Any repetitive muscle movement that animals can’t control is known to be an involuntary movement. This involuntary movement can either affect a limb or affect the entire body of an animal. This movement is easily noticeable in dogs when at rest or in the middle of carrying out a movement.
These involuntary movements are unpredictable. The movements may occur regularly at a certain time, or they can happen when your dog performs a particular task. The muscle trembling can last even for a few seconds and up to a few minutes.
Suppose tremors or muscle twitching in dogs do not get immediate treatment. It will be dangerous for your dog and cause your dog difficulty while eating, moving, standing, or doing other regular movements.
The abnormal involuntary muscle trembling can be due to some chemical and neurological imbalance in the dog’s body rather than being considered to be muscle weakening. Many factors contribute to involuntary muscle trembling in dogs. These factors include age, hereditary, environment, and others.
Involuntary muscle trembling is distressing to dogs, but it also interferes with the normal functioning of the dog’s body, causing further problems for your dog. This article will give you insight into the involuntary movement in dogs, the symptoms, treatments, and others. Read the article further to know more.
Why Do a Dog’s Muscles Twitch and Flinch?
There can be many reasons for the twitching of a dog’s muscles, though most of the time, the cause of tremors or twitching of muscles is unknown.
In certain species of dogs, these tremors can lead to a specific syndrome termed “white shaker dog syndrome.” After its first observation in small white dogs such as Maltese and West Highland terriers, the syndrome gets its name.
The breeds that are more prone to tremors and get referred to as tremor dogs include the following:
- Chow Chow
- English bulldog
- Doberman pinscher
- Labrador Retriever
Besides this, several other causes lead to twitching in dogs, and the symptoms for such causes also vary accordingly.
Sometimes similar-looking muscle tremors have different reasons, and thus it’s important to examine and look for all the possibilities before deciding anything.
The most common reasons for tremors include chemical and neurological imbalances in the brain. Here, look at the other most common causes of involuntary muscle trembling in dogs.
1. Toxins and Drugs
Many drugs and toxins can be the reasons for your dog’s involuntary muscle twitching. Some drugs regarded as safe for humans are dangerous for dogs, including caffeine. In addition, many veterinarians prescribe medicines for dogs, which is also a reason for dogs to have tremors. Check the medicines your dog is taking and consult the vet immediately in case of tremors.
Many hereditary conditions are the common causes of involuntary muscle twitching in dogs. One of the most common and well-known tremor syndromes is generalized tremor syndrome. The syndrome is most common in small breeds of dogs like White Terriers and Maltese, and the reason for this syndrome is hereditary or congenital disabilities in dogs. The syndrome occurs at any time in a dog’s life, but most commonly, it appears in the first or second year of a dog’s life. The genetic defects are exclusive to small dog breeds, but you can find these defects in dogs of large breeds like Great Danes and deerhounds.
3. Canine Distemper
As a part of canine distemper, the common tremors that are cerebellum-related tremors and myoclonic seizures get observed. If your dog has the proper shots, this condition is least likely to happen.
4. Brain Injury
Abnormal brain activity is the main reason for tremors in dogs. Different brain injuries cause problems. Conditions like seizures, trauma, and others can lead to involuntary muscle twitching in dogs.
In different dogs, symptoms of seizures appear differently. Every dog has a different body structure, and depending upon the same, the symptoms of seizures vary. It would be best never to ignore the signs or symptoms of seizures or any abnormal condition in your dog to prevent involuntary muscle twitching.
Seizures are frequently preceded by normal anxiety, and after that, in the post-seizure phase, you may notice excessive confusion and weakness in your dog.
Age itself is a factor that causes involuntary muscle twitching in dogs. Due to age, tremors or muscle twitching gets termed a syndrome known as physiologic and essential tremor syndrome.
The tremors or movements related to dogs mainly involve the pelvic region. The tremors in dogs get worse if the dog is excited or anxious. In the beginning, tremors normally begin without any harmful symptoms, but as time progresses, the situation may worsen, and tremors may become more harmful and dangerous for your dog.
Besides these reasons, here is a list of some common clinical or medical conditions that lead to tremors or involuntary muscle twitching in dogs.
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Exposure to certain drugs
- Immune disease
- Pain or weakness
- Addison’s disease
- Nervous system issues
- Spinal cord lesions
- Full anal sacs
List of the Symptoms of a Dog Twitching and Flinching?
The symptoms of twitching and flinching in dogs can appear in any body part of your dog. Some may affect a particular part of the dog’s body, while others may cause harmful effects on your dog’s whole body. Besides this, the involuntary movements in your dog’s body can be mild or severe, and the vibrations tied to these movements in dogs may vary from slow to rapid.
Tremors are most likely to affect the head and limbs of your dog. You can easily distinguish between tremors and seizures in dogs on the basis of regularity, as tremors are more regular. Tremors usually occur when your dog is at rest, but if your dog gets excited, the situation may get worse.
The following are some of the symptoms you can look for in your dog if he suffers from tremors or involuntary muscle twitching and flinching.
- Tremors are easily noticeable in dogs in the limbs that are at rest.
- When the dog tries to move, the dog seems to be weak and starts trembling.
- Dogs suffer from severe, regular bouts of shaking that can involve the dog’s entire body.
