Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats - Page 1

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Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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The cerebellum is a portion of the brain. Cerebellar hypoplasia is the incomplete development of the cerebellum. This can be caused by an inherited disease or an infectious, toxic or nutritional problem.

This disease is most common in young developing kittens – generally under 6 weeks of age. Signs become visible as the kitten begins to try to walk.

The most common cause in cats is an infection with the panleukopenia virus. The virus is most commonly spread from the queen in uterus before the kitten is born or shortly after birth. The virus affects selected fast growing cells which is often the cerebellum.

What to Watch For

Signs will vary with severity and may improve slightly as a pet tries to overcome its deficiencies.

  • Head bobbing
  • The trunk of the body may seem unsteady or sway
  • Exaggerated movements – the pet may lift the feet high when taking steps
  • Limb tremors - Tremors are rhythmic, to and fro involuntary movements that persist through the waking state
  • Wide based stance
  • Walk may appear "spastic"
  • Incoordination – may fall over
  • Accentuated movements while trying to eat or walk (intention tremors)


    The diagnosis is sometimes made based on the age, clinical signs and potential viral exposure in cats.

    However, additional tests may be preformed to look or other possible causes.

  • A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all cases. The results are generally normal with this disease. It is important to rule out metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or kidney disease.

  • If other possible diagnosis such are being considered - other tests such as chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may be recommended. They are most often within normal limits. A MRI may be recommended to have some visualization of the brain to evaluate for this and other possible abnormalities.


    There is no treatment for this disease. Therapy is supportive.

    Home Care

    Avoid stairs and climbing or other activities that may allow your pet to hurt himself based on his level of function. Cats should be indoor-only with no ability to "escape".

    Severely affected pets that are unable to eat, walk or groom may be euthanized. Diagnosis can be confirmed on necropsy.

    Only administer drugs and medication as directed by your veterinarian.


    Some pets are functional and make acceptable pets. The deficits are generally permanent but non-progressive. Some symptoms may appear to improve as the pet adapts to their abilities. Their life span is normal.

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