Idopathic Head Tremors


New member
Mar 30, 2010
Bulldog(s) Names
What a day.....

I had read briefly about head bobbing in bulldogs, boxers and labs in the past but never took the time to see it in video. I didn't realize how scary it can be the first time.

Early this morning I let Jay and Sadie out for their morning potty. When they came back inside they played briefly while I picked up the kitchen. I sat down for a moment in the living room and Jay came into the livng room and hopped on the couch, ears folded down. Sadie didn't follow so went to check on her.

As soon as I rounded the corner I saw her standing in the dog room doorway, head bobbing away. Even though I knew what it was I never thought it would be that severe. I had honestly pictured the taco bell dog dash ornament head bob!

Not even stopping to think I had made sure that she wasn't choking on something, then I flipped the kibble out of her food dish, filled it with water from the small pail we use and set it down in front of her and dashed off for some vanilla ice cream. Her gums were normal in color and she never frothed like I later saw on youtube.

I know it lasted under 10 minutes but it felt like forever untill she slowed and stopped.

Since I had never actually seen it with my own eyes I went on a mad dash to youtube to confirm thats what it was and not a seizure or epilepsy where I needed to be calling a vet for an emergency opening. As I was reading multiple bully owner accounts she came to my side in the bedroom as to say she was all right. It helped. After it had passed she showed no other issues and instigated quite a few games with Jay and I throughout the day. I of course never let it go very long as I was too anxious that something would happen again. Once the vet office opened I called but was told that it is very common and since he had just recently seen her, and she was in good health that I should take a deep breath.

Has anyone else experienced this with their bully??? Talk about absolute panic! I knew what to do from reading but it really did NOT prepare me for it happening to my own girl. I knew I had to stay calm for her but I will admit it was pretty difficult.

Now that I know what it is I'm sure if it ever happens again it wont be anything frightening. I must say I hope it never does happen again!
Thank you for your post! This has been happening to Horse since he was about a year old (he's 4), approx 2-3 times a year. This first time it happened was so scary! I just sat with him and talked to him, (through my tears!), and he seemed completely fine after. It didnt happen again for almost a year, thinking he was having a seizure, I called the vet. They had no answers for me, other that to put him on anti-seizure meds, which I didnt do because these "head bobbing episodes" didnt seem to affect him at all and happened very infrequently. We've since switched vets, because I didnt feel that our previous vet had enough knowlege of this breed. I feel so much better knowing that this head bobbing is somewhat common in bulldogs and that it doesnt harm them. I actually woke up to it happening Horse this morning...and told myself that I would find more information about it today! Your post was perfect timing!
Wow I had to go to YouTube because I had no idea what you were talking about!!! Not one of our bullies in 16 years has done this that I am aware of.... How scary!!! What is it caused by? Molly had something similar after her csection, but it was her whole body. Was about 30 minutes after, and the vet gave her a shot and it was gone in seconds. There is a ton of YouTube videos on it with dogs. Is it common in all dogs? Or does it happen to bullies more? Is it genetic?
It is horribly scary! Cutty has had a couple and I have absolutely no idea what caused them with him. I have read some dog foods can cause it, wether it is an allergic thing or what i am not sure. The good thing tho is that it doesnt hurt them in any way and the few times it happened with ourboyi, he didnt even know I dont think. They compare it to say a twitch like we can get in our eye. Just a spasm type of thing with no explanation. All I can say is THANK GAWD for internet cuz otherwise we would really be panicked! I have read to try and get their attention with ice cubes or something to make it stop although it didnt seem to help Cutty. He hasnt actually had 1 now in a couple years so maybe it was the food, we have switched a few times due to allergies so who knows?

Another scary thing is reverse sneezing. Has anyone come across that one? My pug has had that a few times a year, I think when his allergies kcik up but without internet and youtube we would have rushed him to the vets too.
Now the "reverse sneezing" I think is something I have seen. My bullies do that sometimes when they are very excited, only for about 15 seconds it seems. Now I know it is not a big deal, but the first time I saw it I was worried.

