Seizures/head shakes???

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SweetSoma79's picture
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Hello, I have noticed that  my Blak-and-Rust 3-yr old F Dobe (Bonnie Blue) that I got about a month ago (rescue) sometimes seems to be having a mild seizure, or head shakes. I have 2 other dogs an akita/lab mix and a belgian malinois, and they do not do this. I have never seen this in any dog I have ever had. It seems to be the occuring the most when she is laying down with her head to the side, like when I clean her ears out. (Mites). But not always. It is not real bad or violent, no eyes rolling back in her head or anything. Just this weird kinda shaking thing, and it only lasts for a minute or so. Thanks so much! Jessica

AlphaAdmin's picture
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So, am I to understand that she starts shaking, in an uncontrollable way, just her head, for longer than a minute?

This might be a simple nervous habit. Rescue dogs often come with some problems with anxiety and so on. Have you spoken to the vet?

Grendelspop's picture
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Congrats on the new dog. Its always nice to hear about a rescue. A few months ago I was checking out some Doberman discussions and came across some threads regarding this head wobbling. I'm sorry that I don't have very much information for you except to say that the people talking of this described symptoms just like you have and talked about it as though it may be common in some form. I never learned what treatment if any was used, sorry.

SweetSoma79's picture
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I had read about the head bobbing thing too, but i have not seen it, so i don't know what that looks like, if it could be it or not. It's not an anxiety b/c she is relaxed when it happens. It's like mild tremors, but just in her head. The rest of the body is still. It does not last for very long or happen that often.  And she has not been to the vet yet. I hope to do that within the next week.

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I'm sure things will be fine but either way this dog is lucky to have a  new owner that cares enough to research and try to treat the problem if any.  Let us know what you find out, if this is something that is common in the breed it will be important to us all to know. Good luck. 

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SweetSoma79 wrote:

I had read about the head bobbing thing too, but i have not seen it, so i don't know what that looks like, if it could be it or not. It's not an anxiety b/c she is relaxed when it happens. It's like mild tremors, but just in her head. The rest of the body is still. It does not last for very long or happen that often.  And she has not been to the vet yet. I hope to do that within the next week.

Dogs can develop funny things dues to anxiety, and display them when they're happy. In the dog, probably the strongest drive is the pack drive. In other words, dogs need to be part of a pack. An abused or neglected dog is usually denied this. Once they get it, they can develop anxiety disorders worrying about loosing it.

This very well could be a physical problem. It could also be, as I've seen in other dogs, a way to get attention. How do you react to her head shacking?

SweetSoma79's picture
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Thanks everyone! When she does it I just ignore it and it goes away. i know if i make a fuss it could be worse/develop into a habit. it is very random when it happens and only lasts for less than a minute. and it occurs most often when i am cleaning her ears out. if it gets bad while i am cleaning her ears out i just stop and sit there quietly and it stops shortly.i cant dig while shes shaking lol!  she is not cropped and i am struggling with ear mites...i think she was a BYB dog....she had had pups about 10 wks before I got her. also her tail wasnt docked properly, i think. it seems kind of long. i will have to put some pics up here of her on my profile shortly. i have 2 other dogs at home, an akita/lab mix and a belgian malinois. ALL 3 ARE FEMALE! they all love to play and i had to work with bonnie with walking on a leash, and now I can walk all 3 of them on my left side. bonnie had dominance issues with the other 2 at first, but now the play great and they don't like to be split up though...i think they are a bit too dependent on each other as well.  it makes me happy to see all 3 of them so happy and relaxed now. adding her to the pack really helped my akita mix to not try to be so alpha and my malinois to not be soooooooo skittish and submissive. personality issues seem to have lessened a lot lately. its been great to watch and learn.

SweetSoma79's picture
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So I have been researching this some more, and I am thinking now maybe she has narcolepsy, or both? She is pretty lazy and sleeps a lot off and on. She does not have the big seizures that you read about where the whole body locks up. Its just a little tremor in the head and shes staring off into space. I think shes a result of BYB for real....And what scares me is that she has had at least 1 litter of pups before I got her. And she has CKC papers (not AKC)...what a joke....Oh well. She is a very good, sweet dog. I am going to get her fixed b/c there is no reason to breed her, I don't want to add more sick dogs to the world!!!!! I am just really sad because noone knows anything about her, her history or anything. It would help me out a lot. Does anyone else have a dog with either of these 2 diseases?

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It's amazing how dogs can help each other. My biggest concern when giving advice is that the person isn't taking on the alpha role. If you have them walking all on your side, and dominance aggression is toning down, thats a true sign that they have you as their alpha. Good work!

