Despite the rather ominous sounding name, white shaker dog syndrome is not fatal and is very rarely a serious problem for most dogs that develop the condition and are treated. As can be assumed from the name is it most commonly found in white dogs such as the Maltese, Bichon Frise, Poodle, and the West Highland White Terrier. It has also been noted in breeds that are not white in color such as the Yorkshire Terrier and the Beagle. Some all white breeds of dogs that are medium to large in size do not exhibit the condition; rather it seems to be more specific to the smaller breeds of dogs.
White shaker dog syndrome is usually first noted in a puppy and young dog between the ages of six months and three years. The dogs will usually start with a slight tremor that will either stay mild in nature or become more pronounced for a period of about three to four days. Once it has reached this stage the tremor will typically stay at that intensity unless it is treated. The condition becomes much more pronounced when the dog tries to focus on something, especially if he or she becomes active or excited. Often it is very pronounced when the dog has been alone and sees the family when they return from work or school. When the dog is relaxed or resting the tremors disappear, often completely.
The tremors may range from a mild shivering type behavior through to tilting of the head, seizures and inability to walk because the tremors become so pronounced. The dog may show signs of rapid eye movements and blinking that are random and very different from the dog's normal eye movements. The dog does not appear to experience any pain or awareness of the condition and there are not usually any related metabolic problems with the dog. The cause of the tremor is an inflammation of the central nervous system. If the cerebellum is inflamed the condition is often much more pronounced and this typically leads to the seizures that are relatively rare in the overall symptoms of the condition.
White shaker syndrome does not typically clear up on its own although there have been rare cases reported where it may have, or the dog may have actually had another neurological disorder that was mistaken for white shaker syndrome. Corticosteriods are prescribed as immunosuppressants to decrease the inflammation and control the of the central nervous system and are usually given at rather high dosages initially then gradually reduced. Most dogs will be on the corticosteriods for three to six months and then will be able to come completely off the medication. In some dogs a very low dosage of corticosteriods will be prescribed over the rest of the dog's life to prevent the reoccurrence of the tremors.