There are many health problems that can cause tremors in a dog’s body. Many of these are physical, often the result of an emotional problem or simply age. Some are congenital, which means they have a genetic predisposition to certain symptoms. One cause that we dog owners often overlook is a neurological reason for changes in mobility. This is because the brain gives incorrect instructions to the rest of the body. Even knowing these general causes, it can be difficult to know why a dog is shaking or trembling, something we can see with shaker syndrome.

In this new article from Glòries Veterinary Hospital, we tell you everything we know about shaker syndrome in dogs, a condition scientifically known as idiopathic cerebellitis. Since knowing its cause is very difficult, we will focus mainly on its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. We started!

What is Shaker syndrome in dogs?

Shaker syndrome in dogs is also known as generalized tremor syndrome (GTS) or idiopathic cerebellitis. The disease causes inflammation of the cerebellum, specifically, a part of the brain that controls aspects of the nervous system in dogs. More specifically, it is responsible for the coordination of voluntary movements and muscle contractions.

Many of us, as caregivers of our dogs, may wonder what causes shaker syndrome in dogs. It is an idiopathic disease, its cause being unknown. This does not mean that there is no underlying cause of shaker syndrome, it means that we do not know what it is yet. However, even if the etiology of idiopathic cerebellitis cannot be clearly established, we know that it is a type of central nervous system disorder.

Shaker syndrome can affect both sexes of dogs equally, but it is more common in young or middle-aged dogs. We also know that small dogs and those with white fur are the most affected. For this reason, it is possible that a genetic factor exists, but we are not yet sure what it could be.

Symptoms of Shaker syndrome in dogs

The reason for the common name of idiopathic cerebellitis is because its main symptom is the trembling of the dog’s body. This tremor appears as a slight, general tremor throughout the dog’s body.

Unfortunately, there are still many veterinary challenges to overcome in diagnosing a dog with this symptom, as it is not pathognomonic. This means that it is not an exclusive symptom of this particular disease. There are other syndromes, disorders, and diseases that can make a dog’s entire body shake. One particular aspect of Shaker syndrome that can help distinguish it from other diseases is the fact that generalized tremor does not stop easily and occurs on a daily basis.

It is important to differentiate between a generalized shaking and other reasons why a dog is shaking. Dogs may shake their body involuntarily due to a medical problem, but they can also do it on purpose.

Diagnosis of Shaker syndrome

If you think your dog may be suffering from this syndrome, you should go to the vet as soon as possible to verify the diagnosis. However, since the symptoms are very similar to other conditions that cause the dog to tremble or change his gait, the diagnosis is not easy.

Diagnosing Shaker syndrome in dogs requires a number of tests to be comprehensive, including:

  • Complete medical history.
  • Current symptoms.
  • Initial symptoms and their development over time.
  • Blood test.
  • Urine analysis.
  • Electrolyte level analysis.
  • CSF sample (Cerebrospinal fluid collection).

Based on this thorough examination, the veterinarian must make a differential diagnosis and rule out other causes that may explain the symptoms. These can include physical problems such as hypothermia in dogs, or perhaps a psychological and emotional cause, such as anxiety. In either case, the vet will need to observe the context of the tremors.

Treatment of shaker syndrome in dogs

Sometimes shaker syndrome in dogs can be a serious health problem for the animal. In these cases a period of hospitalization may be necessary until the dog stabilizes various vital signs that could be affected. On the other hand, drug treatment involves cortisones. These are powerful anti-inflammatories that reduce the state of inflammation of brain tissues. It should be mentioned that corticosteroids act by inhibiting the immune system, which results in multiple side effects.

After starting treatment, the dog can recover in about a week, but it can also develop a chronic disease state.

Remember that the vet is the only person trained to indicate a specific treatment if your dog suffers from shaker syndrome. They can also tell you how often to have post-treatment checkups and how to progressively reduce cortisone administration.

Shaker syndrome in white dogs

Although shaker syndrome can affect many dogs, it is true that small and white dogs are the most affected. For this reason, if we adopt a breed of small white dog or a cross with said breed, we must be particularly attentive to the tremors in its body. In this regard, the breeds most affected by white dog shake syndrome include:

  • Poodle.
  • West Highland White Terrier.
  • Maltese Bichon.
  • Bichon Frize.
  • Havanese.
  • Bichon Bolognese.

Regardless, we should carry out regular reviews with our trusted veterinarian, but especially, it will be interesting to pay special attention to the previous breeds.

Do you think your dog may be suffering from shaker syndrome? Visit our Glòries Veterinary Hospital and your dog will be in the best hands to find the best treatment and improve his health and quality of life.