We've had several rescues come through our home. Our expert is Drayko, our stud. He's especially good with the little boys. He knocks them around until they come out of their shell, teaches them how to pee on three legs, and how to stay out of trouble with Dad.

What is BYB?

I hope you get those ear mites gone. I hate to think how a Mommy-dog would be allowed to get ear mites..... It's to bad we don't have a procedure for people to keep them from breeding dogs.

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Thanks! They amaze me every day. BYB is back-yard breeding. I also have noticed the head shaking thing happens when she is laying down. Like yesterday she was relaxed I was rubbing her with wipes to clean/help her skin, and not doing her ears, and she started doing it again. Its the wierdest thing I ever saw. It seems it only happens when shes laying down. I haven't seen her do it sitting or standing. Also, she is up to 74lbs now, but still looks so skinny! What would be a good weight for her, I see the average runs like 70-100 or so. It seems the more I learn about the breed the more I don't know!

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I've fount that to be true with everything - the more you know the more you know you don't.  ;) Or as Alpha Admin likes to say, "If I'm confused I'm making progress."

Don't get caught up in body weight, it's no more healthy for dogs than it is people. She should look trim and fit, and should be able to bound about unhindered by chubyness. Female naturally have a bit more fat, so it's ok if you can feel a little layer under her skin. But, if you notice a fat-patch forming on her chest right in front of her shoulders, this is bad.

74 pounds is heavy for a female Doberman, but that could just be that she is a big (tall) girl. Our Stormee weights about that and the last thing she is is over weight.

I have to talk about poor Jewel here, she is our smallest Doberman - but also the one with the weight problem. Her weight problem is entirely due to her love of food. I have to keep a close eye or she'll steal the other dog's food. When she was with puppies, we wouldn't restrict food, so every litter she would gain a bit of weight we would then have to melt off of her. Her last litter was pretty fun. Her and Stormee managed to each have a litter a few day apart. Jewel had two and Stormee 11 or 12 ( I can't remember). Anyway, a few of Stormee's puppies weren't getting enough food so we started rotating them over with Jewel. They fattened up right away.

Jewel produces so much rich milk the poor puppies would choke and get milk mustaches. We called her milk eggnog, it was around Christmas.

After that litter she was really chubby. I had to keep her on a strict diet, which mostly meant not letting her sneak over to the other dog's bowls. Our male, Drayko, shares his food freely - especially when females are in heat or near anything having to do with puppies. Even hid milk bones! He'll dance around with it then drop it off to one of the pregnant females. Needless to say, he was no help in Jewel's diet. Neither was Stormee. Stormee's idea of a meal is about three mouth fulls.

With all the weight, and I'm not talking excessive, maybe 10 pounds at the most, she wasn't able to spring around like the other two. In their games she was getting pushed around.

Once the diet and exercise started kicking in though, she became a new dog. Now she can even take Stormee who's much bigger. She's happier too but we still have to keep her away from the food.

Grendelspop's picture
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I just had a quick question about these tremors she is having .I have noticed in your post that this seems to happen mostly when you are touching her in some way. Is this the case or just coincidence in your post?.

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Great news....she went into heat today LMAO!!  :o She had the pups about 18 weeks ago or so, not real sure...does that seem too soon for her to start again? I really wish I knew more about her, like EXACTLY how old she is (maybe 3??) how many litters, etc....ah well. I am going to get her fixed after this cycle. Not gonna let her near any boys either LOL....She is not fat at all, if anything, she still looks kinda skinny. She is very very tall, towers over my other 2 dogs. I am thinking maybe another 5lbs or so should do it so she looks healthy...And yes, it does seem she mostly does the head thing when I am doing something to her. It looks like shes really relaxed, just lies there quietly while I do whatever I need to do, then it starts, small tremors in her head...like when you get the shakes in your hands or something. It does not seem to bother her. I just ignore it (for her sake, don't want to draw attention to it) and just keep doing what i was doing and watch her until it stops. this morning i was rubbing paw cream on her paws (they are SO dry and cracked, one toe is split all the way across) and she was fine for about 5 minutes, then it started, then went away about a minute later. her eyes get this far-away glazed look when it happens too. it just looks strange......my other 2 dogs do not do this. what kills me is the more i groom her and try to get her in shape the more problems i find, like the feet. i would really like to give a good talking-to to the people who owned her before i got her. she lets me rub her feet, clean her ears, brush her teeth (FILTHY!!), everything with no problems/struggling, just the trembling head....the ear mites are very stubborn, nothing seems to make them go away 100%%. I started with some herbal/medicinal stuff, that didnt do anything, so I have been using the R7-M brand. My malinois has mites in 1 ear, and my mix dog doesn't have any. she is such a sweet, well behaved girl, it kills me to have to torture her every day to get her in shape...but she doesen't seem to mind it. when i got her she did not have any obedience whatsoever. shes well behaved, but did not know what sit, down, stay, etc meant. i tried every language known to man and no response. so i have trained her in german like my other 2 and she has caught on REALLY fast, it amazed me. i think having the other 2 dogs has helped her out in many ways. i had no idea dobermans were such great dogs until i got her. sterotypes really suck. i take her to petsmart/pet stores/the beach, etc. and people who normally approach me when i have one of the other 2 dogs walk away when i have Bonnie with me. One lady actually picked her kid up off the floor and muttered "that dog might try to eat you". people with little dogs do the same. she wouldnt hurt a flea, unless it was trying to hurt me. ah well, the joys of pet-owner-hood. LOL!!! i wish i could post pictures on here for you all to see.

