Cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs

Cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs

What is cerebellar abiotrophy?

Cerebellar abiotrophy is a disease where the Purkinje cells in the cerebellum of the dog dies. This causes progressive ataxia, i.e. the dog will become unsteady and clumsy and fail to coordinate major muscle movements. The cerebellum is the part of the dog’s brain responsible for control and coordination of movement. In an affected dog, the Purkinje cells will mature according to plan prior to birth, but once the puppy is born they will start to die off prematurely. In some dogs, the destruction will start shortly before birth.

Breeds commonly affected by Cerebellar abiotrophy

Cerebellar abiotrophy has been diagnosed in many different breeds and is especially common in Gordon Setters and Kerry Blue Terriers. In most dog breeds, the most of inheritance is autosomal recessive, but in a few breeds, including the English Pointer, the responsible gene is sex-linked. The English Pointer has an x-linked mode of inheritance. Only male English Pointers are affected by Cerebellar abiotrophy and the disease is always inherited from the mother.

The onset time for the initial symptoms varies considerably among the affected breeds. In Miniature Poodles, Rough Collies, and Beagles, it is for instance common for puppies to show symptoms directly after birth or within 3-4 weeks. In a lot of other breeds, including the Kerry Blue Terrier, Labrador Retriever, and Border Collie, the first symptoms will appear when the dog is 6-16 weeks old. In a small number of dog breeds, the dog will stay symptom free until adulthood or well into middle age. Examples of such breeds are the Gordon Setter, Old English Sheepdog, and Brittany Spaniel.

Cerebellar abiotrophy symptoms in dogs

Poor balance, a wide-based stance and a stiff or high-stepping gait are all symptoms commonly associated with cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs. Since the part of the brain affected by this disease is responsible for controlling and coordinating voluntary movements, an affected dog can become very clumsy and seem confused about where its limbs really are. Some dogs will stand or walk with a foot knuckled over. Cerebellar abiotrophy can also lead to tremors of the head or of the entire body. Eventually, your dog might not be able to climb the stairs, and seriously effected dogs will not even be able to stand up on their own.

Throughout the gradually progression of this disease, the dog will retain its normal mental alertness. In some dogs, other parts of the brain can however be affected as well, and this can lead to confusion and behavioural changes. The dog can for instance forget everything about its earlier house training, and some dogs become aggressive or very confused. Blindness and seizures can also occur.

The symptoms can worsen slow or quickly, chiefly depending on the breed of your dog.

A lot of the symptoms listed above are associated not only with cerebellar abiotrophy but with other health problems as well, and it is very important to let a veterinarian determine the exact diagnosis.

Cerebellar abiotrophy treatment for dogs

Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for dogs with Cerebellar abiotrophy and affected dogs will not spontaneously recover. Most dog owners will sooner or later opt for euthanasia, when the quality of life for their dog has dropped too low.


Nervous system diseases: (click for more info)
Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs
Cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs
Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs
Coonhound paralysis (polyradiculoneuritis) in dogs
Dancing Doberman Disease
Epilepsy in dogs
Facial nerve paralysis in dogs
Granulomatous meningoencephalitis in dogs
Laryngeal paralysis in dogs
Polyneuropathy in dogs
Scotty Cramp in dogs
Syringomyelia in dogs
Tick paralysis in dogs
White dog shaker syndrome
Wobbler disease in dogs