When friends come over and they do this, they freak out! Almost seems like they have a hairball in their nose or something.
Stellas reversed sneezed a couple of times, and the frenchie I co-own does it as well. That I was prepared for heheheh. The head tremors I wasnt prepared for really and I'm still reading all I can about it.


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hi,yes it happens to mine as well after reading the bulldog bible i used honey it works would recommend reading the book not found in us but can find online hope it helps.
Hello~ Here is a very informative article on what you are experiencing~ Authour is a wonderful Bulldogger in our breed. Hope this can be of help~

Head Tremors In the Bulldog- Partial/ Focal Seizures, Paroxysmal Dyskinesia.

By Kathy Jacobsen

The topic of this article, very simply put is: head tremors, fly biting and circling behaviors in our beloved Bullies. Looking at the title, however, it becomes painfully apparent that these neurological anomalies that we are seeing in the bulldog today fall into the "gray" area of veterinary and human neurological disorders.

What qualifies me to discuss such a topic, you might ask? My answer to you would be good old experience. I have been in bulldogs for close to 16+ years, had 7 litters and of those 7 litters have had 5 dogs/bitches who have exhibited 1 or more of these behaviors. I plan on reviewing the scientific findings from articles I have pulled from the internet and then share my experience, including what I did to minimize the behaviors along with how well it worked on each dog. Let's start with some general definitions taken directly from the literature:

Epilepsy: "a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures. It is a disorder of the brain where abnormal electrical activity triggers further uncoordinated nerve transmission. This uncoordinated and haphazard nerve tissue activity scrambles messages to the muscles or your dog's body and the coordinated use of muscles is then inhibited." The characteristic seizure activity seen in epilepsy are classed as-

Seizures: involuntary contraction of muscles, caused by an electrical storm in the brain that can be everywhere at once and can be seen on EEG. Partial seizure where the abnormal electrical impulses begin in a small area of the brain and may or may not migrate to other areas of the brain.

Focal/Partial seizures
Simple focal seizures (minor motor or focal motor seizures) when consciousness is preserved. The area of the brain that is affected is the area that controls movement. Usually the face is affected, resulting in twitching or blinking. This is usually limited to one side of the face. The dog is usually alert and aware of it's surroundings. Complex focal seizures when consciousness is altered ie the pet is staring off into the distance but you cannot gain their attention. This seizure will originate in the area of the brain that controls behavior and is sometimes called a psychomotor seizure. The dog's consciousness will be altered and he may exhibit bizarre behavior such as unprovoked aggression or extreme irrational fear. He may run uncontrollably, engage in senseless, repetitive behavior or have fly-snapping episodes where he appears to be biting at imaginary flies around his head.

2. Grand Mal (tonic-clonic) seizures which begins with an involuntary contraction of all skeletal muscles and loss of consciousness.

3. Paroxysmal Dyskinesia is a movement disorder. There are brief attacks of the symptoms with the dog appearing perfectly normal between the episodes; the same way there are discrete attacks of seizures in epilepsy. Dyskinesia refers to an abnormal, involuntary movement or posture. Movement disorders usually originate from the deeper areas (the basal nuclei) of the brain. These areas are responsible for translating the commands from higher brain areas (e.g. get the ball) into movements (e.g. stand up, begin trotting, etc). The distinction in the human between seizure activity and dyskinesias is based on looking for abnormal electrical activity on the surface of the brain with an EEG.

By definition, seizures have abnormal EEG activity, while paroxysmal dyskinesias do not. People with paroxysmal dyskineasis often experience a decrease in episodes as they age while epileptic people and dogs will worsen with age. Let's talk now about Head Tremors in the Bulldog. In my experience, head tremor activity in the Bulldog usually starts around the age of 2 years old. The motion you will see will almost always be a fast side to side rocking motion (ear to shoulder ear to shoulder) occurring in rapid succession. Occasionally I have seen an up and down motion (like they are shaking their heads to say yes) but for the most part it is the same fast rocking. The way it was defined to me was that the neuron cluster that controls a certain motor function, in this case head movement, begins to fire continuously. The reason for this rapid fire is truly unknown.

