Idiopathic head tremor in dogs

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Idiopathic head tremor
SymptomsInvoluntary lateral, up-and-down movement of the head
DurationLess than five minutes
TypesBetween 6 months and 3 years
Diagnostic methodSignalment and medical history

Idiopathic head tremor (IHT) in dogs is characterized by involuntary lateral or up and down movement of the head.[1] This movement is called a skull movement, like that of a shaking head doll. Idiopathic head tremor is also compared to human Parkinson's disease.[2] Idiopathic head tremor is ordinarily considered a benign disease characterized by uncontrollable head tremors of spontaneous initiation and cessation. These actions appear in the vertical or horizontal direction. Affected dogs are still alert when shaking. This situation is considered idiopathic because the reason is not apparent,[3] but nervous system disorders, seizures and head injuries may be significant contributors of idiopathic head tremors in dogs.[1] According to veterinary care professionals, head tremors are usually not associated with any other symptoms, although some dogs have other signs of disease in addition to head tremors. This condition is usually more common in middle-aged dogs, and some breeds are more susceptible than others,[1] including Spanish Hounds, Chow Chows, Samoyed dogs, Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, Dalmatians, pitbulls, and Bulldogs.[4]


The diagnosis of Idiopathic head tremor in dogs is based on clinical diagnosis of signal and medical history, and the lack of concurrent nerves and signs that may explain tremor, the presence of characteristic idiopathic head tremors that occasionally occur in short duration.[2] So, Idiopathic head tremor can only be diagnosed by excluding the original diagnosis at the present stage. Therefore, other diseases must be investigated and excluded to diagnose idiopathic head tremor.[5] Diagnostic tests are usually the vet will do this by excluding other causes and narrowing the scope. The first step is to conduct a comprehensive physical examination for dog body, which is a complete assessment of your dog's entire body, including vital signs, auscultation and palpation.[5] Moreover, the second step is performed with bile acid tests, eye exams, brain MRI, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These tests will enable the veterinarian to ensure that your dog's behaviour is not caused by an eye or progressive central nervous system problems. Dogs with idiopathic head tremors had no other neurological abnormalities, and both MRI and cerebrospinal fluid analyses produced reasonable results.[5]

Affirm diagnosis must exclude the following:

  1. There are other abnormal signs of the nervous system other than tremor.
  2. Application of drugs or drug withdrawal states and diseases that can cause tremors.
  3. There are clear neurological trauma within three months before the occurrence of tremor, including tremors in which the head trauma is consistent with the distribution of peripheral nerve trauma.
  4. There are obvious psychogenic factors that can cause tremor.
  5. The tremor suddenly occurs or rapidly deteriorates.

On the other hand, the veterinarian may also perform clinical diagnosis based on the posture, activity state, rest state and frequency of the puppy when he or she is sick.[6] According to these clinical manifestations, it can be judged as primary head tremor or idiopathic head tremor. And based on these can draw a diagnostic method.[7]

There is a serious disease of chronic kidney disease that can lead to Idiopathic head tremor, which may also include inflammatory brain disease or epilepsy. Diseases associated with adrenal insufficiency, as well as demyelinating diseases, can also cause dog shaking. When their anus sac is full, the dog's head may shake. Therefore, a complete neurological examination should be performed, including examination of his eyes and pupillary light reflections. He should test all his reactions. If no abnormalities are found, then the possibility of heavy metal intake should normally be checked. [8] The X-rays on his abdomen usually determine if he has swallowed any metal objects. Blood tests may be needed to look for infections, anemia, organ damage caused by ingestion of toxins, thyroid function and other problems. Hot viruses can cause facial paralysis or tremors, but they are often referred to as "chewing gum seizures" because they look like they are chewing gum.[9] Dogs with one of these types of seizures are usually unable to respond to commands during the episode. Puppies may also have a shunt of the liver causing tremors. The shunt is a shunt that abnormally forms blood vessels in the liver and causes the blood ammonia level to become too high. High ammonia levels can lead to Idiopathic head tremor[10]


  1. ^ a b c Shell, Linda G.; Berezowski, John; Rishniw, Mark; Nibblett, Belle M.; Kelly, Patrick (2015). "Clinical and Breed Characteristics of Idiopathic Head Tremor Syndrome in 291 Dogs: A Retrospective Study". Veterinary Medicine International. 2015: 165463. doi:10.1155/2015/165463. PMC 4430662. PMID 26064776.
  2. ^ a b "Head Tremors in Dogs". Wag Labs.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ Guevar, Julien; De Decker, Steven; Van Ham, Luc M.L.; Fischer, Andrea; Volk, Holger A. (February 2014). "Idiopathic head tremor in english bulldogs". Movement Disorders. 29 (2): 191–194. doi:10.1002/mds.25767. PMID 24375621.
  4. ^ Shell, Linda G.; Berezowski, John; Rishniw, Mark; Nibblett, Belle M.; Kelly, Patrick (2015). "Clinical and Breed Characteristics of Idiopathic Head Tremor Syndrome in 291 Dogs: A Retrospective Study". Veterinary Medicine International. 2015: 165463. doi:10.1155/2015/165463. PMC 4430662. PMID 26064776.
  5. ^ a b c "Head Tremors in Dogs: What You Need to Know". Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake.
  6. ^ Wolf, Martina; Bruehschwein, Andreas; Sauter-Louis, Carola; Sewell, Adrian C.; Fischer, Andrea (November 2011). "An inherited episodic head tremor syndrome in Doberman pinscher dogs". Movement Disorders. 26 (13): 2381–2386. doi:10.1002/mds.23936. PMID 21915908.
  7. ^ Bhidayasiri, R (1 December 2005). "Differential diagnosis of common tremor syndromes". Postgraduate Medical Journal. 81 (962): 756–762. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2005.032979. PMC 1743400. PMID 16344298.
  8. ^ De Risio, Luisa; Bhatti, Sofie; Muñana, Karen; Penderis, Jacques; Stein, Veronika; Tipold, Andrea; Berendt, Mette; Farqhuar, Robyn; Fischer, Andrea; Long, Sam; Mandigers, Paul JJ.; Matiasek, Kaspar; Packer, Rowena MA; Pakozdy, Akos; Patterson, Ned; Platt, Simon; Podell, Michael; Potschka, Heidrun; Batlle, Martí Pumarola; Rusbridge, Clare; Volk, Holger A. (28 August 2015). "International veterinary epilepsy task force consensus proposal: diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs". BMC Veterinary Research. 11 (1): 148. doi:10.1186/s12917-015-0462-1. PMC 4552251. PMID 26316175.
  9. ^ G. Grimaldi and M. Manto, “Definition of tremor,” in Mechanisms and Emerging Therapies in Tremor Disorders, G. Grimaldi and M. Manto, Eds., pp. 3–10, 2012.
  10. ^ C. Godeiro-Junior, A. C. Felicio, P. C. Aguiar, V. Borges, S. M. A. Silva, and H. B. Ferraz, “Head tremor in patients with cervical dystonia: different outcome?” Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 805–808, 2008.