Idiopathic Head Tremors FAQs and an Update
First, let me say that this post is long overdue, and for that, I apologize. No joke, you guys, I get an email or Facebook message about Cooper and his head tremors daily. Yesterday, I got two thoughtful, nervous messages and figured it was time to finally tackle this post.
Next, let me also say that I am not a vet. I’m not a vet tech. I have no medical training or expertise. All, every single one of the idiopathic head tremors FAQs below, along with the update about Cooper, are 100% my opinion. If you think your dog is facing this, bookmark this page to read later, and go to your vet. You HAVE to rule out underlying conditions (like seizures) before you can get an IHT diagnosis. Why? Because there’s no treatment, there’s no medicine, there’s nada for IHT, and some similar conditions are life-threatening and some can be treated. So, vet first. IHT FAQs later.
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Now that that’s settled, here’s what’s going on with Cooper.
His diet has completely changed since I last updated. We gave up entirely on dog food and limited his treats to single-ingredient chews our friend Sof found and bits of veggies like carrots for training treats. We joke that when we sneak food to Cooper under the table, in his head he’s like, “Oh, boy! Peas! Spinach! Cabbage!” Whereas Emmett’s process is, “Bacon.”
We went through an entire round of elimination diet/ingredient testing and ended up home cooking for him. Until we discovered a store-bought food that works for him (more on that another day), but it’s limited to six human-grade ingredients. Plus I add some supplements.
I’m explaining all this (and I go into more detail below) because I truly believe that fixing his food and feeding him nothing but clean, single-ingredient, organic (when possible) food has been the game changer. He had one super long tremor in October, coincidentally the week before his annual exam, which I shared a few seconds of on IG:
Other than that, he’s been largely tremor-free, at least free from long ones (though sometimes we’ve noted he gets a small tremor super early in the morning, so he could still be having those without us waking up). I think that covers the updates. Now, FAQs! Stick with me… this is going to be a long one…
How did you diagnose idiopathic head tremors?
Here’s the thing: The word idiopathic actually means unknown. Here’s the Google definition, “relating to or denoting any disease or condition that arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.” There is no known cause. A diagnosis only happens by ruling out all other possibilities. That’s why I can’t emphasize seeing your vet strongly enough. You MUST rule everything else out first. In our case, we were lucky. This is not a common condition at all. We thought it was a seizure the first time it happened, but after a battery of tests, numerous conditions including seizures were ruled out. Our vet knew she didn’t know, so she consulted with a veterinary neurologist at Ohio State University. She sent all his test results and the battery of video we had taken of the tremors, and he took a look at all of it and said IHT. He said we could do an MRI and run way more tests but that he knew they would all come back without results. Hence, IHT. But, we only got to that point after lots of tests, vet visits, and the consultation with the specialist.
What causes the head tremors in dogs? And how do you treat them?
This ties into the answer above. There’s no known cause. I have heard of people putting their dog on anti-seizure meds, but the OSU vet we consulted with said they don’t help, so we’ve never put Cooper on any meds for idiopathic head tremors. That said, the easiest way to “treat” the tremors in my book is to stop them. We do that with a treat and getting Cooper to focus. Typically we’ll ask for a simple behavior–shake, down, whatever–then have him chase the treat reward. Usually by the time he’s back, he’s stopped tremoring. Sometimes it takes a few repetitions, but it always snaps him out of it. I know that’s not “treating” the tremors, but it at least stops the incident. As for treating, I think my closest answer is in the food Q below.
Do you give Cooper medicine/supplements/flea and tick meds?
Short answer, yes. Cooper is on an allergy medication, Apoquel, and when his allergies are at their worst, we add in a Zyrtec.
As for the supplement piece, here is exactly what we feed Cooper: He eats The Honest Kitchen’s minimalist fish formula, which I alternate with a fresh food from The Farmer’s Dog. I believe that has had the single biggest impact. Feeding him clean, healthy, wholesome food with no additives has helped him gain weight, cleared up his skin and ear infections, and more. If his system is struggling to process food, I think that can only help. To that we add two heaping spoonfuls of organic, unrefined coconut oil at night. For breakfast and dinner we also add in a vegetarian vitamin (he’s allergic to flavoring, and many vitamins have liver/beef/chicken flavor) called Udo’s Choice and a calcium supplement, KAL Bone Meal Powder.
He gets his allergy meds in the morning, along with a probiotic from Only Natural Pet. We’ve also started him on a joint supplement from Super Snouts
Do you think vaccines/medications/food trigger the tremors? Should I stop vaccinating my dog?
Per above, yes. I think it’s like in humans. Crappy food = crappy health. However, you have to decide if certain meds are more beneficial than harmful. For example, Cooper’s allergy meds. Sure, it’s a chemical concoction, but him not taking allergy meds? A red, itchy, goopy, miserable mess. The medicine, to
me, is worth it. As for vaccines, I get this question all the time, and I can’t lie… I am a believer in vaccines for both people and dogs. Again, this is a matter of personal choice in conjunction with your vet, but I believe in vaccinating, and Cooper does get vaccinated. That said, we do three-years to prolong the time in between, and he’s allergic to the rabies vaccine so has to have a shot of a super strong antihistamine before he gets his vax. Whether or not you should stop vaccinating your dog in an effort to curb tremors has to be a decision you make with your vet.
Is he in pain? Does tremoring cause long-term effects?
There’s no way to know, but every vet and specialist we’ve talked to has told us no. He doesn’t seem to be in pain. When it first started happening, he did seem frightened. I wouldn’t say he’s used to it now, but he’s fully aware when he’s tremoring/shaking/head bobbing/whatever you want to call it. We can get him to respond to cues to distract him out of it, so I don’t think he could be in too much pain. I totally get it being scary for him, though. Long-term? I don’t know. He’s five now. He’s been tremoring since 2012, and I would say he’s in better health now than he’s ever been, largely because of the food/supplement stuff mentioned above.
Okay, still with me? WHEW! Thanks for sticking with this post, and I really do hope it’s been helpful. On all the posts I’ve done about IHT–the three linked to above and a couple in the early days when we were awaiting diagnosis–have almost 1,000 comments combined. I tried my best to lump together the questions that came up most often, but it’s likely I missed something.
Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with any questions I might have overlooked or comments/feedback on what you’ve been doing with your dog!
Why Is My Dog’s Head Bobbing? The Causes of Head Tremors in Dogs
Is your dog's head moving from side to side? What causes head bobbing and tremors in dogs?
Why Is My Dog's Head Shaking? Causes of Idiopathic Head Tremors in Dogs
So, your beloved Boxer wakes up one morning and you suddenly notice something odd. He is displaying an unusual head movement that seems to have come out of nowhere. You call him to you and check his head and ears, but you can't find any reason. Baffled, you keep an eye on him for the rest of the day.
A day after, the episode seems to repeat. This time, the head bobbing is much more evident. Concerned, phone in hand, you decide to give your veterinarian a call.
Is a Dog's Head Bobbing the Start of a Seizure?
Head bobbing is a common occurrence in certain breeds such as Boxers, Dobermans, Cavalier King Charles, and Bulldogs. Some cases can be also be observed in mixed breeds. The condition is known as idiopathic head tremor syndrome. It cannot be linked to any medical conditions and is in most cases harmless.
Will Medications Help?
It is unfortunate, though, that more often than not, veterinarians treat such cases as seizures, prescribing phenobarbital or potassium bromide. In cases of idiopathic head tremors, such medications do no good because the syndrome is not related in any way to seizure activity. Affected dogs, therefore, will not benefit from such medications and may actually develop unpleasant side effects.
While the syndrome may look strange, it is generally not harmful, and most dogs live happy, satisfied lives in spite of the occasional tremor. Typically, the head bobbing bothers the human observer more than the dog. However, your dog should still see the vet if he loses consciousness or shows any other signs of neurological damage. If he seems unresponsive and will not raise his head when you call his name, it could signal an uncontrollable seizure.