I have not experienced any drooling or other body part involvement. It has always been isolated to the head. When you call the dog's name they can stop the bobbing motion for a few seconds and will look at you, then it will kick in again. They can move their heads and watch you move from place to place, they can even walk around etc. Scenario I: The bully will be sleeping very soundly and all of a sudden the head will start rocking usually from side to side very quickly- occasionally you might experience one bobbing up and down. This sudden head motion will cause the bully to awaken suddenly. An episode will last from 15 to 30 seconds, sometimes longer. It may stop on its own and then as the dog lies down to go back to sleep the head tremor will reoccur.

Scenario II: A bitch will be pre-season or just come into season. Males head is bobbing for all it is worth. Scenario III: A bitch is post whelp, in the milk let down phase of lactation, and trying to nurse a litter of hungry pups. In this case the bitch has had surgical trauma as the result of a C section, is in pain, is not eating and is trying to make milk. This, in my opinion is different than the head tremors described in Scenario I and II. When you see this What Do You Do? The first time we experienced this phenomena was a scenario III post whelp I panicked. I grabbed the puppies off the bitch and almost caused one to aspirate. When I gained a little composure I called a breeder friend of mine and explained what I was seeing. She told me that it was not uncommon and I should try to get some sugar, honey, Karo syrup into her. The thought is that the blood sugar had experienced a sharp drop at that point in time thus stimulating this type of a response. We gave the girl the Karo and low and behold the tremors stopped within a couple of seconds. The next time we witnessed this behavior was a little different. The bitch was not post whelp. However, she was 3 days prior to coming into season. She had been sleeping on the couch. We gave her honey. It stopped. Started up 15 minutes later we repeated the karo. Same result.

We gave her frozen yogurt, same result. This went on for almost 24 hours with the length of time between episodes varying from 10-15 minutes to as long as a half hour. Needless to say we packed her up and went off to the vet who said: this is not unusual in this breed. Normally we don't do anything. Epilepsy meds have proven to be ineffective for the most part; phenobarb has too many side effects. The Veterinarian stated that they suspect it has something to do with the growth activity at this age or stress, which can cause a sudden drop in glucose levels in the blood. There can be different things or circumstances that can trigger an episode. Such as a traumatic experience, and injury, hormones, etc. In this girls case we have determined that it is a hormone trigger, specifically at the time of a progesterone spike associated with ovulation. The vet recommended Calcium and Taurine supplementation twice daily. As you know calcium is one of the minerals needed for healthy nerve growth and electrical conductivity, Taurine is an amino acid that works with Calcium. The Vet said she might grow out of it. So, we took that information and we asked for a referral to a neurologist.

This specialist did all of the neurological tests and determined she was fine. She ordered ionized calcium levels along with several other specific blood tests. The results all came back normal. She recommended an MRI to determine if there was an injury or tumor. We declined this step at the time, due to finances but decided if she showed any other neurological symptoms such as falling down or aggression, which could be indicative of an injury or tumor, that we would come back to do the MRI. Six months went by on the Calcium, Taurine supplementation to which we added a heaping tablespoon of Ricotta cheese every morning and every couple of days a heaping bowl of frozen vanilla yogurt with honey in the evening. No incidents. The day we bred her in at the time of the progesterone spike indicating ovulation that we were waiting for she had one mild episode then nothing for the entire pregnancy. The episodes started up the second week of lactation when the calcium bolus given at the time of the C- section was gone and 6 hungry puppies were pulling on her calcium/glucose levels. Five months have since passed and she has been just fine no episodes.

