaking

Nausea (or upset stomach). If your Maltese experiences frequent or persistent episodes of shaking combined with signs of nausea, such as drooling, vomiting, or loss of appetite, you need to consult a veterinarian.

Nausea can be caused by various factors including motion sickness, gastrointestinal issues, food allergies or sensitivities, ingestion of toxic substances, or digestive diseases like pancreatitis.

Itching. Since itchy skin can be a cause of discomfort for dogs, it may lead to episodes of shaking. There are several reasons why a dog may experience itching, including allergies, fleas or ticks, dry skin, or dermatitis.

If your Maltese constantly shakes and scratches at their skin, it’s crucial to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (White Dog Shaker Syndrome). This neurological condition primarily affects small, white dog breeds such as Maltese, and it’s characterized by uncontrollable tremors that can affect the entire body.

The exact cause is still unknown, but it’s believed to be a hereditary condition that develops due to an abnormality in the dog’s immune system.

Distemper. Canine distemper is a highly contagious, viral disease that can quickly pass from one unvaccinated dog to another. Mild symptoms include coughing, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In severe cases, distemper can lead to neurological symptoms such as uncontrollable tremors or seizures. However, it’s important to distinguish between tremors and seizures.

Addison’s Disease. This disease is actually a hormonal disorder that affects the adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for producing hormones that help regulate various bodily functions.

In dogs with Addison’s Disease, the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of these hormones, leading to a range of symptoms, including weakness, lethargy, and shaking.

Poisoning. Seemingly innocent foods like grapes, chocolate, and onions are extremely dangerous for dogs to consume. Poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms, from vomiting and diarrhea to more severe reactions such as shaking and seizures.

Other conditions. Inflamed or full anal glands, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), kidney disease, heart problems, and seizure disorders are other potential causes of shaking in dogs.

As always, talk to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is unwell or showing signs of sickness.

In summary

If your Maltese is shaking, it could be due to a number of reasons including anxiety, excitement, or even something as simple as being cold. However, it can also be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Whatever the case may be, if it becomes excessive or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s recommended to see a veterinarian and get a professional opinion.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.