What causes head tremors in dogs?
Possible Causes of a Dog's Head Tremor
Most dogs will suffer from episodic attacks. They may be symptom-free for weeks or hours and then the head bobbing will return just as before. The head bobbing also seems to subside when the dog is busy doing an activity such as eating or playing.
- Low Glucose Levels. In some cases, head bobbing may be associated with low glucose levels in the blood. This may occur in lactating dogs, who may have lowered glucose/calcium levels. Head bobbing may also be due to hormonal fluctuations, which can result in more visible head bobbing during estrus. If related to low glucose levels, rubbing some Karo syrup or honey on the dog's gums should minimize the head bobbing.
- Calcium Deficiency. Puppies have on occasion shown head bobbing episodes as well as their calcium levels are low as well during their development.
- Heartworm Medication. In some cases, episodes of head bobbing have been linked to the administration of heartworm medication. While there may be a link, no thorough studies seem to have been done as of yet to suggest this as a possibility.
Do You Need to See a Vet?
Any case of head bobbing should be thoroughly investigated to rule out any other more serious causes such as tumors or head injuries. Normally, bloodwork, an MRI and/or an analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid will suffice. However, consulting with a neurologist may be helpful.
While annoying, most idiopathic head bobbing cases do better if left alone. In some cases, veterinarians may recommend supplements. Most dogs live just fine with the syndrome and adjust accordingly, leading still a good quality of life.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have read that head bobbing for dogs isn't uncommon, but I am worried about my five-year-old Labrador mix. Her head has shaken at least 10 times in the past hour and it's never happened to her before. I want to double check that she is ok and don't know if the vet is necessary or not?
Answer: Many underlying conditions can cause head bobbing in dogs, hence why it's important to see the vet so to rule out some possibilities. It can sometimes be idiopathic, meaning no exact underlying cause can be found, but it would be important to rule out problems with the eat, inflammatory process and more serious things such as brain tumors.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 20, 2020:
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Hi Kristina, I think her change of behavior should be evaluated for possible underlying pain or other medical causes. Most over the counter pain pills for humans are unsafe on dogs. Your vet should run bloodwork and if all looks good prescribe pain killers. Glucosamine supplements can be given too , both my older dogs benefited from Youmove from Lintbells, costly but effective, but of course only up to a certain point. You can look for low cost vets in your area such as those working for shelters. Care credit can also be used to help with bills and you can pay back within 6 months with no interest in many cases.
Kristina on June 20, 2020:
My dog is female and she has black labrador , pitbull, and chow.
For about 6-weeks or so her appetite, and activities have decreased significantly as well as she has been having tremors with her head like shaking the way humans do when they have Parkinson's and she has been a bit aggressive towards me in whom I'm the one that rescued her as a puppy that had been thrown into a wall by and a young boy of the owners and i rescued 2 others that were rottweilers and found safe homes and called ASPCA and the humane society in which i donate to. When i got her , she had a damaged hip so i repaired it with a cast i made and her 2nd vet visit i was told that whatever i did mended her hip. Amazing but now years later she has been having tremors and being aggressive and snarling and showing her teeth something she never did before. She was always a happy puppy. I'm scared she's dying and she's my best friend and my side kick. I'm so close to her that I'm having her cremated to be with and when i die she'll be with me how ever i go which is cremation . But in the interim what can i do for her and her pain ? And what can i give her as far as pain killers for her hip? Please i need to know if there are any programs to help financially with her vets due to permanent disability I've got a fixed income i live on i fear ill not be able to cover vets so what can i do? Any suggestions on anything I've written? Desperately- Kristina seeking knowledge for my dog NAHLLA. THANK YOU FOR WHATEVER INFO YOU CAN GIVE.
Nicki on November 05, 2019:
My dog just started having this happen when he falls asleep and it last 30 plus minutes or more even if I wake him I’ve taken him to the vet and had blood work done and they say there is nothing I can do but I can’t watch this and I’m afraid to leave him alone im so scared and can’t stop crying it happens all thru the night to where I can’t sleep
Max on July 31, 2019:
I believe I read somewhere over a year ago when my bully first started having head tremors , that it was due to the bulldog needing calcium for cranial development and draining the effect on nervous system and muscles. As we know, the processing partner to calcium is Vit D. Can’t utilize one without the other. His commercial food did NOT have vit D listed but did have calcium. I added a supplement since he liked the food and the tremors never returned. Not once. A year later since then, I have read about how much garbage is in processed dog food and switched my boy to a dehydrated raw food and tremors returned. Looked at the ingredients and sure enough there is a lack of calcium this time but food has a Vit D supplement. Added in egg and shells and tremors gone away again.
Please don’t waste your money on vets pushing meds and scans and operations. Nearly every issue canines have can be managed by a raw diet (or Uber quality processed food – but you’re still gambling) and some decent research.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 28, 2019:
John so sorry you are taking this part of the article personally. It needs to be pointed out though as those who afford it need to know the importance of these tests when something very serious is suspected. I know the MRI may not be an option as it can be very costly, but the good news is that bloodwork is fairly inexpensive and vets will accommodate testing based on what a dog owner can afford.
John on July 27, 2019:
“Normally, blood-work, an MRI and/or an analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid will suffice.“
Oh, is that all? I simply find it shocking and insensitive when animal “experts” just blurt out that kind of pronouncement as if those options are viable for most people. I have a senior dog that I rescued and I am perpetually disturbed and made to feel guilty because I don’t have the resources for extensive, expensive testing that “will suffice.” This advice is totally skewed and really gives no sensitivity to people who can’t afford those kind of things and need to find other ways to manage their pets health. And pet insurance is not a financial option for me because my dog is 11 years old has pre-existing health conditions and the monthly payments and deductible are so high.
Christy James on May 08, 2019:
I totally agree that it is linked to heartworm medicine. I gave my two Labrador / Aussie mix trifexis and both of them ended up with head tremors as well as lethargic. One of them even threw up and had a full-blown seizure. I put them on CBD oil they were completely fine after that. I researched the pesticides and these one pill fits all medicines that we are giving to our beautiful pets. I saw comment after comment after comment of loving pet owners upset because their dogs were having illnesses seizures and even death due to these pesticides in the heartworm medicine and ect. I will never ever give this poison to my beautiful dogs again. I had to buy CBD oil for the seizures and milk thistle to help detox their livers. Please get the word out how bad these poisons are to our beautiful babies.there are other options such as diatomaceous earth and essential oils that help keep your pet parasite free. I'm so sad that my dogs have had to go through this horrible gut-wrenching experience. All of them should be pulled off the market due to the harm that they're causing our beautiful pets.
Me on January 06, 2019:
My dog keeps slightly moving his head back and forth and his stomach is making noise’s my first thought was he’s trying to throw up but I have no clue
Jeannefields1 on December 02, 2018:
My golden puppy will do a strange movement with her head for 3 secs mostly when she’s excited. I’m very worried it could be something serious but I see others having the same issue. I really can’t afford an MRI and we did tons of blood work and everything is normal. I hope she grows out of it. I’m so happy when she has a day with no movements
Genie1965 on December 01, 2018:
How is your Golden doing? My puppy has similar symptoms as you described. She does a very slow head movement (not a tremor). She seems very healthy otherwise. My vet sent me to see a specialist and they want to run all sorts of tests and I'm wondering if she will be grow out of it. Its not getting any worse, maybe better and she is a golden too.
lona browers on October 02, 2018:
what kind of medicine can i give my dog or what can i do he acts like he can't hear but he is only two months and he was fine when my grandma left him home but he acts like he can't hear and he moves his head left to right when someone is talking to him and he usually plays with my puppy but he is not doing that today but she drove him over here so my dad can check so what is wrong with her puppy.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 26, 2018:
Alyssa, this sounds like a seizure or some type of neurological issue. Something worthy of mentioning to the vet for sure.
