Head Tremors

Idiopathic head tremor
is a condition that effects all dog breeds
and is frequently seen in Labradors, Boxers and Bulldogs.

Idiopathic means a disease
that is of uncertain or unknown origin.
That means the exact cause of head tremors
has yet to be determined.

When a dog has idiopathic head tremors it
will shake its head without having any control over it.
No one really knows why this occurs,
most dogs show symptoms of head bobbing
(usually up and down but it can also be side to side).
In most cases the symptoms occur at the age from 6 months to 3 years.

Usually a typical idiopathic head tremor episode
will generally last around three minutes.
Once the head bobbing is over,
your dog should return to normal,
as if the tremors never occurred at all.

If your dog does appear to have been affected,
contact your local veterinarian immediately.
This condition is totally unresponsive
to seizure medications and the best way to handle
an episode seems to be to focus the dog’s attention
on a toy or treat. Episodes tend to get milder
and less frequent with age.


It is very important to let a veterinarian
make an official diagnosis
because the same symptoms occur in other diseases!

These symptoms may also occur with epilepsy,
brain tumors or other neurological diseases.
It will be important to have an experienced,
reputable vet for this
since some vets incorrectly diagnose
head tremors as seizures and will put the dog
on medication for the rest of it’s life.

When your dog has these symptoms
you can help the vet with his diagnosis
by making a video of the head tremors
and to make notes and log exactly when
and for how long the head shaking occurs.

Officially there is no known cause
but here is a list of possible causes/triggers
supplied by our members
who have dogs with idiopathic head tremors:

females during the heat cycle
from eating a particular food
from being given a particular supplement
after flea and/or tick treatment
after being given heartworm medication
after an intensive work out or from being stressed


Again there is no medical treatment
but here are some things you can do
to help your dog through it.

First of all make sure your dog is safe
(remove sharp objects around him and make sure he doesn’t fall).
Second of all be calm, if you panic
your dog will sense it and panic too.

Keep in mind that even though it looks bad
your dog is not in any pain.
And third distract your dog
with a treat or toy try to keep the dogs attention.

The current theory is that the tremors are a result
of dysfunction of the proprioceptive fibers in the neck.
Abnormal sensory input, causing alternating contraction
and relaxation of muscle groups, may be responsible.
This explanation, while almost impossible to prove,
would explain why those affected stop shaking
if something is done to focus their attention
on an object such as a toy or treat.

A lot of people give a little bit of honey
or other sugary treats (peanut butter, vanilla ice cream)
allthough there is no medical proof this works
so many of our members said it worked
so it might be worth trying.
Also gently massaging your dogs head and neck
seemed to work for a lot of dogs.