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Types of Ataxia in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
Types of Ataxia in Dogs

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Is your dog struggling to keep balanced or appears to be uncoordinated? Is your dog showing symptoms of head tilting, tremors or vomiting? If so, your pup is most likely suffering from what is known as Ataxia. Ataxia in dogs is a vestibular disease caused by injuries of the proprioceptive sensibility pathways, the cerebellum or the vestibular system. In simple terms, your dog is experiencing an unconscious lack of sensory awareness affecting the gait, otherwise known as the movement of its legs.

In this article we will address some of the most common types of Ataxia in dogs, what causes them, and most importantly what can be done to treat this.

You may also be interested in: Ataxia in Cats - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
  1. Loss of balance in dogs caused by trauma
  2. Toxic and dangerous foods for dogs
  3. Acute Vestibular Syndrome in dogs
  4. Side effects of dog medication
  5. Other types of acute ataxia in dogs

Loss of balance in dogs caused by trauma

Ataxia is often caused by a strong blow to the head, which in turn affects the functionality of the cerebellum or vestibular system.

Ataxia is accompanied by several possible symptoms. They can include:

  • seizures
  • breathing difficulties
  • postural or head cocking issues
  • circulated walking
  • gyrations or exaggerated movements (hypermetry)
  • involuntary eye movement (nystagmus)
  • blindness
  • bleeding
  • open or closed fractures
  • unconsciousness

If your dog is showing these warning signs, we suggest you see your veterinarian immediately for a physical and neurological assessment. X-rays, MRI or CT scans will provide you with valuable information you need to treat your case. In the worst case scenario, your dog will have to be hospitalized and most likely operated on, with a priority placed on stabilization. Depending on the severity of the lesion, Ataxia can be fully treated or partly treated. If you are experiencing the latter, your dog will continue to suffer from balance impairments indefinitely, and your veterinarian will treat the subject accordingly.

Toxic and dangerous foods for dogs

Dogs are often very fond of eating all kinds of foods. However, even though harmless to humans, these foods can have a severe affect on our animals, resulting in illnesses like Ataxia.

A common case of this is the consumption of Xylitol. Xylitol, used as a sweetener, if consumed by your dog, can cause vomiting, lethargy and tremors- all linked to Ataxia. The severity of the case will depend on the weight of the dog and the amount of substance that has been consumed. The most commonly known treatment for this is fluid therapy, however, this case can be easily avoided. Refrain from leaving food for human consumption within reach of your animal and be cautious when taking your dog for walks.

Types of Ataxia in Dogs - Toxic and dangerous foods for dogs

Acute Vestibular Syndrome in dogs

Sometimes Ataxia in dogs can be caused by what is known as Vestibular Syndrome. Vestibular Syndrome causes the typical uncoordinated wandering characteristics of Ataxia, which include tilting of the head, nystagmus, strabismus, circulated walking and even vomiting. If the lesion is bilateral, there will most likely be no signs of head inclination but the animal will avoid movement.

Vestibular Syndromecan be located in two parts of the head, peripheral (located in the inner ear) or central (in the brainstream[1]). Causes include Otitis media or internal and trauma or infections such as canine temper. It is recommended to monitor Otitis closely, because even if external, severity in the infection can grow and spread internally. Idiopathic Vestibular Disease is also commonly known to affect older dogs.

As already mentioned before with other Ataxia cases, treatment depends on the severity of the case and appropriate measures should be taken by your veterinarian.

Side effects of dog medication

Ataxia is also known to be caused as a side effect consequential of certain drugs, therefore, you have to be very careful about what drugs your dog consumes.

Epilepsy in dogs is a frequent example of this. Unfortunately, the treatment of Epilepsy can sometimes directly correlate with that of Ataxia.

In order to avoid this, monitor drug consumption of your dog closely, if side effects are noticed, it is important to immediately contact your veterinarian and find a more suitable drug for your animal.

Types of Ataxia in Dogs - Side effects of dog medication

Other types of acute ataxia in dogs

Diseases such as Wobbler Syndrome, a disease which targets the cervical spine, are known to cause spinocerebrullar Ataxia in dogs. Wobbler Syndrome[2] is caused by vertebral problems and can be linked to several different characteristics, including congenital and nutritional troubles, and the race or level of fitness of the animal.

In addition to causing Ataxia, Wobbler Syndrome will induce noticeable discomfort or pain in the cervical area of your animal. Wobbler Syndrome is known to be shown most commonly in larger or older dogs, which like other symptoms of Ataxia, will manifest as a limp that does not subside.

Once diagnosed by your veterinarian through a neurological and orthopedic exam, x-rays, myelography, magnetic resonance or CT scans, treatment can begin. Treatment for this manifestation of Ataxia include rest, medication, analgesic or surgery.

There are also many hereditary and degenerative diseases that cause alterations in the cerebellum and are therefore responsible for cerebellar Ataxia in dogs. Symptoms manifest physically through hypermetry, tremors, clumsy walking etc, and in many cases they can be incurable. Treatment of symptoms is advised.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Types of Ataxia in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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Types of Ataxia in Dogs