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J Vet Intern Med. 2004 Mar-Apr;18(2):201-8.

Cerebellar cortical degeneration in adult American Staffordshire Terriers.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA.


Adult-onset cerebellar cortical degeneration recently has been reported in American Staffordshire Terriers. We describe the clinical and histopathologic features of this disease and examine its mode of inheritance in 63 affected dogs. The age at which neurologic deficits 1st were recognized varied from 18 months to 9 years, with the majority of dogs presented to veterinarians between 4 and 6 years of age. Time from onset of clinical signs to euthanasia varied from 6 months to 6.5 years, with the majority of affected dogs surviving from 2 to 4 years. Initial neurologic findings included stumbling, truncal sway, and ataxia exacerbated by lifting the head up and negotiating stairs. Signs progressed to obvious ataxia characterized by dysmetria, nystagmus, coarse intention tremor, variable loss of menace reaction, marked truncal sway, and falling with transient opisthotonus. With continued progression, dogs became unable to walk without falling repeatedly. Cerebellar atrophy was visible on magnetic resonance images and on gross pathology. Histopathologic findings included marked loss of Purkinje neurons with thinning of the molecular and granular layers and increased cellularity of the cerebellar nuclei. The closest common ancestor of the dogs was born in the 1950s and inheritance was most consistent with an autosomal recessive mode of transmission with a prevalence estimated at 1 in 400 dogs. This inherited disease is comparable to the group of diseases known as spinocerebellar ataxias in humans. Many spinocerebellar ataxias in humans are caused by nucleotide repeats, and this genetic aberration merits investigation as a potential cause of the disease in American Staffordshire Terriers.

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