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Head tremors and clingy dog.

Species: Dog
Breed: belgium shepherd / d
Age: 11-15 years
For the first time in 12 years my dog has started following me around obsessively (for the last two months) with a needy look on her face and begging for attention. She seems healthy otherwise. But this clingy, stalking behaviour is unnatural and creepy. This is completely unlike her, but does resemble her behaviour with her old owner who rescued her from the pound. |I wonder if my dog is regressing emotionally as she ages? Or if she's upset by big fight I had with my partner a couple of months ago? I went on holiday and left my dog with my brother for two weeks, and when I came back, she returned to the same clinging behaviour. She wants to be a foot or two away from me all the time, and wants me to pet her all the time.

The other point is that once in a while her head shakes minutely , very rapidly , for a few seconds. The only thing that resembles this are the full body shakes my dog has when in the middle of a panic attack, due to fireworks or thunder. This also started recently only.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It does sound like something is affecting Sophie. It's going to be hard to say what the exact issue is though.

I suppose the real question here is whether this is an emotional thing or a physical things. In most cases, when a dog's behavior changes like this there is a medical reason for it. I am guessing that in Sophie's case there is a medical issue as opposed to her being upset because of a fight or something else.

There are a few things that can cause what you are describing with Sophie's head. There are some dogs (such as some bulldogs) that just naturally do this. But if this is a new behavior for Sophie then I don't think she would be one of these dogs.

If she is having mild tremors that come and go in her face/head region I would be worried that these could be something called focal seizures. When we see focal seizures in a dog it means that something is affecting a particular part of the brain. In an older dog this can often mean that there is a tumor affecting part of the brain. Unfortunately it's hard to diagnose this unless you have the means to have an MRI done.

An ear issue could cause head shakes as well...but would be less likely.

I think it would be a great idea to have your vet take a look at Sophie and do a good exam and perhaps some senior bloodwork as well. It's possible that they can find a medical reason for her clinginess. If they can't, they may consider trying an anti-anxiety medication such as Reconcile. However, be sure to describe the head tremors to the vet. (Better yet, if you can get a video that would be very helpful.) They may prescribe seizure medication that could help for a while.

I wish I could give you a more conclusive answer. I hope this has helped.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your reply. It was more useful than the SPCA vet who examined her recently and just gave me something to plug into the wall that emits calming pheremones (?)but of course that hasn;t worked. However, her basic medical exam showed nothing. The head seizures are too minute to even catch on video but sometimes her teeth are knocking from the tremors.

If I can just ask some followup questions:

What I need to know is, can anti seizure medication be given without an MRI (hell, i can't get an MRI for myself!) ? Is that the usual prescription for focal seizures?

What does senior bloodwork have to do with possible focal seizure?

And, is there any harm to give her anti seizure medication without doing costly MRI and bloodwork?

Many thanks, Joel

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

If I have a dog where I suspect focal seizures I sometimes prescribe phenobarbital. It is the most commonly used drug that we have for seizures in dogs. However, if the seizures are due to a tumor then the medication may only work for a short time or might not work at all.

The bloodwork actually wouldn't tell us much about focal seizures, but would be just to make sure there isn't something else going on that would make her more clingy. I can't think of specifics, but let's say she wasn't feeling well because of liver disease, then we could pick this up. But again, it probably won't explain the seizures (if that's what they are.)

It likely isn't harmful to give seizure medication. Your vet would want to do bloodwork first because phenobarb is processed through the liver so you need to make sure that the liver is healthy.

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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