Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs

Key takeaways

Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs is a congenital condition where the part of the brain responsible for coordination fails to fully develop.

  • Symptoms first become apparent shortly after birth
  • The most typical manifestations are abnormal balance and coordination; affected puppies might struggle to stand, walk and control their movements
  • Cerebellar hypoplasia results when an injury, oxygen deprivation, or infection halts development of the cerebellum either prior to or shortly after birth
  • Common clinical signs include tremors, falling over, abnormal gait, uncoordinated movements, and difficulty in sitting or standing
  • The diagnostic process usually relies on the medical history of the patient and the clinical signs
  • There is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia
  • Some degree of adaptation is expected as the puppy matures, and environmental accommodations help affected puppies live relatively normal lives
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A closer look: Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs

Cerebellar hypoplasia is rare in dogs. The severity varies greatly depending on how much cerebellar development had occurred prior to the injury or infection. There is no known cure for cerebellar hypoplasia. Severe cases are to be considered an emergency and may be a potential cause for fading puppy syndrome. In milder cases, dogs live a long life with only very minor symptoms.

Symptoms of mobility disorders are not unique to cerebellar hypoplasia, and if they appear in a previously healthy adult dog they might be a sign of an emergency.

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Risk factors

Some breeds, such as Chow Chows, Irish Setters, Airedales, Boston Terriers, and Wirehaired Fox Terriers seem to be more predisposed to cerebellar hypoplasia than others.

The severity of the symptoms varies according to how much cerebellar development had already occurred at the time of the infection or injury. If the injury to the cerebellum occurs early in development, the puppy shows profound balance and coordination deficits. When the cerebellum is almost fully developed prior to the infection or injury that halts development, the symptoms are almost non-existent.

Cerebellar development rates vary between individuals, so the severity of the symptoms might be different between puppies in the same litter.

Symptoms might be present at birth or not become evident until up to three weeks after birth.

Affected dogs might develop other cerebral conditions such as hydrocephalus. In these cases, patients might present other symptoms such as blindness and disorientation.

Living with a coordination and balance disorder usually also makes the puppy more prone to injuries.

Possible causes

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a birth defect.

Development of the cerebellum may be halted by:

  • Injury
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Viral infection (such as parvovirus)
  • Other teratogens (toxins, infections, injuries, etc.)
  • In some cases, it may be idiopathic

Main symptoms

Symptoms may not be apparent until the puppy tries to walk or stand for the first time.

Testing and diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually reached through medical history and clinical signs alone. A complete physical examination might be useful to fully evaluate the overall health of an affected puppy.

Steps to Recovery

There is no known treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia. Puppies usually adapt to some degree as they mature.

Providing affected puppies with environmental accommodations may help them live with the disability.

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a permanent birth defect. There is no known treatment but the symptoms do not progress over time.


Vaccination against parvovirus before breeding can be a successful preventive method.

Cerebellar hypoplasia is not a contagious disease.

Is Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Dogs common?

Cerebellar hypoplasia is relatively rare in dogs and more commonly seen in cats.

Typical Treatment

  • No known treatment
  • Environmental adaptations

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