Ataxia in Dogs

Ataxia is a condition that affects your dog’s nervous system. It causes uncoordinated movements and loss of balance, which can make it difficult for your dog to walk and perform everyday activities. The most common cause of ataxia in dogs is idiopathic, meaning we don’t know what caused it. While some cases are severe enough to be considered fatal, many dogs with ataxia live normal lives, especially if they receive early treatment.

What is ataxia?

Ataxia is a neurological condition that causes the dog to have trouble walking. It can be caused by many different diseases and conditions, such as brain tumors and some types of spinal cord diseases.

Ataxia is not the same as a seizure or stroke, even though it sometimes has similar symptoms. A seizure is an involuntary change in the way your dog’s muscles work that causes muscle spasms, twitching, and loss of consciousness. A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of your dog’s brain stops (usually because of a blood clot), which can result in paralysis on one side of his body or even death if he doesn’t receive treatment right away.

Types of Ataxia in Dogs

The most common form of ataxia, which affects about half of all dogs with this disease, is called central ataxia. Central ataxia is a result of an injury or disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. This can be extremely debilitating as it disrupts motor function and mobility in your dog.

Non-progressive forms of ataxia are much less common than progressive ones, but they are still important to understand if you want to help your pet live comfortably with this condition. Non-progressive forms of this disease include focal (single body parts) or multifocal (multiple body parts). These types of diseases affect only certain areas within the body and may not necessarily worsen over time. This means that while they may cause motor dysfunction now and then, they won’t get worse over time unless another problem occurs such as surgery or another medical issue unrelated specifically to ataxia itself affecting those same areas again.”

Is There a Cure for Ataxia?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ataxia. The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms and help your dog live as comfortable a life as possible. Depending on the location and type of neurons affected, this may include mobility, balance and pain management. If you’re seeking treatment for your dog with ataxia, it’s important that you discuss with your vet how best to manage symptoms in order to improve quality of life.

Treatment for Ataxia in Dogs

  • Physical therapy: Some dogs have benefited from physical therapy. Massage or acupuncture may also help.
  • Rehabilitation: If your dog has ataxia, he or she may benefit from rehabilitation. Your veterinarian can recommend a certified vet rehab specialist to help with this process.
  • Nutritional therapy: A vet nutritionist can help you create a diet for your dog that will support his or her condition and promote healing of their muscles and nerves.
  • Medication: Anti-inflammatories such as prednisone and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are sometimes prescribed for dogs with degenerative myelopathy.

Prognosis for Dogs with Ataxia

As the name suggests, ataxia is a progressive disease. The first symptoms of ataxia may appear when your dog is young, but it can also develop in older dogs. The neurological condition will eventually worsen over time and affect your dog’s mobility and balance as he ages.

Your veterinarian can diagnose canine ataxia based on symptoms such as:

  • A loss of control over his limbs or inability to coordinate them properly
  • Staggering around instead of walking normally
  • Some dogs may also have difficulty with other physical movements, such as jumping up onto furniture or balancing while sitting


It’s important to note that the effects of ataxia vary from dog to dog, and in some cases, your pet’s symptoms may be milder or more severe. If you notice any signs of this condition in your dog, consult with your vet immediately to ensure proper treatment options are being followed up on.