White Shaker dog Syndrome


White Shaker Dog Syndrome or seizure problem

Q: Hi,

I have a seven year old Westie/Spaniel cross (Kiefer). Since an early age he has experienced intermittent shaking in his back legs. It has never been a problem until last year when he started having "episodes". A severe shaking or spasm which moves from his neck to his hindquarters then stops. These episodes occur every 3 to 4 months. When the episodes are finished he is full of energy and is his old self and during the spasm he doesn't appear to be in pain - he only seems confused. I have timed these episodes and they usually last two to four minutes. By the time I get him to the emergency vet, of course, all symptoms have stopped. Both the emergency vet and my own vet are at a loss as to what the problem is. The emergency vet mentioned White Shaker Dog Syndrome but didn't know anything about it. My own vet had never heard of it. Another episode occurred about two weeks ago and since then his left shoulder appears to be tender he won't put any weight on it.

Any suggestions? Or maybe it's a "spaniel" thing? I'm at a loss.

A: Linda-

If your vet is unfamiliar with this syndrome you may wish to discuss referral to an internal medicine specialist. From your description it sounds to me like a seizure disorder is as likely or possibly even more likely, though. You might want to let your vet catch up on the information about the shaker syndrome and then discuss this whole problem again.

In any case, if you can manage to videotape one of these episodes it would help a lot in evaluating what it is. There are times when a good picture really is worth a thousand words.

Mike Richards, DVM

White Shaker Dog

Q: Maltese puppy sick-Our 9 month old maltese puppy has become ill. She would not eat and she is shaking constantly. We took her to our local vet and he has had her on IV and he said she ate some food today. She has not quit shaking. He said that it may possibly be lead posioning. She got sick on Wednesday , We took her to the vet on Thursday and back on Friday. The vet kept her over the weekend and has been monitoring her and keeping us informed. She is off the IV but she is still shaking. If it is lead posioning , can she be cured and will she have any side effects from this ordeal. I love her very much she is like my baby . Please offer a little insight. The vet said she had no temperature and all of her other signs were normal heart etc.... He said he has not seen anything like this. He is a good vet and I trust him. I just wanted a little insight from someone else. I have been working out of town and have had to leave my puppy with my husband Mon-Thur. Could this cause her to get sick?

A: My first instinct would be to suspect a condition known as white dog shaker syndrome. That isn't a very scientific name, but it describes the condition exactly.

Small white dogs (Maltese, West Highland white terriers, Bichon frise) can develop tremors for unexplained reasons that can be very severe. These dogs usually have really bizarre eye movements and get much worse when excited or stressed.

The usual treatment for this is to give diazepam (Valium Rx) to control the tremors and prednisone because we don't know what else to do.

Many (most?) of these dogs recover but there may be residual or recurrent problems all of their lives. They can live with the tremoring, even if it persists, in most cases. Keeping the house as quiet as is reasonable, avoiding stress and excitement are helpful for long term management.

Lead poisoning can look very much like this syndrome. So can organophosphate poisoning and hypocalcemia (although that usually occurs after giving birth to puppies). It is possible to rule out these conditions through blood testing and the history of the case. Obviously, if you didn't apply an organophosphate insecticide it isn't too likely your dog was exposed, for example.

This is a pretty rare condition for most vets to see -- I have been practicing 18 years and have only seen it once or twice. It is definitely worth considering and so it is best to rule out the other possible causes, too.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...