Uggie's Mysterious Disease: A Look at the Canine Star's Shaking Problem

Uggie the Dog at at special screening of The Artist
Joel Ryan, AP
The dapper Uggie, who starred in The Artist, attends a London screening.

His movie career may be wrapping up, but Uggie the Jack Russell Terrier should enjoy a long and happy retirement — despite the “mystery disease” that led The Artist star's trainer to announce that the charismatic dog’s appearance at the Academy Awards would be his last public performance.

“It’s very sad, but he is suffering from a mystery shaking syndrome. It is a neurological disorder, and we’ve spent thousands on vets’ bills trying to figure out what is causing it. But the experts don’t really know,” the 10-year-dog’s trainer, Omar Von Muller, told the Daily Mail. “After all the scans and tests, [what we know] is that it is neurological and he is not suffering."

On that point, world-renowned veterinary neurologist Dr. Richard A. LeCouteur of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, is inclined to agree. Dr. LeCouteur also agrees that it’s likely difficult to figure out exactly what the illness might be for the little dog who stole the show at the Golden Globes.

“While these [neurological] conditions are well understood and well documented in humans, they’re very difficult to document in animals,” says Dr. LeCouteur.

This is why veterinarians will sometimes refer such pets to a veterinary neurologist, such as Dr. LeCouteur, who can thoroughly assess a dog like Uggie using specialized equipment, as well as nerve and muscle biopsies.

Uggie Golden Globes
WireImage
Uggie poses with a trophy at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

Although Dr. LeCouteur notes that some Jack Russells can suffer from neurological problems — such as myokymia, a condition that causes involuntary muscle movements — he said that Uggie is unlikely to be afflicted with what's commonly called “white shaker syndrome,” a condition related to a dog’s coat color. "That’s a problem seen frequently in white dogs like Maltese,” he said, “and only rarely in Jack Russell Terriers.”

Patrick Burns, an expert on working terriers who blogs as “Terrierman,” says that Jack Russell Terriers are generally hardy and healthy — and many live well into their teens, especially if they're kept at an appropriate weight.

“Jack Russells are a very, very popular breed, so we tend to see more of them," says Dr. LeCouteur. “But I wouldn’t say that means they have more problems than other breeds. Compared with the number of Jack Russell Terriers in the community, they may even be underrepresented for neurological issues.”

To find out more about this precocious and clearly talented breed, check out Vetstreet's Jack Russell Terrier breed guide.

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