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What is Jolting?

If you notice your dog having jolts, spasms, and other sudden and unexplained movements, there may be a physical condition that needs to be addressed. Twitches and tremors can originate from muscle or nerves, and can happen at any time. If these jolts happen while your dog is sleeping, it may only be a physical manifestation of a dream. But if they happen when your dog is awake, there may be another cause. Reasons for such movements can include:

  • Muscle conditions 
  • Brain injuries 
  • Neurological disorders 
  • Dehydration
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Tetanus
  • Genetic disorders 
  • Canine distemper

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Why Jolting Occurs in Dogs

There are many conditions that can cause your dog to jolt.

Muscle Conditions 

Muscle strains, injuries, and malfunctions can cause tremors and ticks just under the skin. A thiamine deficiency can cause problems with muscle function. Muscle contraction disease, or Myoclonus, can cause sudden jerks and seizures.

Brain Injuries 

Tremors can be caused by abnormal activity in the brain. Brain activity can be disrupted as a result of injury, strokes, or brain tumors.

Neurological Disorders 

There are many conditions that disrupt the nervous system, many of which can result in involuntary twitches, such as Shaker’s syndrome, tremor syndromes, and cerebellar disorders. Many of these conditions can result in seizures, involving muscle spasms and jerks, including epilepsy and Lafora’s disease.

Dehydration

If the body loses too much water, it attempts to rebalance water levels by drawing water out of individual cells. This results in a loss of essential electrolytes, which ultimately affects muscle and nerve function. 

Toxin Ingestion

Many prescribed and recreational drugs can cause a toxic reaction that can lead to involuntary jolts. Stimulants, such as caffeine, cocaine, and amphetamines, can produce tremors. The ingestion of many types of toxic plants, molds, mycotoxins, insecticides, pesticides, and other chemicals can also cause a disruption in brain and nerve function. 

Tetanus 

Tetanus is caused by the toxin released from the Clostridium tetani bacteria. The toxin affects the nervous system and causes intermittent muscle contractions, seen as spasms or jolts.

Genetic Disorders

There are many types of hereditary disorders that can result in involuntary tremors. Some affect the nervous system, such as Generalized Tremor Syndrome and Orthostatic Tremor, while others interfere with normal muscle function, as in the case of Myotonia Congenita. Many of these conditions are breed specific.

Canine Distemper 

This is a very contagious viral disease that causes seizures and tremors. Distemper is contracted from contact with an infected animal and is often fatal.

What to do if your Dog is Jolting

If your dog has been suffering from involuntary jerks or jolts, there may be an underlying condition that needs medical help. Your veterinarian can help to determine the cause of your dog’s jolts through a complete medical and symptomatic history, and the results of various tests. Be sure to notify your vet of any recent injuries, exposure to new or sick animals, travel, or behavioral changes.

A physical exam, along with blood and urine testing, will be performed. Your vet may wish to observe your dog over a period of time to assess the length, frequency, and severity of the jolts. Imaging tests can help to reveal an injury or tumor, and can include CT scans and MRIs. An EMG test or muscle and nerve biopsies may be performed to assess their functionality. 

Treatments will depend on the cause of the jolts, and can range considerably. Less severe conditions may need no treatments, while other more serious issues may be prescribed antiepileptic and immunosuppressive medications, muscle relaxants, or pain relievers. Tetanus infections can involve wound debridement and antiviral medication. Fluid and electrolyte therapies, massage, or even surgery to repair damage or remove tumors, may be needed. Hereditary conditions are not always successfully treated and may progress over time.

Prevention of Jolting

While it can be difficult to predict when a neurological disorder or virus can affect your dog, there are some precautions you can take. Keeping your dog safe from sick animals and risky environments can help to prevent exposure to dangerous infectious and toxic agents.

Muscle spasms can be prevented through proper hydration. If you know your dog is affected by a condition that can result in these spasms, ensure he does not overexert himself and remains well hydrated. Routine veterinary check-ups can catch many conditions before they are too far progressed, and may allow you to treat them successfully before they become debilitating. Prevent your dog from contracting distemper by getting him vaccinated.

Cost of Jolting

Costs for treatments can vary, and depend on the condition that is causing your dog’s jolts. While electrolytes, water, and vitamins can be around $10 to $30, serious conditions that need prescribed treatments can range from $200 to $6,500. As an example, myoclonus treatment can reach $3000, while therapy for involuntary muscle trembling may cost $2500.

Jolting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Max
Mixed
2 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Jerks
Jolts

My dog was hit by a car about a month ago. He’s been to the vet who has determined he is paralyzed in his back legs and may never walk again. The first couple weeks he was home he was so depressed and laid around a lot, which is to be expected. I noticed maybe the 3 or 4 week he seemed a little better not much but there was a noticeable difference. However I noticed maybe the past week he jolts a lot and higher up in his chest. Like he’s taking a huge breath but no noise you just see him jerk his whole front upper body up off the floor. Please help. I’m calling the vet tomorrow but can you tell me anything. What to expect. What it might be. I’m scared to death for my little man.

My new dog is about 8months old. He just finished his prednisone he was taking for 2 months for a nasty cough and infection. Since he was weaned off the prednisone and has been completely off, every night his body uncontrollably twitches. This is not while he is sleeping. This is when he’s getting comfortable and about to go to sleep. When his body starts twitching it’s almost like he’s irritated and can’t relax because it’s constant movement and re-adjusting his positions until he falls asleep. You can tell he seems frustrated because he’s so exhausted but can’t find a position where the twitching doesn’t just stop. Any one have this problem or have any home remedies

My 3 yr old ruptured a disc and is now paralyzed in the whole lower half of his body. Well he is now having jolts and twitches that seem to keep him awake. His vet doesn’t know what’s causing it. I’ve tried CBD treats but they don’t seem to work. Plus he’s had several acupuncture treatments Any ideas what I can do?

When I scratch my dog's back, the skin on his back turns around to his side in a big way. It literally turns like his back is going under his stomach. This is a new behavior. What is going on? It seems like his back is suddenly sensitive to scratching.

Okay I need advise. My dog is having muscle twitching and she might have sprained her leg or shoulder. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have money right now to take her to the vet. I know that is horrible to say but I want to know who to get her better. Please help me thank you

My dog is 7 yrs old just had his first round of Heartworm treatment not eating and he is jurking is that normal

My dog tends to have random twitches(both awake and asleep). It is as if she has tourettes. This happens anywhere from 1 to 15 times a day. She recently had a seizure that lasted about 3 minutes. She has previously had symptoms of a seizure without the muscle spasms that come with one(tongue turning purple, foaming at the mouth, very out of it). This has happened 2 times in the past year and a half and today was the first time she had the muscle spasms that come with a seizure. Any ideas what can possibly be causing this?

Hey Max, I’m so sorry for yr dogs issues & his accident. Can I ask u if improved any? My dog has jolts & shocks all the time I feel so bad. One lady I know that is a breeder told me to give my dog bottled water instead of tapwater which I’ve switched to just a few days ago . I hope that helps you may want to try this as well… Please let me know how your dog is doing now?

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Mocha
Labrador Retriever
10 Months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Eye Twitch
Lethargy
Vomiting
Loss of Appetite

Medication Used

none

my dog is ten months old, she got spayed just over a week ago, no problems with that and she has healed okay. tonight just over an hour ago i noticed her shaking by like spasms almost, and only when she moved. when she lays down still she's okay until she jerks up, like she's jerking awake but she's not sleeping and it starts again. one of her eyes is more closed than the other and twitching more, but doesn't look irritated. she vomited bile, spent thirty seconds just gagging and then vomited but almost nothing came out. i noticed earlier today she gagged for a few seconds and nothing came out but thought nothing of it. i just looked at her eyes with a light and the pupils are completely uneven, the one that is twitching more has the smaller pupil. I think this is serious but my mom doesn't believe me and i can't take her anywhere on my own. i'm trying to get her to drink or eat but she is completely uninteresting, just keeps laying down. unless i leave the room, then she follows me and once she's trotting or running she looks fine then when she slows back down she's jittery again. I'm very worried.

Please ask your mom to take mocha to vet. Do not delay. They can't speak for themselves.

My dog is doing the same exact thing. Did your dog ever stop jolting/shaking?

Update: Mocha is eating and drank some water, which i'm so glad about. her jittering hasn't changed much however. will update again if it has passed by morning

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Coco
Pekingese
6 Years
Fair condition
-1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Spasm

We recently brought home a new puppy. My other dog, Coco, which I’ve had for 6 years, did not like the idea of the new puppy. Coco seems really anxious and not herself. I’ve never had any problems with Coco, until tonight. I came home and noticed Coco’s neck twitching every time she swallows, licks her mouth, and turning her neck. She’s definitely not herself, she’s normally welcoming and friendly, now she’s hiding away.

Could anxiety cause this? I’m worried if something was triggered causing long term problems.

My dog is acting the same way since last night I can't find anything on it

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Abby
Labrador mixed
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Jolt

My lab mix started jolting but it only happens late at night.she hasn't had her shots
I had her ever since she's was a puppy, but I haven't had the money for a vet visit. But I know she has anxiety could that be causing the jolts? She is eating and drinking, she also has been playing with her brother.but she did throw up last night. I don't know how worried I should be.

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Biscuit
Boerboel
7 Weeks
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Shaking

Medication Used

Diarrhea suspension

Hi there my female puppy has been shaking and jolting since she came back from the vet.

At first she was experiencing diarrhea then she started vomiting bile. We took her to the vet and they suspected that it was the parvovirus. They called us back 3 days later after they examined her and said that she was fine it could've been something she ate (we suspect it was mint in the garden)

She's back now and shes constantly shaking and still has watery diarrhea. What could be the problem if her vet said she's fine?

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Pinkie
Pit bull
13 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Jolting

My Pinkie has had these what i can only describe as internal body hiccups. Not sure what it really is. can be jolting, i am not sure. it happens when she is resting, or at least that is when is most notable.

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Marley
Chihuahua
11 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Jolting
jerking

I have had my puppy Marley for about 9 months and I have noticed that she will be lying down and suddenly her back half of her body will jerk into the air and she looks very scared when it happens at first we thought she was just playing but we now know she isn’t playing because she gets very upset when it happens but we aren’t sure how much a vet would cost to get it checked currently trying to save up a good amount to take her but at the moment just wanting some assistance

My dog is doing this, too, and developing serious anxiety from it and lots of panting lately. Did you figure out what's going on? Our vets are baffled.

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Bauer
Mutt
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Shaking

I have a mixed breed dog that looks like a small skinny black lab/pointer mix. He is an awesome dog and full of love and life. We have noticed two episodes recently that concern us. Our dog will come to us shaking and bobbing his head and the second time we thought to look in his eyes to see his eyes were dilated. He was aware and walking but he looked distressed and worried. The episode lasted for a couple of minutes and then it was over. The first episode was very similar but we didn't think to look into his eyes. Both episodes happened in the evening when he was calm and had been resting. It seems that they may have woken him up. My husband works from home and has never seen this during the day. What seems odd is that our dog seems to be coming to us for help when this happens so other than the possibility that we are all sleeping, I don't think they happen any other times during the day.

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Hawkeye
Labrador Malamute
2 Years
Moderate condition
-2 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Jolting

My dog just came in from being outside all day. His whole body is 'jolting' like he has hiccups without actually hiccuping, varying between one after another to every five to twenty seconds. There was no injury to my knowledge as he was fine at dinner two hours ago.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Without being able to see Hawkeye, I have a hard time determining if this problem is something that will pass or if it is a problem. Since it is unusual, and he was outside all day, it would probably be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian to make sure that he is okay if the behavior continues.

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Suzie
Dachshund
10 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Jerking, abnormal behavior, whining

My 10 year old Dachshund has a medium sized tumor on her belly towards her back legs. My old vet said it wasn't cancerous. But that was a few years ago.
Also she had broken her pelvis when she was a puppy.
She now has nights where she jerks alot,whines, and seems not to be right in her mind. She will keep me up all night because she wants me to hold her but she can't seem to get comfortable or no exactly what she wants. She's acting like someone who took drugs. She's not herself. This used to only happen once in awhile. But it's getting more frequent and goes on all night. So neither of us sleep.
What is going on? Please help her and me.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Older dogs do start to have brain changes and can act senile. Without being able to examine Suzie, I can't comment on whether she is in pain, or whether she is having brain changes. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and determine what might be going on with her so that she can get treatment.

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Pebbles
West Highland White Terrier
16 Years
Mild condition
-1 found helpful
Mild condition

Why does my senior dog "startle" with rain drops, flickering sun shadows in the car, movements towards her, etc. I let her out to the potty & it was sprinkling. As the rain drops would hit her, she would "startle" & fall. On a drive in the car, as the sun shadows flickered through the trees, she "startles". Startling is the only way I know to describe it.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
It is difficult to say what the specific cause may be, but as I am unable to examine Pebbles I will suggest that she may be going blind which would make the outside world (outside from her home) more unpredictable and confusing; the environment inside the home is controlled and wouldn’t change much. Blindness in dogs is gradual and many owners do not realise it is occurring until a dog goes completely blind; have your Veterinarian perform an ophthalmic exam on her to see if anything comes up. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Lexi
Yorkshire Terrier
18 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Jolting

My 18 mo yorkie ,Lexi, is spayed and up to date on all vaccinations. Sudden onset of, restlessness, ( did not sleep for 24 hrs) inconsolable, ( won’t let me hold her) and involuntary, total body jolting.( both awake and at rest) No other health issues, nor exposure to other animals.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Lexi may be painful, or be having muscle tension, that is bothering her. Without examining her, I can't say for sure, but it would be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian, as they can look at her, determine if she needs any medication or what is going on with her, and help her be more comfortable. I hope that everything goes well for her.

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Pepsi
Aspin
4 Months
Mild condition
-1 found helpful
Mild condition

My 4 months old puppy is experiencing this involuntary jerking while she's awake and sleeping and its nonstop! She eat a lot and act normal but the jerking worries me, what could be the reason?

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Pumpkin
Chihuahua
6 Months
Serious condition
-2 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Tired and weak

My dog has been twitching for a couple of days and it doesn’t stop she can’t sleep because of it...she can’t walk correct or she will fall..her breath is hot and she seems very weak

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Given the severity of the symptoms, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination; without examining Pumpkin myself I cannot determine an underlying cause. Infections, poisoning, dehydration among other causes may lead to similar symptoms but it is important for your Veterinarian to examine Pumpkin to narrow in on a cause and treat as required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Kai
French Bulldog
1 Year
Moderate condition
-1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Twitching
Head bobbing
Loss of control

My dog when laying down will begin to “twitch” in his legs while bobbing his head upwards, and his legs move outwards when he does this as if to be a kick. It only happens when he lays down, and normally after he is excited and then lays down. He is a 1 year old French bulldog and has been doing this ever since I can remember when we first got him.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
This behavior may be normal for him, or he may have a muscular or neurologic issue. Since I cannot see him, I'm not sure that I can comment on why he might be doing this, but it would be a good idea to have him examined by a veterinarian to make sure that nothing is happening that needs treatment. If you are able to video the episodes, it would be very helpful for your veterinarian, as Kai most likely won't do that behavior at the clinic.

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Lizzy
Golden Retriever
4 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Constant muscle convulsions

We got our new Golden Retriever, Lizzy, when she was two months old. She is now four months. Ever since we got her, she has not acted like a normal puppy. She is CONSTANTLY pulsing, her whole upper body shaking every 1-2 seconds. This sometimes makes it even more challenging for her to walk, her head yanking downward every other moment. I'm not sure if it causes her pain, but she never stops. When the convulsions are very severe, she starts to whimper. On good days, she will run around with no problem and roll in the grass, but it is not very often that this happens. We have taken her to many different vets and clinics and none could determine what was wrong with her. One vet said that the distemper test came back positive, but it was a very small amount. Aside from her medical issues, she is the sweetest, smartest, and most loving pup I could ever ask for and I just want to help her. Could anybody please help us figure out what is wrong with our beautiful Lizzy?

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Peach
Dalmatian
13 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

jerking
Jerking,anxiety, hiding

My 13 year old Dalmatian suffers from a jerking or jolting which comes off and on almost daily. She is being seen by my vet for severe anxiety/dementia, but he does not know what the jerking is. He suggested I may need to take her to a neurologist. Just trying to get more info before I take that step.
Thank you
Joyce

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without knowing more about Peach's specific health status and signs, I have a hard time commenting on what might be causing the jolting behavior. Sometimes dogs do have brain changes as they age that make them do some strange things, and whether you decide to see a specialist may depend on how much the behavior affects her life, if you think that she is suffering or is painful, and whether it is something that seems to bother her. If you do decide to see the neurologist, it would be best to follow your veterinarian's advice on that. I hope that everything goes well for her.

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Kona
Mixed
15 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Jolting

My dog was jolting for about 20 minutes last night. She seem uncomfortable, she was walking around the bed in circles, she would lay down but get up again, I’m guessing she would get up in discomfort from the tremors. This has never happened before. She is mixed dog, I’m not exactly sure what breed, her mom was a German Shepherd mix, and the dad is unknown, but it could be some kind of terrier. She is about 15 months old, vaccines reinforcements should be due soon.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
There are various different causes for jolting which may include neurological disorders, trapped nerves, infections, poisoning among other causes; without examining Kona it is difficult to say what the specific cause of the jolting is. If these episodes continue, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to see if an underlying cause may be determined. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My dog too! Did she ever recover? I am worried =(

My dog got spayed 3 days ago she's 10 months, she's jolting every 20 minutes like someone just zapped her and she takes off like a bat out of heck. She's traumatized. Help

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Pupi
Maltese
13 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Twitching

Hi, my dog is 13 years old it’s been 2 days I been noticing that he keeps twitching and is about to fall but he gets his balance back he’s head and body twitches but more he’s head... can you please help me I would like to know what to do he also has big lumps on his stomach.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Dogs can develop neurologic or balance problems as they get older, and he may or may not need treatment for this problem. I can't see the lumps on his stomach so can't comment on what those might be, but is seems a good veterinary examination would be a good idea for him. They'll be able to give you a better idea as to what might be going on, what therapy or testing might be necessary, and help keep him healthy.

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Jack
Lhasa Apso
12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Twitching, slight cough runny nose

My 12 yr old Lhasa apso has started twitching his head and licking his lips each time he does it,he had antibiotics 3 months ago for query kennel cough and it seems to be back again,he’s just not himself and can’t get him to drink

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
If it seems that the symptoms of kennel cough are returning, you should visit your Veterinarian regardless for an examination and treatment; however the jolting or twitching of the head may be caused by a variety of different issues which may include neurological disorders, cervical spine disorders among other causes. Your Veterinarian can examine Jack for both issues when you visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Spencer
chihuahua mix
15 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

hi there! My dog is 15 years old and over the past couple months has started shaking and having spasms when he is standing or laying down. Recently it has gotten worse I think because he just had surgery on his tooth. The shaking only lasts for a couple of seconds, but when it happens he can’t move and he whines like he is in pain. We are going to take him to the vet asap, I just wanted a couple reasons to why this could be happening. Thanks!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Spencer may be having joint or nerve pain, or may be developing tremors as he ages. He may have a neurologic or muscular problem. If you are able to video the episodes it will be very helpful for your veterinarian, as he may not have one while he is in his examination. I hope that all goes well for him!

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Cookie
Bichon Frise
12 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Jolt

Hi! My dog started jolting two days ago (at night). He jolted around 5 times that night (8-10), but doesn't seem to be in pain.
The jolting seemed to have started after we brought him out to walk that night, and he jumped up to bite a plant (I'm not sure if he strained his back/muscle when he jumped).

The jolting stopped a lot these last two days.
He only jolted twice the entire day yesterday, and once today.

Is there anything we can do and should we bring him to the vet if doesn't seem to be in pain at all?

Thank you!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
I'm not sure what is causing this jolting behavior for Cookie, but if it continues, it would be a good idea to have him examined by your veterinarian to make sure that nothing is wrong, just in case. I hope he is okay.

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Kilo
pit bull terrier
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

jerking

Medication Used

none

My pit will get on the bed and jerk before he starts playing with his rope toy. He will also jerk if the other dogs won't play with him. It's almost like he's throwing a tantrum. Don't do it any other time.he lays on his side and will jerk and push u with his feet. He will do it 3 or 4 times then he stops.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
I'm not sure if the behavior that Kilo is showing is normal for him, or an abnormal sign of a problem. If you are able to video the episodes with your phone, and show them to your veterinarian, they may be able to determine if it is worrisome behavior or not.

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tom
Labrador
13 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Fever
jerking
Heavy Breathing
Jolting

my 13 year old Labrador is jolting since 3 days and is suffering from anemia and tick fever. he suffers sudden jerks and keeps whining. he cannot sleep. may i please know the possible ways to make him sleep and rest. thankyou.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
In these cases, there is no real solution apart from treatment and resolution of the primary condition; your Veterinarian should be treating for tick fever (Ehrlichiosis) already, it is just a case of continuing with any treatment and offering supportive and symptomatic care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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