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What Is a Veterinary Neurological Disorder?

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 or 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?

Mission Viejo 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, and 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

This will cause your pet to suffer from a loss of motor function and coordination in the legs or an 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 or 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 Veterinary Neurologists Diagnose Neurological Disorders in Animals?

Veterinary neurologists diagnose neurological disorders in animals through a comprehensive approach. They start with a detailed clinical evaluation, gathering information about the pet’s medical history, and conducting a thorough physical examination. During the neurological examination, they assess various factors, including muscle strength, reflexes, sensory responses, and cranial nerve function.

Advanced diagnostic imaging plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis. Techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans provide high-resolution brain and spinal cord images, helping detect structural issues like tumors or herniated discs. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis may be performed to check for signs of infection or inflammation.

Electrodiagnostic tests like Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) assess nerve and muscle function, aiding in the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders. Blood tests are used to rule out metabolic or infectious causes.

Once a definitive diagnosis is established, veterinary neurologists collaborate with pet owners to create a tailored treatment plan, which could involve medications, surgery, physical therapy, or ongoing management to enhance the animal’s well-being and quality of life.

Understanding Neurological Conditions and Its Diagnose

Neurological conditions in pets impact the peripheral nervous system, involving the nerves, spinal cord, and brain. Early detection is vital. Nerve-related issues may cause facial paralysis or loss of tongue function, hindering blinking. Spinal cord problems lead to limb numbness, urination difficulties, and walking issues. Brain disorders manifest as seizures, tremors, or perpetual head tilting. The diagnostic tool of choice is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Exploring Veterinary MRI Technology

MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a technology widely used in human medicine. It employs magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed internal images. A veterinary MRI can examine:

  • the brain,
  • spinal cord,
  • bones,
  • joints,
  • heart,
  • blood vessels,
  • internal organs.

It’s invaluable for diagnosing brain and spinal cord abnormalities causing seizures or musculoskeletal issues affecting gait.

Duration of a Veterinary MRI Procedure

A typical pet MRI lasts about two hours, requiring the animal’s stillness under general anesthesia. Afterward, veterinarians review scan results for two hours of recovery.

The Mechanics of Veterinary MRI Scans

A veterinary MRI operates by sending radio waves into the animal’s body via a strong magnet, which a scanner captures to create diagnostic images. These images identify various conditions, with a focus on soft tissue problems like brain or spinal cord diseases.

Additional Conditions Detectable by Veterinary MRI

Beyond neurological issues, a vet MRI can diagnose orthopedic conditions (tendinitis, ligament injuries, meniscus tears) and assess muscle strains, tears, and soft tissue neoplasms or tumors. Veterinary MRI is pivotal for diagnosing and addressing a wide range of pet health concerns, enhancing their overall well-being and quality of life.

The Importance of Preventing Rabies

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.

Canine Encephalitis: Understanding, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Encephalitis in dogs, characterized by brain tissue inflammation, can result from fungal, parasitic, or bacterial infections. While central nervous system infections are rare, they can stem from issues in other body parts, like the sinuses or ears.

Recognizing Encephalitis Symptoms

Vigilance is essential, particularly if your pet has fought with other animals. Watch for signs like fever, neck stiffness, head tilting, and circling. Early detection is crucial, as delayed treatment complicates recovery.

Transmission and Risk Factors

Encephalitis sources often remain unknown. Some cases trace back to sinus, ear, or urinary tract infections, which can spread to the central nervous system. Specific tick species and parasites are potential culprits. Autoimmune disorders that can’t differentiate between healthy cells and invaders also pose risks.

Certain small breeds, like Pugs, Maltese, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzu, and French Bulldogs, appear more susceptible to this neurological disorder.

Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinary diagnosis entails blood tests, urinalysis, neurological exams, advanced imaging (MRI), and Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) analysis. Treatment focuses on symptom management and may involve antibiotics, corticosteroids, or antifungals, depending on the cause. Critically ill dogs may require nursing care with intravenous fluids, anticonvulsants, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Supportive Care

Advanced Encephalitis stages may lead to balance issues, seizures, and blindness. To help create a safer, less stressful environment, pad walls, announce your presence gently, and keep your dog in a quiet area. Such support complements medical treatment and enhances your pet’s comfort during recovery.

Understanding Dog Seizures in Veterinary Neurology

Understanding Dog Seizures in Veterinary Neurology

Dog seizures can affect any household pet, such as dogs and cats, and may stem from various causes, including genetic factors that predispose certain breeds to neurological conditions. According to the American Kennel Club, breeds like Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, and Labrador Retrievers are more susceptible to these conditions.

In veterinary neurology, seizures are categorized based on the pet’s awareness level during the episode, leading to Focal and Generalized seizures. Age plays a significant role in diagnosis, as early-life episodes may indicate genetic disorders, while older pets could be affected by infections or tissue inflammation.

