Shaking Dog Syndrome

Shaking dog syndrome can develop in small white dogs for no apparent reason. The tremors can be rather severe and can include bizarre eye movements. The tremors increase in severity when a dog becomes excited or stressed. Shaking dog syndrome is not the only cause of tremors.

Possible Causes of a Shaking Dog

There are a number of possible theories as to the cause for tremors. These tremors are abnormal, involuntary movements of the limbs, head or entire body. Some of the causes include the following:

  • Genetics
  • Trauma, due to an injury
  • Vestibular diseases
  • Cerebellar abnormalities (part of brain that involves coordination)
  • Idiopathic
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Drugs
  • Toxins, including lead poisoning or moldy food
  • Organophosphate poisoning
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Pain or weakness
  • Infection or inflammation of the brain or nervous system
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Immune system disease
  • Metabolic diseases, such as low blood sugar or kidney failure
  • Neuromuscular diseases (hip dysplasia or degenerative myelopathy)
  • Compression on the spine, such as tumors
  • Hypomyelination (disease affecting the decrease of nerve covering)
  • Degenerative neurologic diseases
  • White shaker dog syndrome, affecting dogs with white coats (Bichon frise, maltese, West Highland white terriers and poodles between the ages of 1 and 6 years of age)

Though the shaking can range from mild to severe, causing difficulty in standing or walking, a dog can live a long life with tremor management. Any dog that suffers from tremors must be kept calm so as not to exacerbate the tremors.

Diagnosis By Exclusion

Diseases can be ruled out as to the cause of the tremors with certain diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, spinal taps, biochemical profile, myelogram (study of the spine using dyes to identify tumors), urinalysis, x-rays (chest and abdominal), MRI or CT scan and electroencephalograph (EMG) that measures brain waves. Depending upon the results of these tests, treatment can then be planned and followed, with the exception of white shaker dog syndrome. In the case of white shaker dog syndrome, all tests come back normal.

Treatment of the Disease

Treatment of the tremors involves treatment of the underlying disease if that is the cause of the tremors. Surgery may be required if the cause involves disc or nerve misalignment. Avoidance of excitement and exercise may be necessary if either exacerbates the tremors.

Prednisone or corticosteroids sometimes will alleviate the tremors; however, the medications must be used for several months requiring a weaning off of the medications period. Diazepam or Valium may be prescribed for the most severe cases. Unfortunately, the tremors may return.

Living with Tremors

It is entirely possible for a dog to live out a long life despite having tremors. By avoiding excitement, stress, long walks or extended periods of play, a dog can still enjoy life and the companionship of his owner. Avoiding areas, such as stairs, where it is possible to injure oneself is a wise practice. Access to food and water bowls with wide openings that can accommodate a dog’s needs during a tremor will also help. Most important, is that the dog remains calm so that the tremors can become less severe and eventually cease.