Alyssa72084 on May 16, 2018:
I have a 9 week old Chihuahua puppy she was laying on the couch with her brother and I pick them up to put them on the floor and she started shaking and bobbing her head, I put her on the floor and she couldn't hardly walk she acted like she was drunk and then I picked her up and held her and she started peeing everywhere, what does this mean
Alyssa on May 16, 2018:
I have a 9 week old puppy that is shaking and bobbing her head and acts like she is drunk when she walks and keeps peeing everywhere what does this mean
Jknowles0215 on May 07, 2018:
I have a puppy 9 weeks old. Her head just started bobbing and started freaking out. Just recently gave her heart work medicine and hope this giving wad apart of that. If not just glad to know it's not something horrible. She response to our whistles and snaps and stops bobbing once she's distracted by something.
Kristine Starr on April 22, 2018:
Hello! We have a healthy 7 month old Miniature Eskimo Spitz. After she was spayed I started noticing her tossing her head back quickly and then she would go back to normal looking forward. She didnt do this before surgery or else we didn't notice It. It does not happen very often. I asked the vet when they followed up after her surgery but they had no idea. I'm concerned that something happened during surgery although her personality and temperament has stayed the same. I've been looking everywhere for an explanation.
Magda Mota on March 27, 2018:
Hi! I have an English Bulldog who began to have this head bobbing on last spring but he did it only one time, we gave him honey and he was ok.
This spring is very hot and yesterday he presented a head bobbing, I gave him honey and it stopped. Today again, he had head bobbing and I called his Vet who told me that when the days are hot, some dogs have a blood sugar decrease to compensate the heat and because their diet don’t usually have sugar, any little decresase on it, will make their head to have this head movements.
Amy Wells on February 25, 2018:
Thank you so much for this information. I was dog sitting last nite and my parents’ dog started having head tremors. After I read your article, I gave her karo syrup & about 20 mins later, tremors subsided! She is diabetic. Thanks again.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 19, 2017:
It depends on what may be causing the head bobbing. If it's due to a seizure and it doesn't stop after a few minutes that can be concerning.
David Phillips on October 15, 2017:
What happens if I am not at home when my boxer has a head tremor? will it stop on its own?
Arrietty on September 22, 2017:
My dog has been doing this for years and i didn't know what to call it. I've been looking online just to see if it was a serious condition, but my dog seems fine every time it happens. Plus it only lasts 3 seconds which i'm glad for.
Kikie on July 20, 2017:
I finally go a name for head wobble or bobbing that is not tremors. It's only taken 11 months. It's called Cerebellar Hypoplasia. The good news is that it doesn't get worse or improve, but the dog is not imparted, like the upsetting tremor. I will share that our Golden, at one, is not as bad as he was at 8 weeks. Poor development of the cerebellum. Cause unknown, whether in utero or from an injury.
AB4 on July 09, 2017:
Our 3 y/o pit bull has head bobbing episodes occasionally and I give him a spoon full of peanut butter and they go away immediately. He eats really good dog food so not sure what's up with that but it's worth a try.
Tufic on April 28, 2017:
My 1yr eight months blue nose SFS pit bull has had them for a little while now, and same here, out of the blue. I'm glad to hear you all ran tests (urine and such) and came out negative. This coming Tuesday they're going to ultrasound Siete (that's his name) to see if it's an anomaly in some glands. Fingers crossed it's this ideopathic tremors and nothing more. Thank you all, be well 🙂
marisa on March 26, 2017:
my 1 1/2 yr old zuchon has started nodding his head and licking his nose. what could be causing this
chris on January 14, 2017:
My lab had this exact head bobbing the other day for the first time. It was immediately after she had a bite of an organic banana that was a bit tart. I was terrified and worried a chemical sprayed on the bananas to prevent ripening had triggered the event. I wrote to delmonte and am waiting for an answer. She scrambled around in a circle as though something hurt her, then sat and bobbed her head up and down. It stopped when I gave her some raw coconut butter, but now I don't think there was a connection except that eating helps. She eats the best diet, is 5 years old and does have dermoid cysts on her head.I am hoping this is an isolated incident, but it was definitely initiated by the bite of banana. why is the question I must research. Thank you for this information.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 14, 2017:
Kikie, thanks for the update, it's good to know it has reduced. Many cases remain idiopathic, (no known reasons). When I worked for the vet, we saw many cases like this.
Kikie on January 05, 2017:
An update on our Golden Retriever, Charlie – he still has his head wobble, but it has softened. It is not the seizure type of vibration, but instead, it is a soft wobble, like a bobble head doll. It's just become part of who he is.
Shannon on December 28, 2016:
Our 7 month old Boston terrier mix had his first head bobbing episode in the car ride home from the vet follow major surgery. He was at the vet for 3 days and was sedated many times and given large doses of pain meds. We feel it may have been his experience with the anesthesia. Again today, the second day we have him home, his head bobbed again from side to side.
Kikie on September 09, 2016:
I have not been able to find a head movement like my 12-wk-old Golden Retriever has. It's not a full-blown tremor. It happens constantly, but very mildly. His head can be stable, but if he pulls his head back towards his shoulders, there's a soft little wobble. I can make it happen by startling him or offering him an irresistible treat. It's really sort of cute, but I am concerned about it. Has anyone seen this less serious type of movement?
Tyler on March 31, 2016:
Just wanted to share that my Olde English Bulldog was having what appeared to be these head tremors last night. They were relatively mild, only lasting for a couple seconds, with 30 seconds to a minute in between. It was a distinct up and down shake. I could tell it was scaring him a bit because he was giving me a very confused look and would lay his head down to try and get it to stop. Other than that though he was his normal self, totally responsive and didn’t seem to be having any other side affects. We tried the sweet treats idea (giving him a few marshmallows) and took him for a walk and it completely stopped. No idea if this worked or if it was a coincidence, but he didn’t have any issues the rest of the night, and nothing so far this morning. hope this helps.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 24, 2016:
The neurologist is the best person to ask this. These specialists have far more experience than the average vet when it comes to neurological issues. He/she will tell you what to expect, what tests he recommends and what results you can expect from undergoing the testing. In some cases, when a medical culprit is not found and the dog is not suffering in between events, the tremors are more annoying to us owners than they are to dogs.
Caroline75 on March 23, 2016:
Hi guys 1 of my dogs a mastiff X staff had his first head tremor approx 6 months ago then nothing till last week they are now coming daily we have a referral to a neurologist but am concerned of how much to put my boy through to possibly at the end of testing to have zero answers
Nat on February 12, 2016:
Thank you for the reassurance here. Was worried but am more relaxed about my little wobbly head puppy!
Delaney on June 19, 2015:
Ya my yellow lab 6 years old just had this and i put him out side and hes fine now but i was scared about him because his live almost got taken by another disease and don't know if the head shaking is from that disease. Just like the boxer but instead of moving up and down my dog was moving his head side to side.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 03, 2015:
I am sure your dog's head bobbing event must have been scary! I hope it was just an isolated incident. Good idea to catch on camera and show your vet for his professional opinion.
michelle v on May 03, 2015:
My dog is a golden retreiver mix, so is usually calm and lays around most of the day. All of a sudden around 5PM yesterday she started panting and pacing back and forth, then would stop and sit for about 30 seconds. everytime she would sit her head would go up and down, not fast like in the video here, but slowing like a human nodding yes. after about 4 hours of this i was starting to get scared. we are in the middle of a move, so she is stressed out and not eating well, nothing in over a day, so i forced some syrup and peanut butter in her mouth because she was refusing all her favorite foods. This did not make it go away. I was really getting scared but told myself to wait until morning. this was going on all night. she was asking me up all night pacing back and forth with her head nodding up and down. a few times she layed down but her head would not stop moving. I was so scared and have never seen her like this before. Around 3:30 in the morning it seemed like she was starting to calm down and even was able to go to sleep in 30 minute intervals. in the morning she was a little restless, my husband took her on a long walk and now all of those weird symptoms have seem to go away, around 8 AM. so over 12 hours she was having these symptoms. she is now sleeping most of the day, probably to make up for lack of sleep lat night. Im hoping it was just brought on by stress, which would explain the not eating, the pacing and not sleeping, but the head nodding is the only thing that really scared me. it was constant from 5pm until 3 Am. I took video of it so i can show the vet next time i go. Im just happy it went away and my furbaby seems to be ok. This was so scary. luckily i had her blood work and urine checked 3 weeks ago due to a UTI and everything was normal so that ruled out a lot of things i was reading online like diabetes and thyroid problems.
