Mission Viejo Animal Neurosurgery

The peripheral nerves relay messages from the body through the spinal cord to the brain. They are spread over the entire body, and they allow the body to feel and move consciously. Because they are located all over the body, peripheral nerves are susceptible to more damage from physical injury. Peripheral neuropathy refers to what happens when multiple nerves lose their function, impairing the ability to move or feel adequately. This neurological disorder can affect animals as well as humans. Without proper veterinary treatment, peripheral neuropathy can make it difficult to perform day-to-day activities and reduce an animal’s quality of life.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the myelin, a fatty lipid material that protects the nerve fibers, deteriorates. This process is called demyelination and it impairs the ability of the nerve to receive and send out electrical signals. What causes this demyelination varies, but your veterinarian may attribute it to one of the following reasons:

  • Genetics: Hereditary peripheral neuropathy cannot be prevented, but it can be identified and treated early on. Pets whose family members have peripheral neuropathy may have a higher chance of developing it.
  • Immune Disease: Diseases like arthritis can cause the immune system to attack the body and damage the nerves.
  • Metabolic Disease: When the body cannot process food into energy correctly, the body suffers from conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat, etc, that can cause damage to the nerves.
  • Infection: Certain parasites can wreak havoc on the nervous system and immune system. Keep your pets away from feces and wild animals to prevent them from contracting these parasites.
  • Toxins: Overexposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, fertilizer, insecticides, and rat poison, can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
  • Physical Injury: Animals who suffer physical trauma are also at risk of peripheral neuropathy. Placing too much pressure on a nerve or performing repetitive motions can also trigger neuropathy.
  • Age: Over time, peripheral neuropathy may occur as myelin naturally wears away.  
  • Vitamin Deficiency: If your pet’s diet lacks vital nutrients, its body will have a difficult time functioning regularly and this could affect the nerves.

Mononeuropathy vs. Polyneuropathy

There are many types of peripheral neuropathy, but they fall into two major categories:

  1. Mononeuropathy: When only one peripheral nerve is damaged, it is called mononeuropathy. Damage to the nerve can result in a tingling sensation, numbness, or pain in the affected area. If the motor nerves are damaged, your dog or cat may struggle to move their body. If sensory nerves are damaged, they may have difficulty feeling sensations such as temperature or pain. In rare cases, the nerves in the internal organs can also be affected, resulting in organ problems.
  2. Polyneuropathy: Most patients with neuropathy are diagnosed with polyneuropathy. This is what happens when multiple nerves are deteriorate simultaneously throughout the body. Like mononeuropathy, it manifests in a tingling sensation and numbness. Your pet may gnaw or chew on its extremities if it suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Because polyneuropathy affects many nerves, your dog or cat may be more prone to serious injuries because they have a more difficult time feeling pain.

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

It can be difficult to detect peripheral neuropathy at first because the symptoms can be quite subtle when the disorder starts. Since dogs and cats cannot tell their owners how they feel, they might display other behaviors to express their discomfort. Please, be on the lookout for any of these behavioral tells if you suspect your pet may be at risk of peripheral neuropathy:

  • Weak reflexes.
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Lethargy.
  • Spatial disorientation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Instability.
  • Paralysis.
  • Dry eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Muscle atrophy.
  • Weight gain.
  • Lameness.
  • Trouble walking.

Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy

Your best bet in the proper and timely detection of peripheral neuropathy is to receive help from a trained vet neurologist. Untrained eyes may miss important details that tell us when a pet suffers from the onset of peripheral neuropathy.

Many owners won’t bring in their pets until it’s too late, which is why we emphasize the importance of regular checkups for your lovely pets. This way, the doctor will detect any existing problems before they progress any further.

Checking for peripheral neuropathy means that the veterinarian has to start with a physical exam. Then, be ready to answer several questions about your pet’s past behavior and medical history to best determine what can be going on. Afterward, the vet neurologist may perform a chemical blood profile, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis if there is a suspicion that your pet has peripheral neuropathy.

Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

Treatment depends on the cause of the issue. For example, animals who have suffered trauma and now have to deal with this disorder will need to have their injuries tended to. If the neuropathy is a symptom of a disease, that disease will require proper treatment. Every animal is different, so treatment also depends on each patient’s unique needs.

Regrettably, peripheral neuropathy is often incurable; still, a qualified vet neurologist can delay and manage the symptoms and disease itself. Anti-inflammatory and steroid drugs can greatly help in reducing any existing discomfort. Similarly, any physical therapy, acupuncture, or professional massages can help strengthen muscles that have yet to suffer from the worse effects of the neurological disease. Please keep in mind that maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is likewise crucial to the prevention of the worse effects of the disease or rapid onset of the disorder. Ask your veterinarian in Mission Viejo what type of vitamins and minerals you need to incorporate into your dog’s or cat’s diet and how you can ensure proper nutrition.