The cerebellum is the part of the brain in your dog that controls movement and coordination. The cells in the cerebellum mature normally before birth. In rare cases, some of these and other cells in the brain begin to deteriorate, causing poor coordination and lack of balance, resulting in the Cerebellar Abiotrophy. According to upei.ca, it is suspected that this condition is inherited and more prone in certain breeds of dogs.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a genetic neurological disease which develops when the neurons of the Purkinje cells that are located in the cerebellum begin to die off. These cells are critical to the brain, controlling balance and coordination in your dog. Without these cells, your dog loses all sense of space and distance, making it difficult to control movement. These Purkinje cells begin to die off shortly after birth, usually with visible signs of the disease by age of six months. Exact cause is not known but thought to be due to an inherent metabolic defect.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy has been diagnosed in the Kerry blue terrier and the Gordon Setters. In some breeds, only the sex-linked gene is responsible such as the male breeds of the English Pointers. Certain breeds can show signs as early as three to four weeks old, such as the Miniature Poodle, Beagle and Rough Collie. By six to 16 weeks old, the Labrador retriever and Border collie may show their first symptoms of the disease. There are actually a small number of dog breeds that show no symptoms until adulthood or well into middle-age, such as the Brittany spaniel, Old English sheepdog and the Gordon setter. This disease can affect other breeds as well, as this list is not all inclusive. This is a rare neurological disease that can affect most any breed of dog.
According to aquaticcommunity.com, your dog may become clumsy, lose balance, have an awkward gait and wide-based stance. There may also be signs of tremors in any or all parts of the body, have difficulty climbing stairs and may not even be able to stand up. As the disease gets progressively worse, your dog will still be mentally alert though other parts of the brain can be affected, leading to confusion and behavior changes as well.
This condition is rare. There are other conditions with similar type symptoms so your veterinarian will perform special tests to rule out any other disorder. He will do diagnostic tests though the only definitive diagnosis can be made by brain biopsy or on post-mortem. Your vet may perform an MRI, but with this condition, the cerebellum can appear very normal. Any testing done may not show the actual abnormalities that are witnessed through the actual symptoms.
As stated on gopetsamerica.com, this brain disorder unfortunately has no known cure or treatment. Your veterinarian will advise as to what you can do to provide the best quality of life that may be left for your dog. Life expectancy depends on the progression of the disorder. If your dog fails to be functioning normally, your veterinarian may advise that it is best to humanely euthanize your dog and end his discomfort.
Any affected dogs should not be bred, which includes the parents of an affected dog or any of the siblings. The disorder will be passed on to other litters.