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White Shakers Syndrome

Little White Shakers - Syndrome

(Shaker Dogs; Generalised Tremor Syndrome)

written by

Richard A. LeCouteur B.VSc.. Dip. Surg.. Ph.D. Diplomate A.CV./.M (Neurology)

Castle Hill Veterinary Hospital J Francis Street

Castle Hill NSW 2154 Australia


           Best name for syndrome is "idiopathic tremor syndrome of adult dogs"

           Occurs in young mature dogs, of either sex, often of small breed

(Maltese, West Highland White, beagle)

           Dogs of any colour, size, or breed may be affected

           Unknown pathogenesis


           Characterised by a sudden onset of constant tremors all over the body, including the head and eyeballs

           Exaggerated by excitement, handling, forced locomotion .

           Decreases (but may not disappear) with relaxation .

           Affected dogs are alert and responsive .

           Rarely, an affected dog may convulse

           Full blood count and serum biochemistry panel results are normal .

           Cerebrospinal fluid may be normal, or may reveal a mild increase in white

blood cell count (all lymphocytes)

           Post mortem examination of brain may be normal, or may reveal a very mild diffuse nonsuppurative encephalomyelitis (characterised by an occasional small lymphoid perivascular cuff that does not affect adjacent brain parenchyma)


           Recommended therapy is glucocorticoids -premature cessation of therapy will lead to relapse of signs

           Oral prednisone should be given in a reducing regime eg. 1-2mg/kg each day for 4 weeks, then 0.5-1mg/kg each day for 2 weeks, then 0.5-1 mg/kg every second day for 2 weeks, then 0.5-1 mg/kg every third day for 4 weeks (or indefinitely)

           Some authors advocate the concurrent use of oral diazepam for best therapeutic results eg. 0.5-1 mg/kg repeated three times daily for

4 weeks, then 0.5-1 mg kg repeated twice daily for 4 weeks, then 0.5-1 mg/kg once daily for 4 weeks


           Clinical signs usually will decrease during the second day of therapy, and the dog may be almost normal by the seventh day of therapy

           Some dogs never return to 100% normal

           Some dogs relapse at the end of treatment, requiring additional therapy for 1-3 months (or indefinitely)

           Some dogs may relapse months or years later


           Etiology and pathogenesis -unknown, however speculation exists:

-Is there a genetic component?

-Is inflammation a factor in pathogenesis?

-Is the condition immune mediated or virally precipitated?

 -Is the condition related to coat colour?

-Is the condition caused by a neurotransmitter block or delay?

 -Does tyrosine metabolism playa role?


           Note that Idiopathic Tremor Syndrome of adult dogs is not to be confused with Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis (or GME), which is an idiopathic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system of dogs.


White Shaker Dog Syndrome  by George Jones


     Dogs that have this disease are subject to tremors that affect their entire body.  Stress, handling, and excitement seem to worsen the condition.  Occasionally, other neurological abnormalities are seen in association with this condition such as head tilts, limb weakness and seizures.  White Shaker Dog Syndrome most commonly is seen in such breeds as West Highland White Terriers, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Australian Silky Terriers, and Miniature Pinschers.


     A veterinarian normally will treat this condition with corticosteroids, with some dogs responding quickly and not needing additional treatments.  Other dogs will need to have low doses every other day to keep the tremors under control.  Again it must be stressed, that treatment must be in conjunction with the directions of a veterinarian.

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