Neurological disorders in poodles

Updated November 21, 2016

Poodles are susceptible to a number of different neurological disorders that affect their moods, behaviours and motor skills. Some of these disorders are relatively harmless and are controlled with medication, but others cause degeneration of the brain and are eventually fatal. A veterinarian can diagnose the disorder and give treatment advice.

White Shaker Syndrome

White shaker syndrome is a mysterious neurological disorder primarily affecting small dogs that have white coats. Miniature and toy white poodles are often affected by this malady, but the Maltese, Bichon Frise and West Highland white terrier breeds are commonly affected as well. According to Pet Place, dogs with this disorder develop constant tremors when they are between 1 and 6 years old. The trembling intensifies if the dog is stressed out or overexcited. The shaking can be so severe during these periods that the dog has difficulty moving around from place to place. There is no specific test to identify white shaker syndrome. Most veterinarians rule out all other symptoms for the tremors before identifying a dog as positively having this disorder. White shaker syndrome is treated with glucosteroid medications.

Cerebellar Abiotrophy

Cerebellar abiotrophy is a neurological disorder caused by deterioration of the brain cells that control motor skills and coordination. This disease is frequently seen in miniature poodle puppies between the ages of 4 and 12 weeks old. Poodles tend to develop a particular type of the disorder called cerebellar and extrapyramidal nuclear abiotrophy, in which cells in other areas of the brain also deteriorate. According to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database, puppies with this disorder have a stiff gait or seem to be unaware where their feet are in space. They also have problems with their balance, and sometimes act confused or disoriented. The symptoms progress rapidly within weeks or months of onset. The disease is degenerative and ultimately fatal, and the website indicates that many pet owners choose to euthanize their dogs before the symptoms become too severe.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

The Poodle Club of America indicates that idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited seizure disorder. It is called idiopathic because there are no other reasons for the seizures such as head injuries, tumours or poisoning. Marion Mitchell, writer for the Canine Epilepsy website, explains that seizures occur in when nerve signals from the brain misfire. She claims that they are the symptom of a neurological malfunction. Petit mal seizures are barely noticeable, but grand mal seizures are frightening.

A dog goes through several stages during a grand mal seizure. The first is called prodome. It will act out of sorts or demonstrate uncharacteristic behaviour. The aural stage follows. The dog becomes nervous, whiny or needy. The actual seizure follows the aural stage. This part is called the ictus. The dog falls to the floor and goes into a period of convulsions that usually last around 45 seconds. Finally, the post-ictal stage leaves the animal feeling nervous, out of sorts and hungry. Dogs with epilepsy are treated with phenobarbitol to control the seizures.

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