White Shaker Syndrome in Small Dogs

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What is White dog shaker syndrome?

courtesy by Luy Brangioni

White dog shaker syndrome causes full body tremors in small, white dog breeds.

Most commonly affected dog breeds are West Highland White Terriers, Poodles, Bichon Frise and Maltese dogs.

Researchers have yet to pinpoint an exact cause of this sudden tremor-like shaking, but one theory suggests that the problems are caused by an autoimmune-induced generalized deficiency of neurotransmitters, which means that the dog is attacked by its own immune system.

What does White shaker dog syndrome mean to your dog & you?

 This disorder usually develops suddenly in young adult dogs (6 months to 3 years of age). The signs become progressively worse over 1 to 3 days and then remain the same until treatment is begun. There is an all-over tremor that can range from mild to so severe that the dog may have difficulty walking. This is called an intention tremor, meaning that it is worse when the animal is excited or tries to perform a specific action (such as eat, walk towards an object). The tremor decreases or disappears when the dog is relaxed or at rest. Commonly there are rapid, random eye movements as well.

The condition is not painful and your dog’s personality is unaffected. Treatment is generally effective; some dogs require medication for life to control the tremors.

How is White shaker dog syndrome diagnosed?

White shaker disease is not completely understood.  For this reason, there is no specific test that can confirm white shaker syndrome.

Your veterinarian will diagnose this condition based on symptoms displayed by your dog, and the vet will also test your dog to rule out other possible reasons behind this type of symptoms.  Dogs suffering from this disease will usually have perfectly normal spinal and higher reflexes, voluntary motor functions, cranial nerve function, and conscious awareness of limb positioning.

How is shaker dog syndrome treated?

Most dogs recover completely with early treatment with corticosteroids and or benzodiazepines.  Most veterinarians will use both drugs simultaneously to treat dogs with White dog shaker syndrome.

In most situations, the vet will give your dog high doses of medication to begin with, and gradually decrease the doses over the course of several weeks.  Even if your dog seems completely recovered you should never stop treatment without consulting your vet, because the symptoms can return if ended prematurely.

Dogs that receive early treatment will normally get better and recover completely within a week.  Lifelong treatment can however be necessary to keep the problems under control.

Home Care and Prevention

After being diagnosed with white shaker syndrome, your dog may need a little help until he recovers.  Make his food and water bowls easily accessible with wide openings.  This will allow the dog to eat and drink, even if he has tremors.

Keep your dog as calm as possible.  The tremors seem to worsen in times of stress or excitement.  Be aware that your dog may not be able to go for long walks or play for extended periods of time until the tremors subside.  Avoid stairs or areas that may result in injury to your dog.

Since the cause of white shaker syndrome is not known, there is no way to prevent it.





May 2018
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