This is a Brain and Spinal Cord condition.

Spinocerebellar Ataxia

What is Spinocerebellar Ataxia?

Spinocerebellar ataxia is an umbrella term for early-onset hereditary neurodegenerative diseases. They are characterized by features such as gait abnormalities, imbalance, and associated movement abnormalities including uncoordinated eye and paw movements, visual loss, seizures, and behavioral symptoms.

What are the signs & symptoms that develop in affected dogs?

Signs of cerebellar disease include:

  • An uncoordinated gait with stilted "toy soldier" leg movements (ataxia)
  • Intention tremors where a stretched out limb or head shakes more and more violently as it approaches its target
  • A swaying at rest, wherein the spine (and everything attached to it) moves back and forth in a struggle to maintain balance
  • Rhythmic eye flicking (nystagmus) causing vision impairment.

When do signs and symptoms develop?

Clinical signs of cerebellar dysfunction in affected dogs are typically observed when their normal littermates start to move in a coordinated fashion (at about three weeks of age).

How do vets diagnose this condition?

Unless a genetic basis is suspected due to the age, breed, or history of the dog, diagnostics must be performed to rule out infectious, inflammatory, or neoplastic causes.

How is this condition treated?

There is no treatment for this disorder. Certain medications may be prescribed to control symptoms. However, owners often opt for euthanasia due to poor quality of life.

What actions should I take if my dog is affected?

  • Give your dog any medication as prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Keep your affected dog comfortable and give them the best quality of life you can.
  • Slings can be used to assist with their mobility, and caution should be taken to avoid falling hazards.
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