Are There Veterinary Neurologists? When Should I See One? (Vet Answer)
Veterinary neurology is a field of veterinary medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders in animals. A veterinary neurologist is a veterinarian specializing in neurology.
The nervous system in animals is divided into central, peripheral, and autonomic. The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain, brain stem, and marrow. The peripheral nervous system includes the peripheral nerves that come from the brain or spinal cord; it controls digestion, movements, posture, and reflexes. The autonomic nervous system originates from the CNS and includes another set of nerves that control involuntary movements of organs like the intestines, heart, blood vessels, urinary bladder, etc. If you notice behavioral changes in your pet, especially if they are sudden or extreme, you must take them to a vet neurologist.
In this article, you will learn the main objectives of neurological examinations in pets, the most common neurological conditions in dogs and cats, and the neurological problems that can cause behavioral changes in pets.
What Are the Main Objectives of Neurological Examinations in Pets?
Usually, neurological cases are often difficult for the average veterinary clinician, so referral to a neurological specialist is essential to establish a correct diagnosis. Here are the main objectives of the neurological examination of pets:
What Are the Most Common Neurological Conditions in Dogs and Cats?
Here are the most common neurological conditions in dogs and cats.
Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition found in dogs. In pets, epilepsy manifests as sudden, repetitive, uncontrolled seizures with or without loss of consciousness. The causes of epilepsy are varied and include:
2. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral disc pathologies are among the most common diseases of the spinal cord in pets, especially dogs. Clinical signs of IVDD include:
Breeds such as Bulldogs, Shih Tzu, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Pekingese are more prone to this condition.
Encephalitis is a neurological pathology characterized by inflammation of the brain tissue. It is common in small toy breeds, terriers, and Poodles. In cats, encephalitis is one of the most common neurological diseases. The clinical signs of this condition are represented by:
4. Spinal or Brain Trauma
Spine and brain injuries in dogs and cats can be caused by:
Trauma can lead to:
Spinal and cranial traumas represent medical emergencies, with varied clinical signs corresponding to the affected segment. The clinical signs can include:
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Clinical signs of meningitis in pets include:
Meningitis can be infectious—caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or protozoa—or non-infectious—caused by an immune-mediated inflammatory response (when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues).
6. Peripheral Nerve Diseases (Peripheral Neuropathy)
Peripheral neuropathy refers to neurological conditions that affect the peripheral nervous system. The causes are varied and include:
Clinical signs depend on the underlying disease and may include:
What Neurological Problems Can Cause Behavioral Changes in Your Dog?
Any neurological pathology that creates a feeling of malaise in your pet has the potential to cause a change in their behavior. However, when discussing the behavior of a dog or cat, habits and energy levels must be taken into consideration. Certain neurological disorders like encephalitis, brain tumors, Chiari malformation or syringohydromyelia, and stroke can cause behavioral changes, for example. You understand your pet best and will know whether a behavior of theirs is unusual or not.
Finding the cause, an accurate diagnosis, optimal treatment, and proper care are essential to your pet’s recovery.
To diagnose and treat neurological diseases in dogs and cats, it is recommended to take them to a veterinary neurologist. Most neurological disorders are difficult to diagnose by general practitioners. Common neurological diseases in dogs and cats include intervertebral disc disease, spinal and cranial trauma, epilepsy, encephalitis, and meningitis. Take your pet to the vet if they change their behavior or exhibit certain clinical signs that may indicate a neurological disease.
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