My Recommendations:
1. If your dog exhibits this head bobbing behavior a. DON'T PANIC!!! This could only worsen the situation by adding additional stress on the dog. b. Give them a bowl of ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt with honey to get the situation under control. If you don't have any of those then Ensure, Pediasure, Karo syrup all work because of the sugar and or calcium content. Liquids work quicker because they are absorbed into the mucosa of the mouth.

2. Call your veterinarian and advise of the situation. Schedule an appointment for a visit and have your vet do a health screening with blood work. Odds are the blood work for calcium and sugar will be fine.

3. Keep a record of each episode, every time one occurs describe it in great detail, time it occurred how long, how frequent. Give this info to the vet when you see him.

4. IF they do not get any worse than the head bobs don't do anything else but observe and document. If the behavior changes in any way call the vet, you may need additional assistance at this point. Two other behaviors I would like to mention briefly are the fly chasing and the circling behaviors. Fly chasing is just that, the dog seems to be chasing and trying to catch imaginary flies. Again, if you call the dog by name he will stop and look at you then resume the behavior. The other is circling. This looks like VERY slow motion tail chasing. Usually in the same direction each time it happens. IF you call the dog they will stop to acknowledge you then start up again. In this case, I go over and give my girl a nudge and she stops and resumes whatever she had started to go outside to do.

This seems to happen outdoors only, so I sometimes wonder if bright sunlight is the trigger mechanism for her. In any event both of these behaviors are neurological events. Basically harmless. Both of these dogs are on the same calcium and taurine supplementation. The supplementation has basically eradicated the fly chasing in the one dog and the episodes of circling are fewer with the other dog. In closing I would like to say that these behaviors are basically just annoyances to you and the dog. I would never discourage you from having the dog checked by a Veterinarian. Remember, every dog just like every person is different and they react differently to certain stimuli and medications. I suggest you try this regimen and if the behavior continues see your veterinarian for more extensive testing and follow up.
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Thats the article I found on these too after it happened to Samson the first time. I did tons of research on bulldogs before and after I got Samson but I never read anything about these. Last September my boyfriend was gone hunting so it was just Samson and I in our bed. At like 5am in the morning I started feeling the bed shake and at first I thought it was an earthquake, then I saw Sams head bobbing. He sat up and he was still doing it, I have to tell you I can't remember the last time I was so scared. I started freaking out, I was started crying hysterically because I had no idea what was happening. I figured it was very serious. So I called my vet, I was ready to get in the car and leave that minute. My vet is a 24 hour facility so I was able to talk to a doctor right then. He asked me a bunch of questions and told me it was probably these head tremors. He was always alert, could walk, acted pretty normal besides the head bob. I made an appointment for a check up, he had a full exam. Physical, parasite testing, blood work, everything. He was perfectly healthy. My vet told me only to worry if anything changes about the episodes like he collapses, if his whole body starts shaking. He has had a couple since, maybe once every few months and it's always been the same. Now I feed him when it starts and it always snaps him out of it. It is a truly terrifying experience if it happens and you aren't expecting it, have never seen it or heard of it before. For Samson it has always been just his head, no other part of his body has ever moved/switched, he is always alert, can walk, give kisses, give the paw, eat.
Well, I knew if I logged into the site and looked under Health ya'll would've already covered this topic! And thank you so much for doing so.
My partner and I expierenced this head bobbing for the first time Sunday morning and yes, it is frightening to say the least. You feel helpless because you don't know what to do (if you've never heard of this before) and I quickly called Mona's breeder. He said, just as everyone here has said, that it's a strange thing that happens, she'll be ok, and to put a little bit of honey on her tongue and she'll be fine. We didn't have any honey but gave her part of a creamcicle pop and she was fine after that. Thinking we were in the clear, it happened again last night. Again, we didn't have honey, but tried the creamcicle pop which didn't work. We then gave her two suppliment pills (the breeders gave us a huge container of them when we bought her around this time last year) and she was fine after those and some water. We have a routine vet appt Saturday and will bring this up with him. We just want to make sure it's not low blood sugar. Thanks again for all the help! Keep you're fingers crossed.
Her gums were normal in color and she never frothed like I later saw on youtube.

