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Degeneration of the Cerebellum of the Brain in Dogs

Cerebellar Degeneration in Dogs

Cerebellar degeneration is a neurological condition that impacts dogs, primarily affecting a specific region of their brain called the cerebellum. This disease leads to the deterioration of cells within the cerebellum, resulting in various neurological symptoms in affected dogs.

Symptoms and Types

The signs and types of cerebellar degeneration in dogs encompass:

  • Abnormal gait, often resembling a goose-step involving the front legs
  • Broad-based stance
  • Swaying
  • Muscle tremors, particularly noticeable during activities like eating
  • Intact vision without a menace reflex
  • Head tilt
  • Loss of coordination (vestibular ataxia)
  • Normal mental faculties
  • Abnormal posturing characterized by a backward head, rigid front legs, and flexed hind legs (decerebellate posture)
  • The progression of symptoms may occur variably.


Cerebellar degeneration in dogs can result from infection with canine herpesvirus either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Certain dog breeds, such as Irish setters, wire-haired fox terriers, Samoyeds, chow chows, rough-coated collies, border collies, bullmastiffs, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Kerry blue terriers, Finnish harriers, Bern running dogs, English pointers, Gordon setters, Brittany spaniels, American Staffordshire terriers, and English bulldogs, may have a genetic predisposition to this condition.


Diagnosis of cerebellar degeneration in dogs typically involves several approaches:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can indicate a cerebellum that is smaller than normal.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis may present normal or abnormal findings, depending on the specific cause.
  • Biopsy of the cerebellum is the definitive method for diagnosis.
  • Routine blood and urine tests may be required to eliminate other diseases that exhibit similar symptoms.


While there is no cure for cerebellar degeneration in dogs, certain medications like amantadine, buspirone, co-enzyme Q10, and acetyl-L-carnitine have demonstrated potential in managing the condition.

Living and Management

Living and managing a dog with cerebellar degeneration requires careful attention to ensure their safety and well-being:

  • Due to poor coordination and decision-making abilities, limit the dog’s activity to safe areas within the household to prevent injuries. Avoid exposing the dog to stairs, sharp objects, swimming pools, and other potential hazards.
  • Dogs with cerebellar degeneration may need assistance with eating due to their loss of coordination, although they can still consume a regular diet. Providing physical support during meal times may be necessary.
  • Nursing care to maintain cleanliness and hygiene, particularly regarding urine and feces, may be essential for the dog’s comfort and health.
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