Neurological issues in bichon frises occur infrequently -- it makes a strong selling point for breeders -- but some issues do affect the breed so you can't expect yours to go ailment-free for a lifetime. Witnessing any problem in your beloved white fluffball is scary, but don't panic in the face of a seizure or other neurology-idiomatic behavior. In most cases, if your bichon frise is suffering, your vet can treat the condition.
Also known as involuntary movement disorder, bichon dyskinesia mimics seizures in several ways. However, it is considered another sort of neurological event, according to the Bichon Frise Club of America. Typically, the dog goes into a hunchbacked stance, possibly with one side of the face twisting. Walking becomes difficult and uncoordinated. The dyskinesia passes quickly, with the bichon quickly reverting to normal. It ranges from a one-time occurrence to happening several times daily. Take your bichon to the vet for a diagnosis. If your dog exhibits involuntary movements regularly, video an episode and send it to your vet.
White Dog Shaker Syndrome
White dog shaker syndrome got its name because initial cases occurred in small, young white dogs such as the bichon. It's more accurately termed "idiopathic tremor syndrome," since it appears that canines who aren't small and white can also come down with it. Symptoms include mild to severe shaking, usually after mild exercise, but the dog doesn't lose consciousness. Your vet can prescribe tranquilizers such as diazepam, marketed under the trade name Valium, or steroids to control the tremors. Most dogs respond well to medication. Some might be weaned off the medication over time and remain symptom-free, while others require lifelong treatment.
While inherited epilepsy rarely occurs in bichons, it is a possibility. Dogs with inherited epilespy shouldn't be bred. Idiopathic epilepsy, or seizures without a known cause, occur more frequently. According to Canine Epilepsy Resource, idiopathic epilepsy affects between 0.5 to 5.7 percent of all dogs.Your bichon loses consciousness, becomes stiff and might lose control of his bowels and bladder. As the first, or tonic, phase passes, the second, clonic, phase starts. Your bichon's legs move as if he's running and his mouth locks up. The BFCA advises wrapping him in a towel and holding him until the seizure ends. Take him to the vet for an examination. Your vet can prescribe phenobarbital or other medication for seizure control.
While vestibular disease isn't actually a neurological problem, the symptoms resemble one. It's more common in bichons than neurological issues, especially older dogs. Coming on suddenly, affected bichons look like they've had a stroke, as the head tilts to one side and they can't focus their eyes. This middle-ear condition is treatable and often resolves in a relatively short time, but your vet must rule out other, more serious causes of the behavior, such as a brain tumor.
- Bichon Frise Club of America: Involuntary Movement Disorder (Bichon Dyskinesia)
- Bichon Frise Club of America: A Comparison of Bichon Dyskinesia, White Dog Shaker Syndrome and Epilepsy
- Embrace Pet Insurance: Shaker Syndrome
- Bichon Frise Club of America: Caring and Training Your Aging Bichon
- Canine Epilepsy Resource: Seizures in Dogs
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.