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Your Veterinary Neurologist Explains: What Is a Veterinary Neurological Disorder?

As an animal lover and pet parent, it is tough to imagine your best friend suffering, whether it is from an accident while traveling or playing, or even worse, from any type of serious condition or disease such as a neurological disorder. A veterinary neurologist could help you with this.

If your pet happens to be diagnosed with a neurological disorder, you should never blame yourself nor feel like a bad owner. Instead, you should know that just like with human babies, pets also suffer from inherited health issues.

Some congenital defects (defects present at birth) are inherited from the parents, while environmental factors cause others in the womb, such as nutritional deficiencies or viral infections. Unfortunately for many, just like in humans, the cause is unknown.

Puppies are born with a nervous system that is not fully developed, and birth defects may not become apparent until they begin to walk.

In some cases, evidence of an inherited disorder may not be evident until the dog has reached adulthood, even though the defect has been present since birth. If you suspect your dog or cat suffers from a neurological disorder, it is best to schedule an appointment with a veterinary neurologist in Irvine.

What Is a Neurological Disorder?

Neurological disorders are illnesses that affect and start in your pet’s peripheral nervous system. We can categorize neurological disorders according to the primary region of the nervous system affected.

There are five regions: forebrain, cerebellum, brain stem, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle disorders. Let’s take a closer look at what general problems may result according to which region is affected.

Forebrain Disorders

Disorders affecting the forebrain usually result in vision problems, changes in awareness or behavior, as well as abnormal movements or postures, and even seizures.

Cerebellar Disorders

The disorders that affect this area will usually result in a tremor, abnormal stance, lack of coordination in the head, torso, and legs.

Brain Stem Disorders

Brain stem disorders result in dysfunction of the cranial nerves, weakness, and an inability to balance, walk, or stand correctly. If your pet is severely affected by this type of disorder, they can appear dull or completely unaware of their surroundings.

Spinal Cord Disorders

Will Cause your pet to suffer from a loss of motor function and coordination in the legs or incorrect sense of body position.

Peripheral Nerve and Muscle Disorders

Rather rare in most dogs, this type of disorder can affect particular dog breeds. These disorders can result in muscle weakness as well as awkward and uncoordinated movements.

What Are Some Symptoms of Neurological Disorders?

As you already know, being the responsible and loving pet parent that you are, it is important always to monitor your best friend and be on the lookout for sudden changes in their activity level or regular behavior.

Spotting symptoms of a possible neurological disorder in your pet is vital to your pet’s treatment.

If your best friend ever exhibits one or more of these warning signs, even if it is on a rare occasion, please don’t waste any time and take them to a veterinarian neurologist as soon as possible.

In addition to the warning signs above, remember that every pet is different and unique. Only you, as their pet parent, know what is normal for them. So, if you notice anything else that seems strange in your pet’s usual behavior, contact a small animal neurology veterinarian immediately.

Some signs that could alert you that something is wrong with your furry friend include but are not limited to:

Neck or Back Pain

If your pet is having neck or back pain, you might notice that they are less likely to jump up, climb stairs, or may no longer be excited to go for a walk. You might also notice reduced tail wagging.

Problems With Balance

Problems with balance can include lack of coordination, head tilt, leaning, circling, or unwillingly falling to one side. With balance issues, your pet may even seem more clumsy than usual.


If you’ve caught your pet staring into space or getting stuck in corners, or he seems like they don’t know where they are, they are suffering from disorientation. Take your best friend to a neurological veterinarian near you as soon as possible.


If you notice your pet appears confused within their surroundings, has difficulty following instructions, or acts as if they don’t recognize you. Don’t feel angry with them, and be patient. They are suffering from confusion.

Mobility Issues

These issues are usually more visible in your pet’s hind legs. Watch for stumbling, weakness, or trouble standing.

Ghost Scratching

This condition is characterized by scratching the air or near their ear, neck, and shoulder without actually making contact with their body.


Seizures are always serious, and you should never take them lightly, not even if they happen just once or occasionally.

How Do Veterinary Neurologists Diagnose Neurological Disorders?

