Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs

Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs

What is Cerebellar hypoplasia?

In a dog with Cerebellar hypoplasia, the cerebellum is not completely developed when the puppy is born. This can be due to a wide range of reasons and there is a hereditary factor. In dogs, one of the most common caused of Cerebellar hypoplasia is bacterial or virus infection of the puppy while it is still in its mother’s womb. The canine herpes virus can for instance cause Cerebellar hypoplasia. Other factors that can cause problems for the developing foetus and bring on Cerebellar hypoplasia are injury, poisoning, and malnutrition. In Irish Setters and Wire-haired Fox Terriers, Cerebellar hypoplasia is associated with lissencephaly.

What is the cerebellum?

The cerebellum is the part of the dog’s brain responsible for controlling and coordinating movement. When a dog is born with Cerebellar hypoplasia, the cells of the cerebellum has not matured as they should prior to birth, which leads to incoordination and poor balance for the dog.

Some dog breeds are more at risk

The incidence for Cerebellar hypoplasia is higher in the Irish setter, Whire-haired fox terrier, Boston terrier, Bull terrier, and Chow-Chow.

Breeding advice

If a dog is born with Cerebellar hypoplasia, its parents and siblings should ideally not be used for breeding since Cerebellar hypoplasia can be inherited. The affected dog should naturally also not be allowed to breed. The exact mode of inheritance is still not fully understood, but some evidence point towards an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.

Symptoms of Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs

In a puppy with Cerebellar hypoplasia, poor balance is one of the most prominent symptoms. The puppy might have a wide-based stance, i.e. stand with its paws far apart to remain more balanced, and some puppies seem to have no idea where their paws actually are, which causes them to appear clumsy and walk with a foot knuckled over. The gait can be stiff or high-stepping, and some dogs will constantly triple and fall. Some dogs will develop head and/or body tremors, especially when excited. The symptoms of Cerebellar hypoplasia range from mild to severe. Dogs with Cerebellar hypoplasia might appear light-headed, but they have the same mental alertness as normal dogs. The general health of the dog is also unaffected. 

The symptoms of Cerebellar hypoplasia are evident at birth, or can be noticed within 2 weeks. They do not become worse with age.

Cerebellar hypoplasia treatment for dogs

There is no cure or treatment for Cerebellar hypoplasia. In mild cases, it is however possible for the dog to live a fairly normal life, although with a somewhat poorer sense of balance and coordination. If you feel that you can adjust the life of your dog to suit this, there is usually no need to put the dog to sleep. Cerebellar hypoplasia normally stays just as it is; it will neither get worse nor better as the dog matures. Some dogs will learn to compensate for the problems, at least to a certain degree. Dogs will Cerebellar hypoplasia will usually reach the normal age for their particular breed.

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