Cerebellar hypoplasia is one of those medical conditions where if you’ve ever seen a dog with it, you’re not likely to forget what it looks like for the rest of your life. You see, Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a disease (or a medical condition) in which an affected dog’s brain fails to develop normally in utero leaving them with an underdeveloped or smaller-than-normal cerebellum, which is terrible!
Because the cerebellum is a part of the brain (located in the brainstem) responsible for helping the body coordinate movement from impulses in the brain to precise and fine-tuned movements in the body.
Which is why…
In cerebellar hypoplasia cases, affected dogs (or cats) will demonstrate a variety of symptoms or clinical signs (many of which will closely resemble another neurological disorder known as Dandy-Walker syndrome (DWS) or cerebellar vermian hypoplasia, which will likely include one or all of the following:
- An abnormal walk or gait,
- A broad stance,
- Difficulty standing or remaining still,
- Muscle tremors or “shakes”
- Involuntary tremors (as opposed to intention tremors),
- Vestibular ataxia, or poor coordination skills,
- Abnormal posturing,
Causes of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs
While it is often difficult to determine the exact cause of why some puppies (or kittens) may suffer from this disease, data does seem to indicate that it may be linked to:
- Genetic traits found in certain dog breeds.
- Breeds such as:
- Certain infections a pregnant mother may contract while her puppies are in utero.
- Reactions to vaccinations given to a pregnant dog (Always inform your veterinarian that your dog may be pregnant before they receive any medications).
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins while in utero.
- As well as nutritional deficiencies suffered by the mother while pregnant.
Diagnosing cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs or cats
Most dogs or cats won’t be diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia immediately. Most puppies or kittens won’t appear ill until several weeks after they’re born when they walk and crawl independently.
This is why it will become evident that there is a problem simply because the affected animals will begin having difficulty standing, walking and generally keeping up with their siblings.
Your veterinarian will likely want to perform a neurological examination of your pet to catalog all of their clinical symptoms so that they’ll have a better opportunity to rule out any other possible causes for your pet’s condition.
This will be done primarily for two reasons:
- First, your vet will want to know your pet’s long-term prognosis.
- And second, your vet will likely want to avoid ordering a MIR, which is expensive and the only definitive way to diagnose cerebral hypoplasia in a living patient.
This is usually when…
We like to remind folks that we aren’t medical professionals and are certainly not veterinarians. We are all passionate about animals and only want to help people do what’s best for their pets. So… if you believe that you may have a puppy or a kitten suffering from cerebellar hypoplasia or any medical condition for the matter… QUIT READING THIS ARTICLE and take your furry little companion to your local vet and have them checked out!
Okay, good; now let’s get back to our discussion and talk about what treatment options might be available for you and your pet if they have cerebellar hypoplasia.
Treatment of cerebellar hypoplasia
First, there isn’t much that one can do to “cure” an animal diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia. This is a disease where once the damage is done, it’s done.
That said, your vet may be able to prescribe medications that might help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with having cerebellar hypoplasia, and it’s entirely possible that in a “loving” and “caring” environment your pet may be able to make improvements on their own.
New parents of a pet with cerebellar hypoplasia need to understand that while their pet may have “issues” they aren’t sick, weak or in pain, they’re just a bit clumsy!
It’s also important to understand that their condition is not contagious and depending on the actual severity of their situation, they may be able to live a completely normal, be that a bit clumsy life!
You, as their owner, make efforts to modify your home into a safer environment for them by:
- Blocking any staircases you may have in your home,
- Keep other potentially aggressive animals away,
- And possibly choosing feeding bowls that will accommodate your pet’s needs based on their severe tremors.
For those of you who may just be learning that your dog or cat may have cerebellar hypoplasia and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, we would encourage you to look at some of the videos on YouTube.
In these videos, you’ll see that cerebellar hypoplasia comes in all shapes and sizes. In most of the videos you’ll find, we think you’ll see that most of the folks behind the camera seem to enjoy being a proud parent to one of these truly unique animals.
And who knows, maybe you will too!