When Vegas started having seizures, I also went to youtube. I couldn't find anything that resembled his type of seizure. So I posted his on youtube....I'm wondering if it was my video that you saw.

Since this is the perfect post, I hope no one minds if I embed the link to his video. It's hearbreaking to watch, but rest assured, he recovers.

**you might want to mute it, cause my voice is very annoying. I obviously didn't realize it at the time, but I repeat the same thing over and over again**
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This is a great topic. In the past I thought I have come across the topic in other forum and if I remember correctly some ppl thought it could be a food issue....there are many different types of seizues as that article brought up. The head bobbing doesn't seem to be to terrible...(then again I work on a neuro unit and have seen some seizues in ppl) But now that I recall when olaf was about 4-5 months I was out in the yard with him and then he started to shake a little then basically tipped over onto his side like he lost control of his body and then threw up phlegm. I would say it lasted about 30 seconds although it felt much longer. It really freaked me out. He hasn't had it happen since then. If it became a frequent occurence I would see a vet but honestly if it was a seizure issue I don't know if it would be worth any meds...only if it were sevre. Those meds are "hardcore." The levels dip. They are not steady. So I question the effectiveness....Ironically I just attended an inservice one of our neurologists presented on a new med being approved and the levels climb steadily in the body which is great. So hopefully something like that could be used to help dogs that suffer from seizures too. It sounds like this "twitch" is somewhat common after reading these posts.
Hey Ya'll - I'm reaching out for help.
This head tremor stuff has now been going on with Mona since Sunday. We have a vet appt for this Saturday and although I've done a lot of research on this topic since it started happening, I can't find any advise on why this is happening every night. The tremors don't seem to start until Mona is completely on her back. They seem to last about a minute, and will then stop, then start up again for another minute, then stop for the rest of the night until the next night. I'm trying not to get paranoid about this, and have tried honey to stop them. The first bought will stop with the honey, but then they start right back up again, at which point, we hold her and stroke her head, tell her it's ok and try to talk soothingly to her. Turn off all the lights and help her go to sleep. Any advise on this would be greatly appreciated!!!
Honestly, it's not hurting long as she is safe in her surroundings I think it's ok. Obvoiusly if it is some sort blood sugar issue or real medical problem then something needs to be done but I guess only the vet can diagnose see what they can come up with.
Hey Ya'll - I'm reaching out for help.
This head tremor stuff has now been going on with Mona since Sunday. We have a vet appt for this Saturday and although I've done a lot of research on this topic since it started happening, I can't find any advise on why this is happening every night. The tremors don't seem to start until Mona is completely on her back. They seem to last about a minute, and will then stop, then start up again for another minute, then stop for the rest of the night until the next night. I'm trying not to get paranoid about this, and have tried honey to stop them. The first bought will stop with the honey, but then they start right back up again, at which point, we hold her and stroke her head, tell her it's ok and try to talk soothingly to her. Turn off all the lights and help her go to sleep. Any advise on this would be greatly appreciated!!!

The first times it happened to Samson it was a once a day for a couple days like that, this was Sept last year and he was 3 yrs old. Always right before he fell asleep but wasn't actually asleep yet. Now it MUCH less frequent, like not even once a month. It only EVER affects his head, bobbing back and forth like he was saying no. Does not affect another part of his body, he can walk, give kisses, eat, its just a movement of the head. If thats the case with Mona I'm sure she's fine. It's good to go get a check up, we did right after it started. All exams, blood test, parasite tests, it all came back normal. Its just an odd thing. Doctor told me only to worry if the episodes cahnge like start affecting his whole body, he foams at the mouth, etc. Now as soon as it starts I give him a scoop of food and by the time hes done eating the tremor has stopped.

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