Idiopathic Head Wobble Syndrome | Animal Aunts - The House & Animal Sitters

Idiopathic Head Wobble Syndrome

27th April 2013 by

After a very long time, Zar1 had a head wobble again the other day. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced this, but when it first happened, it was very alarming. What happens is her head starts to quiver or tremor from side to side, very hard to explain, but she is neither distressed nor glazed, she is completely aware of her surroundings and even wags her tail, but she is unable to stop the wobble. The only thing that stops it is to give her food which immediately works.

When it first happened, I was desperately worried and took her to the Vet, but it was impossible to diagnose as it never happened in front of him. We were referred to a specialist eye Vet who examined her thoroughly and pronounced her completely fit and well! So we were still unclear about this strange condition, but the Vets described it as Idiopathic Head Wobble (Bobble) Syndrome, which basically means they had no idea what it was! I found quite a lot of reference to the condition on the internet and found some videos of various dogs doing exactly the same as Zar1 and all had been diagnosed the same after extensive tests, IDIOPATHIC = unknown or as follows : In his book The Human Body, Isaac Asimov noted a comment about the term idiopathic made in the 20th edition of Stedman’s Medical Dictionary: “A high-flown term to conceal ignorance”.
In the American television show House, the title character remarks that the word is “from the Latin, meaning: ‘We’re idiots ’cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it.'”


It is now some years since the first wobble, when needless to say I was very worried, it was almost a year since her last one when it happened a few days ago and as soon as I gave her something to eat, it stopped… a real mystery. One of my theories is that it is some kind of trapped nerve in the neck which sorts itself when she uses her jaws. It is also possible that it could related to glucose levels which could be why food stops the wobble immediately. Stress and worry does not seem to bring it on nor does excitement, you just look down and there it is, she walks along, responds to her name, wags her tail and is perfectly happy. Idiopathic head wobble syndrome is usually found in Dobermans, Boxers and Bulldogs but sometimes in Crossbreeds like Zar1,

Apparently the condition is harmless although it is reported that many vets treat it as if it were a seizure, which is unnecessary and can have other complications. We have put together a few bits of video of when it first happened to give you an idea, but it has never affected her in any way and it happens very occasionally.