Lauren on June 07, 2013:
Hi all, oddly enough this is actually my boxer, Bailey, in the above posted video. I am currently fostering a boxer who just did this head bobbing a couple weeks ago and was looking back at my YouTube comments for added advice to give his new adopters. To update- Baileys first episode was in 2008 and she's had about 5 episodes since her first series of them. I am a huge advocate for changing the dogs diet to be free of gluten, wheat, dairy, etc. Initially when this all happened I completely freaked out and rushed her to the vet. As soon as I explained it to my vet he knew it was Idiopathic Head Bobbing, but I choose to do extensive blood work, health exams, and an MRI- all which turned up 100% normal. She was switched to Science Diet DD when this happened and for the past 4 years she has been on Nutro Natural Choice (Venison) and it has been great for her. Please know, if you're dog has this it does NOT hurt them while it is happening. In fact, they will become more anxious and stressed out if you begin to freak out and show them your stress. The best thing to "snap" them out of it is to do something that stimulates them to lick. I have Bailey lick peanut butter off my finger and she will immedietly stop bobbing. There are things that can trigger their bobbing also. Like extreme heat, high chemicals (like someone noted the air fresheners- I won't use these in my house because she is sensitive to anything with a strong scent). Her last bobbing incident was last year after she swam in a chlorine pool for the first time. I think she swallowed too much water and as soon as we got home that night she started bobbing. There is absolutely a direct link between their diet and chemicals to this head bobbing. I also agree with the yogurt, Bailey loves Activia, probiotics are great for dogs too. I keep a journal every single random time she has an episode and write down every change that could have brought it on, it's been really helpful to look back on. Bailey is doing great and is healthy, I don't restrict her from anything extreme I just use caution and smart thinking. In the case with my foster boxer, I believe his episode was brought on by extreme heat. I live in Texas and it's hot and humid. We were at a mobile adoption for about 5 hours with him, even though I tried my best to keep him cool, watered down, and in the shade- nothing competes with the Texas sun. He was overheated and that night he started bobbing. I let him bob just long enough to record a video and he snapped out of it as soon as he started licking the peanut butter off, and he's been fine since this happened 3 weeks ago. I wish there was this much info on it when she got diagnosed but it's great to know that there are so many helpful pet owners out there who are familiar with this. Anyway, I was just browing the internet and saw my video and thought I'd update for those that haven't read the videos comments. It's scary when it first happens but try to stay calm and snap them out of it as quickly as you can. Your dog can sense yout stress. Good luck to all! 🙂
Kim on February 27, 2013:
Brenda, I think that we are all puzzled by our dogs behavior and just reaching out to each other trying to find similar symptoms. I agree with you that it would be nice if the people that posted previously would give us an update on how their dogs are doing now. I know with our labrador retriever we take every day as it comes and pray that he doesn't have head bobbing. I still feel that it has to be enviromental, seasonal, immunizations, or stress from injury that brings these on. just an update on our situation. Good luck to you and your dog.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 20, 2013:
Brenda, the issue with head bobbing is that it's difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, and as such, many times owners are left with little options to prevent these episodes from occurring so they try home remedies they possibly found online. I remember preparing many charts for dogs with head bobbing, and upon checkout, I peeked on the diagnosis and it was often "idiopathic" meaning of unknown cause. People posting here are suggesting things that seem to have worked for their dogs but that doesn't mean it will necessarily work with yours. I would always consult with a vet before trying things at home and then ask his opinion about these options. I don't know the exact dynamics that would make these remedies work. One assumption may be that ice cream brings blood glucose levels up . This link uses ice cream for seizures and explains why it seems to work, so it may be a similar dynamic, best wishes!
Brenda on February 19, 2013:
What is it about the yogurt and icecream that helps? Is it the dairy? I give my wolf-hybrid her glucosamine with chondroiton mixed with whipped cream everynight, so she is getting dairy and sugar. Today was the first day her head has wobbled and it scared the crap out of me.
In the last 8 months she has developed Horner's Syndrome (third eyelids exposed, uneven pupil dilation, and her poor nose is flaking off and exposing raw tissue), she has a terrible snort in the morning that sounds like a pig's oink, and she has yellowish gunk coming out of the corner of her eyes. And now the head bobbing.
I have read every post and wish many of these people would have followed up like Vicki to let us know whatever happened to the dog. After reading these posts I'm left with "calcium, yogurt, vanilla ice cream, and peanut butter". not very reassuring.
Vicki on January 06, 2013:
follow up 2 years ago I wrote that my boxer dog had bobblehead. since then I have found out alot..The cure is 1 table spoon of plain yogart a day mixed with food (at night time) instead of seeing my dog bobble head 3 times a week, since the yogart I only see it once or twice a year! the yeast in the yogart helps! if you see your dog bobbling just give your dog a teaspoon of vanilla icecream and it will stop. I have never missed a night of plain yogart, he is now 3 years old, I always keep vanilla icecream on hand just in case, I do see it a couple times a year. sometimes your dog will grow out of it, but bobblehead is most common in short nose dogs, boxers, pit bulls, bull dogs get it. YOGART YOGART YOGART it is the answer. never miss a night and you will see the change.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 09, 2012:
Thanks for the update Kim, I 'm sure it's quite frustrating to see them re-appear after a period of time.
Kim on December 09, 2012:
I posted over 6 months ago about our labrador retriever. He is now 1 1/2 years old. He was symptom free of the head bobbing for 4 months and he had another episode in October and now has had 2 more the month of December. We had discontinued the flea, tick and heartworm meds through the summer. He hasn't had any new food or treats within this time as well. We thought possibly his vaccines in October were a trigger. but now having more symptoms we are puzzled. We don't know if exercise is a trigger or possibly stress related. I know this breed can be high strung especially with the field trial lineage. Just wanted to update the site on what our family is dealing with. Please continue to post with any suggestions when you can. Everything is so appreciated. Thank you.
Melissa on November 30, 2012:
My olde English Bulldogge has had them since he was about 7-8 months and the only way the I have found that stops it right away is giving him a treat and it stops immediately . He will be turning 4 in January and love him to death.
Rilton Brum on June 18, 2012:
We have a pure breed English Bulldog that only gets Premium Hills feeding wise (apart from some meat and other goodies from time to time). Last saturday, the head tremors started. Never seen nothing like it and creeped the hell out of us.
I am pretty sure it has something realted to Flee control products. We rarelly use any (no need for em) but last week, the bulldog had Frontline and Capstar (an anti flee producted based on Nitenpiram) and i come to realized that might related.
I will try to seek more information.
Kim on June 11, 2012:
We have an almost 1 year old AKC black labrador retriever puppy. He started the head bobbing around 4 months old. He was one of 14 puppies born and had 5 siblings that were dead in their mothers womb. I'm not sure how long he was left in the birth sack or if some type of head trauma occurred. I also have given him Trifexis flea,tick,& heartworm medication in tablet form. He has had 5 episodes now since April 2012. They start with the head bobbing and he is awake but a little disoriented, confused and scared. The last few times he has not been able to hold his urine and it leaks out without him knowing it is happening. He paces and can't seem to get comfortable. We've taken him to a neurologist in addition to his regular vetrinarian. He is on Phenobarbital for 3 weeks twice daily to see if these episodes stop. We are on day 4 of the medicine and he had another incident last night, we gave him 1 valium to try and calm him down. It didn't help. The head bobbing stopped but the leaking continuted for almost 6 hours and the anxiety of it effected him. Watching the videos that people have submitted look exactly like what our dog is doing. I haven't heard anyone mention losing bladder function in the form of leaking when their dogs are head bobbing. We've had blood taken but it came back normal. I will try all the tips that everyone has suggested. Thank you so much for posting, I feel like we are losing our minds! it's nice knowing we are not alone.
