Diagnostic testing is vital to successful treatment. Each patient will be different with their own unique set of circumstances. Therefore, we do a thorough neurological examination based on present and past history in order to establish a prognosis that will ultimately lead to the best possible outcome.

During the patient’s Physical Examination, we are able to get a general idea of an animal’s health. This examination can only teach us so much about a patient and it is limited to only the things we can see, (hair coat, mucus membranes) or the things we can hear, (heart and lung sounds). Many of the vital organs inside of our pet’s bodies do not show outward signs of disease or illness until they have progressed drastically. This is why running diagnostic tests is extremely important because it helps the veterinarian to see how your pet’s internal organs are functioning and if there are any issues.

Complete Neurological Evaluation

There are many different physical tests that can be carried out to evaluate the functioning of the various components of the nervous system of your pet. These include tests of different reflexes, muscle function and control, and posture and gait. Typically, a neurologic examination evaluates the head and cranial nerves, the walk, the neck and front legs, and the torso, hind legs, anus, and tail. Running these tests and seeing how the pet’s body reacts, can help a veterinarian get an inside glimpse of their nervous system. Your pet’s reflexes will also be tested to determine, if possible, the location of the injury in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves in the peripheral nervous system.

Extensive in-house Laboratory

With our state of the art equipment listed below, we are sure to be able to assist your pet in diagnosing them as well as healing them. We only choose the best equipment for our patients to get the highest quality of care possible.

Digital Radiography

Digital radiography is a type of x-ray imaging where the x-ray sensors are digital and not on the traditional photographic film. It is much more time efficient because it does not require chemical processing to see the final image. Another health benefit is that it uses less radiation to produce the same image that a normal x-ray would. In direct radiography, x-rays are directly converted to an electronic signal without a light intermediate. Semiconductors detect the x-rays and create a small charge or current that is detected and converted to an electrical signal. Direct radiography images have excellent dynamic range and very clear resolution. This type of imaging is ideal for patients that are not able to stay still for long periods of time because the imagine can be completed in four to six seconds.

Ultrasound

The technology of ultrasound is most commonly known as the device that is used to generate sonograms during human pregnancy. Ultrasounds work by using sound waves transmitted into the body to create an image on the screen. Although an ultrasound does not show an entire region of the body, it does allow veterinarians the ability to look at how an organ is structured. This method of imaging is also more cost and time efficient and when paired with digital radiography, you get the optimal imaging combo. Ultrasound are especially useful for identifying foreign objects in a patient’s body as well as locating fluids or blood that may be in specific organs. They can also help to rule out specific diagnoses and can even diagnose very fine-tuned diseases or illnesses.

Myelogram

A myelogram is an x-ray procedure where a special dye is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. This special dye makes the spinal cord visible on an x-ray because otherwise the spinal cord is not visible to an x-ray. Often times this procedure can point out various spinal problems like herniated disks or even tumors that may be growing on the spinal cord. Prior to the injection of the special dye, a sample of spinal fluid of collected to be analyzed. Typically the procedure is done when the patient has trouble walking or has apparent back pain that is hindering their day to day lives and when the problem cannot be identified/viewed through an x-ray. The myelogram procedure is very difficult and must be done by a specialist with general anesthesia.

MRI

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging which is a computerized imaging technique, that has been around since 1980. Typically, soft tissues and internal organs are not visible to x-rays, but MRI have high sensitivity to these tissues and have excellent resolution in comparison to the CT. MRI also does not use ionizing radiation, which is much better for the patient’s health. Over the past few years, MRI has not been used very frequently in veterinary clinics due it’s high expenses but BrightCare Veterinary Group is fortunate to have their own imaging units. The MRI is especially helpful when looking at the brain because it often helps us to see tumors, blood clots, abscesses, inflammation, or unusual activity in the brain.

CT Scan

Computed Tomography is based off of the traditional x-ray method, as x-rays pass through the body they are absorbed at different levels which creates a profile of x-ray beams of different strength. After, the x-ray profile is registered on film, which creates an image. The CT scanner looks very similar to a large, square doughnut. Inside the CT scanner is a rotating frame which has an x-ray tube mounted on one side and a banana shaped detector mounted on the opposite side. In the past, the CT scanner did not rotate, which caused multiple images to be taken, rather than one continuous one. An x-ray beam is created as the rotating frame spins the x-ray tube and detector around the patient. Each rotation of the machine, creates one image or slice of the patient’s body. This image or slice is typically between 1 millimeter and 10 millimeters in thickness. CT exams are now much faster and patient friendly, helping make the process more enjoyable and seamless.