- A persistent twitch or tic is noticeable in your dog even when asleep.
- The dog might appear as if it is having seizures.
- More frequent behavioral changes are easily detectable in dogs. The changes are more common when there are tasks that involve movement.
- The dog may face difficulty completing the simple daily tasks of jumping on the couch, roaming around, etc.
Types of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Dogs
Tremors, or involuntary muscle trembling in dogs, have various types. Here is a list of some of the types discussed here.
1. Resting Tremors
It refers to simple back and forth movement in one or more parts of the dog’s body. The muscles remain at rest, and gravity supports these muscles.
Twitching is a small movement of muscle fibers that are further present in the small bands of muscle fibers. The small movement causes a rippling movement under the skin, thus causing trouble.
3. Action Tremor
In dogs, an action tremor occurs when there is a muscle contraction as an involuntary action. The contractions can be well maintained in a standing position only, termed a postural tremor. However, if it is to move the limb, it can be termed a kinetic tremor.
It is a type of seizure involving quick movement or quick involuntary shaking. It occurs for a short duration of time with no loss of consciousness.
5. A Generalized Tremor
A generalized tremor has no particular cause, and this tremor involves the entire body.
6. Cerebral-Related Tremor
When behind any kinetic tremor, the reason is cerebellar abnormality or disease, it gets termed a cerebral-related tremor. Such tremors often start at the head and can travel throughout the body. These tremors don’t continue during sleep or when the dog gets a dose or shot of anesthesia.
Diagnosis of Involuntary Muscle Movements in Dogs
When you visit your dog’s veterinarian, he will make sure to perform all the blood and urine tests to ensure if there is any abnormality or not.
Besides this, the veterinarian will do a complete check-up of the dog’s family history. He will check if your dog has had any recent exposure to some contagious disease or harmful toxins.
The vet will perform a CT scan or an MRI to obtain the results as soon as possible. Close observation is important to determine the frequency of the dog’s trembling and the duration for which it takes place.
However, it is difficult to diagnose the involuntary movement of the dog by the veterinarian. Thus, the above information will be helpful for the veterinarian while preparing the diagnosis.
It may be difficult to tell how the attack of tremors is, but videotaping will make this easy. Your dog’s veterinarian will prepare a proper diagnosis, and for that, proper knowledge of eating patterns and sleep patterns will be helpful.
If the vet decides to do a CT scan or MRI scan of the dog, two or three visits to the dog’s vet office are necessary. But, again, giving anesthesia to dogs will help carry out the process smoothly.
Treatment for Twitching and Flinching in Dogs
Treatments for involuntary muscle movements in dogs depend upon the cause behind them. Some can be curable, and some may not be. Only after making a proper diagnosis can the treatment be decided.
Genetic abnormalities in dogs are not treatable in any way. However, the treatment is available for dogs’ tremors or involuntary muscle movements by giving corticosteroid medications like Valium or Anaprox. Some pain relievers may also help your dog.
For immediate treatment of your dog for these muscle tremors, muscle relaxants, pain relevance, and sedatives are beneficial for him. But for treating the root cause, proper treatment is necessary.
As they recover, it is necessary to feed your dog well and keep the dog hydrated as much as possible. Then, if the cause of the tremors gets identified, it will be easy for your dog to get proper treatment and recover easily. Here are some of the methods that you can use to help your dog get treatment for the involuntary muscle movements:
- The trembling attacks that are not stoppable or treatable should get immediate treatment as an emergency.
- Medicines like diazepam will help stop the tremors. Also, the veterinarian will help restore the dehydration and hypothermia in dogs that can occur due to prolonged tremors.
- If a particular medicine is that your dog is currently taking, the reason behind it, then the veterinarian will prescribe a different medication for your dog.
- If exposure to toxins is the probable cause, removing them will give a benefit.
- Some hereditary conditions can get treated using medications, but generally, there is no cure for hereditary disease.
- Depending upon the severity of brain injury, medications can help treat the tremors or muscle twitching caused by brain injury.
- It is difficult to treat age-related tremors, but your dog can still take certain medications to get treatment for the tremors or twitching at such times.
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Recovery From Involuntary Twitching and Flinching in Dogs
Depending upon the cause of the tremor or muscle twitching, a complete dog recovery is possible. While some dogs may go on medication for their entire lives, others may not.
Trembling may affect your dog, and the dog will not be able to perform even normal exercises and daily work. In addition, weight gain in dogs will further cause problems with mobility, so try to avoid it.
In the case of severe problems, your dog should strictly follow the diet suggested by the veterinarian.
There can be many reasons for twitching or flinching in your dog, and you need to observe your dog to find out the exact reason properly. The reasons vary from age-related factors, hereditary, seizures, brain injury, trauma, heart problems, hypoglycemia, and others.
Before the treatment, a proper diagnosis is very important. Only then will a vet be able to give proper treatment to your dog. The article provides details on all the important topics, including types, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, etc., that help you know about this problem.
Meet Madison Phillips, your compassionate guide to pet well-being. With experience from VCA Animal Hospitals and Laxton Vet Clinics Bellaire Inc. Madison honed her skills and embraced the balance of medical expertise and compassion, through her articles, she simplifies pet care, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced pet parent.