In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, we demonstrate what a dog with Idiopathic Head Tremors looks like. While this isn’t very common, it can be quite scary for a pet owner to observe.
Idiopathic Head Tremors have been reported in several breeds of dogs including the Labrador retriever, doberman pinscher, boxer, and English bulldog. With these tremors, three classic movements are seen: rotational (“bobble head”), up and down (“yes”), and side to side (“no”). These typically last 1-3 minutes long, and may stop acutely without a post-ictal stage.
Typically, dogs are alert and responsive during these short tremor episodes and often can be stopped by distracting, feeding, or talking to the patient. Stress and excitement is thought to potentially exacerbate the head tremors.
There is no known cause for Idiopathic Head tremors, and it is considered idiopathic. Most neurologist don’t believe this as a true seizure, but rather as a paroxysmal dyskinesia. Ideally, a complete neurologic evaluation and workup should be performed (e.g., CSF tap, MRI, blood work) to rule out other causes. With Idiopathic Head Tremors, all findings are typically normal.
Currently, there is no medication that is recommended, as none have been shown to improve or prevent the tremors. Anticonvulsants are not known to improve Idiopathic Head Tremors. Typically, distracting the patient to get it out of an episode is the best treatment.