Sensory dysfunction that causes loss of balance, ataxia in dogs can be a sign of a serious problem. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.
Some dogs are a little clumsy, of course, but at what point should you be worried about losing your dog’s balance? Ataxia is a medical term for loss of balance and can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of ataxia in dogs.
What is ataxia?
The term ataxia refers to a sensory dysfunction that results in loss of coordination in the dog, head, limbs, or trunk. There are three types of ataxia commonly seen in dogs: sensory, vestibular, and cerebellar. Sensory ataxia, also known as proprioceptive ataxia, results from progressive compression of the spinal cord, whereas vestibular ataxia is usually caused by damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve. Cerebellar ataxia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to the brain – the part responsible for coordination and movement.
What are the causes and symptoms?
Sensory ataxia in dogs is associated with spinal cord problems, so the most common symptoms relate to loss of balance and uncomfortable or unbalanced gait. Some potential causes of this type of ataxia include structural or developmental abnormalities in the spinal cord, spinal tumors, vertebral infections, inflammation or trauma to the spinal cord, or a medical condition called degenerative myelopathy. Other symptoms of sensory ataxia include misalignment of the feet and progressive weakness.
Vestibular ataxia refers to the vestibulocochlear nerve – a nerve that transmits signals from the inner ear to the brain. Damage to this nerve can lead to changes in the position of the head or neck, as well as hearing problems. You may notice difficulty with balance, such as leaning, leaning, or even falling. In cases of central vestibular ataxia, the dog may also show sensory defects, changes in eye movement, weakness in the legs, and drowsiness or stupor.
Cerebellar ataxia occurs when the cerebellum of the brain is damaged, often by a brain tumor or some type of infection. Most often, however, it is caused by a congenital or hereditary defect. Symptoms of cerebellar ataxia usually develop slowly over months or years, and include nodding, abnormal gait, loss of coordination, tremors, falls, and weakness. Some dogs also show rapid eye and head movements, as well as head tilt, listening problems, behavioral changes, or lack of appetite.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment options for ataxia in dogs vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition. In cases where the underlying cause of ataxia cannot be cured, pain management and support may be the only options. If the condition progresses progressively, euthanasia may be required. In less minor cases, it may be enough to monitor the dog’s condition and adjust his lifestyle to adjust to difficulty with exercise or loss of coordination.
If you notice changes in a dog’s gait or behavior, it’s not something you should ignore. Behavioral changes can be a sign of a serious problem and prompt treatment could make a difference. At the first sign of trouble, bring your dog to the vet for a checkup.