Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Author WDF Staff


Like humans, dogs can have brain problems and conditions that affect their health. One of these problems is cerebellar hypoplasia. This is a condition dogs are born with, and it will affect their cerebellum. That part is responsible for the dog’s coordination, and if a dog has it, its movements will be severely impacted. Here’s what you should know about cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs.

What is cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs?

Before we go into details about cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs, you should understand what the cerebellum does. The cerebellum is a part of the brain with several functions, but the most important one is controlling the dog’s coordination. It is the “coordination center” that develops while the puppy is still in its mom’s belly.

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a failure of the cerebellum. That part of the dog’s brain can remain underdeveloped, severely affecting the dog’s ability to run and walk. This condition can range from being barely visible to very severe.

doodle playing

How will cerebellar hypoplasia affect dogs?

We already said cerebellar hypoplasia will affect the dog’s coordination, but that doesn’t explain it well. The first thing you should know is that there are stages of cerebellum development. The severity of cerebellar hypoplasia will depend on when the development stops.

Some forms of this condition will be extremely mild and barely noticeable. However, severe forms of cerebellar hypoplasia will cause the dog’s movements to be highly uncoordinated. That means the dog will have high steps, uncoordinated eye movement, head bobbing, and general clumsiness.

How can I know if my dog has cerebellar hypoplasia?

If your dog has a mild form of cerebellar hypoplasia, you might miss it. Having an odd step every now and again or some head bobbing can be accredited to usual dog behavior. Dogs can do that while playing or sniffing around. However, severe forms of the conditions are pretty hard to miss. Most dog owners will not know precisely what’s wrong with their dog but will notice they cannot properly move. This condition will start when the dog is still a puppy, so these symptoms will follow them their whole life. The best way to make sure your dog has cerebellar hypoplasia is to get a confirmation from your vet.

poodle on the ground

Symptoms of cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs

Conditions such as cerebellar hypoplasia can come with serious symptoms. Of course, the severity of those symptoms is directly connected to the development of the dog’s cerebellum, which means the vet should know them before you do. Puppies with cerebellar hypoplasia are rarely sold, and their breeders will have vets look at them very closely. Here are the most common symptoms of cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs;

  • General clumsiness
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Poor judgment of distance
  • Frequent falling
  • General head bobbing
  • Intention tremors
  • Hyper-reflexion
  • Different sized pupils
  • Overstepping while walking

Most of these symptoms should be noticed by the time the puppy is 6 weeks old. The breeder will notice them when the puppy starts exploring the world around them.

What causes it?

We already mentioned that the main reason for cerebellar hypoplasia is the underdevelopment of the dog’s cerebellum. However, several factors can cause it. The first reason for this condition is genetic. All dog breeds can have it, but most cases are seen in Bull Terrier breeds, Chow Chows, Airedale Terriers, and Boston Terriers.

puppy running

Cerebellar hypoplasia is also linked to outside factors that can affect pregnant dogs. Some of the possible causes are poor nutrition, tick-borne diseases (like Lyme disease), migration of intestinal parasites into the developing puppy’s brain, canine distemper, canine herpesvirus, fungal infections, exposure to toxins, and trauma. These things can affect the puppy’s cerebellum development.

How is it diagnosed?

In many cases, vets can make an accurate diagnosis by simply analyzing clinical symptoms. The owner should describe the dog’s behavior at home, and based on that, plus what the vet sees, they can make an accurate diagnosis. However, some conditions can mimic cerebellar hypoplasia, like strychnine toxicity, unregulated diabetes, or thyroid hormone deficiency; the vet might order a few tests simply to rule them out.

How is it treated?

Puppies are born with cerebellar hypoplasia, which is caused by underdeveloped cerebellum. This condition cannot be treated, cured, or reversed. The only form of “treatment” is adapting to life with a special-needs pet. Your dog will need your help with all their daily tasks, so make sure you think hard before getting a dog with cerebellar hypoplasia.

What is the prognosis for dogs with cerebellar hypoplasia?

The prognosis is usually very good. The dog’s quality of life can be impacted, but cerebellar hypoplasia is not a reason why a dog can’t live a happy and long life. They will still enjoy everything other dogs enjoy; they will just be slightly clumsier than your average dog.

World Dog Finder team

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