Spinal Tap / Spinal Fluid Analysis

A spinal tap is usually performed when the patient suffers frequent seizures, incoordination, neck and back pain, but does not show and visible signs of trauma. The spinal fluid can be collected from the back of the head and the lumbar cistern as well as the lower part of the spinal column towards the pelvis. To collect spinal fluid, the patient must be put under general anesthesia. The spinal collection fluid location site is dependent on the symptoms that your pet is showing. After the collection site if shaved, about half a teaspoon of spinal fluid is collected by using a special spinal needle. Once the spinal fluid is withdrawn, it must be examined in the span of 30 to 60 minutes after collection because the cells quickly deteriorate. Once evaluated, a specific diagnosis is not usually found but it often helps veterinarians get insight into what further research or tests need to be conducted. There are cases where immediate diagnoses can be reached, for example when certain bacteria are higher than others in the fluid, it may mean that there is a bacterial infection.

At BrightCare Animal Neurology & Imaging, we provide the following diagnostic options. The veterinary neurologist will determine which ones are critical for understanding your animal’s illness.

  • Complete Neurological Evaluation
  • Extensive in-house Laboratory
  • Digital Radiography
  • Ultrasound
  • Myelogram
  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • Spinal Tap / Spinal Fluid Analysis
  • Infectious Diseases Testing
  • Drug Level Monitoring 
  • Electrodiagnostics
  • Muscle and Nerve Biopsy
  • Spine and Brain Biopsy

Infectious Diseases Testing

It is often very difficult to determine exactly what disease your pet may have, but with the large amount of tests offered at BrightCare Veterinary Group, we are sure to be able to get down to the root of the issue.

Drug Level Monitoring

To start off, drug monitoring can be used to track client compliance, to see if the pet is correctly receiving their medication and within the required time frames. Drug monitoring is especially useful when the pet does not have the correct concentration of a specific drug in their body, leading the veterinarian to ask the owner the reasoning. It is also helpful to determine how well the drug is working, if it is working at all, or if it is actually harming the patient. Drug monitoring also comes in the form of correcting dosages, the pet may be taking too much of the drug or not enough of it. This method can also be used to measure when a drug is at its peak and performing its best.

Electrodiagnostics

Electrodiagnostics are a series of tests that are used to measure different types of electrical activity such as in the muscles, nerves, and brain tissue. The different types of electrodiagnostic studies have the ability to measure the communications between muscles and neurons and in turn are able to test for certain types of nervous system diseases. An electromyography measures the amount of electrical discharge that is produced in muscles. To conduct this test, two thin needle electrodes are placed in various parts of the body, while the third needle is placed into the muscle that is under study. The muscle is measured while it is resting, as well as while it is actively contracting. Typically, the patient must either be sedated or extremely still to properly execute this test to get results. When this test is conducted, veterinarians are often looking for myopathies, peripheral neuropathies, or other neuron diseases.

The second type of electrodiagnostic test is a nerve conduction velocity study. This type of study also involves thin needle electrodes that are placed over certain nerves and the muscles that are activated by those nerves. After, an electrical current is sent to the nerve, and the velocity that the nerve travels is recorded. Typically this type of test is done after an electromyography and can help veterinarians look at neuropathies that have been damaged by demyelination or axonal degeneration.

The third type of electrodiagnostic test is a brainstem auditory evoked response test. During this test, a series of clicks are administered to each ear of the patient to determine if there is any sort of response. Electrical activity is recorded in the auditory nerve pathway all the way from the inner ear to the cerebral cortex. After the clicks are administered, if there are no responses, typically this is a signal of hearing loss in the patient.

The last type of electrodiagnostic test is an electroencephalography. This test is conducted by placing electrodes on the scalp to detect any electrical activity in the cerebral cortex. Typically, this test can detect if a patient has hydrocephalus, meningoencephalitis, head trauma, or cerebral neoplasia. If a particular patient has frequent seizures, this test can also help to determine why they are occuring.

Muscle and Nerve Biopsy

Veterinarians typically take biopsies of muscles and nerves as part of a testing process for patients that may be experiencing neuromuscular weakness. This can be determined with the above electrodiagnostic tests to figure out the initial issue. To perform a muscle or nerve biopsy, a small piece of muscle or nerve is surgically removed and then submitted to a laboratory to be further examined to determine if the patient has a particular disease or condition.

Spine and Brain Biopsy

The idea of a spine and brain biopsy is very similar to a muscle or nerve biopsy. A small sample of the affected area must be surgically removed to further examine what the issue is. Typically, general anesthesia is required for both types of biopsy due to the types of procedure they are. Most brain biopsies that are closed rely on a 3D CT scan to identify where the sample must be removed from.