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Loss of Coordination (Ataxia) in dogs and cats

Description
Ataxia is a sign of problems in the nervous system that produces wobbliness of the limbs, head, or trunk. The dog or cat has an unsteady, "drunken" gait and an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements. Ataxia may be one of the first signs of nervous system disease.





Back Trauma with defect proprioceptive problems

Additional information


A sign of sensory dysfunction that produces wobbliness or incoordination of the limbs, head, or trunk. For clinical purposes, ataxia is divided into three types: sensory (proprioceptive), vestibular, and cerebellar. All three produce changes in limb coordination, but vestibular and cerebellar ataxia also produce changes in head and neck movements.

Pathophysiology
The brain receives information about position (proprioception or position sense) of the limbs, head, and trunk. Proprioceptive pathways in the spinal cord (ie, fasciculus gracilis, fasciculus cuneatus, and spinocerebellar tracts) relay limb and trunk position to the brain. When the spinal cord is slowly compressed, proprioceptive deficits (ataxia) are usually the first signs observed, because these pathways are located more superficially in the white matter and their larger-sized axons are more susceptible to compression than other tracts. Because of the early concomitant upper motor neuron involvement, sensory ataxia is generally accompanied by weakness, although this is not always obvious in the early course of the disease. Changes in head and neck position are relayed through the vestibulocochlear nerve to the brainstem. Diseases that affect the vestibular receptors or the nerve in the inner ear, or the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem, lead to various degrees of disequilibrium with ensuing vestibular ataxia. The animal leans, tips, falls, or even rolls toward the side of the lesion. This ataxia is accompanied by a head tilt. The cerebellum regulates, coordinates, smooths motor activity. In patients with cerebellar ataxia, the proprioception is normal, because the ascending proprioceptive pathways to the cortex are intact. Weakness is not characteristic, because the upper motor neurons are also intact. The ataxia is represented by an inadequacy in the performance of motor activity, with strength preservation and an absence of proprioceptive deficits.

Systems Affected
Nervous Specifically the spinal cord (and brainstem), cerebellum, and vestibular system.
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