Ataxia in Dogs
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Can ataxia be cured?
All four legs of a dog work in a coordinated way to get him from point A to point B, but sometimes the legs do not work as they should or the central nervous system does not communicate properly with the head, body, or legs.
This causes a dog to wobble and have trouble moving. This abnormal uncoordinated movement is called ataxia and there are three general causes in dogs. Knowing more about this abnormal movement will help a dog owner to better recognize these problems if they occur.
What is ataxia in dogs?
There are three main causes of ataxia that can occur in dogs, but they all affect the way a dog can move.
- Proprioception Issues: Proprioception is the innate sense of knowing where your limbs are. Lack of proprioception can lead to ataxia. This type of ataxia is usually the result of a spinal cord problem, such as a tumor, a bulging disc, or a nerve problem.
- Vestibular Syndrome: Related to a dog's ability to balance, vestibular syndrome is the result of an inner ear or brain problem that causes the dog to become dizzy and have difficulty walking.
- Cerebellar problems: Cerebellar problems, such as tumors, inflammatory diseases, or birth defects, occur in the part of the brain called the cerebellum and can cause ataxia. This cause of ataxia often appears as an exaggerated or hyperextended step.
A dog has a different gait and if this normal gait suddenly changes, this could be a sign of ataxia. Sometimes head tremors and nystagmus (rapid eye spasms) can also be seen with ataxia.
The inability to properly place one foot on the ground when walking is another sign of ataxia. This can result in a dog moving his knuckles and dragging his toes across the ground.
Since a dog with ataxia has a hard time knowing exactly where his paws are, he cannot turn them over and walk on them normally, so he can damage the paws by scraping the ground.
Finally, some dogs with ataxia do not move their toe knuckles, but their foot placement is exaggerated. This is similar to a person who has depth perception problems or who do not realize there is a step-down and takes a large, exaggerated step to reach the ground.
Since ataxia is just a symptom of an underlying disease, you should have your dog examined by your vet to rule out any potential problems that may be causing it.
Causes of ataxia in dogs
The causes of ataxia vary by type.
- Spinal cord problems such as tumors, trauma, inflammation, stroke, and structural abnormalities
- Middle or inner ear infections
- Infection of the vertebrae or discs.
- Vestibular disease
- Head trauma
- Head tumors
- Infections that affect the brain or brainstem, such as canine distemper virus
- Inflammation affecting the brain or brainstem.
- Thiamine deficiency
- Metronidazole toxicity
- Changes or abnormalities in the cerebellum.
- Red blood cell count abnormalities
- Low levels of calcium, potassium, or glucose.
- Blood circulation problems, such as heart disease.
- Respiratory diseases
Treatment of ataxia in dogs
The treatment plan for ataxia depends on what the underlying cause is.
Supplemental nutrition with calcium, potassium, glucose, or B vitamins may be warranted for deficiencies of these nutrients, medications may be given for toxicities, inflammation, and infections, and other specific symptoms may need to be addressed depending on the reason for the difficult movements.
Sometimes surgery may even be necessary to remove tumors or correct abnormalities.
In addition to treating the underlying reason for the ataxia, physical rehabilitation may also be warranted for your dog.
How to prevent ataxia in dogs
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that ataxia will never occur in a dog, but it can decrease the likelihood of it occurring as a result of some illnesses and toxicities.
Preventing ear infections by periodically cleaning your dog's ears and keeping medications out of your dog's reach are two ways you can help prevent these things from causing ataxia in a dog.
Enjoy The Video Tutorial about What is Ataxia? (Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention)
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