White shaker syndrome occurs in small dogs between the ages of 1 to 6 years. It appears to predominately affect white colored dogs, such as Bichon Frise, Maltese, white Poodles and the West Highland terrier. The symptoms manifest quickly and with no warning.
Afflicted dogs will begin to shake constantly. When the dog is excited or stressed the shaking often becomes more pronounced. Many dogs continue to shake even while sleeping. Besides the outward shaking the dog appears to suffer from no other apparent symptoms and remains alert.
Theories vary on the cause of white shaker syndrome. Many believe that the shaking occurs from a generalized inflammation within the brain but despite this theory no definitive area of the brain has been observed to be inflamed on scans. Other theories hold that the disease may occur as a result of an immune response that the dog’s body launches.
The veterinarian will need to run a full panel of tests to successfully diagnose white shaker syndrome because many other disorders can cause similar symptoms. Many dogs will shake that suffer form lead poisoning or who have been exposed to certain toxic molds. A dog suffering from epilepsy will often have tremors instead of a full blown seizure.
A complete blood count will help in diagnosis. The veterinarian may also elect to perform a CT scan to look for areas of concern in the dog’s brain. A spinal tap to retrieve spinal fluid may also be performed.
Once a diagnosis of white shaker syndrome is made the veterinarian will usually place the dog on a steroid, such as prednisone. Diazepam may also be prescribed.
Over the course of several weeks most dogs will recover fully. A few may suffer a relapse at a later date, however.
Avoid placing stress on a dog suffering from white shaker syndrome since stress makes the disorder worse and more pronounced. Carry the dog up stairs, lift the dog on furniture and do not expect the dog to go for a long walk because the excessive tremors makes it more prone to serious injury if it should fall.