Beth on June 04, 2012:
My boxer developed those exact head tremors. However we have linked them to Sentinal flea meds.. Since being taken off of the Sentinal the head bobbing tremors have completely stopped.
Hope that helps. My dog is a one year old flashy fawn.
Terrible Tana's Mom on May 28, 2012:
A huge Thank You to everyone for all of this info. Very very helpful! Our 9 month Lab is having tremors all of which come on 15-30 minutes after hard playtime. We will certainly be looking into many of your suggestions. Thank You
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 10, 2012:
thank you for posting the videos, I am sure they wl be helpful for owners of dogs with this condition.
Darren on May 10, 2012:
My Neopolitan Mastiff has this but it happens to him on very rare occasions. It usually a certain scent that causes him to start bobbing his head. It freaks me out because his head is so large that to me him shaking like that made me think something was really wrong with him. He usually goes months between episodes.
LR on April 16, 2012:
I have a 7 1/2 yr old Boxer. He has been doing this since he was a puppy. It happens when he wakes suddenly. I told my vet years ago and had some tests done on him. They all came back normal. I don't believe it is a sugar problem. My dog can not eat anything besides his food and milk bones because he has colitis and his stomach can not handle it. When the head shakes start I simply give him a milk bone and he stops immediately. The shaking doesn't seem to bother him much. He just kind of looks at me like what's going on and after I give him the treat he is perfectly fine. I think it is worse for us than it is for the dog. Thankfully my dog doesn't do it that often.
Marji on March 12, 2012:
Thank you Hub..my 1 year old boxer started with head tremors 2 days ago..4 episodes in 1 day. all while sleeping. I gave him a fig newton, 2 of them & that helped. He got fixed last month & during the procedure the vet said they witnessed 2 episodes. I am wondering if it the anesthesia, I did get him tested for thyroid, heat worm & Lyme disease, will await the results & let you knw. My vet rec peanut butter too. I will try the yogurt.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 19, 2012:
thank you for sharing! I was not aware of the connection between air fresheners and head bobbing in dogs. I will look for more literature about this.
Gregory on February 19, 2012:
Hi, my 7yr old boxer presented a wobbling head out of the blue recently. I was very concerned as this had never happened before. I read many posts about why it might be happening but one in particular about air fresheners struck me right away as what might be causing my boys reaction.
I had just installed a GLADE AIR FRESHENER near his bed that week for the first time. I removed it immediately from the house and we haven't had another episode since. I'm convinced these plug ins are very toxic (both to humans and pets) and wanted to offer more awareness around this environmental factor as a possible cause for pets suffering wobbles.
Jenny on January 03, 2012:
I have a 4.5 month old Rottweiler/Springer Spaniel mix who just started having these head bobbing episodes last Sunday. I took her to the vet Monday, but no one could give me any answers. She gave me Prednisone, in case it was Related to swelling in the ear that perhaps set off her balance. Frustrated, I did not agree with this theory at all, but I took the medicine home anyway. Exactly one week later, Sunday, she started having them again! I am worried because it doesn't seem like anyone has a Rottweiler experiencing this, but i do find relief in reading everyone's input on here. Thanks for the advice!
Denise on December 07, 2011:
My 6 year old Greyhound Rescue, Cleo, has had three episodes of Head Bobbing as far as I have witnessed. One just over a year ago, her second a few months ago, and her third this morning at 4am. My first visit to the vet resulted in blood work but all seemed normal, even for a greyhound. The second episode we went back to my vet but with an article that I had found online about idiopatic head tremers. Again, her blood work looked normal and my vet told me to let her know if this happens again. I cannot thank everyone who has posted on this site enough. I thought I was crazy and it was only my baby girl that was suffering. Low blood sugar seems to make sense to me, she can be a fussy eater. I was able to get this mornings episode on film and have already forwarded to my vet. I have to agree with all that say this seems to scare me more than i does my baby girl. I hope and pray everyday that peanut butter and yogurt will do the trick. Best wishes and love to all and their love bugs XOXO
LogansDad on November 30, 2011:
Our 10 and half year old English Bull Terrier, Logan, has had a form of 'head bobbing' over the years. However, no episodes for many months until this morning. It only occurs when he is about to eat. He bobs his head around his food bowl as if he can't eat (occasionally knocking into it)and then eats quite ravenously. Seems perfectly OK after. Only difference this morning, was he had already eaten most of his food, went to the garden, came back and 'bobbed' in front of his bowl, but didn't eat the remainder.
Reasons for this post:
1/Logan does have some yeast in his ears. Previous post have referred to this being a possible cause. Could be. Will be treating with Thornit powder.
2/ Logan had a brain infection January 2009, which, the vet specialists thought was a meningioma (tumour)following an initial MRI and spinal tap. Subsequent MRI at another facility, indicated it had shrunk and a third MRI at the same place, revealed it had gone completely! Although a few seizures in quick succession had led us to the specialists, Logan was, on occasion, displaying occasional head bobbing (only in front of his food bowl). Was it connected? Hard to say. I don't wish to add to anyone's concerns if their dog is 'head bobbing', but thought it worthwhile to mention this.
Logan's in very good health for his age (most people still think he's a puppy!), apart from an itchy skin problem.
Mary on November 19, 2011:
After viewing the slides of various dogs I see that Katie's are not as severe. Her head goes in "little steps" up and down not as fast as the slides. She looks like she i in a daze but responds when I call her name and stops. I am going to bring her in to the vet and see what they say.
Mary on November 19, 2011:
My 12 year old golden, Katie has had head bobbing for a couple of years and I just decided to Google it and was referred to this site.
Margaret on October 29, 2011:
My British Bulldog had her first 'severe' head nodding episode aged around 18 months old, rather than shaking it is up and down but severe. I rushed her to the Vet as I thought it was a fit. As normal cost a fortune and diagnosed it as a fit but wanted to keep her in and test for epilepsy. It gave me that much of a fright seeing her in such distress I brought her home thinking the worse. She never had another for almost 6 mths. Her first episode lasted app 15mins and every time it has occurred she has been sleeping, never been given any meds or been unwell etc, just came out of the blue. She has had 5 in total but roughly twice a year strangely around the same time, although not hormonal. What has me freaked out is her last episode lasted 45mins, and next to the video's on you tube, she differs by staying lying down, unable to stand, she tries to keep eye contact wondering what is going on and all I can do is give her the Valium that the Vet prescribed and wait for them to subside. She is awake but not totally with me and her legs stiffen but no shaking anywhere else just very severe head nodding. All I can do is cuddle her in tight, cry and wait for them to stop. Once they do stop she is confused and wants cuddled and assurance. They are not grand-mal seizures, she does not foam at the mouth, wet herself or loose control of her bowels, all that happens is her head nods violently and she appears out of it as long as it lasts. I m so pleased that I found this site and I have been reading everything possible all night. As I am on a low income I have been dreading taking her for blood tests etc as my Vet wanted everything done and I am now furious to find out that it hasn't even been fits she has been having and being charged 28 GBP ($40 app) for two Valium.
She is perfectly healthy in all other aspects,loves her run's in the park and is my baby. I love her to death and it appears to distress me more so than her. Has anybody else had their episodes last so long? and Has anyone else's dog been kind of out of it during the episode and then perfectly fine although tired after?
She hasn't had one since June (finger crossed) this year and would like any advice anyone could given just in case they do occur again.
