We understand going to the vet neurologist can be scary for both you and your pet, but early diagnosis is essential to prevent the progression of neurological illnesses. Our vet neurologists will do their best to treat your pets and make the experience as smooth as possible. Here are a few commonly asked questions from patients and their owners at BrightCare Animal Neurology and Imaging.

What is a Veterinary Neurologist?

A veterinary neurologist is someone that has a doctorate in veterinary medicine, but specialized in the field of veterinary neurology. They must go through many years of additional training and education to become certified in neurology. Veterinary neurologists specialize in conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and nerves. Problems that veterinary neurologists face can range anywhere from paralysis/limb weakness, spinal pain, seizures, balance issues, to tremors. One of their most important roles is having the ability to perform a neurological exam because animals are not able to voice their own problems, so it is vital to be able to determine exactly what issues an animal is going through. A few common tools that a veterinary neurologist uses are MRI, CT, myelograms, spinal taps, and more!

How do I know if my pet needs to see a neurologist?

Veterinary neurologists are certified veterinarians that are specialized in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. As mentioned above, common conditions that veterinary neurologists frequently see are seizures, vertigo, balancing issues, meningitis, and others. If you begin to see signs of convulsions, drastic behavior changes, trouble balancing, frequent head tilts, or even dragging paws, it is important to take them to the veterinarian. It is always best to take your pet to the veterinarian even if you suspect something may be wrong, but are not sure.

What happens at a consultation?

Similar to any doctors appointment, a nurse will ask a few questions to get general information about your pet so that they can pass it onto the veterinarian. Common questions that are asked during this time typically consist of “what are the symptoms your pet has been exhibiting?”, “has the problem gotten worse quickly, or slowly?”, and “what medications is your pet currently taking?”. Once the veterinary neurologist comes in, they will usually perform both a physical examination along with a neurological examination. During this examination, the neurologist will test the brain, nerves, and muscles to see where the issue may lie. After the examination is complete, the veterinary neurologist will discuss their findings, whether or not they will need to conduct more tests, and their recommendation on course of action. It is very common for the neurologist to require an MRI or CT to further get a picture of the inside of your pet’s brain.

What is the purpose of an MRI?

MRI’s are best used when trying to view issues like slipped discs, meningitis, infections, tumors, and spinal cord conditions. X-rays are only useful when viewing bones mostly in the legs, chest, and abdomen. From time to time x-rays can also see tumors or bone infections, but most of its use is bone related only. MRI’s and CT scans are both most useful to see brain conditions because it shows all the regions of the brain, as well as any unusual activity that may be occurring.

Should I give my pet medications and food before an appointment?

Typically, we recommend you to bring your pet on an empty stomach in the event that we will have to run tests that require sedation. If your pet is currently taking any particular medications, it is important to inform your veterinarian of this prior to your pet’s appointment to find out if they should take their medication on the day of.

Does my pet need to stay overnight after an MRI?

We have our MRI machine on-site, which means that you will never have to take your pet elsewhere for their imaging. Most of our patients receive an MRI and are able to go that same day that they receive them. In the case that your pet must be sedated for their MRI or for any other diagnostic testing, we may keep them overnight. To be on the safe side, it is always best to bring your pet’s medications along with any specific foods that they may need to eat.

If my pet was subscribed medications but is no longer showing symptoms, can I stop the medication?

Until you have spoken to your veterinarian, it is important not to stop medications or lower your pet’s dosage. Even if your pet is no longer showing symptoms, the medication may still be working to keep your pet’s condition at bay. Once you meet with your veterinarian, they can discuss lowering your pet’s dosage over time.

If my pet has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, is his only option euthanization?

No, we offer your pet many options for recovery and treatment! Some tumors are removable by surgery and can be shrunken by chemotherapy and radiation. Our goal is to give your pet the best quality of life for as long as possible.

What does it mean if my pet must be put on “cage rest”?

Cage rest can easily be explained best by comparing it to when humans must be put on bed rest. They must refrain from any sort of strenuous activity and must be kept in their cage to avoid any drastic movements. They must avoid jumping, getting overly excited, and climbing up stairs in order for them to heal. Your pet should only be allowed outside if they need to use the restroom, and a harness should be used instead of a leash to avoid any sort of neck strain.

Will my pet need to be sedated for their exam?

We strive to conduct our examinations without any sedation to be able to see the symptoms of the patient while taking the best possible care of your pet. The only time your pet will need to be sedated, is in cases of X-rays and MRI to get a clear image while they are not moving. If you feel that your pet may need to be sedated, please consult with our veterinarians ahead of time to discuss your pets options.

If you have more questions about BrightCare Animal Neurology & Imaging, feel free to call our office, so we can answer them. We value prevention and patient education at our practice. It’s important for pet owners to know what’s going on with their pets and how to treat them before, during, and after an appointment with the vet neurologist.