What is White Dog Shaker Syndrome?

A very unusual, but disturbing neurologic disease seen sporadically in dogs has been called White Dog Shaker Syndrome. While this syndrome has been seen most commonly in either sex of certain white breed dogs such as the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Samoyed, and West Highland White Terrier, it may also occur in breeds of any size or color, and I have seen this even in Dachshunds. Typically the age of onset is in young dogs, but occasionally the syndrome has been diagnosed in puppies as young as 5 months of age, or as old as 5 or 6 years of age.

Tremors are usually generalized and often consistent, and are typically of sudden onset affecting the whole body. Involuntary eye motions are occasionally seen, as well as occasional head tilts in some animals. Tremors may become so severe that they progress to problems with the gait and coordination, which in some cases may make it difficult to stand or walk. Tremors may be aggravated by stress including excitement or eating; however, most pets remain alert throughout the episode. These episodes may occur in 1 to 3 day cycles in many pets.

Currently, conventional veterinary medicine does not have a cause for this unusual neurological syndrome; however, viral infection and/or an overactive autoimmune response may be involved. As a holistic veterinarian, I have also seen many cases occur shortly after modified live viral vaccination. Any pet with neurological symptoms like this need a complete veterinary medical workup to rule out toxin exposure, trauma, metabolic diseases including low blood sugar and electrolyte abnormalities, as well as various infectious and/or inflammatory conditions of the nervous system including the epilepsy.

While most pets can be adequately treated with anti-inflammatories such as prednisone and muscle relaxants like diazepam, some pets may require intermittent or long term therapy to keep the symptoms under control. This is also a syndrome where consulting with a holistic veterinarian who may be able to offer homeopathy and/or acupuncture, as well as dietary counseling and supplements, may be worthwhile.