What is Ataxia?

Gait problems, characterized by an uncoordinated movement and loss of balance, is known as ataxia in veterinary terms. A sensory dysfunction, ataxia can display many symptoms including tremors and postural abnormalities. If your dog is losing his balance and coordination, a veterinary visit is crucial.

An unbalanced gait in our pets is most likely secondary to the presence of a lesion. Simply said, ataxia will mean a lesion will be found in areas of the brain, inner ear or spinal cord. The exact cause of the loss of balance will determine the treatment protocol and the likelihood of recovery. Loss of balance can be frightening for your pet, and necessitates calmness and extra care on your part.

Symptoms of Ataxia in Dogs

The extent of the loss of balance can vary from pet to pet. If your canine companion is showing signs of gait difficulties, consult your veterinarian without delay. Symptoms that could accompany the unbalanced gait are listed here.

  • Nausea and vomiting due to equilibrium problems
  • Loss of appetite because of the nausea
  • Head tilt which keeps one ear lower than the other
  • Reduction in hearing abilities
  • Changes in mental state
  • Behavioral differences like a lack of bladder control in the house
  • Abnormal eye movement (up and down or side to side)
  • Loss of limb coordination which could include limb crossover, large steps and a wide stance
  • Staggering, falling, swaying, drifting, and circling
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
Types

Three anatomic regions of the nervous system are involved in unbalanced gait. The types of ataxia associated with the three regions are as follows.

  • Vestibular ataxia
    • This results from a mix up of inner ear messages to the brain regarding balance
    • A loss of balance, unsteadiness, and a strange positioning of the head are characteristic to vestibular disturbances
  • Proprioceptive (sensory) ataxia
    • This form is caused by a compression of the spinal cord
    • Lack of coordination and weakness are signs of the condition
  • Cerebellar ataxia
    • The cerebellum, which is responsible for coordination and movement, is damaged
    • Sudden head movements cause dizziness, and the eyes will move abnormally
    • This condition is sometimes mistaken for a stroke

Causes of Ataxia in Dogs

The cause for the ataxia will be determined by pinpointing the location of the lesion. Some of the causes of unbalanced gait are listed here.

  • Vestibular ataxia
    • Immune-related illnesses
    • Cancer
    • Trauma to the ear
    • Poisoning
    • Fungal infection
    • Idiopathic (unknown)
  • Proprioceptive (sensory) ataxia
    • Cysts
    • Nerve degeneration
    • Blood clot
    • Cancer
    • Infection
    • Trauma
  • Cerebellar ataxia
    • Cell degeneration
    • Hereditary factors
    • Congenital (present at birth)
    • Brain tumor
    • Infection

Diagnosis of Ataxia in Dogs

The protocol for diagnosing ataxia can be extensive. When you bring your beloved canine companion to the veterinarian, be prepared to list every symptom or behavioral change you have observed. Because the loss of balance, dizziness, and related symptoms can cause your dog to become frightened, do your best to exhibit a sense of calm during the examination. This demeanor could carry over to your pet, allowing him to relax while being examined.

Your veterinary team will assess your dog’s gait, providing assistance to him if needed when walking or standing. The gait of your dog can tell the experienced eye of your veterinarian much about what is happening in relation to the health of your pet. The analysis will involve watching your pet walk, and possibly observing him attempting stairs, all the while keeping the safety of your dog paramount.

The physical examination will also include neurological, reflex, and limb sensitivity tests. Imaging tests may be done to reach a definitive conclusion.

  • Radiographs, plain and contrast
  • Myelography (dye and x-ray to assess the spinal cord)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (this is the best way to assess ataxia and view the brain)
  • Computed tomography scan

Muscle and nerve biopsies, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis can be done if the uncertainty of the cause is still present. Urine and blood analysis might be considered to rule out infection or disease.

Treatment of Ataxia in Dogs

The treatment plan for ataxia can take many different directions, which will be contingent on the location of lesions present, the severity of the loss of balance, the age of your pet, and the underlying disease factor, if this is the case.

Often, eliminating the underlying cause (through surgery for a tumor, chemotherapy, and radiation for cancer, or medication for an infection for example) will relieve the unbalanced gait and coordination issues. In some cases, though, effects will remain. For instance, your pet could live with a permanent degree of head tilt, or the remnants of a gait abnormality. There are dogs who have a good quality of life, even though they have balance problems.

Hereditary and congenital imbalance conditions have no cure.

Recovery of Ataxia in Dogs

To begin, we must face the reality that some pets who are left with very severe effects from unbalanced gait, or have an ataxia condition that progresses to a state of incapacitation, will be euthanized because they are unable to cope or continue.

Supportive care is the key to a happy, comfortable life for a dog with less severe, yet nonetheless permanent, effects from ataxia. You must maintain a safe environment for your much-loved canine family member. Monitoring your pet at all times when you are home, and keeping his living space free from potential injury (such as blocking access to stairs) will be a necessity. When you leave your dog, alone in the house, confinement to a crate or a safe area will be in his best interest.

