The causes of ataxia in dogs are numerous. This condition occurs when the animal’s body is out of balance. The condition is usually indicated by a general lack of coordination and an inability to stand or walk effectively. Pet insurance can help cover the costs of treatments for ataxia and other conditions that your pet may suffer from throughout their lifetime.
There are 3 different clinical types of this condition including,cerebellar, sensory, and vestibular. Each type of ataxia will be manifested by impaired coordination when walking or standing. Changes in the dog’s neck and head movement are characteristic of cerebellar and vestibular ataxia.
The possibility that your dog has ataxia is evidenced in a variety of ways. Your dog’s limbs may become weak. This symptom can be seen in all or just one or two limbs. Sometimes it is seen only on one side of the body or just in the hind legs. Other signs include tilting the head back and forth and abnormal eye movements.
Other indications are when your pet has difficulty in walking in a controlled and steady manner. When a dog has ataxia their hearing may be impaired. Dogs suffering from this condition may become lethargic and behave in unusual ways.
The word ataxia has Greek origins and means “without order”; in the case of pets it refers to the coordination of movement. Dogs that have cerebellar ataxia usually have a drunken gait or they will lift their paws way off the ground when walking. “Goose stepping” is the name given to this kind of action. Stumbling or dizziness can result from any sort of quick movement.
There can be an increase from mild to severe in some forms of inherited ataxia. It depends on the degree of ataxia a dog has; in most cases dogs are mildly affected and can live normal lives. There seems to be an increased likelihood of inherited ataxia amongst Staffordshire and Jack Russell terriers. There are all types of studies and research being done to better understand why some breeds seem to be affected more than others.
Trauma, toxins or viruses can also be the cause of cerebellar ataxia in dogs. That part of the brain that controls balance – the cerebellum – is affected by this type of ataxia. In the case of vestibular ataxia it affects the inner ear and the alignment of a dog’s body and head. Not standing straight and holding the head at an angle are typical signs. The spinal cord and thus the position of the dog’s legs are affected by sensory ataxia. Some signs of this type are the dog crossing its legs when walking or they may walk on the back of their paws.
The only way to tell for sure if your pet has any type of ataxia is to have them thoroughly examined by your vet. The reason for the ataxia will be determined by a wide range of tests, the cost of which should be covered by a good pet insurance policy. Finding out why these signs are being displayed is imperative. There are other possible reasons for the symptoms such as a reaction to medication or an ear infection.
Your vet will want to know a complete history of your pet including any other health problems and when the symptoms first started. Your vet will ask you about anything unusual that happened before the symptoms began such as an injury or accident. The vet might run appropriate imaging tests in addition to the usual urine and blood tests.
Dogs with ataxia can be treated on an outpatient basis in most cases unless the condition is severe. Your vet’s permission must be obtained before any medication is given to your pet. The underlying condition can be complicated or hidden if you do this. Once the vet’s examination of your pet is finished, the most suitable treatment can be recommended. Once the exact type of ataxia has been established and other possible causes such as an ear infection or reaction to medication have been eliminated, the vet can decide on the appropriate treatment.
Puppies, of any breed, are just as vulnerable to ataxia as are older dogs. Good health care cover will give you the peace of mind that any illness contracted by your dog will not cost you a fortune. In a recent claim settlement, one pet insurance customer was happy that she had taken the time to compare pet insurance policies before opting for the cheapest plan. Her Rottweiler, Alfie, had over £2000 spent on his treatment for ataxia. Good dog insurance will give you peace of mind that you will be able to provide the best treatment for your dog if they ever develop such a condition.