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White Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

White Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

Health & Safety

White Shaker Syndrome is a disease that affects a dog's whole body. Also known as Idiopathic Cerebellitis, dogs with the disorder are seen to suffer from tremors which is bought on due to an inflammation in part of their brain responsible for coordination and muscle control. This causes dogs with the condition to lose control of their muscles which shake involuntarily, all of which can be very worrying for owners to have to witness.

Nobody actually knows why certain dogs suffer from this worrying condition although there is some indication that colour may have something to do with it. There is also speculation the condition may caused by a generalised neurotransmitter deficiency bought on by an autoimmune reaction.

However, dogs of any colour may suffer from the condition, although for some reason white dogs appear to be more predisposed to White Shaker Syndrome, hence the name. West Highlands white terriers and Maltese seem to be the two breeds that suffer from it the most with both dogs and bitches being affected whether they are young or middle-aged. With this said, other breeds like the Bichon Frise, Poodle, Beagle and Yorkshire terrier have also been seen to suffer with the condition.

The Symptoms to Watch Out For

  • Tremors and shaking all over the dog's body
  • Rapid eye movement when dogs are overly excited
  • Symptoms may be confused for anxiety or hypothermia

The Causes of White Shaker Syndrome

It's not known what causes White Shaker Syndrome and it is classed as an idiopathic condition that is more often connected to diseases involving a dog's central nervous system in some mild way or another.

Diagnosing the Condition

If you are worried your dog may be suffering from White Shaker Syndrome, you would need to take them along to the vet as soon as you can. You would also need to take along as much of your dog's history as possible. This includes any physical conditions and behavioural traits that led up to the onset of the symptoms.

Your vet will then perform a thorough examination of your dog which should include standard lab work like blood tests and a urinalysis as well as an electrolyte panel which will help rule out the possibility of any other diseases. Your vet may also want to take some fluid from your dog's spinal cord which is known as “cerebrospinal” fluid. This fluid will be sent for analysis to determine the condition of your dog's nervous system which allows for the elimination of any other causes too.

All these tests are carried as a process of elimination which allows a vet to determine whether the condition is being caused by other more common disorders, and as such, allows them to treat it appropriately. Other causes of the “shakes of tremors” could be due to a dog feeling anxiety or fear. The tremors could also be caused by your dog having suffered from a seizure or even hypothermia – when their body temperature falls too low and would require a very different form of treatment.

Treating the Condition

Treating White Shaker Syndrome depends very much on the severity of the tremors a dog may be experiencing as well as their overall condition. Your vet may want to keep your dog as an inpatient or may decide to treat them as an outpatient. However, if a dog is very sick due to the condition, or if your vet thinks there may be an underlying cause or even an infection going on, they will want to hospitalise your dog until their condition stabilises and your dog is more comfortable.

Treatment of neurological Shaker Syndrome involves the use of corticosteroids in order to reduce any inflammation. The majority of dogs get better within a week but some dogs never really recover entirely from the condition – although this is extremely rare. Over a period of a few months, the steroid medication will be reduced until your dog no longer needs to be given it. However, if any of the symptoms recur, then a steroid treatment will have to be started all over again and on the odd occasion, a dog may even have to remain on steroids for the rest of their lives in order to stay healthy and keep the tremors under control.

Living & Managing the Condition

Your vet will want to keep a close eye on your dog if they have suffered from White Shaker Syndrome and for the first month after they have received their initial treatment, will need to examine your dog on a weekly basis. As your dog's condition improves, these visits will be scheduled for once a month until the corticosteroid treatment can be stopped altogether. However, if any of the symptoms recur, your dog may have to undergo a second corticosteroid treatment. Your vet may recommend a dog is kept on the treatment for the rest of their lives.


White Shaker Syndrome normally develops suddenly and can affect dogs as young as 6 months old right up to those that have reached 3 years old. Symptoms become progressively worse over the course of 1 to 3 days with tremors being either quite mild or very severe which means a dog has real trouble walking. It is very important to keep a dog as quiet as possible when they show any signs of the condition because the tremors will get worse if your dog gets too excited. You have to take them to the vet as soon as you can so tests can be carried out for a correct diagnosis to be made. Treatment is very effective although some dogs may need to be medicated for the rest of their lives in order to control the tremors. White Shaker Syndrome is not a painful condition and your dog's personality will not be affected if they suffer from it.