Many thanks and I'll sleep so much more peaceful tonight after reading what I have instead of dreading the worst for her. Thanks again Margaret xx
Elaine on October 29, 2011:
I have a beautiful 13 year old boxer, the most wonderful dog anyone could ever wish for.For about a year now after eating he has started to have occasional head tremors and will then will drop like a stone . He gets up immediately and wanders a little and shudders and then normally vomits all his dinner up. He is then fine and sleeps.My vet said this can be quite common in older boxers and is caused when they bolt their food too quickly and it causes a slight disruption to the blood to the brain.He is not in pain or cries out in distress but it is horrible to witness but I keep him quiet and support him and talk gently to him. Hope this helps.
Kim on October 29, 2011:
Thank you so much for this article! My 11-year old Beagle/Basset mix has had this for a few years now, and other than the "bobble head" (kinda in a rocking, side to side/up down motion) he is perfectly healthy and normal. He plays actively with his 2-year old Beagle "sister), has great, absolutely silky fur, and eats/sleeps/potties just fine. This is his only abnormality. It has been scaring the crap out of ME though, and this article put my mind at ease. I wonder, though, if our culture, so full of chemicals to "help" our babies (cats and dogs) is perhaps causing this? I have had dogs since I was a baby, and have never seen this in pets (I'm 51)! Kinda makes you wonder.
Steph on October 14, 2011:
Nicole, thanks for the information and concern for your dog. We all love our dogs, that's why we are on a hub page trying to find answers, answers our vets do not have. In my case and many of the cases on here, our dogs do not display the symptoms of Cerebellar Abiotropy. CA affects the balance and coordination of the dog, they appear to be clumsy and confused. My dog is neither clumsy or confused during these spells, she is awake and moves around just fine. I know our first reaction is to run a million tests on our dogs, but MRI and spinal taps are very expensive test (at least in the U.S.) So the best bet is to rule out smaller things first and try options that have worked for other people with the same experience. In my case, the calcium supplements have been a miracle and Izzy has not had one single tremor after the supplements got built up in her system.
Also,sadly there is no cure or treatment for Cerebellar Abiotrophy.
Elina on October 13, 2011:
Hello! No problem Nicole! Dog is checked by a vet but we have no diagnos yet. In this time I wait that I can take a video of he`s symptoms. I have one but it`s not very good and my husband take it about 6 month ago. In this time the symptoms are litlebit lesser. We think he is epileptic but one of the greatist vet says he think he is not and he think it mayd be idiopatic head tremer and he wants that videos, then we continue and think what shall we do. I just look information, because I dont no what kind of disease idiopatic head tremer is and what can I do if he has it. Thank you for answer and good luck to you and the others!
Nicole on October 12, 2011:
Elina from Finland, my dog Red started having tremors 3 days ago, and one episode lasted for nearly a whole day.
This page has been nice in making me feel that i'm not alone. But PLEASE, if your dog has this condition, get it checked out by a vet!
And before you decide to skip the MRI's and spinal taps because of some hub you read on the internet just think, what if you get it wrong? What if your dog's head-bobbing is not "idiopathic"? What if your dog is having tremors because of "Cerebellar Abiotrophy" or any other brain abnormality that is degenerative (i.e. will get much worse) and in 6 months time your dog can barely walk?
If it helps anyone else, the steps i've been taking to minimise Red's head bobbing while i await test results are a) warmth, b) lots of activity during the day to keep him occupied which in turn c) makes him fall asleep really quickly at night.
Out of the above remedies, i have tried to increase his glucose and his calcium, neither of which have worked. I will re-post when test results are received. Good luck all!
kelly on October 12, 2011:
My 2 year old boxer, Dexter, just did this last night (for about 30 seconds), and he also repeated it again today (for about 15 seconds), and both times it happened as he was getting up from a nap. I'm so glad I found this site, and knowing that other owners have witnessed this, and their "wittle goggies" are ok. I'm still going to take him to the vet on Friday just to have a simple blood test done, and if nothing comes back, then I'm going to take it as it comes, since Dex seemed to be perfectly fine, as if he wasn't even aware anything was up. In fact, he gave me a confused face last night as I ran over to him, like, "What. Why are you rubbing me?" and today, while it was happening, he was rolling over on his back for a belly rub. It was very scary to see it happen, and not be able to do anything for him.
Elina on October 12, 2011:
Hello from Finland! Sorry my bad english! I have 2 years old giant of snautzer and he maybe has idiopatic head tremor. When he's head shakeing, it would continue 1,5 hours or sometimes more. Have they any heard it can take so long time?
I would to thank this article and this site and all of you who is wrote here! Also I thank the answers what I maybe get!
Steph on September 28, 2011:
I have an Italian Greyhound (Izzy) that has the same head bobbing that everyone has mentioned. It just showed up one day, not after shots or anything dramatic. At one point she was having 5 or 6 a day. Of course I rushed her to the vet on the second day, the vet stated that it was probably idiopathic head tremors and not much could be done about them since she didn't seem to be in pain and was alert. After expensive blood work (found nothing) she was sent home. I was told to call him if anything changed or she was in pain.
Well, I went home and hit the internet for research. What I found seems to have fixed her problem. I will provide a link that has a good explaination since I'm no scientist but basically I give her a calcium supplement everyday. She stopped having the tremors within a few days and has not had any since. Please try this to see if it helps. Here is the link explaining: http://www.bulldogsworld.com/health-and-medical/he.
Seth on September 27, 2011:
My bad for my post above. she was on Frontline too but the product that has neurological side effects listed as a possible side effect is Heartgard not Frontline. Revolution replaces them both so it could have been either but the main suspect is the Heartgard not Frontline. Sorry for the confusion.
Seth on September 27, 2011:
My 18 month old boxer Layla started having these tremors in her sleep and they would continue 1-2 minutes after waking. Vet though it could be early onset of epilepsy or something worse. After a day or 2 the symptoms disappeared. only to resurface about a month later. After reading through all the comments on here and from Bailey's videos on youtube it finally dawned on me. FRONTLINE. For some reason she started having this reaction to it after 2 days of application. Why it started after being on it since I brought her home i can't tell you. We switched to Revolution because it doesn't list neurological issues as one of the possible side effects like Frontline does. Low and behold we are about 4 months in with no relapses, thank god I read through all you good folks stories of possible causes and remedies and hope that she continues tremor free for the rest her life. Just wanted to spread the word and give my thanks and sympathy towards the rest of you. No more Frontline = No more TREMORS
littledevil29 on September 18, 2011:
Annie i know exactly what u are talking about and yes my spike was the same way at first. i have posted here several times with updates on him. what works for him it seems is i give him a extra strength tums twice a day every day (for low calcium) and when he has an episode i give him a big puddle of pancake syrup during the episode (for low sugar). i also continue the syrup for seven days once a day after he has had an episode. if u like more detailed info on my dog please read back and look for my post i posted earlier. i hope this site and other peoples post helps you and your dog. prayers to all the people and pets dealing with the disorder.
Annie on September 17, 2011:
So glad I found this site. I feel a little better.. My olde english bulldog woke at 6am today with the head bobbing for the first time. went away after a couple minutes but as soon as he falls asleep it comes right back. Tried sugar milk and honey milk and it seemed to help for a bit and then it came right back. Took him on a couple walks and it goes away while hes active then comes right back. He seems a little worried about it but normal other wise. Im totally freaked though. It sounds exactly like what everyone is writing except his is pretty severe. Has happened 7 or 8 different times today from 6am-to now (11:15) and he cant seem to shake it off. Im thinking me being worried isn't helping anything so hes not able to relax. Has anyone ever experienced it this severe?? Throughout a long period of time? I really hope this is a temporary thing even if its not harmful to him. I feel so helpless not knowing how to make him better :-/
violetsky95 on September 05, 2011:
I have a 5 yr old Plotthound who has had a few episodes of this in the past 8 months. Every time, she's been laying in the bed sleeping when it started. Each one lasts about 3-5 minutes. Hers are from side to side. I have a video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAoZnl7uU28
She's on Heartgard but hasn't had a dose since Aug 22th, and this happened Sept 4th. No Frontline or recent surgery. Her last episode was back around March, I think. That was the first and second time we'd seen it happen, but we've only had her since December 2010. I'm going to start tracking them more diligently now to see if I can find some kind of correlation.
