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White Dog Shaker Syndrome

A Reason Why Your Dog May Be Shaking

By Jesse Feldman. November 21, 2013 | See Comments

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White West Highland Terrier Sitting In The Grass

White Dog Shaker Syndrome is considered to be a neurological disease that can cause tremors in your dog. It was first noticed in white dog breeds, hence the name. Learn more about the symptoms and treatment options here.

Shaker syndrome is a disorder that causes a dog’s body to shake uncontrollably. It may also be referred to as steroid responsive tremor syndrome or idiopathic cerebellitis, which references the part of the dog’s brain that is affected. The cerebellum is the brain center that controls the coordination and regulation of voluntary muscular movement. The disease was first recognized in small white dog breeds such as Maltese, Bichons, and Poodles, hence it is sometimes called “white dog shaker syndrome.” Shaker syndrome can affect all breeds, however.

Shaker syndrome usually affects dogs between the ages of one and six years old, with its first symptoms appearing at a young age. However, it has been occasionally diagnosed in younger puppies.

Why Do Dogs Develop Shaker Syndrome?

The syndrome’s causes are still unknown. It is generally thought to be a mild central nervous system disease. Hereditary links have also not been established, although some experts recommend not breeding affected dogs.

Symptoms

The primary symptom of shaker syndrome is body tremors. Tremors are involuntary, repetitive contractions of muscle groups. They can present over the entire body, and can range in severity from mild to incapacitating. Your dog may also exhibit involuntary eye movements, poor coordination, or walking problems. The disorder does not cause pain for your dog.

Symptoms may worsen with exercise, stress, or excitement and lessen or resolve with sleep. They typically present and worsen over a three day period.

Diagnosis

Your vet will begin shaker syndrome diagnosis by first ruling out causes like toxin ingestion or other neurological disorders through a complete physical examination. Blood and urine tests will help rule out low blood sugar or other imbalances. Your vet may find it helpful to see a videotape of the shaking.

Treatment

Your vet’s treatment plan will take into account the severity of the tremors and your dog’s overall health.  The primary treatment for shaker syndrome is corticosteroids. The steroids reduce the inflammatory response in the body. After beginning treatment, tremors generally resolve in a week.  Your vet will gradually taper off the steroid dosage to none at all. Expect to return regularly to the vet for follow-up visits in the first month of treatment.

Steroids are usually given for a few months before being halted, but if symptoms recur treatment will be given for a longer period. Some dogs require a lifetime of regular immunosuppressive treatment to maintain health.

Recovery

The best thing you can do for a dog with shaker syndrome is to get treatment started as early as possible. But you can also modify their environment and activities to facilitate healing. Consider these simple ways to help your pet recover:

  • Keep food and water dishes in easily accessed locations. Stairs may be difficult for a dog with tremors because of balance issues.

  • Keep your dog as calm as possible by trying to avoid extreme excitement or stress. This may mean avoiding long walks, interaction with other animals, or intense play sessions.

With the right treatment in place, your dog can lead a happy, comfortable life with shaker syndrome.

More on Dog Health

Symptoms of Addison's Disease in Dogs
How a Healthy Dog Weight Can Prevent Disease
Cat and Dog Dental Disease

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Shaker Syndrome at a glance

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  • 1Shaker syndrome is a neurologic disorder with unknown causes.
  • 2The main symptom is uncontrollable tremors or shaking throughout your dog’s body.
  • 3 It can affect dogs of all coat colors, despite sometimes being called “white dog” shaker syndrome.
  • 4Treatment with steroids can clear up symptoms in a week.