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Shaker Syndrome in Dogs – 10 Clinical Signs to Watch For

Shaker syndrome, also known as “little white dog shaker syndrome,” is a condition that affects smaller dogs, particularly those that are white in color. It is characterized by full-body tremors and is often seen in dogs between the ages of 6 months and 2 years.

However, older dogs can also develop shaker syndrome. It can be a distressing and confusing condition for both the dog and its owner.

In this blog post, we will explore the clinical signs of shaker syndrome in dogs, potential causes, and dog breeds at risk. We will also discuss how shaker syndrome is diagnosed and the various treatment options available.

Possible Causes of Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

The cause of shaker syndrome can be hard to pinpoint. Sometimes it’s a matter of ruling out other diseases in order to get to the correct diagnosis. The following are some potential causes of shaker syndrome in dogs:

Infectious Diseases

One possible cause is canine distemper, a viral infection that can affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Canine distemper is highly contagious and can be deadly, particularly in young puppies.

Idiopathic Cerebellitis

Another potential cause is idiopathic cerebellitis, an inflammation of the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain that plays a vital role in controlling movement and coordination. Idiopathic cerebellitis is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body.

Dog Breeds At Risk

Certain dog breeds are at a higher risk of developing shaker syndrome. Small white dogs, such as West Highland White Terriers, are particularly susceptible to the condition. Other breeds that may be at risk include Bichon frises, Lhasa apsos, and Poodles.

shaker syndrome in dogs

Diagnosing Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

Diagnosing shaker syndrome in dogs can be challenging, as it is often a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that other potential causes of the tremors must be ruled out before a diagnosis of Shaker syndrome can be made.

To diagnose the condition, your veterinarian will likely perform a complete blood count and a chemistry panel to check for any underlying medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease. They may also recommend other diagnostic tests, such as a spinal tap (also known as a CSF tap) to check the fluid surrounding the spinal cord for any abnormalities.

Treatment Options for Dogs with Shaker Syndrome

How a dog with shaker syndrome is treated at first will depend on what is causing the tremors. If the tremors are caused by a deeper medical problem, like canine distemper or liver disease, treating that problem may help to stop the tremors.

In some cases, steroid treatment may be effective in reducing the severity of the tremors. However, it is important to note that steroids (for example, prednisone) can have a number of side effects and should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Common side effects of prednisone include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Panting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections
  • Decreased immune function
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Behavior changes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Delayed wound healing

If the cause of the tremors is unknown, the veterinarian may recommend a presumptive treatment, such as immunosuppressive drugs, to try to reduce inflammation and control the tremors. It is important to note that the treatment efficacy may vary and the tremors may recur even with treatment.

In severe cases of shaker syndrome, immunosuppressive drugs may be necessary to reduce inflammation and control the tremors. It is important to note that the treatment efficacy may vary and the tremors may recur even with treatment.

In some cases, it may take time and trial and error to determine the most effective treatment for a dog with shaker syndrome.

Clinical Signs of Shaker Syndrome in Dogs

One of the most prominent clinical signs of shaker syndrome is an intention tremor, which is a type of shaking that occurs when the dog is attempting to perform a specific action, such as picking up a toy or reaching for a treat.

The tremors may affect the entire body or just certain parts, such as the hind legs.

The following symptoms may be present in a dog with shaker syndrome:

  1. Full body tremors
  2. Intention tremor (shaking that occurs when the dog is attempting to perform a specific action)
  3. Difficulty coordinating movements
  4. Loss of balance
  5. Involuntary muscle movements
  6. Muscle twitching
  7. Sensitivity to loud noises
  8. Signs of pain, such as joint pain
  9. Elevated body temperature
  10. Neurologic deficits, such as difficulty walking or abnormal gait
shaker syndrome in dogs can be caused by infectious disease


If your dog has been diagnosed with shaker syndrome, it is natural to feel worried and concerned about their health and well-being. However, it is important to remember that shaker syndrome can be a complex and multifaceted condition, and it may take some time to determine the most effective treatment.

It is essential to work closely with a veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your dog’s individual needs. With proper care and treatment, it is possible to manage the tremors and improve the quality of life for your furry companion.

Remember to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and report any changes or unusual symptoms to your veterinarian. While shaker syndrome can be a challenging condition, with the right approach and support, it is possible to help your dog live a happy and comfortable life.

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Shaker Syndrome in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital. (n.d.). Vca. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from

M. (2021, July 21). Shaker syndrome in dogs: what it is, symptoms and treatments. Hospital Veterinari Glòries. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from

White dog shaker syndrome – Wikipedia. (2007, February 12). White Dog Shaker Syndrome – Wikipedia. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from

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