Thursday, June 21, 2012

Doberman Health: Idiopathic Head Tremors

On Friday I posted about the DNA survey for Doberman health. I got my sample package super quick! I swabbed Elka this morning and mailed it out. She let me do it without any kind of a struggle, but was overall less than enthused.

So, what do I think qualified Elka for the Doberman health study? Well, first off, every study needs a control group. Even if she wasn't "normal", they still might have wanted a DNA sample. There were two things on the survey that Elka displayed, though: Idiopathic Head Tremors, and a specific preference for a toy. We've talked about Gumby Love here before, but we haven't talked about the head tremors.




Idiopathic head tremors essentially mean "the dog's head shakes, we don't know why!" It is, theoretically, harmless. Some Dobermans have full on seizures, and depending on the head tremors, it could in face be a seizure behavior. Elka's head tremors have always seemed to be stress related, or at least want related. The very first time we noticed them was after she was spayed, when she was still wearing the cone of shame. We wondered if it was from the cone touching her ears, and she was shaking her head to avoid that, but further inspection and observation showed this was not the case.

She has done it when I, irritated and at the end of my rope with her whining, told her to go lay the f down (I apologize, gentle readers, but even I get fed up sometimes and that whining....that whining...and I tend to only add expletives after she's already been told and directed and still hasn't complied, or immediately broke compliance). She did it her first Thanksgiving, when we pulled that big old bird out of the oven to carve it. I've been told by housemates that she's done it if I've left after returning home from work to go to the store.

(we went for a walk first and had some cooldown time before I started swabbing. Can you tell?)

During the head tremors, it is obvious that Elka is entirely aware. Her ears are up, she responds to her name, will respond to cues, and very certainly wants whatever food it is you're going to give her. Frequently, just calling her over and having her sit will focus her and the "spell" will stop. Sometimes it takes a treat. I know some Doberman owners will use a granola bar (raisin free!) or peanut butter. Some people speculate it might be a blood sugar thing. Others wonder if it correlates to Wobbler's. Maybe this DNA survey will find that out!

I've never recorded Elka's head tremors, because whenever I see them, I just want them to stop. She's also never performed them say, in the vet's office, where they might have any idea what I'm talking about (I think she's the first Doberman they've seen). There are some videos on YouTube, though. Thor, below, goes through a battery of cues with the tremors persisting. He also seems super stressed, and is a little foamy. It is a pathetic thing to see, even if it does appear to be harmless.






22 comments:

  1. Jen! I completely know what you're talking about. Desmond used to get these! We did a ton of research (plus vet visit after we sent her a video of him shaking) and decided to put him on a B-complex vitamin--and we never saw him do it again. I actually never posted about it, though I don't know why. I intended to but didn't. This was all happening last May/June, only a couple months after we brought him home. Very strange. I'm super curious to find out what you learn!

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    1. B vitamins, really? That's interesting, I'll have to consult with the Doberman hive mind and research. Sounds harmless, even it if doesn't work for her!

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  2. I think it's great that you're providing info for research. I also want to know if you find out anything about the head tremors. I can imagine it was quite scary to see it the first time.

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    1. It was pretty freaky! I don't know how long the study is projected to take, or when they expect to have the results, but if I find anything out, you bet I'll post more info!

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  3. Oh, that tremor is heartbreaking. Even if it is normal

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    1. Scary, right? I'm glad that Elka doesn't seem to have it as badly or persistently as the dog in the video...I've never seen her do it for that long.

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  4. That is very interesting. It is great that you are providing dna.

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    1. I was really happy to find out about the study! They sure made it easy, providing the postage both ways, very clear directions, etc.

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  5. Oh wow Jen. I have known a lot of Dobermans in my life, but I have never heard of, or seen, the head wobbling. Almost looks neurological doesn't it? I mean it certainly doesn't look like she can control it.

    Out shelter director had three Dobermans while I was a volunteer there. His second one got Wobblers. It was so sad to see. She wasn't even that old. I

    hope that Elka doesn't have that. I will be interested to hear what you find out though.

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    1. It does look neurological! And really, it might be. It's just a big question mark. It was really scary the first time it happened.

      I hope Elka doesn't have Wobbler's either, but she hasn't displayed any of the other symptoms, so I think we're in the clear (knock wood).

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  6. I've never heard of this. How great that your providing DNA for research!

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    1. I never heard of it until Elka started to display it. The Internet can be a wonderful educational thing!

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  7. http://www.examiner.com/article/idiopathic-head-tremors-boxers

    This might be something as my boy has definite neck issues due being mishandled/injured by e-vet techs.

    He gets physical therapy/positioning an cold laser which does seem to help.

    We did have a chiro coming and though it helped too, his PT is adept enough to do the same [and more] as his chiro.

