Idiopathic head tremor is a condition that effects all dog breeds and is frequently seen in Labradors, Boxers and Bulldogs. Idiopathic means a disease that is of uncertain or unknown origin. That means the exact cause of head tremors has yet to be determined. When a dog has idiopathic head tremors it will shake its head without having any control over it. No one really knows why this occurs, most dogs show symptoms of head bobbing (usually up and down but it can also be side to side). In most cases the symptoms occur at the age from 6 months to 3 years.
Usually a typical idiopathic head tremor episode will generally last around three minutes. Once the head bobbing is over, your dog should return to normal, as if the tremors never occurred at all. If your dog does appear to have been affected, contact your local veterinarian immediately. This condition is totally unresponsive to seizure medications and the best way to handle an episode seems to be to focus the dog’s attention on a toy or treat. Episodes tend to get milder and less frequent with age.
Some examples so you know what the symptoms looks like:
It is very important to let a veterinarian make an official diagnosis because the same symptoms occur in other diseases!
These symptoms may also occur with epilepsy, brain tumors or other neurological diseases. It will be important to have an experienced, reputable vet for this since some vets incorrectly diagnose head tremors as seizures and will put the dog on medication for the rest of it’s life. When your dog has these symptoms you can help the vet with his diagnosis by making a video of the head tremors and to make notes and log exactly when and for how long the head shaking occurs.
Officially there is no known cause but here is a list of possible causes/triggers supplied by our members who have dogs with idiopathic head tremors:
females during the heat cycle
from eating a particular food
from being given a particular supplement
after flea and/or tick treatment
after being given heartworm medication
after an intensive work out or from being stressed
Again there is no medical treatment but here are some things you can do to help your dog through it. First of all make sure your dog is safe (remove sharp objects around him and make sure he doesn’t fall). Second of all be calm, if you panic your dog will sense it and panic too. Keep in mind that even though it looks bad your dog is not in any pain. And third Distract your dog with a treat or toy try to keep the dogs attention. The current theory is that the tremors are a result of dysfunction of the proprioceptive fibers in the neck. Abnormal sensory input, causing alternating contraction and relaxation of muscle groups, may be responsible. This explanation, while almost impossible to prove, would explain why those affected stop shaking if something is done to focus their attention on an object such as a toy or treat.
A lot of people give a little bit of honey or or other sugary treats (peanut butter, vanilla ice cream) allthough there is no medical proof this works so many of our members said it worked so it might be worth trying. Also gently massaging your dogs head and neck seemed to work for a lot of dogs.
More about Bulldog Head Tremors on Bulldogs World