Symptoms of Brain and Spinal Tumors

Tumors in the brain and spine can lead to serious neurological problems such as: 

  • Paralysis
  • Hearing loss
  • Blindness
  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizures
  • Coordination problems
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Restlessness

Left untreated, tumors in the brain or spinal cord could be fatal. They place pressure on the brain and cause swelling, which can lead to impaired function. 

Causes

Malignant spinal tumors can be caused by cancers of the bone, connective tissue, meninges, and nerve sheath. Since the spinal cord is an essential part of the nervous system, this can really affect an animal’s quality of life. Brain tumors are typically caused by brain cancer, but in both human and veterinary medicine, this cause of brain cancer is largely unknown. Factors could include: 

  • Genetics
  • Toxic chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, herbicides)
  • Radiation
  • Viruses
  • Environmental carcinogens (cigarette smoke) 

Certain breeds of animals have a higher propensity of developing tumors than others. For example, dogs with long heads and noses, like collies and greyhounds, are more likely to develop tumors on the membranes covering their brains. Dogs with short or flat faces, like bulldogs or pugs, are more likely to develop tumors on the interstitial tissue of their central nervous system. For cats, domestic shorthairs are the most likely to develop brain tumors. 

A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that serves no purpose. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Most of the time, benign tumors are harmless because they are made of regular cells that will not spread. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are composed of cancer cells and they can grow uncontrollably, causing major problems. 

When cats and dogs develop brain or spinal tumors, it’s important to take them to a veterinary specialist for a proper diagnosis as soon as possible. Because these areas of the body are so sensitive, even a benign tumor can be dangerous if it is pressing on an important nerve. A veterinary neurologist can properly assess the severity of a tumor and whether it needs to be removed.

Diagnosis

Identifying brain and spinal tumors requires a trained eye and special technology. General vets will often refer their patients to veterinary neurologists who are better equipped to perform a proper analysis. 

The vet neurologist will begin with a thorough physical examination of your pet. Then, the doctor may request blood work, x-rays, CT scans, CSF analysis, biopsies, or MRIs for a more comprehensive understanding of your pet’s situation. Brightcare Animal Neurology and Imaging is the only veterinary hospital in Southern California to provide stereotactic neuronavigation for the most accurate, minimally invasive diagnosis. 

Treatment

The earlier a tumor is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated and the higher the chances of survival are. Treatment will vary with each case. The veterinary neurologist can prescribe medicine to alleviate pain, swelling, seizures, etc. As for the tumor itself, there are many ways the doctor can choose to remove it. At BrightCare Animal Neurology, we offer: 

  • Chemotherapy: a combination of drugs that can kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy: use of high particle energy waves to disrupt or damage cancer cells
  • Surgery: physical removal of the tumor

A large part of cancer treatment is simply pain management. The veterinary neurologist can prescribe medicine to alleviate symptoms such as pain, swelling, seizures, etc. Physical therapy, palliative therapy, proper diet, and exercise can also improve your pet’s quality of life and reduce stress. 

BrightCare Animal Neurology and Imaging is a veterinary center dedicated to learning, researching, and treating neurological conditions that affect cats and dogs. Our head veterinary neurologist, Dr. Gorgi, has studied and practiced veterinary neurology for years. We are located in Southern California, and we hope to provide the best quality care for animals and their owners throughout Orange County.