Spinocerebellar or Hereditary Ataxia

This disease affects the cerebellum which, together with the vestibular system, control coordination of movement. Several diseases can affect these areas of the brain and produce similar signs. However, the order and rate of symptoms are characteristic of the disease. Initially, subtle signs of clumsiness and an occasional sway of the body may be noticed. As the disease progresses, the clumsiness becomes more pronounced, where the affected dog easily loses his balance and falls over. Additional signs may be seen in the eyes, where sudden movements of the head can cause rapid flicking of the eyes, either from side to side or round in circles. With time, the affected dog has more difficulty walking due to a lack of coordination in the legs and weight loss may also be observed. Current research indicates that this is a hereditary disorder and most likely by an autosomal recessive trait.

Hereditary Ataxia has become a major concern in the American Staffordshire Terrier breed. Evidence suggests that the gene which causes the disorder is widely distributed in the breeding population of AmStaffs. The onset of symptoms generally occur in dogs from two to eight years of age and, at this time, there is no diagnostic test available to confirm the presence of the disease other than by autopsy.

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Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.