Issue Description Causes full body tremors in small, white dog
breeds. It is most common in West Highland White Terriers, Maltese,
Bichons, and Poodles. There is a sudden onset of the disease at one to
two years of age. It is worse at times of stress. Nystagmus,
difficulty walking, and seizures may occur in some dogs. Other Names White Dog Shaker Syndrome, Idiopathic Cerebellitis, Little White Shakers Syndrome, WSS
Causes The cause is unknown, but it may be mediated by
the immune system.
Symptoms WSS is characterized by a sudden onset of
constant tremors all over the body, including the head and eyeballs.
Chaotic random eye movement is called opsoclonus. Rapid, involuntary,
rhythmic eye movements, often indicative of central nervous system
dysfunction is called nystagmus. The tremors are exaggerated by
handling, forced locomotion, excitement and high levels of stress. It
decreases but may not completely disappear with total relaxation.
Putting the dog in a crate in a minimally darkened room, where there
is quiet, has helped reduce the tremors during times of stress. The
dogs are alert and responsive and have no deficiency in cranial nerve
function. The tremors may be severe enough to cause an ataxic gait,
but strength remains normal. On occasion, one of these dogs convulses.
At the onset of the syndrome, and usually for a short period of time,
the animal may refuse to eat. Therefore, great care and TLC must be
given to encourage eating and drinking, or, this must be done by hand.
Eventually, they return to eating and drinking on their own. Some dogs
benefit by elevating their food and water bowls off the ground, so the
dog does not have to lower its head as much.
Diagnosis Your veterinarian will diagnose this condition
based on the clinical signs and the fact that tests for other possible
causes of these signs show no abnormalities. For the veterinarian:
Intention tremors may be mild to severe, affecting all 4 limbs and the
head. There is mild to moderate hypermetria and occasionally a head
tilt. Conscious proprioception, spinal and higher reflexes, cranial
nerves, personality and voluntary motor functions are unaffected.
Para- or tetraparesis may occur.
This disease is most often
associated with a mild central nervous system inflammation This
inflammation commonly affects the cerebellum, and dysfunction of this
part of the brain may be one of the initiators of the tremor. Brain
inflammation is determined diagnostically by looking at a sample of
cerebrospinal fluid under the microscope. In an affected dog, this
fluid contains increased numbers of, white blood cells with normal to
mildly elevated protein concentrations.
Treatment Treatment with corticosteroids may put the dog
into remission, or diazepam may control the symptoms. Typically the
two drugs are used together. There is a good prognosis, and symptoms
usually resolve with treatment within a week, although lifelong
treatment may be necessary.