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Head bobbing in Boxers

Updated on December 4, 2008

Discover possible causes of this mysterios syndrome


So your beloved Boxer wakes up one morning and you suddenly notices something odd and out of place. He is displaying an unusual head movement that seems to come out of nowhere. You call him to you and check his head and ears. Baffled, you keep an eye on him for the rest of the day.

A day after, the episode seems to repeat. This time, the head bobbing is much more evident. Concerned, phone in hand, you decide to give your veterinarian a call.

Head bobbing is a common occurrence in certain breeds such as Boxers, Dobermans, and Bulldogs. Some cases can be also be observed in mixed breeds. The condition is better known as "Idiopathic Head Bobbing Syndrome". In simple words, head bobbing which cannot be linked to any medical conditions and is in most cases harmless.

It is unfortunate though, that more often than not, veterinarians treat such cases as seizures, prescribing Phenobarbital or Potassium Bromide. In cases of Idiopathic head bobbing, such medications do no good, because thesyndrome is not related in any way to seizure activity. Affected dogs therefore, will not benefit from such medications and may actually develop unpleasant side effects from such medications.

While the syndrome may appear very annoying, it is generally  not harmful and most dogs live well with it. It appears in most cases to bother much more the humans observing the behavior, than the dogs.

Most dogs will suffer from episodic attacks. They may be symptom free for weeks or hours and then the head bobbing returns. The head bobbing also seems to subside when the dog is busy in an activity such as eating or playing.

In some cases, head bobbing may be associated with low glucose levels in the blood. This may occur in bitches that are lactating and who may have lowered glucose/calcium levels. Similar cases may have hormonal incidences, causing more visible head bobbing during estrus. If related to low glucose levels,rubbing some Karo syrup or honey on the dog's gums should minimize the head bobbing event.

Any case of head bobbing should be thoroughly investigated to rule out any other more serious causes such as tumors or head injuries. Normally, blood-work, an MRI and/or an analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid will suffix.

While annoying, most Idiopathic head bobbing cases do better if left alone. In some cases, supplements may be given as per your veterinarian's suggestion. Dogs live just fine with the yndrome and adjust accordingly, leading still a good quality of life.

A case of head bobbing


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      bluechynagirl 8 years ago


      My 18mnth bulldog "Buffy" woke me up last night with the "bobbing head" and I must admit to a frantic hour of thinking she had epilepsy etc, till I logged on your site and viewed the vid. I have never heard of it and I have had dogs for years and years. Didnt habve peanut butter in (which I will from now on,) but gave her some chocolate which did seem to work after 20mins. Vet was puzzled but I went in armed with the info from this site, so he is now logging on to read up on it!Thank you all again.Sarah