    I've been giving him extra calcium via cottage cheese and B-50 tabs at least once a day.

    We're down to sporadic once every month or two episodes.

    As with almost all dogs, 99% of the episodes start while he's laying beside me, balled up and asleep.

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    1. I think that problem lies in the feed. Now I give only vitamin b1 in high dose ( 1,66 mg/kg).Despite the administration of vitamin B 12, and dietary supplement CaninAgil attacks occurred. I feed a ready food but I've included an additional daily heart beef, pork or turkey meat because I noticed that it may have an impact on the frequency and severity of attacks.I think that this problem, in this day and age is associated with dogs having a large muscle mass (Doberman, Boxer, Bulldog) and to some extent, is caused by nutritional deficiencies resulting from the rapid growth and lack of properly balanced diet. In previous years, because the problem occurred sporadically and dogs were fed differently. In Germany, the study was conducted but not included in the nutritional causes :http://edoc.ub.uni-muenchen.de/14656/1/Wolf_Martina.pdf ( is in english too).
      Regards from Poland.
      Zyta

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    2. Hi, I am keen to read the study you have listed above Zyta Sowinska, but I cannot locate where to find the English Version? Thank you.

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  9. at the end of article

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  10. We have a beautiful Doberman named Ady. She has bobble head syndrome. The breeder had never heard this until we told her about it. It was scary the first time it happened. We thought she was having an epileptic seizure. After researching, however, we found out about bobble head. Be careful when giving a dobie with this condition new medications. We gave Ady a new three month flea and tick medication - I believe the name was something like Bravecto and she had five bobble head episodes in one evening 24 hours after taking the medication. We notified our vet in case they had any other cases of this. I just wanted to pass this along.

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  11. We have a Dobe, Rizzoli and she has Idiopathic head tremors since she was a puppy. I did some reading and found some support on Vitamin B. We give Rizzoli on a daily basis B Complex and they seem to have disappear.

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  12. I have a havanese and she started having head tremors after taking Bravecto.

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  13. Thought I'd chime in. I have a Boxer dog who suffers from this too and if my memory serves me right it's only when he's sitting down relaxing.

    Ok, so a few months back is when it started, around the time that he swallowed a dog toy unbeknownst to us - he began puking and visits to vet and ER doc, X-rays and ultrasound and nothing showed up. Finally three weeks of vomiting, bland diet, trying to narrow it down they went in and performed exploratory surgery. lo and behold pulled out about a 6 inch dog Kong dog bone that he could have only gotten from Doggy daycare because it didn't belong to us.

    During this time -from the time he swallowed the toy and was vomiting to post surgery recovery he still did the idiopathic head shaking. Hard to watch but it happened frequently when he was sick from swallowing the toy. Never ever before that.

    We go to a vet who's well respected in the veterinarian world and he said the same thing - they don't know what causes it. Is it nutritional? Don't know. Electrolyte imbalance? Unsure. While he was sick he had extensive blood work done and everything came back normal including his electrolytes.

    We were feeding him a high quality diet of Orijen grain free dog food. No table scraps unless it's raw/steamed veggies or fruit like blueberries for the antioxidants. his surgery and recovery was months ago. He had lost 15 lbs while he was sick, he's back up to a normal weight now and the head shaking stopped We now feed him (for several months now) Taste of the Wild bison grain-free formula and Country vet grain free - we switched from Orijen only because It was giving him a soft stool. He was tested for irritable bowel disease that is prevalent in the breed but tests came back negative.

    Moving forward to today, months after recovery, He had another idiopathic head shake today. Wasn't expecting that. He's otherwise responsive and health-wise is "fine" but as others know, it's not easy to watch.

    I've read that people give their dogs yogurt and that helps. We were giving him yogurt when he was sick and he still had the head shakes. So I'm at a loss.

    It's like telling a parent, your child has a chronic health problem that's not life threatening so don't worry about it. Of course, it's natural to just want to fix it and make it go away. I thought we were done with it and I wanted to believe it was because he was ill. Ugh. He's completely healthy now, and now this.

    We give our dogs advantix II - his first dose this year was 5-29-17 and he had a head shake today. Doubt there's a correlation since we weren't giving him flea meds when it first occurred months back.

    My dog does have a heart murmur but is otherwise as healthy as can be and is 1 year and 3 months of age. We got him from a reputable breeder - not that it matters -I've read head tremors are common in the bull breeds.

    I'm not going to say don't worry about it, but just don't panic if this happens to your dog. If you rule out other problems, it's not life threatening. Good luck to those dealing with this. Hope they find a "cure" someday.

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  14. Can anyone tell me how much vitamin B complex? I have a two-year-old, 65lb female, who has just started having a head tremor.

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