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Vet help
Vet help, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 2736
Experience:  12 yrs experience as a small animal veterinarian; 21 yrs exp. in the animal care field
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can ataxia in dogs be treated with b vitamins at what strength

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can ataxia in dogs be treated with b vitamins?
at what strength for a 7 lb Shih Tzu?

Thank you for your post. I'd like to try to help but will need some additional information first.


When did Squeaki develop the ataxia?


Are all four limbs affected or just the rear?


Does she exhibit head tremors or intention tremors (head shaking when trying to eat/drink or focus on something)?


When sitting up, does she sway back and forth, or are the signs absent?


Has your vet perfomed a physical exam or any diagnostic testing? If so, what were the results?


The additional information will be most helpful in allowing us to answer your question more completely.


Customer: replied 7 years ago.

she started getting very noticeable within the last 3 months.


All 4 limbs are affected but the rear legs are worse


I haven't noticed head tremors yet


I don't think she sways when sitting normally

I haven't tried to get her siitting up on her hind quarters.


what he did was hold her dangling and try to get her to place her feet on the table.

She acts like she doesn't feel the touch of the table and doesn't react at all. Front feet and back feet



In general, there are 3 different types of ataxia. Since you are not seeing head tremors, intention tremors, or a truncal sway, it is less likely that a vestibular or cerebellar ataxia is the cause of Squeaki's problem.

This means that it is probably a sensory or proprioceptive ataxia. In this condition, the spinal cord is being compressed and the nerve signals sent from the spinal cord are not reaching the limbs as they should. The result of the placing exercise that your vet performed is consistent with this type of ataxia. Proprioceptive deficits (inability to know where the limbs are in space due to disruption of nerve signals from the peripheral nerves in the limbs to the spinal cord) are one of the earliest signs we see with progressive compression of the spinal cord. Weakness of the limbs may also be seen.

Since all 4 legs are affected, the problem is most likely involving the cervical vertebrae (the ones higher up in her neck, before the start of the rib cage).


Possible causes of Squeaki's problem include:

1. Hemivertebrae- these are abnormally shaped vertebral bodies that can result in kyphosis (dorsal deviation of the spinal column) or lordosis (ventral deviation of the spinal column). These can often be detected with careful palpation of the spinal column. The abnormal deviation can cause compression of the spinal cord, thereby impeding nerve signals. Hemivertebrae are most common in chondrodysplastic breeds (smoosh- faced, twisty legged dogs such as your Shih-Tzu). These dogs can start off normally, then as they are developing/growing the hemivertebrae causes a progressive compression of the cord and subsequent neurologic signs.


2. Intervertebral disk disease- a disk between the vertebrae butts up into the spinal column and causes inflammation of the spinal cord. This is a condition more commonly seen in dogs with elongated backs; chondrodystrophic breeds like Shih Tzus are also pre-disposed.


3. Atlanto-axial subluxation- absence or underdevelopment of the dens, a structure on the 2nd cervical vertebra, causes instability between the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae resulting in spinal cord compression. More common in small breed dogs.


4. Infectious problems such as discospondylitis or myelitis. These animals are typically sick, however. Fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, and significant pain are common signs. If Squeaki is not experiencing this, it would be less likely in her case.


5. Tumors- pretty rare overall, and very rare in young dogs.


As to your question, B vitamins won't hurt, but unfortunately I don't think they are going to help in this case.

Your very best bet is to be referred to a veterinary radiologist who can perform a myelogram. This involves injecting dye into the spinal column to outline the area of compression of the spinal cord. Surgical correction of the problem is the best fix.

Plain radiographs, that can be done at your local vet, would help to rule out abnormally shaped vertebrae, lordosis or kyphosis.


I hope this information was helpful and that you are able to find help for Squeaki.


Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Could it have been caused by an injury as other dogs roughing her up. When I noticed there was a problem, a couple of more aggressive dogs were picking on her. I no longer let her out with any dogs except very laid back individuals.

Yes, trauma can cause instability of an intervertebral disk or exacerbate an existing issue in the cervical spine, such as a disk problem or atlanto-axial subluxation.


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