A dog with a loss of balance will need a day to day assistance with his needs. Feeding time can be an effort if he has tremors and finds it difficult to eat. Taking him for walks will take longer, and he will require assistance for balance. Medication requirements for nausea and dizziness may become the norm. Even with these changes and others, your dog can continue to be a great family pet with your help, and the advice of your veterinarian.

Cost of Ataxia in Dogs

Ataxia can be an expensive treatment in dogs and can range from $100.00 to $3000.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Dog's ataxia. On average, the national cost of treating ataxia in dogs is $1200.00.

Ataxia in Dogs Treatment Advice

Ataxia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Benny
Maltese
5 Years
Serious condition
0 found this not helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Is 50 mg of Atopica/day an excessive dose for a Maltese mix dog diagnosed with GME? He is also taking 10 mg of prednisone a day too.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
834 Recommendations

The usual dose of Atopica (Cyclosporine) is 5mg/kg per day so a Maltese would usually receive 20mg per day. In cases of Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis a dose of 3 – 6 mg/kg every twelve hours is prescribed; in a Maltese that would be 15 – 24mg/kg every twelve hours giving 50mg per day. The dosage is on the high end of the treatment range for Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

I smoked for 20 years, October 2014 i was diagnosed of Emphysema I may have had it for 6 months to 1 year prior to diagnosis. It started with a dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A chest x-ray confirmed it and I was placed on corticosteroids. my doctor told me there is no permanent cure for the disease, i was given bronchodilators to help me relax my bronchiolar muscles, I managed on with the disease till a friend told me about a herbal clinic from johannesburg who sell herbal medicines to cure all kind of lung related diseases including emphysema, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave positive responses I contacted this herbal clinic via there email and made purchase of the emphysema herbal medicine, i received the herbal medicine through DHL within 5 days, when i received the herbal medicine i applied it as prescribed and was totally cured of emphysema within 7 weeks of usage, the symptoms reduced till i even forgot i had emphysema, i went back to my doctor for diagnosis with spirometry and he confirmed i was free from the disease, contact this herbal clinic via there email healthherbalclinic(at)gmail(dot)com or website on www(dot)healthherbalclinic(dot)weebly(dot)com

I smoked for 20 years, October 2014 i was diagnosed of Emphysema I may have had it for 6 months to 1 year prior to diagnosis. It started with a dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A chest x-ray confirmed it and I was placed on corticosteroids. my doctor told me there is no permanent cure for the disease, i was given bronchodilators to help me relax my bronchiolar muscles, I managed on with the disease till a friend told me about a herbal clinic from johannesburg who sell herbal medicines to cure all kind of lung related diseases including emphysema, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave positive responses I contacted this herbal clinic via there email and made purchase of the emphysema herbal medicine, i received the herbal medicine through DHL within 5 days, when i received the herbal medicine i applied it as prescribed and was totally cured of emphysema within 7 weeks of usage, the symptoms reduced till i even forgot i had emphysema, i went back to my doctor for diagnosis with spirometry and he confirmed i was free from the disease, contact this herbal clinic via there email healthherbalclinic @ gmail . com or website on www . healthherbalclinic . weebly . com

My name are Fred Lucas, 2015 i was diagnosed of Ataxia ,my symptoms are repetitive eye movements,
trouble eating and performing other fine motor tasks,slurred speech, vocal changes,headaches.I saw health forum writing about perfect health herbal medicine,Mr william posted a testimony how perfect health herbal medicine helped him rid of Ataxia,i decided to give it a try,so i contacted them via email; perfecthealthherbalmedicine AT gmail . com and purchased the Ataxia herbal medicine. I received the Ataxia herbal medicine via FEDEX courier service and used as instructed for 90days,so after 90days of usage all my symptoms disappeared,then i went to my family doctor for text ,he confirmed am Ataxia free,all thanks to perfect health herbal medicine...for more information about perfect health herbal medicine check website www . perfecthealthherbal . weebly . com..

I have a maltipoo with all these symptoms. However, the local vets have treated her for seizures and now with steroids. They say after the steroids there is nothing more they can do. Any recommendations as to where I can take her for testing for Ataxia or lesions within?

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Ataxia in Dogs Treatment Experiences

Labrador Retriever
13 Years

Has Symptoms

Loud Breathing
Uncoordination
Loss of Balance

MY 13 year old chocolate lab was up all night pacing and moving throughout house panting and running into things mostly on the right side. She had a diagnosed ear infection in the left ear on Friday and Sunday night she had the difficulty with her balance. She tilts her head to the right, but left is affected, which vet thinks is weird. She was prescribed a motion sickness pill once a day to help with her balance.

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The statements expressed are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified by your local veterinarian.