Overview of Tremors and Shaking in Dogs
Tremors are rhythmic, to and fro involuntary movements that persist through the waking state. True tremors stop during sleep. There are a variety of causes of tremors, depending on which part of the body is affected.
Causes of Canine Tremors or Shaking
Tremors of the Head
Cerebellar abnormalities (coordination part of the brain)
Idiopathic (unknown cause)
Inflammatory processes (encephalitis)
Tremors of the Pelvic (rear) Limb
Weakness or pain
Metabolic disease (kidney failure, low blood sugar)
Compressive lesions of the spine (tumors, narrowing of vertebra)
Toxicities (organophosphate, mycotoxins)
Hypomyelination (diseases that decrease the covering of the nerves)
Degenerative neurologic diseases
Idiopathic generalized tremor syndrome (white shaker dog syndrome)
What to Watch For
Abnormal, involuntary movement involving the head, limbs or whole body
Diagnosis of Tremors and Shaking in Dogs
A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all cases. It is important to rule out metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or kidney disease. Include a creatine kinase to assess for the possibility of muscle disease.
Screening chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are most often within normal limits; however, they should be performed. Radiographs of the spine may be recommended in some cases.
A myelogram (study of the spine using dye) may be recommended to assess for the presence of tumors or disc disease.
A CT (computerized tomography) scan and/or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) will help detect structural changes of the brain and/or spine.
A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap may confirm encephalitis.
Electromyelography (EMG) will help in the diagnosis of associated neuromuscular disorders.
Treatment of Tremors and Shaking in Dogs
There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to symptomatically treat the patient with tremors.
Treat and address the primary or underlying disease if possible
Avoid excitement and exercise, as this may exacerbate tremors
More specific therapy may be indicated, as in the case of a patient who needs surgery for a disc protrusion
Avoid toxin exposure. If intoxication is a possibility, do not allow additional exposure, consult poison control and contact your veterinarian.
Animals with generalized tremors often lose weight. Monitor your pet’s weight and make appropriate changes in the diet.
Only administer drugs and medication as directed by your veterinarian.