SUPPORTING A DOG WITH CEREBELLAR HYPOPLASIA
Disclaimer: We are not veterinary professionals – the information provided has been gathered through our own reading as we look to support Holly.
Feeding and Pooping
When we first met Holly she was two months old and being fostered by Labrador UK Action Group. We were shown how best to feed her, by supporting her under her tummy. As Holly became stronger and learned how to manage her disability, we could gradually reduce the level of support under her tummy. Over the next couple of months, we were able to gauge when to change the support to around her side, and then, after time, we just have our hands at her sides, but not touching her so as to support her if she lost her balance.
It’s very important when supporting a CH dog that you are really in touch with their progress and gauge your support in line with their progress; how they are on a typical day and not help them out too much. It can be hard finding the balance between supporting them and just doing it for them.
Dogs like Holly tire easily, just holding one position for a short amount of time takes a lot out of the puppy. Therefore, having energy levels as good as they can be at mealtimes is vital. Puppies that are too tired, having a bad day or haven’t yet found their legs can be hand-fed to ensure they get the nutrition they need. However, hand feeding should also include a little time around the bowl with support so that the pup gets to know their bowl and the posture for feeding. As your pup gets used to the bowl and they find their feet and a little balance, hand-feeding can be reduced and then stopped. Hand-feeding your puppy can be a lovely bonding time between you and your pup, and it may be necessary at the beginning. However, it is important to recognise that a puppy’s quality of life can be reduced if they only manage being hand-feed.
It’s important to have your puppy weighed regularly at your veterinary clinic, especially within the first 6 months. Discussions around the puppy’s ability to eat and drink may be needed as sadly dogs with severe Cerebellar Hypoplasia may not be able to develop and euthanasia may need to be considered.
Drinking for the pup is very similar, again it’s hugely important that your pup doesn’t get too worn out playing so drinking becomes too much for them. We introduced a raised feeding station as Holly grew, which helped a lot. This helped with her posture, her paw placement and balance.
The video shows Holly’s progress with eating and drinking at 12 weeks, 14 weeks and 6 months old. The video highlights how much Holly is doing to help her keep her balance, you can see her doing little movements, and you can see how she uses her muscles to try and stay steady. As Holly has grown, we still need to keep an eye on her energy levels, if she gets overtired her ability to keep herself balanced is affected.
The difference in potty training a puppy with Cerebellar Hypoplasia is that it’s not just about the normal training but there is also the difficulty in the pup knowing it needs to get outside asap but not actually getting there quick enough.
Puppies with CH will need a lot of support with potty training, however, most dogs with CH will manage to grasp the concept of toileting, but it might take a little bit longer due to the challenges of getting somewhere quickly and not injuring themselves on the way. Having them close to the nearest exit and being on hand to help by picking them up, to begin with, and then as they develop and manage their disability better, guide them with your hands. When they go to the toilet it will be essential in the beginning to help with their balance and you may need to hold them near the ground to help them as they go.
Puppies with CH may need extra help with their hygiene, especially after going to the toilet as their balance and coordination may affect how well they aim. Depending on the severity of Cerebellar Hypoplasia, you may find that the puppy gets the hang of things really quickly, whereas others may need assistance for a longer time. It’s always best to keep in contact with your vet in the early days so you can discuss the progress of your puppy and get advice.