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D2007-36

Dear Daisy Dog

My bulldog suffers from intermittent head tremors. Between episodes, he is fine. His lab work is normal. How is this problem treated?

Daisy Responds

It sounds like your bulldog may have idiopathic head tremor syndrome, and if that’s the case, there is no reliably effective treatment.

Idiopathic head tremor most commonly affects English bulldogs, boxers and Dobermans. Occasionally, Labradors and other breeds develop the disorder.

Other than the intermittent head tremors, affected dogs are completely normal.

The tremors usually start and stop on their own, although sometimes the tremor can be terminated by distracting the dog during an episode, for instance, by giving a treat.

During tremor episodes, bulldogs usually shake their heads “no,” while Dobermans generally nod “yes.”

Bulldog tremors usually begin while the dog is relaxed, but not sleeping. In Dobermans, the tremors are often related to stress.

The “idiopathic” part of the name means that the cause is unknown. Affected dogs usually have normal blood work, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, x-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

Common anticonvulsant medications, like phenobarbital and potassium bromide, usually don’t decrease the frequency or severity of the tremor episodes.

Most dogs with head tremor syndrome do well and don’t develop additional neurologic problems.

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