SweetSoma79's picture
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i am going to try to post a picture...

SweetSoma79's picture
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heres another one of all 3 of them

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sandra's picture
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Hi, I also have a Male 15 mo old Doberman that also has the head tremors, I did some research, by 2 diff Vets, they say that it is prominate in Dobermans and Great Danes, they dont believe it is aSeizures, but in Dobermans it can be caused by anxiety, and another name is Headbobbing Syndrome. I can distract Harley when they happen with food or treats, one time I called him and he jumped up his head still bobbing a little up and down to get his treat, he is totally relaxed on his side when they happen, it doesnt seem to bother him or affect him in any way, he is aware I am there he will at times interact with me, licking my had or trying to play. Harleys labs were all normal, the head Vet was too eager to put him on barbituates, which can affect the liver, this is why I did the research. I believe the reason Harley has been having them is my brother inlaw had him for 1 year and we just recently brought him home a couple of weeks ago, he is a very sensitive Dog and loving, he is chocolate and rust, I will sent some Pics..if anyone has some more info reg the head tremors that would be geat...Thanks Sandra

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Found this info online.....I am really thinking that is whats wrong with her!!!

Doberman Headbobbing Syndrome

“It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” (Sir Winston Churchill, 10-1-39). Churchill was speaking of Russia at the time, but the words apply equally well to the condition known as Doberman Head Bobbing Syndrome. The Doberman Pinscher Foundation of America and veterinary neurologists across the country are receiving more frequent reports of the condition indicating either heightened awareness or increasing incidence. While no epidemiological studies have been done, the “gut feeling” is that we may be witnessing an emerging disease. The syndrome is one of many classified under the general term of “tremors”. Tremors are defined as rhythmic, oscillatory, involuntary movement of all or part of the body. The nervous or musculoskeletal systems are affected. Many breeds are afflicted with generalized tremor syndrome. Dobermans, Labradors, and English Bulldogs are all overrepresented with head tremors. Tremors in general are often the result of abnormalities in the brain, particularly in the cerebellum. Identified causes can be degenerative, congenital, inflammatory, immune mediated, or toxic.

In Dobermans, clinical features consist of a sudden onset of the tremor restricted to the head. In most cases the movement is up and down, but there are reports of side to side as well. The dogs appear to be conscious, responsive, and otherwise normal during an episode. Tremors typically stop spontaneously after several minutes and in some cases can be stopped temporarily by distracting the dog (for example, with food).

Diagnostic evaluation is typically normal, including neurological examination, blood studies, cerebral spinal fluid analysis and rain CTs and MRIs. There is no known effective treatment. Anti-seizure drugs such as Phenobarbital and bromide do not appear to help. Affected dogs do not develop other neurological deficits and in most cases the syndrome does not severely compromise the dog’s quality of life. In some cases the episodes eventually resolve.

The true nature of Doberman Head Bobbing Syndrome is unknown. Although focal epilepsy is possible, the lack of response to anti-seizure drugs suggests some other cause. Some neurologists have even gone so far as to suggest stereotypy as a cause. Stereotypy is the abnormal repetition of an action or abnormal sustained maintenance of a position or posture as seen in some phases of schizophrenia. While this diagnosis seems unlikely it does illustrate the myriad of potential causes that have been considered. Most likely, based on what is known about tremors in general, some type of movement disorder associated with pathology located in the cerebellum is involved.

The apparent risk in certain breeds suggests that genetic factors are involved. One veterinary neurologist has seen several affected Dobermans with a family history further supporting this, but no one seems to be aware of any pedigree analysis.

At this present time, there appears to be no research being done on Doberman Head Bobbing Syndrome. There certainly is enough anecdotal evidence suggesting a genetic cause of an emerging disease. Exercising caution in breeding Dobermans with a family history, even if the precise genetic mechanism for transmission is unknown, would seem, at least to this writer, to be prudent. 