Veterinarian neurologists in Irvine usually have a wide range of tools that are not generally available in other veterinary practices or hospitals.

Your pet’s neurologist may rely on Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also known as an MRI, to get a detailed map of your pet’s brain, or they may also use traditional x-rays. Additionally, some lab work may prove useful as well. You can follow this link to learn what a vet MRI is and how it can help your pet’s life.

This lab work can include cerebrospinal fluid analysis, muscle and nerve biopsies, blood counts, biochemistry profiles, and even infectious disease testing.

The Importance of Preventing Rabies

As you already know, rabies is just one of the many diseases we have to protect our beloved pets from. Rabies is a fatal viral infection of the neurological system.

Because rabies is almost always fatal and it’s possible animals spread it to humans, prevention is crucial to protect pets and their owners. Rabies disease results from a virus that quickly spreads to a pet’s nervous system.

Rabies will spread through your pet’s nervous system and ultimately cause Encephalitis, which you may also know as inflammation of the brain. In turn, the inflammation in your pet’s brain will cause them to display erratic and uncontrollable behavior – against their usual loving nature.

To learn more about how you can prevent your pet from contracting rabies and a suggested vaccination timeline, check out our article talking about rabies and a pet’s nervous system.

What Is Vestibular Disease

According to petmd.com, vestibular disease, also known as “old dog disease” or “old rolling dog syndrome,” can be very scary for pet parents. Symptoms of this condition can mimic conditions such as a stroke or a brain tumor.

Because ear infections can cause vestibular disease, we suggest that you keep your pet’s ears clean without overcleaning or disturbing the natural balance of bacteria found in the ear. Other causes of vestibular disease can include exposure to toxins or drugs, stroke, trauma, injury, tumors, or even hypothyroidism.

Sadly, vestibular disease is not 100% preventable; however, it can be treated or managed if spotted early on. If you notice your pet suffering from disorientation, head tilting, hearing loss, or poor depth perception, contact a veterinarian neurologist as soon as possible.

Brain Tumors and Seizures in Your Pet

Having your pet diagnosed with a brain tumor will, without a doubt, make you feel hopeless. However, tumors vary widely in their level of malignancy, and some can be treated effectively.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know how different types of brain tumors behave in dogs and cats, making it difficult to advise owners as to the best form of treatment for their pets. The most common sign that your pet may be suffering from a brain tumor is seizures.

Signs of Seizures

If you believe your pet is or has experienced a seizure, keep an eye on certain strange behaviors such as: suddenly attacking imaginary objects or chasing their tail, sudden movement of one limb or one side of their body, muscle spasms, dilated pupils, and problems with their balance.

Signs of Brain Tumors

Aside from seizures, additional signs of a brain tumor in your pet may include abnormal behavior or mental activity, circling, wobbly gait or walking, or tilting the head.

Get in Touch With a Vet Neurologist

Now that you know more about neurological disorders and how they can affect your beloved best friend, you should not hesitate to seek specialized help. If you believe your pet is suffering from any of the conditions mentioned or think your pet is showing signs of abnormal behavior, give us a call.

Remember time is precious and important to provide your pet with the required care. Talk to our veterinary neurologist by scheduling an appointment.

COVID-19 Alert

BrightCare Veterinary Group takes the safety of our staff and clients very seriously. We continue to monitor the changes related to COVID-19.

BrightCare has enacted specific protocols as recommended by the CDC in order to stay open as an essential business for our community.

• Only essential staff are allowed in the building as our lobby is closed to clients.
• Our facility has enacted curbside check in and check out. Please call 949-716-9270 upon arrival. Inform the staff of the make, model, and color of your vehicle.
• Wait in your vehicle as a staff member will be out to come get your pet. Continue to stay in your vehicle until you are instructed further.
• All persons entering our facility are required to wear a face covering.
• Maintain social distancing guidelines of 6 feet when able.
• If you are sick, we request that another individual bring your pet for you. Our staff members can communicate with you via phone and email.

Thank you for your patience during this unprecedented time.