Jolting in Dogs

Why is my dog jolting?

Most common conditions

Muscle Spasms / Brain Disorder / Brain Injury

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Rated as moderate conditon

16 Veterinary Answers

Most common conditions

Muscle Spasms / Brain Disorder / Brain Injury

Why is my dog jolting?

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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

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.

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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.

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Jolting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Beagle/English Bulldog mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Jolting

Recently our dog has been experiencing some jolting, specifically in the head/shoulder region. It seems very mild. I’ve examined him for tenderness all over, and he seems to have no other symptoms. He is eating and drinking normally, no vomiting/diarrhea.

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Some dogs do develop tremors, or nerve disorders. It may be nothing to worry about if he is doing well otherwise, but if it does continue, it may be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian to make sure that there are no treatments needed. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 11, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tired

my dog is jolting over and over again and licking his leg and also getting frustrated and barking at it.

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello From what you are describing, your pet sounds like he is having a muscle spasm and it is painful. It is recommended that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam so they can figure out what is going on. Good luck.

July 10, 2020

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Pepsi

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Aspin

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4 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

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?

Sept. 9, 2018

Pepsi's Owner

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Lizzy

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Golden Retriever

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4 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

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?

Sept. 8, 2018

Lizzy's Owner

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Suzie

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Dachshund

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

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.

July 1, 2018

Suzie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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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.

July 1, 2018

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Yo-yo

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Shih Tzu

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Head Trembling
Jolts

Just today, my dog has been experiencing sort of like hiccups but not hiccups. Every time he licks his lips or licks something he begins to “hiccup”, he moves his head to the side in a fast way. Like if he is saying “no”, like he jerks back. I don’t know the cause of this and although it’s been a day, he’s never experienced this. He is an old dog, he’s 9+ years old but he’s always been healthy and never experienced this before or any health problems. I don’t know what to do, should I take him to the vet?

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Luna

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pitbull

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Restless, Jolting, Twitching

I do not know what is wrong with my 4 year old pittbull, she could not rest last night and she had these jolts like hiccups but they weren't hiccups and now that she is trying to rest and go to sleep she is doing it again tonight. I do not have the money for a vet and I love my dog can you please help me, what can I do to help her

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Bauer

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Mutt

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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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Marley

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Chihuahua

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Jerking
Jolting

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

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Pinkie

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Pit bull

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13 Years

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Mild severity

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-1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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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