Ataxia in dogs is a sensory disorder that impairs balance and may indicate a more serious issue. What you need know about the condition is as follows.
Some dogs are just naturally clumsier than others, but when should you start to worry about your dog losing his balance? Ataxia, the medical name for balance loss, can occasionally indicate a major issue. For more information on the signs, causes, and remedies for canine ataxia, keep reading.
Ataxia: What is it?
The condition known as ataxia causes a dog’s head, limbs, or trunk to lose coordination as a result of sensory impairment. Cerebellar, vestibular, and sensory ataxia are the three forms of ataxia that are frequently observed in canines.
While vestibular ataxia is often brought on by damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve, sensory ataxia, also known as proprioceptive ataxia, comes from gradual compression of the spinal cord. A neurological condition known as cerebellar ataxia is brought on by injury to the cerebellum, a region of the brain that controls balance and movement.
What Causes It and What Are the Symptoms?
Due to the connection between sensory ataxia and spinal cord issues in dogs, loss of balance and an unnatural or uneven stride are the most prevalent symptoms.
This kind of ataxia may be brought on by a variety of conditions, such as degenerative myelopathy, spinal tumors, infections in the vertebrae, inflammation or trauma to the spinal cord, structural or developmental abnormalities in the spinal cord, and spine tumors. Foot misplacement and increasing weakening are two more signs of sensory ataxia.
The nerve that carries information from the inner ear to the brain, the vestibulocochlear nerve, is connected to vestibular ataxia. The dog may develop alterations in the position of his head or neck as well as hearing issues if this nerve is damaged.
Tipping, tilting, or even falling over all be signs of balance issues. In addition to sensory deficiencies, altered eye movements, limb weakness, and lethargy or stupor, dogs with central vestibular ataxia may also display other symptoms.
When the brain’s cerebellum is harmed, frequently by a brain tumor or an infection of some kind, cerebellar ataxia develops. However, a congenital or hereditary abnormality is the most typical cause. Cerebellar ataxia symptoms include swaying, altered walking, lack of coordination, tremors, falling, and weakness.
They often manifest slowly over the period of several months or years. Some dogs also have jerky eye and head movements, head tilting, hearing issues, behavioral abnormalities, and loss of appetite.
How to Find Out If Your Dog Has Ataxia
It is important to pay attention to any changes in your dog’s behavior or stride. Changes in behavior can indicate a significant issue, and immediate treatment may help. Bring your dog in for a checkup at the earliest indication of trouble.
Your veterinarian can proceed to a more in-depth examination comprising a number of diagnostic tests if, following a regular physical examination of your dog, they determine that your dog may be experiencing ataxia.
A thorough neurological examination will be part of this, which will enable your veterinarian to identify the specific form of ataxia and better understand its origin. This testing procedure will include a significant amount of excluding potential ailments and causes.
This may be irritating since it seems like you aren’t learning anything new, but the more potential factors they can rule out from the list, the better your veterinarian will be able to comprehend the problem.
What Alternatives Exist for Treatment?
Depending on the underlying reason and the severity of the problem, many treatments are available for dogs with ataxia. In minor circumstances, you might be able to directly address the reason with some careful TLC and medication, leading to a rapid and noticeable improvement.
Though officially these cases have been “healed,” it is still critical to remember the causes of ataxia and take precautions to avoid it recurring again.
For instance, if your dog has an ear infection and is suffering from vestibular ataxia caused by inflammation in the inner ear, you should concentrate more on cleaning your dog’s ears and avoiding a recurrence of the illness. Dogs vary in their susceptibility to ear infections. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to keep your dog healthy and free from such infections.
The physical lesion that is present in your dog’s body and causing the ataxia to arise may be removed through surgery to treat some more severe types of ataxia.
You can take actions before and after the surgery to give your dog temporary relief from the affects of ataxia, like giving them medicine to ease any nausea they may be feeling. In order to facilitate attentive surveillance and hydration therapy, your veterinarian can also advise hospitalization.
The prognosis for those who are deemed candidates for a surgical procedure like this is very favorable, despite the fact that this may initially be terrifying because no one wants to see their dog in a situation where they need to stay in the hospital.
When the underlying cause of ataxia cannot be treated, supportive care and pain treatment may be the only options. This might include modest lifestyle adjustments, such as starting medications, all the way up to large ones, like teaching your dog to stand up or walk.
You can modify your house to better accommodate your dog’s evolving demands by installing ramps to keep your dog from utilizing the stairs, which could result in slips, trips, and accidents. Using ramps for locations where your dog would often jump, such as climbing up onto furniture or entering and exiting your car, is another option.
Euthanasia can be necessary if the situation gets worse over time.
There isn’t a certain moment or warning sign that this is the wisest move. The majority of vets advise determining what matters most to your dog and whether he can still engage in these activities when gauging his quality of life.
For instance, it might be time to speak with your veterinarian if your dog suddenly loses interest in playing with his favorite toys or is unable to find a comfortable spot in your home to sleep.