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Giving The Nod To Head Bobbing

Updated on March 26, 2012
Peanut who has a mild case of idiopathic head bobbing syndrome.
Peanut who has a mild case of idiopathic head bobbing syndrome.

The videos appear on YouTube. A dog is nodding its head seemingly unconcerned about it. He or she may even continue to chase a ball while the head wobbles up and down or from side-to-side. This is not a deadly condition. It is not harmful. In fact, the owners are more concerned than the dog about the abnormal behaviour.

What Causes Idiopathic Head Bobbing Syndrome?

The term “idiopathic” indicates that, currently, there is no known reason behind most instances of head bobbing. It is not the result of a seizure or any other known medical condition. There is, to date, no pattern established for occurrences, frequency or amount. There is no specific time of year the problem occurs. No two dogs are affected identically. Moreover, the amount of times a dog may be affected can vary from day-to-day. Head bobbing, also known as head nodding or head tremors, may happen every few hours, once a month or even just once a year.

The observation made by individuals seems to indicate the following possibilities but offers no conclusion as to what causes the problem.

· Low glucose levels in the blood

· Hormonal changes – as in lactating bitches or as the result of maturation

· Growth spurts

· Decreased calcium levels

· Genetic factors – I am personally aware of two bulldogs who have it as does their father

Who is Affected?

This syndrome may commonly appear in specific breeds. While no dog is, theoretically, safe, among the most common sufferers are:

· English Bulldogs

· Cavalier Charles Spaniels

· Boxers

· Dobermans

Other dogs such as Greyhounds and Labradors may also be affected.

What Should You Do?

If the symptoms persist or you are not sure of the causes, talk to your veterinarian. He or she may want to examine the dog more thoroughly to rule out any health issues such as head trauma or tumors. It is also essential to differentiate between head nodding and seizures. If you do have a medical plan for your dog or can afford it, consider an MRI or blood-work. In general, however, it is best to address the symptoms.

When a head-nodding incident occurs, distract your dog. Feed him, or her, a cookie, graham cracker, vanilla or plain yogurt with honey or vanilla ice cream. All are suggestions by owners as having the ability to stop head nodding - at least temporarily.

In general, it does not seem to matter what you feed your beloved pet. It appears to be a means of distracting the animal. When his or her attention focuses on something such as food, the nodding will stop. In some instances, it will return shortly after the distraction disappears into the stomach of the nodder. Simply give the animal another, perhaps larger, distraction.


Head nodding is a health issue occurring in several breeds of dogs. To date, no solid research has devoted its time to the causal factors. This is about to change. In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a veterinarian student interning in neurological studies at a local animal hospital care centre is planning a study of this health issue. Hopefully, she will come up with some answers to a problem that is far more frightening to owners than to the animals it affects.


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      Bobby Miller 2 years ago

      What does it mean when my dog lays around and bobs her head and so somewhat means like she's high and running a fever feeling real hot