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D2007-29

Dear Daisy Dog

I took my 5-year-old Jack Russell terrier to the veterinarian because he was limping on his left hind leg. My veterinarian diagnosed dislocating kneecaps, also called luxating patellas, and prescribed pain medication.

Two weeks later, my dog began shaking uncontrollably, like he had Parkinson’s disease. My vet referred me to a neurologist, who diagnosed “white shaker dog syndrome” and prescribed Valium.

It seemed to lessen the shaking, but now my dog won’t walk on his left hind leg. What’s my next step?

Daisy Responds

It sounds like your dog may have two problems: white shaker dog syndrome and a dislocated kneecap.

When my golden retriever brother Sam’s kneecap was dislocated, he refused to put weight on the leg.

If that’s what your dog is doing, make an appointment with a veterinarian who specializes in orthopedic surgery.

Soon after Sam’s dislocating kneecap was surgically stabilized, he was able to run and jump normally. If your dog has the same condition, surgery should be equally effective for him.

Your dog’s other problem, white shaker dog syndrome, is an uncommon neurologic disorder characterized by fine tremors of the entire body.

The tremors are usually worse when the dog is excited and absent during sleep. Occasionally, other neurologic abnormalities accompany the tremors.

However, refusing to use a leg, which is typical of a dislocating kneecap, is usually not part of the syndrome.

While white shaker dog syndrome can occur in any dog, it is most common in small white breeds, particularly Maltese terriers and West Highland white terriers.

Most affected dogs are young, from six months to five years of age.

Unfortunately, no one knows the cause.
The most common treatment is high doses of prednisone, which are gradually tapered after the tremors disappear.

The long-term prognosis for white shaker dog syndrome is good, and dogs that have surgery for dislocating kneecaps do well, too. Please let us know how your dog fares.

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