Written by Anna Hollisey
Ataxia is a condition which causes dogs to lose their sense of coordination. They are sometimes unable to stand confidently or walk normally; you may notice them swaying or leaning to one side. If you’ve noticed the first signs of this condition, read on to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment of ataxia in dogs.
There is a huge list of causes for this condition, so it’s important to get a veterinary diagnosis: some can be treated more effectively than others. Broadly speaking, there are three different types of ataxia in dogs.
In most cases, the first symptom you’re likely to notice is unsteadiness. Dogs become unsteady and may stand with their legs wide apart, tilt their heads, or even fall to one side.
Ataxia can be severe or mild. Watch out for these symptoms – it’s always worth referring any new behavior to your vet.
It’s important that your vet identifies the cause of the ataxia in your dog. This will begin with a thorough physical examination and neurological tests.
Treatment will depend on the root cause. If, for example, there is a lesion in your dog’s brain, surgery will sometimes be recommended. Sometimes an inner ear infection causes vestibular ataxia, and this can be treated with an antibiotic. In some cases (‘old dog vestibular disease’), ataxia will worsen with age and might require pain management.
At home, you can help to make your dog more comfortable:
In many cases, Ataxia isn’t preventable. But, to prevent vestibular ataxia, you can take extra care with your dog’s ears. Prevent unnecessary ear infection by keeping them clean and checked. If your dog loves to swim, dry them gently – bacteria loves warm, damp conditions.