White shaker dog syndrome once was believed to afflict mostly small, white dogs like the bichon frise. Now known to occasionally affect young dogs of any description, it is often called generalized tremor syndrome. Affected dogs tremble uncontrollably, with rapid eye movements. The upside: Treated dogs often outgrow the problem.
White Shaker Dog Syndrome
An affected bichon frise will usually have the first episode before 3 years of age. The dog's little body begins shaking, especially if she is already excited or nervous about something. She might appear weak, or she may tilt her head. Although it might scare you to see your dog experiencing an episode, the syndrome is not fatal. Even if your dog experiences episodes, she can still live a normal lifespan.
Bichon Neurological Diseases
Other neurological problems affecting bichons might have similar symptoms, so don't assume that if your bichon frise has tremors, she's experiencing white shaker dog syndrome. Only a vet can make that diagnosis, usually by ruling out other causes. Seizures can resemble white shaker dog syndrome, but they are usually more severe and more serious. Some bichons suffer from bichon dyskinesia, although it is rare. Dogs with this problem exhibit involuntary muscle movements, but are fully conscious at the time.
After diagnosing white shaker dog syndrome, your veterinarian may prescribe the steroid prednisone to ease the tremors and eventually end the episodes. The full effect of the medication may not be noticeable for two weeks or longer. Once the shaking episodes stop, you can gradually wean your little friend entirely off the medication, or maintain her on a minimal dose. Follow your vet's advice, and do not stop medication suddenly. Your vet might also prescribe tranquilizers, especially if the steroid doesn't do the trick.
While you can't prevent white shaker dog syndrome, you can take steps to avoid some triggers once your dog shows symptoms. Keep your home environment calm. Maybe you can change your musical tastes from loud to soft. Avoid activities that excite your dog. That might mean she misses out on some fun, like visits to friends, but it's for her own good. Bichons don't need a lot of exercise, so don't worry about getting her overstimulated with too much romping around.
- Bichon Frise Club of America: A Comparison of Bichon Dyskinesia, White Dog Shaker Syndrome and Epilepsy
- Vet Info: White Shaker Dog Syndrome
- Vet Info: Shaking Dog Syndrome
- Purdue University: Generalized Tremors: Identifying a White Shaker Dog
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Dyskinesia in an Adult Bichon Frise.
- Dog Channel: Stick With Dog’s Treatment Plan for Little White Dog Shaker Syndrome
- Web MD: Dog Shivering and Trembling: Causes and Treatments
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.