A tremor is an involuntary, oscillating, rhythmic twitching of opposing muscle groups in all or part of the body. Tremors are usually visible to the naked human eye and can be felt when touching affected areas.
How Tremors Affect Dogs
Tremors are fairly easy to differentiate from seizures because of their regularity. They can occur during rest or activity, but often tend to worsen with activity or excitement and lessen with rest or sleep. They can be generalized or localized. Generalized tremor syndrome tends to occur in young to middle-aged animals and may be more common in white-coated dogs. Localized tremors typically involve the head or the rear limbs. Small breed dogs are more frequently affected by generalized tremors. Owners often describe their dog as "shaking" or "shuddering".
Causes of Tremors in Dogs
Tremors are caused by the synchronous contraction of reciprocally innervated, antagonistic muscles, leading to a regular to-and-fro movement in all or part of an affected dog's body. The underlying cause of tremors is often unknown (idiopathic). Tremors generally can be related to genetic or developmental conditions, trauma, compressive lesions of the spinal cord, inflammation, exposure to any of a number of tremorgenic toxins, poor blood perfusion to pelvic muscles due to cardiac disease, immune-mediated diseases, metabolic diseases and degenerative diseases of the nervous system. Certain breeds appear predisposed to developing tremors, and certain medications can induce tremors. There may be other causes as well.
Preventing Tremors in Dogs
Dogs with tremors should be kept as free from stress or inordinate excitement as possible. Excessive exercise should be avoided. Dogs with tremors should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Many causes of canine tremors are treatable, often with immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids, although in very young dogs tremors can reflect non-reversible genetic or developmental abnormalities. If tremors begin after exposure to a chemical, owners should remove access to the compound and take the dog and chemical packaging to the veterinary hospital immediately.
A tremor is an involuntary, oscillating, rhythmic twitching of opposing muscle groups in all or part of the body, which usually is visible to the naked human eye and is palpable. Tremors are fairly easy to differentiate from seizures because of their regularity. There are a number of conditions which can cause tremors in dogs, and identifying why the tremors are occurring is critical to treating the disorder. As with many other conditions, the success of treating tremors in dogs depends upon timely and appropriate medical care.
Treating Tremors in Dogs
The therapeutic goal is to identify and treat the underlying cause of canine tremors. Many causes of tremors are treatable, although in very young dogs tremors can reflect genetic or developmental abnormalities that cannot be treated or well managed. Tremors are not a disease but rather are a clinical sign of some other underlying disorder. Once a dog develops tremors, a series of tests must be performed to ascertain the cause of the condition. Most veterinarians will begin with a thorough physical examination, comprehensive blood tests and urine analysis. If these tests do not reveal the cause of the tremors, more advanced diagnostics may be necessary, including radiographs, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI and/or spinal taps.
While the results of these tests are being evaluated, dogs suffering from tremors typically are treated symptomatically with pain relievers, muscle relaxants, corticosteroids and/or sedatives. Appropriate supportive care is also extremely important, including keeping the dog warm, quiet, calm, well-hydrated and well-fed. Exercise and excitement can exacerbate canine tremors.
If the cause of the tremors is identified but cannot be treated (for example, if the tremors are caused by permanent damage to spinal nerves), the tremors may be controlled with life-long medications that usually consist of a light sedative, such as valium, and pain relievers.