Sara on August 31, 2011:
My dog had surgery yesterday in which she went under anesthesia. The following day she is having head shakes that last a few seconds at a time and she seems to be able to move and stop them. This has happened about five times so far and before, during, and after she seems fine. It seems to happen when she is resting with her head down or falling asleep and not when up and active. It makes sense about her sugar levels being low-she skipped two meals for the surgery. We will try peanut butter more regularly (she does love PB)-thanks!
Megan on August 22, 2011:
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our boy Eddie, almost 3yr old Olde English started head bobbing yesterday morning. I called the vet ER and they told me, it's probably a seizure adn to monitor his condition. After it happened again two hours later, we brought him in for blood work. All test came back fine and he's in great health. As we were waiting the result I googled head bobbing and it directed me to this site. What a helpful and calming site for all the parents!! We feel so much better after reading that this condition is not life threatening and very managable. He already loves PB so I'm pretty sure he's going to be just fine. We will be keeping records of date/how long it last/ what he was doing while having the bobbing. Perhaps we can see a pattern?? Thank you again for making us aware! Just wish more Vets were aware of this.
littledevil29 on July 13, 2011:
my last post was 4 months ago and this is an update on my valley bulldog named spike. he turned 2 yrs old on march 28th. on the advice of my breeder who says this is common with their breed i give him a tums 2 times a day broken up in his food. this is to bring his calcium level up. i also give him a tablespoon of pancake syrup when an episode starts and within seconds it stops. the syrup is to bring his sugar level up. he has only had one other episode since the first 4 months ago. i pray everyday that he doesn't have anymore but thanks to my breeder and this hub i feel confident that i know what to do to help him now. good luck and prayers to all the people and dogs that go through this.
Kari on July 12, 2011:
My experience is like Nina's.
My doberman/rottweiler just did this head shake worse than she's ever done it before. She was completely conscious and aware through the whole thing and it didn't seem to bother her.
She kept putting her head back down to sleep even though it was shaking wildly. She's done this before but not to this extent. She's also 13 years old. Scared the crap out of me. I'm quite glad I found this hub.
Josy on May 29, 2011:
My 8year old cocker spaniel has started the head bobbing, I rushed her to the vets thinking it was a fit they did blood tests which cost me £200 to say they couldn't see anything wrong. I am glad I found this site and feel more reassured as it is frightening at first to watch, I will be trying the honey and peanut butter on her as advised by others
Nina on May 17, 2011:
My male 4 year old American Bulldog just had it happen to him for the first time this morning while he was sleeping. At first I thought he was having a bad dream and tried to wake him up. He looked at me then closed his eyes to sleep all while shaking only his head. I woke him up a second time & he got up looked at me still shaking his head. I immediately knew then that this wasn't just a bad dream. I hurried and dialed our vet thinking he was having a seizure. While I was on the phone, he walked into the room I was in still shaking his head like a "bobble head" up & down. The entire time he was alert & did not seem to be in any pain.
The whole episode lasted between 2-3 minutes.
I took him to the vet afterward & she stated he probably had a mild seizure which could be due to epilepsy, change in his food/diet or a reaction to something he may have got into outside (i.e. pesticides, etc.) She told me to keep a close monitor on him to see if he has another episode. She said if he does have epilepsy that this is usually the age it usually starts to show. I am hoping that this is not the case. After reading about everyone who has had a similar experience, I am feeling reassurred that he probably doesn't have epilepsy & has the "Idiopathic Head Bobbing Syndrome".
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 02, 2011:
Find another vet, head bobbing should not be accompanied by other symptoms, your dog needs blood work done, a shot against parasites will do little for the head bobbing. If you want to try the honey just rub a little on her gums with your finger. Best wishes!
Stacy on May 02, 2011:
My bulldog Bullet has been experiencing head bobbing just recently. it's almost like she is having a seizure. she has no energy and lost a lot of weight. i took her to the vet and they couldn't seem to find what was wrong with her, so they gave her a shot for parasites and prescribed her Drontal plus canine, both seemed to have no affect. so i started doing research and came across this website and was happy to see that this head bobbing is common. but i am worried on how much weight she is losing and how she has absolutely no energy. she is very sluggish and just sleeps all day. if there anything i can do? i've been trying to give her yogurt and honey but she doesn't like it. what else can i do? someone please help, its breaking my heart seeing her like this. i miss my energetic bully 🙁
angela on May 01, 2011:
My 4 year old mini dobie/rat terrier has been head shaking his whole life. He seems to be saying no no no.I used to have to hold his bowl when he was a pup, then found it easier for him to eat, without getting food every where, if I mix a little wetfood with the dry. From a pup, I tried almost everything to help him. What worked the best was loving him the way he is and not stressing on it. Sure we get stopped everytime we walk, but that is what makes him our Rowdie.
Donna on April 16, 2011:
My 6 year old female black Lab started having these tremors. I began giving her a vitamin b complex tablet in her morning food (concealed in a piece of raw hamburger) and she hasn't had a tremor in over a month and a half.
Nanette Harper on April 06, 2011:
EXCELLENT SITE AND INFO. Thank you.
Ranee, I'm very sad for you that your young dog died of a brain tumour.
However, emotions aside, as the condition is called 'idiopathic', that means no-one knows how it is caused. Therefore there is no more proven hereditary link between head bobbing (which my breed and my breeding has in some of our individuals), brain tumours, or epilepsy. There seems to be more of a link with chemicals rather than breeding, so don't go knee jerking and blaming your breeder.
To the lady who heartbreakingly wrote 'My heart goes out to all the dogs that have this', Why? You will see that ever single poster writes that their dogs are not troubled, distressed, affected by it. They are often running around the garden playing or alternatively relaxed. It's not pleasant for us to see, but I can assure you that our dogs who we see have done it, are not in an emotional state, pain or distress.
As usual too much emotion clouds the importance of rational discussion.
It's also interesting that all the vets are sending the dogs off for expensive lab work, scans etc, BEFORE reading coverage on sites like this. Jobaby posted sensibly – what do you want the vet to do if they don't know what it is? Brain surgery!
Cheryl on April 05, 2011:
I guess I am joining this group now. My Boxer mix that I rescued back in October is doing the same thing. She had heart-worms when I rescued her, and I had had to start treatments. Prior to her heart worm treatments, I never saw this, but after her double dose treatment she started having this episode. Today was her third one, and I finally got it on video. I'm praying to God it isn't seizures, and just this head bobbing thing. She is on good grain free food, and she isn't on any flea/tick, or heart worm prevention at this time, only because she was supposed to have one more oral dose of the heart worm treatment. We put it on hold due to all of this happening. What a frightening thing to go through. Just like everyone else, it does not seem to bother her one bit. She is fine before, during, and after, aside from the head shake. I have heard, sugar, calcium, heart worm treatments, allergic reaction, and a few other things can cause this problem. I also worry that some my be diagnosed as this rather than looking into it medically and finding out that there was a tumor or some other medical reason behind them. My baby will be going back to the vet once again tomorrow with the video in hand to see if there may be something more going on. The next step is blood work from what I understand.
