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Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

Generalized Tremor Syndrome in Dogs

Shaker syndrome, also known as Generalized Tremor Syndrome, is a condition that induces shaking throughout a dog’s entire body. It is characterized by inflammation of the cerebellum, the brain region responsible for coordinating and regulating voluntary muscle movement, with the cause remaining unknown.

While dogs of any coat color can experience Shaker syndrome, certain breeds with white hair coats, such as Maltese and West Highland White Terriers, are more commonly affected. Moreover, both male and female dogs are susceptible to this condition, particularly those in their youth to middle age.

Symptoms and Types

  • Generalized tremors affecting the entire body
  • Might be misinterpreted as anxiety or low body temperature (hypothermia)


While the syndrome can occur in dogs for unknown reasons (idiopathic), it is frequently linked to mild central nervous system disease.


To diagnose the condition, your veterinarian will require a comprehensive history of your dog’s physical and behavioral health leading up to the onset of symptoms. A thorough physical examination will be conducted, along with standard laboratory tests such as a blood chemical profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel to eliminate other potential diseases. Additionally, your veterinarian may extract cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal cord for laboratory analysis of the nervous system.

Utilizing a process called differential diagnosis, your veterinarian will systematically eliminate more common causes until identifying the correct disorder for appropriate treatment. Other potential causes for the tremors may include anxiety/fear, seizures, and hypothermia.


The treatment approach depends on the severity of the tremors and your dog’s overall condition. Care may be administered either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. In cases where the tremors cause severe illness or if there’s an underlying condition or infection, hospitalization may be necessary until your dog’s health stabilizes.

The primary treatment for neurological shaker syndrome involves the use of corticosteroids to reduce the inflammatory response in the body. Most dogs show improvement within a week, although some rare cases may not fully recover. The steroid dosage will be gradually tapered over a few months until it is discontinued. If symptoms reappear, steroid treatment may need to be reinstated, and in certain instances, it may need to be continued for an extended period or even for the duration of the dog’s life to maintain health.

Living and Management

Following the initial treatment, your veterinarian will conduct weekly evaluations of your dog for the first month. Subsequently, monthly follow-up appointments will be scheduled until the corticosteroids are completely discontinued. These appointments are crucial for monitoring your pet’s progress and adjusting the treatment plan as necessary.

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