Complex ecological and economic systems show fluctuations in macroscopic quantities such as exchange rates, size of companies or populations that follow non-Gaussian tent-shaped probability distributions of growth rates with power-law decay, which suggests that fluctuations in complex systems may be governed by universal mechanisms, independent of particular details and idiosyncrasies. We propose here that metabolic rate within individual organisms may be considered as an example of an emergent property of a complex system and test the hypothesis that the probability distribution of fluctuations in the metabolic rate of individuals has a "universal" form regardless of body size or taxonomic affiliation. We examined data from 71 individuals belonging to 25 vertebrate species (birds, mammals, and lizards). We report three main results. First, for all these individuals and species, the distribution of metabolic rate fluctuations follows a tent-shaped distribution with power-law decay. Second, the standard deviation of metabolic rate fluctuations decays as a power-law function of both average metabolic rate and body mass, with exponents -0.352 and -1/4 respectively. Finally, we find that the distributions of metabolic rate fluctuations for different organisms can all be rescaled to a single parent distribution, supporting the existence of general principles underlying the structure and functioning of individual organisms.