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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 24468
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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Dog has sporadic tremors. Looks like he feels bad, low

Customer Question

Customer: Dog has sporadic tremors. Looks like he feels bad, low energy level. 8 year old male chihuahua. Episode of excessive lip licking. Tried pressing on his ribs and waist, and he would react (same way a person would react if you poked him in the ribs). This is unusual because he usually likes to be scratched and handled. Still able to walk. But slow to respond to "come" command
JA: Thanks. Can you give me any more details about your issue?
Customer: This morning before I left for work he seemed fine. Low energy now and the sporadic tremors. He's on maintenace dose of thyroxine 0.025mg. No trace of diarrhea or vomit as of now
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Customer: ok
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Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your dog. Can you describe for me just what you're seeing that you're describing as tremors? There are quite a few types of tremors but the general definition is sudden contractions of a group of muscle cells followed by immediate relaxation. They can be sporadic or repetitive. They're a clinical sign rather than a specific disease and different patterns are characteristic of specific disorders.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Tremors appear to be as you described it- contraction of muscles followed by relaxation. Observed in the ches/ front shoulders area. More than just shaking. Seemed to curl up a bit too during the tremors. Reacted to light pressure applied (by my thumb and two fingers) in the ribs and waist area during or just after tremors. No reaction from the dog when there are no tremors.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Such a description is most consistent with sporadic myoclonus - sudden contraction of a muscle group such as a facial twitch or limb jerk. These may be benign or may represent focal seizure activity. Excessive lip licking is an autonomic sign (as is salivation and vomiting) consistent with focal seizure activity. It can be a challenge clarifying if you're seeing a myoclonus or, instead, focal seizures and I understand the difficulty you have where you live to find a specialist veterinary neurologist who understands the difference.

Can you video one of these events and upload the video to a site such as YouTube? This is a good example where a picture is worth a 100 words.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I'll try to get a video, though the tremors are more felt than seen. Any symptoms I can look for that will help narrow down the diagnosis?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I understand. Simple partial seizures are defined as focal or asymmetric sensory or motor activity affecting any part of the body and may be accompanied by autonomic signs. Tremors can be represented as a sporadic myoclonus as mentioned above; action-related repetitive myoclonus represented by a diffuse, high-frequency skeletal muscle tremor that worsens with activity and resolves with sleep; postural repetitive myoclonus which can be episodic (a head tremor that is a high-frequency "yes" or "no" movement of the head) or a pelvic limb tremor in older dogs (benign) or orthostatic which occurs while standing but resolves when moving or recumbent; a constant repetive myoclonus which usually appears as one limb rhythmically jerking; and finally an intention tremor - a tremor of the neck and head that occurs when focusing on something like a food bowl. See what you can do about fitting your Chihuahua into one of these categories. You have your work cut out for you!

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No head/ neck movement in my Chihuahua, still alert, ears in normal raised position. Found a video on youtube of another dog. I think it looks similar, but much less intensity.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYaGWNFFPQA
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Notice the dog salivating and so his behavior is consistent with focal partial seizure rather than tremor.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
If it is focal partial seizure, is it life threatening or debilitating? Is it a symptom of some disease/ disorder? How would it be treated?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

It's usually of intracranial (within the skull) origin requiring MRI to clarify. It can be benign or require anticonvulsive medication if it exacerbates - phenobarbital, levetiracetam. or zonisamide. Brain tumor and adult onset epilepsy would be considered.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you Dr.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue and so would appreciate your returning to our conversation with an update - even after rating - at a time of your choosing.

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