Tina on April 03, 2011:
After just putting 2 + 2 together, i realise my dog started headbobbing about 4 years ago after i changed her food to a lower protein diet. Now i think theres a link between the condition and her diet. It was mentioned about blood sugar levels and my dog drinks loads and loads of water. I would appreciate if anyone had any advice on choice of diet.
sandy on March 18, 2011:
This was interesting to me since we have boxers. Could you please post your sources? Thanks!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 13, 2011:
Good to hear your dog is doing better!Note that my article suggested as well hypoglycemia as a potential cause for head bobbing and was advising to use Karo syrup or honey on the gums.
littledevil29 on March 13, 2011:
thank god for friends that have seen this before. my breeder friend who breeds valley bulldogs has seen this before. she told me it was from low sugar and to give him 6 ml of pancake syrup or corn syrup once a day or twice if it persisted and 1 tums 3 times a day. i gave him 2 tums today and 1 teaspoon of pancake syrup today and he hasn't bobbed his head since around 12 noon. i am so grateful to my dear friend for helping me and easing my mind. thank you stella smith
littledevil29 on March 13, 2011:
my valley bulldog (english bulldog/boxer) will be 2 yrs old on march 28th 2011. he is an altered male and weighed 86.4 lbs. yesterday (3-13-11). he started that head bobbing yesterday morning around 10am. it lasted about 3-5 minutes. i to at first thought it was some type of seizure but the more i look at him the more im convinced its not because he is fully alert before during and after the episode. i took him to the vet and spent $190 on bloodwork, urine and ear test. the only thing that my vet found was he had a yeast infection in his ears and a small fever of 103.3. i brought him home gave him 1 325mg aspirin for the fever and used cleaning solution and antibiotic ear drops from the vet. he was fine until around 8pm and then he started up again and it has been stop and go all night and so far all day (12pm). the only thing i see that helps him is to let him outside and i think its because he interested in everything going on out there and hes being distracted. im going to try the peanut butter, honey, yogurt or something if he keeps doing this because when summer gets here he wont be able to stay outside for long periods of time because of the heat. i noticed some people think its maybe a calcium problem but i was just wondering if maybe a calcium supplement would be helpful. the only medicine that i might could say was linked to this is something another vet gave me for his ear infection a few weeks ago. she gave me something called dermachlor k flush to clean his ears with everyday for a week and once a week after it was supposed to keep the yeast from growing in his ears. the only bad thing i found about this after researching it was it says nothing about using it in his ears. it only says use on the skin but i used it like she said because we hope and pray the vets we put our trust in knows more then we do. i took this bottle to my regular vet and he said i shouldn't use it because it wasn't safe for the eardrums. so i bought regular ear cleaner from him to clean his ears with from now on. i hope and pray we can find out what works for him because like everybody else says its very hard on the parents and it looks like he asking me what's going on and i wish i knew and could help him. peace, love, prayers and good luck with all who are suffering with this disorder.
Kodiak my baby on March 03, 2011:
My 5 year old doberman has shown the head bobbing on numerous occasions. It happened a few times when he was younger and now is happening again. We have not put any medications on him or in him for a long time, and we do not switch his food or give him any kind of scraps or anything that I feel would effect his behavior or diet. The episodes seem to happen only after he wakes up, or when he is resting his head in the same position for a long time then moves. It isn't every time and it isn't on any type of pattern. We just snap him out of it with distractions and rub his neck. I have my own slipped disc issues in my neck and seeing his shaking makes me think that it is related to some sort of neck muscle issue, like a spasm or something. He has been doing it more often in the last few weeks, and the only thing that has changed was that we got him a tuggy toy. which leads me to belive that somehow the whipping and whirling of his neck when playing with it has irritated the muscles and is causing spasms after they relax then tense up and move again. So, the rope has since tore off the ball, so no more tuggy toy. He also pulls a lot when we walk, so I am going to switch to his harness again and see if that helps. My other doberman female doesn't and has never done it and they eat, sleep, live and enjoy life in unison. So, I will try a little bit of everyone's advice, but I really think it is something to do with weak/tight neck muscles, and that is why sometimes it goes up and down, or side to side, or somethimes goes away for years or comes back again. Just my own theory based on my own slipped disc and neck muscle issues.
cheryl_a_p on February 27, 2011:
Just talked to my breeder and apparently in most cases, it's head tremors caused by a calcium deficiency.
chiefhead on January 21, 2011:
Has anyone actually had an MRI done, and what was the results.
miss vicki on December 23, 2010:
my boxer Champ was head bobbling almost every night for 2 weeks, he was still a puppy..anyways I read that if you give your dog plain yogart it will stop, so I have giving my dog 1 table spoon a day and he has not bobbled head in 2 months, you can also put peanutbutter or honey for flavor, I have used the vanilla flavor and it works. its funny that when I called 3 vets and told them what my boxer was doing with his head, they all saw dollar signs and wanted to do blood work, cat scans, mri's and more that would of cost me thousands of dollars, I did my own research to find out that it's normal for a flat nose dog such as boxers, pit's, bull dogs have bobble head. try the yogart it only cost $1.87 and it works! 🙂
J Lyne & Jager on December 11, 2010:
Hi, I'm glad to have come across this article. I've been stressing out over my 5 month old English Bulldog who had his first episode of this "head shaking" a week ago. He was laying with his head in my lap resting while we watched a movie. I dont know who it surprised more, him or me. It was just his head trembling, not his body, and he was completely alert through-out the experience.
I had a female have episodes of low calcium shaking in the past so I gave him a fruit flavored Tums and it stopped very quickly after he finished the Tums. He had another occurrence of head shaking yesterday, again it stopped almost immediately after he had a Tums. Then tonight he was sitting beside me and started it, I gave him the last 1/4 cup of my strawberry yogurt and the shaking stopped. I really dont know if its the calcium, the sugar or the distraction but whichever it is seems to work.
I do want to thank Nugget's Mommy because now that I read that, she made me realize that this started after Jager and I spent our first snow-day outside playing together. Yesterday's episode happened about an hour after he was out with the kids sledding and today's was about 30 minutes after we were out building snowforts for a snowball fight. Maybe his body burning extra calories to stay warm has an effect on his normally balanced glucose levels? I'll be keeping an eye on that!
Nugget's Mommy on December 03, 2010:
So i have a 13 week old puppy. he is a olde English bulldog mixed with a rare alapaha blue blooded bulldog. he weighs about 25 lbs. He had 2 episodes of head shaking, both happened when he was laying down. Its like he is saying "no,no,no" his are side to side and he is fully conscious, and not in any pain.
I did my research online and thought it could be related to hypoglycemia. This is because his episodes happened the first time, shortly after being outside (its super cold) and the second time when he was late getting dinner after playing.
So i started to feed him an extra meal, he has a puppy jacket and doesn't stay outside too long. His play times are limited and he hasn't had any issues since.
For all you mommys and daddys wondering what's wrong, try and Google HYPOGLYCEMIA and figure out when the episodes happen.
Dbl J on November 27, 2010:
27Nov2010-My 15 mo old M mix terrier started w/the head bobbing 3 wks ago. First I thought he was shaking. Then he had another episode the next day. The only change we had made-added glucomisine Chronditin (Eukanuba-large breed)dog food-because he went to vet (5wks agao)& dx'd w/osteochondritis dessicans. We took him off it, and the head tremor diminished until today, he had a 2 second episode. After reading this thread, he will be going to neurologist just to be sure that he does not have a tumor. I will continue to post w/progress
Adidas on November 25, 2010:
My Great Dane adult male had a head bobbing episode about 3 months ago. They continued periodically throughout the morning and we took him to the emergency vet and they stopped. They suggested a neurologist as well. Nothing. For 3 months he hasn't had any episodes and then the other day all of a sudden they started up again. They scare me to death when they happen. he gets up and wants to walk around and they subside with exercise. I am SO relieved to see videos and be able to identify what it is! I have not identified any reason that would trigger it. meds/food have not changed at all.
Hannah on November 16, 2010:
I have a 12 yr old male Dalmatian/Lab mix who just started doing this in the last year, but infrequently. Freaked me out the first time, but he seems to be fine afterward–only lasts about 3 seconds and that's usually it for the day, week, or month. Weird. Helpful to read everything here, though–I'm not going to overreact. 🙂