Submitted by C. David McLaughlin, DVM

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For as long as I can remember I wanted a Doberman. Last May my loving boyfriend decided to grant me my wish and so the puppy search began. I located a breeder a few hours North who had just birthed her first litter of AKC Doberman puppies. At this point the puppies were only hours old, and I was too nervous to send a deposit sight unseen so the breeders agreed to let me come meet the father only. They had recently adopted the Red & Rust mother and were unsure of how she would react to strangers coming to check out her babies. I felt this was fair and so I made the drive with my boyfriend, brother, sister-in-law and 3 year old niece.

We were greeted by the largest Blue and Rust Male Doberman I had ever seen. He was very friendly and allowed for my 3 year old niece to swallow him up in a hug. After speaking with the breeders for quite a while they decided they'd try to bring the mother out to meet us. The mother was just as big as the dad and was even more friendly. She was wagging her nub so hard the entire back half of her body was swaying back and forth and she greeted my niece with a bundle of kisses.

That was all it took for me to know that I had to have a puppy from this litter. We have 5 children ranging from 7-15 years old, so good with kids was a must. We brought Niobe home at the end of August and have been in love with her ever since.

Thanksgiving weekend I noticed what looked like Niobe's head was wobbling. She was laying next to me on the couch and had just woken up from a nap. I called her down from the couch and began inspecting her. The head bobble was over as fast as it began, so I kind of chalked it up to my over protective, over reacting as far as my loved ones go. A few weeks later I noticed it again and again after a she had just woken up from a nap. This time my boyfriend saw it too, so I no longer thought I was crazy. It wasn't until a moment later that I noticed one of her eyes was completely dilated and the other was exactly the opposite. I called her vet right away, but they didn't seem too worried because she just woke from a nap. She had a vet appointment a few days later to get her rabies shot, so they said unless it happened again we could wait until her exam in a few days. It took about half an hour for her eyes to return to normal. We let her outside for a bit and the sun seemed to correct her eyes immediately.

During her exam they said her eyes were completely responsive as they should be to light and otherwise, so it was probably just a freak thing. They made a note in her records to keep a watch for further symptoms.

On a normal morning I have to open my back door and then let Niobe out of her kennel and race her to the door to let her out before she pees on the floor. Last Wednesday I did just that, but when I got to the door I realized Niobe wasn't behind me, but she was still laying in her kennel. I walked back over to her and had to coach her to get up and out and then go outside. When I let her back in she didn't go straight to her food bowl. Instead she walked over to her bed in the living room and laid down. Over the next hour she vomited bile several times, so I took her immediately to the vet. During an x-ray to see if there was a blockage of some sort Niobe again had one of these head bobbling events. The vet called me back and sure enough it was the same thing I had notice twice before. The vet referred to this head bobbling as a Focal Motor Seizure. She said that it can be brought on by a number of things, but stress and dehydration were major factors. For now they are going with that since both of those factors were present at that moment.

After many tests and x-rays with no apparent sign of a blockage the vet performed exploratory surgery and found that Niobe had eaten some dental floss out of one of our bathroom garbage's. She also had some undigested and partially digested chew bone in her stomach, intestines and bowel. This caused a "perfect storm" inside of her body as the dental floss was attached to pieces of this bone throughout her and created an accordion action with her intestines. Luckily we caught it in time, removed it and she is now healing beautifully. Stitches come out on Friday, but she has returned to my loving, normal, playful & demanding puppy.

Since Niobe's surgery I've been doing a lot of web searching in effort to find out more about these focal motor seizures and how common they are in Doberman's. Although every site seems to say something different about the cause of these types of seizures I'm finding that they are more common in Doberman than I am comfortable with.

Have you heard anything more about the Head Bobbling you've seen in your new rescue Dobie? I'd really be interested in hearing anything you can provide that may help me help Niobe!

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Wow, I am so glad to hear you found that dental floss and bone issue, amazing what they can find that they think is worthy of digesting isn't it??  I don't have any experience with the doberman head/neck issues you mention but I did want to say I am so happy to hear that your baby is going to be ok after eating stuff that should not be eaten.......

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Hello My 1 year old dobie has started having these head tremors. I have only noticed it twice the first time we were camping and it only lasted a few seconds so I didn't think much of it. This time it lasted a full minute he was coherent and when I called his name he jumped up as if nothing was going on. Both times he was totally relaxed laying on his side. The research I have found is this doberman head bobbing syndrome wanted to know anybodys advice or knowledge of it?

It is pretty common - if you can distract them out of it with a treat, then I would not worry about it.