One of the most heartbreaking events for breeders or owners of puppies is a congenital defect that isn’t obvious until weeks or months after a dog is born. One such defect is cerebellar hypoplasia, which isn’t noticeable until a puppy starts trying to walk.
What is Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs?
This congenital disorder occurs when the cerebellum, a part of a dog’s brain, doesn’t completely develop, according to PetPlace.com. In most cases, the defect becomes obvious by the time a puppy reaches six weeks of age.
Cerebellar hypoplasia is hereditary in some dogs. Chow Chows, bull terriers, wire haired fox terriers, Irish setters, Boston terriers, and Airedales are particularly at risk for the hereditary type of the disorder.
PetMD reports that other causes of this condition include an infection of the body or brain (or both), environmental and ingested toxins, and nutritional deficiencies.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Breeders and owners need to be on the alert for head bobbing behavior. An affected dog experiences limb tremors that can be aggravated when he tries to move or eat and that disappear when he’s asleep.
Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs results in an unsteadiness or clumsiness. A dog with this disorder has a wide-based stance and is unable to judge distance. As a result, the animal lacks equilibrium, falls, and often flips over.
The dog’s walk often looks “spastic” to the human observer. Some movements might be quite exaggerated, such as lifting the feet high when taking steps. Once a puppy learns to accommodate these deficits a bit, a slight improvement in the symptoms sometimes occurs.
How Do Vets Diagnose and Treat Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
In addition to examining a puppy with the signs of this condition, a veterinarian will want information from breeding records. For older dogs, owners should supply a thorough medical history of the pet if the vet doesn’t already have it in his or her files. This is necessary to track any possible incidents that might have caused the disorder if it wasn’t inherited.
A physical exam should include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs. Although the signs of the disorder are permanent, they usually don’t worsen. Affected dogs typically have normal life spans.
Since dogs with this condition are disabled developmentally, they can’t protect themselves like normal dogs do. Owners need to restrict movement and activities to minimize injuries. This means preventing some of the typical play behavior of unaffected dogs, such as climbing stairs, moving freely around a park, and jumping and falling.
If the degree of impairment is so severe that a dog with cerebellar hypoplasia is unable to feed or groom himself or become housebroken, the veterinarian providing treatment might recommend euthanasia.