Why is My Maltese Dog Shaking? White Dog Shaker Syndrome

Maltese dogs are a known breed for what is known as the White Dog Shaker Syndrome. White dog shaker syndrome is generally found in dogs which have a white coat such as the Maltese dog and is generally not something which needs to be worried about unless it is an extreme case. There are other reasons you Maltese dog may be shaking as well so while this article will focus on the white dog shaker syndrome it will also cover other reasons your dog may be shaking.

Is My Maltese Dog Shaking because it has White Dog Shaker Syndrome?

The most likely reason your Maltese appears to be shaking for no reason is white dog shaker syndrome. In 9 out of 10 Maltese dogs White shaker syndrome will be the cause of any tremors and will be easy to identify by the symptoms but if you are unsure you should talk to your vet to do a thorough examination.

What is White Dog Shaker Syndrome?

White Shaker Syndrome is when the processes that allow control of posture, balance and coordination are not working to the best of their abilities and it causes your Maltese dog to shake. The actual cause behind the this lose of control is because the cerebellum in the brain has become inflamed. It is responsible for all of the sensory systems including vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. When the cerebellum becomes inflamed it is not able to function correctly and will send the wrong messages to the body which cause it to tremor.

White Shaker Syndrome can affect Maltese Puppies
White Shaker Syndrome can affect Maltese Puppies

What causes White Dog Shaker Syndrome in Maltese Dogs?

While there has been a lot of research into the cause of this disease there has not been a definitive answer on what causes White Dog Shaker Syndrome to occur. There is some conjecture that is could be due to Melanin but this has not been proven.

What are the risk factors for White Dog Shaker Syndrome?

There are a few characteristics which will make a dog more likely to have White Dog Shaker Syndrome. These include:

  • Small White Breed: As per the name, this disease is far more prevalent in small white breeds such as the Maltese.
  • Size: It appears that most dogs which have the disease are smaller. So if your Maltese is small in size for its breed then it is more likely to have it develop. Most dogs with the white dog shaker syndrome are under 33 lbs.
  • Age: The white dog shaker syndrome will generally be seen for the first time early in the life of a Maltese. It will appear between 5 months old through to about 3 years old. If a Maltese puppy has not developed the syndrome by then they will usually not develop it. Once a Maltese puppy has shown the symptoms of White Dog shaker Syndrome it will be with them for the rest of their lives.
  • Genetics: Genetics may play a significant part in which dogs get the syndrome and which ones do not. If the parents or siblings of your Maltese puppy also have white dog shaker syndrome then it is more likely that your Maltese dog will also develop the syndrome.

What are the Symptoms of White Dog Shaker Syndrome in Maltese Dogs?

The symptoms include:

  • Shaking: The most notable symptom is the dogs body, or part of their body, will shake uncontrollably. It will look like they are shivering or scared but in reality it is the condition which is causing the shaking. The duration and the severity of the shaking will vary from dog to dog but is usually mild and more annoying to your Maltese then dangerous. If you Maltese puppy does have several shaking then this should be told to your Veterinarian so they can do a more thorough analysis.
  • Uncontrollable eye movements: These can be very rapid movements in various directions and will be noticeable. This is not seen very often.
  • Head tilting: Your Maltese puppy may tilt their head because of the tremors. They will do this to try and refocus their surroundings and to try and stop the tremors. It can be a sign they are not comfortable with the tremors.
  • Disconnecting from reality: Some Maltese may go into a trance or appear to be in a gaze before the tremors start. This can be due to them focusing internally when a tremor is about to start as they can sense what is going to happen.
Get your Vet to check out your Maltese if they are shaking
Get your Vet to check out your Maltese if they are shaking

What are the triggers for White Dog Shaker Syndrome in Maltese Dogs?

Certain situations may trigger the tremors in a Maltese dog. If you are aware of the triggers you can try and minimize them. While the triggers can vary from Maltese to Maltese there are a few common ones such as:

  • Exercise: Vigorous exercise can bring on the tremors as your Maltese puppy will become overexcited. Over exertion and too much excitement are known to bring on the tremors in a lot of Maltese dogs.
  • Excitement: new visitors, other dogs and new toys can cause the excitement levels of your Maltese puppy to heighten. This may increase their breathing rate and heart beat and can induce the tremors.
  • Stress: Any types of stress such as storms, larger dogs, strangers, etc which make your Maltese dog fearful may trigger an episode of the white dog shaker syndrome symptoms.
  • Travelling: The car is both exciting and stressful for some Maltese puppies and this can be a common place for a tremor to occur. Usually the tremors will start even before the trip begins due to the anticipation and excitement.

How is White Dog Shaker Syndrome Diagnosed in Maltese Dogs?

A veterinarian analysis is required to diagnose White Dog Shaker Syndrome. A good idea is to video your Maltese dog during an episode so that your vet can see what is happening. I know this can be very hard to do when it is only you and you want to comfort your Maltese puppy during the tremors so try and get someone else to video the tremors if possible.

There is no one diagnostic test which will identify the white dog shaker syndrome so your vet will use the video and try and rule out other serious issues. This can include physical examinations, neurological examinations, blood counts and electromagnetic testing. They will be trying to rule out other conditions which are much more serious such as epilepsy, poisoning, hypoglycemia, hypothermia, allergies and viral infections. Once these are rules out the dog will be diagnosed as having white dog shaker syndrome.

Whats the Treatments available for White Dog Shaker Syndrome in Maltese Dogs?

There are several treatments available when a Maltese dog has been diagnosed with White Dog Shaker Syndrome. These include:

  • Rest: Being well rested and kept in a safe comfortable environment is a good non-medicated treatment that can help eliminate the triggers of the symptoms. If a Maltese is well rested they are less likely to be stressed and this will allow less stress to be put on their brain and body which in turn reduces the likelihood of a tremor.
  • Reduce Stress: Reducing stressful situations can help to stop the onset and trigger the tremors. Reducing stress can be done by allowing your Maltese puppy to have a safe place when they are scared. This might be during thunder storms, when people come over and visit or any other times they feel scared and stressed.
  • Medication: Some medications are known to help with white dog shaker syndrome. These all fall into the class of medication known as cortico-steroids. This medication works by reducing inflammation and treat the direct cause of the shaking which is the inflammation of the cerebellum. Using medication can turn into a life long requirement at a lower dose to ensure that the tremors are kept to a minimum. The initial dose can be higher to reduce any current swelling and the continued lower dosage is to ensure that the inflammation is kept in check. Low dosages of corticosteroids are relatively safe but there can be side effects which may include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers. If you notice any of these side effects you need to talk to your veterinarian about it so the dosage can be changed or an alternative medicine can be used. Alternatives include anti-convulsants, muscle relaxants and Valium. These also other side effects so finding the best treatment for you dog may take a while based on the best judgement of your vet.
Smaller Maltese are more likely to get White Shaker Syndrome
Smaller Maltese are more likely to get White Shaker Syndrome

Did this Article on White Dog Shaker Syndrome Answer your Questions?

We write these articles to ensure that we give the best possible and most comprehensive advice. If there is a question that is not answered on White Dog Shaker Syndrome then let us know in the comments and we will research it and get it added to the article. Do you have a Maltese dog which suffers from this condition? if so let us know in the comments and let us people know how it has affected your Maltese puppy and what you have done that helps relieves the symptoms.