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Cerebellar Abiotrophy In Dogs

Research has established that cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs is an inherited disorder that's caused by an autosomal recessive gene. The disorder negatively impacts a dog's brain causing cerebellar degeneration which then leads to them developing ataxia. Studies have also established that cerebellar abiotrophy causes irreversible damage to Purkinje neurons, the loss of cells as well parts of the brain directly associated with a dog's central nervous system.

Breeds Most at Risk

The condition is different to cerebellar hypoplasia with some breeds appearing to be more predisposed to inheriting the disease than others. Research has shown that breeds more at risk of developing the condition include the following:

  • Airedale Terrier - the condition is progressive and typically dogs show signs of there being something wrong with them when they are around six months’ old
  • American Staffordshire Terrier - the condition progresses slowly with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong with them when they are anything from 18 months to 9 years’ old
  • Australian Kelpie - the condition is progressive with dogs developing symptoms when they are anything from 6 to 12 years’ old
  • Bavarian Mountain Dog - the condition progresses slowly with dogs experiencing degeneration in their Purkinje cells when they are anything from 3 to 7 months’ old
  • Beagle - the condition is progressive
  • Bernese Mountain Dog - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms when they are anything from 4 to 16 weeks’ old
  • Border Collie - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms when they are anything from 6 to 16 weeks’ old
  • Brittany Spaniel - the condition progresses slowly with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong when they are anything from 7 to 13 weeks’ old
  • Bullmastiff - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms when they are as young as 4 to 28 weeks’ old
  • Chinese Crested - the condition progresses slowly with dogs typically showing signs of there being something wrong when they are anything from 3 to 6 months’ old
  • Coton de Tulear - the condition is both progressive and non-progressive in the breed with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong when they are as young as 8 to 12 weeks’ old
  • English Bulldog - the condition progresses slowly with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong when they are as young as 8 to 12 weeks’ old
  • Finnish Harrier - the condition is progressive and it negatively impacts a dog's cerebellar Purkinje cells with symptoms first manifesting themselves when dogs are around 6 months’ old
  • Gordon Setter - the condition is slowly progressive with dogs showing symptoms of there being something wrong when they are anything from 6 to 10 months’ old
  • Irish Setter - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms of there being a problem when they are as young as 3 to 10 days’ old
  • Jack Russell Terrier - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms as young as 2 weeks’ old
  • Kerry Blue Terrier - the condition is progressive with dogs showing symptoms of their being something wrong when they are as young as 8 to 16 weeks’ old
  • Labrador Retriever - the condition progresses rapidly with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong with them when they are around 12 weeks’ old
  • Lagotto Romagnolo - the condition progresses rapidly with dogs showing signs of there being something wrong with them when they are anything from 10 to 15 weeks’ old
  • Miniature Poodle - it is not known why the breed develops the disorder, but dogs typically show signs of there being something wrong with them when they are as young as 3 to 4 weeks’ old
  • Miniature Schnauzer - the condition is progressive and dogs typically show signs of there being something wrong when they are as young as 6 to 16 weeks’ old
  • Papillon - the condition is progressive and dogs typically show signs of there being something wrong when they are as young as 8 to 12 weeks’ old
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback - dogs can be born with the condition which is progressive with dogs developing colour dilution alopecia
  • Rough Coated Collie     - the condition may stabilise with time, but dogs show signs of there being something wrong with them when they are as young as 4 to 8 weeks’ old
  • Samoyed - dogs can be born with the condition which then gets gradually worse when they are around 6 months’ old

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Symptoms to Watch Out For

The most obvious sign of there being something wrong with a dog suspected of having inherited or developed cerebellar abiotrophy is ataxia of the hind legs, but other symptoms often include the following:

  • Head tilt
  • Head pressing
  • Tremours
  • Seizures
  • Confusion, cognitive difficulties
  • Collapse as a result of progressive proprioceptive deficit

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would ideally need a dog's full medical history and how the onset of any symptoms first manifested themselves. The type of tests the vet would typically recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • Complete blood test
  • CSF analysis to rule out distemper and any other health issues which includes rickettsia fever and other flea and tick borne diseases

A vet would want to rule out other reasons why a dog might be displaying symptoms associated with cerebellar abiotrophy which would include the following disorders:

  • Otitis media
  • Myotonia congenita
  • Neuroaxonal dystrophy
  • Cerebellar hypoplasia
  • Glucocerebrosidosis
  • Ceroid lipofuscinosis

However, the only real way of confirming a diagnosis can be offered by carrying out an autopsy and examining a dog's brain tissue once they have succumbed to the condition.

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, there are no treatment options for dogs when they inherit or develop cerebellar abiotrophy. Should a dog's condition be severe it is often kinder to put them to sleep than to let them suffer unnecessarily. However, if a dog's condition is mild, they can go on to lead full and relatively normal lives although they would need to have regular check-ups with the vet.

 


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