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Little White Dog Syndrome

Who knew little white dogs had their own disorders!

Regardless of their breed, well for the most part, little white dogs are prone to disorders that the average brown medium, or average black large dogs are not.

I am a breeder and handler of Maltese. If ever there was a typical little white dog, the Maltese would be it. With all the silky white hair, large black eyes lovingly gazing at you through well-placed eyeliner rimmed eyes and the nearly overabundance of personality, lurks a silent enemy of the little white dog - seizures.

Why little white dogs? No one really knows. However, it happens.

This disorder is also called shaker dog syndrome and affects many breeds. Some of the more common breeds are:

  • Maltese
  • bichon frise
  • poodle
  • West-highland whites

The disorder is typically acute onset, meaning it occurs suddenly for no apparent reason. Typically, it will rear its ugly head in young adulthood. The organic cause is unknown other than it may be a generalized neurotransmitter deficiency due to an autoimmune response.

I currently have three Maltese that I consider pets. They are not show-ers and they are not breeders, they are just the souls of my house. One of my little souls has this mysterious disease. Cheddar (the aforementioned soul) typically has a seizure 6-12 times a year. I do not treat him with any anticonvulsants and that is an educated choice that I have made with the blessing of my veterinarian.

Cheddar has come to know his seizures and well and if we are not in the same room with him, he will seek us out with a very frantic look on his face. Soon after he will lose control of his legs, his body will stiffen, his neck extends, his eyes glaze over and after 30-60 seconds he begins a “paddling” action with his legs – as though he is being placed in water and feels the need to start dog-paddling. his postictal state (the time immediately preceding a seizure) can last up to 10 minutes. During this time he is unaware of his surroundings, very unresponsive to voice or gestures and cannot walk - or at least he won't try. After a seizure he will normally sleep for hours.

This is all typical for Cheddar. How your dog handles a seizure could be the same or could be different.

If your little white dog is experiencing this seizure activity for no cause, such as a head injury or allergy induced, see your veterinarian; little white dog syndrome may be the culprit. Your vet can help you map out a strategy to control and manage the disorder that works best for you and your dog.