Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs
Cerebellar hypoplasia is a condition in which parts of the cerebellum have not completely developed. The cerebellum makes up a large part of the brain, lying under the cerebrum and toward the back, above and behind the brainstem. This condition can occur due to intrinsic (genetic) causes, or to extrinsic causes like infections, toxins or nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms become visible when the puppies begin to stand and walk, around six weeks of age. Cerebellar hypoplasia is hereditary in Airedales, Chow Chows, Boston Terriers, and Bull Terrier breeds.
Symptoms and Types
- Head bobbing
- Limb tremors
- Aggravated by movement or eating
- Disappear during sleep
- Unsteadiness or clumsiness with a wide-based stance
- Unable to judge distance and disequilibrium:
- Falling, flipping over
- Slight improvement may occur as the puppy accommodates to its deficits
- Hereditary in some breeds
- Infection of the body and/or brain
- Environmental toxins, ingested toxins
- Nutritional deficiencies
You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including a background history of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. If you can provide any information on your dog’s birth, or on the condition of the mother, it may help your veterinarian to pinpoint the cause of the defect. Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical exam with a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis.
Animals affected with cerebellar hypoplasia show signs at birth or shortly thereafter. Puppies may show a slow progression of signs over weeks to months. After postnatal onset of signs of cerebellar hypoplasia, these patients should not show any further progression of signs. Age, breed, history and typical non-progressive symptoms are usually sufficient for tentative diagnosis.
There is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia. While these signs are permanent, they typically do not worsen and affected dogs have normal lifespans.
Living and Management
Your dog will be developmentally disabled, so it will not be able to make decisions to protect itself as other dogs do. You will need to restrict your dog’s activity and movement so as to prevent injuries and road accidents. Climbing, falling, or freedom of movement at the park, all of the normal things that dogs do, will need to be prevented with your dog. In the case of severely brain deficient animals that are unable to feed or groom themselves, or to be house trained, euthanasia may be considered.
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