in the Scottish Terrier
A newly described
disorder in the
Cerebellar Abiotrophy ... what is it?
Cerebellar abiotrophy (CA) is a degenerative disease caused by a premature
loss of brain cells in the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for
coordinating movement. This disorder has recently been found to affect Scottish
Terriers. Dogs who have it develop "ataxia," in other words, they slowly lose the ability
to control their smooth, voluntary muscular movements.
CA is caused by a defective autosomal recessive gene. When a puppy inherits two
copies of the gene, one from each parent, he or she is affected and will eventually lose
the ability to move in a normal manner. Parents who produce the disease are known
as obligate carriers.
Symptoms of CA are variable in each individual. They include clumsiness, an unsteady
gait or a loose and wobbly rear end. Some dogs develop a wide-based stance in the
rear legs to aid in balance. Abnormal movement of the front legs can also be seen,
such as soldier-like marching or a high-stepping gait (prancing). Affected dogs may
eventually have difficulty with stairs, trip or fall occasionally and possibly bang their chin.
They will exhibit uncoordinated movements that never disappear once they begin at
approximately 6 months of age. Some owners have reported signs very early
(several weeks of age) and some haven't recognized symptoms in mildy affected
dogs until a later age.
The mind remains normal throughout the disease process. CA is slowly progressive,
so a worsening of symptoms can be noticed over the years, but many Scotties remain
moderately affected, with their ability to walk preserved. This disorder is not fatal and
dogs can live out a full lifespan, barring other disease or complications. No treatment
is available and at this time there is no test for carriers.
Established June 2003
Open letters to owners & breeders from
Updated January, 2006
For more information about Cerebellar Abiotrophy in Scotties, see the Scottish Terrier
Club of America at: