VOSD Vet

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Incoordination of the Legs in Dogs

Hypermetria and Dysmetria in Dogs

In dogs, the lack of coordination in their legs can manifest as hypermetria and dysmetria, which are indicative of issues with the pathways responsible for voluntary movement. Dysmetria refers to the dog’s difficulty in accurately assessing the speed, distance, and strength of its movements, essentially an inability to gauge spatial dimensions. On the other hand, hypermetria involves the dog overreaching or taking exaggerated steps beyond the intended target.

Symptoms and Types

Indications of cerebellar disease that might be evident include:

  • Tilting of the head
  • Swaying of the body
  • Tremors in the body; often intensified during movement
  • Wide stance of the legs
  • Absence of the menace response – the automatic closing of the eyes when a finger is moved towards the eye
  • Uneven size of pupils (anisocoria)
  • Irregular, jerky movements

Causes

The main trigger for spinal or brain injuries resulting in lack of coordination or overreaching of the limbs is often trauma to the brain or back. Lesions affecting the cerebellum, the brain region responsible for coordinating voluntary movements and balance, or the nerves connected to it, are thought to contribute to these symptoms. These lesions can be brought about by strokes or by tumors situated close to these nerves.

Diagnosis

Your vet will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, considering the history of symptoms and any potential incidents that may have precipitated the condition. If there are no other indications of cerebellar disease, it’s crucial to determine whether a high-stepping gait in the front limbs is normal for your dog. Some dogs, particularly small breeds, naturally exhibit a high-stepping gait in their front limbs, so your vet will need to differentiate between what is typical and what might signify an underlying issue. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or ultrasound, is typically carried out to assess potential injuries or damage to the brain and spine, particularly in older animals.

Your vet will evaluate your dog’s reactions and responses to stimuli. One standard test involves assessing the dog’s menace response, an automatic eye response that occurs when a finger is moved towards the eyes. If the dog fails to reflexively close its eyes and withdraw when this is done by the vet, it may indicate a loss of eyesight or neurological dysfunction.

Treatment

If the condition is severe or progressing rapidly, it’s advisable to hospitalize the dog for immediate diagnostic procedures and treatment. In cases of mild or gradual progression, outpatient treatment is typically pursued. Dogs with this condition are usually confined to ensure their safety during the healing process. You’ll need to designate a quiet and comfortable area in your home where your dog can rest undisturbed, away from other pets, active children, and busy areas. Outdoor trips for bathroom breaks should be brief and manageable for the dog during recovery. If necessary, cage rest may be recommended for a short period to prevent excessive movement.

It’s important not to leave the dog alone for prolonged periods during this stressful time. Your presence and comfort will aid in the dog’s healing process.

Living and Management

Regular neurological examinations are advised to track your dog’s progress over time.

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