What is Brain Tissue Underdevelopment?
Movement control and coordination are controlled by the part of the brain called the cerebellum. Brain tissue underdevelopment in dogs, or Cerebellar Hypoplasia, occurs when this part of the brain does not fully grow and mature prior to the birth of the dog. It is not as common in dogs as it is in kittens, but this condition does occur in canines and is known to be inherited.
This condition can be mild to severe. Affected puppies behave quite normally with no signs of mental abnormalities and only show signs in terms of movement and balance. While this condition can be debilitating to some puppies into adulthood, the life span and prognosis are good with patient, supportive care by you, the loving owner.
Cerebellar hypoplasia is a non-progressive, inherited disease, in which the cerebellum of the brain is underdeveloped in utero. It begins to become evident and show signs shortly after birth and is breed-specific.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Dogs
Clinical signs of this disease occur in puppies after birth. Symptoms can begin within just two weeks postpartum or a few months after they are born. This disease does have definite symptoms from the onset and tends to peak and remain the same throughout their lives. Symptoms include:
- Inability to balance
- Feet atypically spread apart
- Stiff gait
- High-step gait
- Lack of awareness of the position of the feet
- Head tremors
- Body tremors
This disorder is inherited and breed-specific, although rare, in dogs. Breeds that are more affected than others are the Airedale Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Cairn Terrier, Great Dane, and the Chow Chow. It can also occur as a symptom to specific underlying disorders such as:
- Arachnoid cysts
- Cerebellar cell degeneration (Purkinje)
- Dandy-Walker syndrome
- Cerebellar abiotrophy
- Parvovirus (intrauterine)
- Neuroaxonal dystrophy
- Chiari malformations
Causes of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Dogs
Research is still being conducted on the exact cause of the disease in dogs, and studies pinpoint the causes to likely include:
- Intrauterine Parvovirus
- Genetics (autosomal-recessive)
- Breed disposition
- Infection in the body or brain
Diagnosis of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Dogs
A veterinarian visit is necessary if your puppy shows any clinical signs of balance and movement difficulties. The veterinarian will ask about the dog’s history, including birth and breeding information, and will need to know when the symptoms began.
Once your veterinarian receives the background information necessary, he will perform a series of tests. These tests will include a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, blood work, electrolyte panel, and any other testing in which he feels necessary, especially to rule out any differential diagnosis.
The veterinarian will come to the conclusion of the diagnosis by putting all of the information together, such as breed, clinical signs, and the onset of the clinical signs. He may perform an imaging test of the brain to reach a more conclusive diagnosis, such as an MRI; however, veterinarians are likely to diagnose the dog based on the prior information and testing.
Treatment of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Dogs
This disease is not progressive in manner, and, at this time, there is no treatment.
Recovery of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Dogs
In terms of recovery, if your canine has been diagnosed with brain tissue underdevelopment, there is no recovery point. This disease will not progress and symptoms will remain the same over time. In order to manage the disease, the veterinarian will give you suggestions on how to help your dog with day-to-day movement and balance.
You will need to keep a watchful eye over your companion and keep him out of harm’s way in terms of obstacles in the home, climbing, and any free movements and play. With supportive care by you, your dog will be kept safe and can live a normal life-span.
Every dog is different, and if your dog shows signs of severe cerebellar hypoplasia, you will need to discuss any options you may have with your veterinarian. Dogs with a severe case may have difficulty or be unable to perform normal daily functions, such as being house-trained or normal walking from one point to another.