Notably, although seizures may appear distressing, pets do not experience pain during the episodes. Pet owners should aim to keep their pets safe and avoid actions that might result in injury during seizures.

Types of Seizures in Veterinary Neurology

Pet owners should carefully observe and document seizure episodes, including their duration and the pet’s awareness level. Focal seizures typically leave pets conscious, while Generalized seizures result in loss of consciousness. Proper diagnosis by a veterinary neurologist is crucial for an effective treatment plan, often involving medication.

Further tests can determine the nature of the problem. Focal seizures affect a specific part of the brain, while generalized seizures impact the entire brain, making early detection of subtle behavioral changes crucial to preventing potentially life-threatening generalized seizures.

Common Seizure Symptoms

Seizures result from electrical imbalances in the brain, leading to psychomotor activity during episodes. Symptoms may include hallucinations, dilated pupils, balance issues, and muscle spasms.

Causes Of Dog Seizures

The origins of many pet seizures remain unknown (idiopathic seizures). Genetic disorders can lead to seizures in dogs aged six months to six years. However, known causes encompass brain tumors, kidney failure, genetic disorders, ingested toxins, brain trauma, liver disease, and epilepsy. Seizure causes can be categorized as extracranial (originating outside the brain) or intracranial (within the brain).

Extracranial Causes

affect the entire cerebral cortex, including liver disease, low blood sugar levels, low thyroid hormone production, and intoxication.

Intracranial Causes

involve structural or functional brain deficiencies, including idiopathic epilepsy, brain inflammation (encephalitis), degenerative brain conditions, viral infections (distemper or rabies), bacterial and fungal infections, and primary brain tumors. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment in veterinary neurology.

Understanding Brain Tumors in Pets: A Veterinary Neurology Perspective

Brain tumors can affect any breed of dog or cat, but certain larger breeds, like Boxers and Golden Retrievers, are at a heightened risk. These tumors are categorized as primary (originating in the brain) or secondary (spreading from elsewhere in the body).

Several medical classifications exist for brain tumors, including meningioma, glioma, and adenocarcinoma. The most common type is meningioma, which, although occasionally malignant, is generally slow-growing and treatable with advanced imaging like MRI scans.

When to Suspect a Brain Tumor in Your Pet

In veterinary neurology, prompt symptom management and tumor removal are priorities. Brain tumors can compress brain tissue, leading to behavioral changes. Clinical signs vary based on the affected brain area, making diagnosis challenging.

Although not specific to a single tumor type, symptoms warrant immediate attention from a veterinary neurologist. Look out for:

  • Constant pacing or circling;
  • Loss of learned behaviors and depression;
  • Unexplained pain;
  • Decreased spatial awareness;
  • Seizures;
  • Loss of balance;
  • Weakness;
  • Swallowing difficulties;
  • Head tilt;
  • Vomiting;
  • Abnormal eye movements;
  • Tremors;
  • Altered appetite and thirst.

If your pet, especially those over six years of age, experiences seizures, consult a veterinary neurologist. While certain breeds have reduced brain tumor risks, they can face other neurological issues.

Remember that swift action is crucial, as progression may lead to paralysis, coma, or death.

A Glimpse of Hope from Veterinary Neurology Specialists

A brain tumor diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t signify hopelessness. Our veterinary neurologist, Dr. Corgi, employs the full range of resources available, including MRIs and CT scans. Treatment and diagnostics are always discussed with you.

Every case is unique, emphasizing early detection of any potential health issues in your pet. Our dedicated team is committed to supporting you during these challenging times, aiming to provide the best care possible.

Treatment Options for Brain Tumors in Pets: A Veterinary Neurology Perspective

Treatment options for a pet diagnosed with a brain tumor depend on various factors. While we’ll outline these options, it’s crucial to consult a veterinary neurology specialist for your pet’s specific care needs.

Surgical Removal of a Brain Tumor

Surgery is common upon learning of a brain tumor diagnosis in pets. Its goal is to either completely remove the tumor or alleviate symptoms by reducing brain pressure caused by the mass. Tumors near the brain’s surface, often meningiomas, are ideal candidates for surgical removal in dogs. However, the location of the tumor matters; those near the brainstem pose higher risks due to their sensitive location.

Cats generally have a better prognosis following surgery for brain tumors compared to dogs, as their tumors are typically easier to remove.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may be recommended to slow tumor growth, especially in conjunction with surgery, primarily when primary brain tumors are detected through a Veterinary MRI. Preparing your pet’s strength before radiation therapy is essential, as their brain can only tolerate limited radiation doses administered under general anesthesia. Discuss with your veterinary neurologist the treatment plan and expected outcomes.

Properly planned radiation doses can minimize late effects, and common side effects include temporary hair color changes and local irritation.


The Blood-Brain Barrier protects your pet’s brain but limits chemotherapy’s effectiveness. Delivering agents to combat brain tumors remains challenging and often requires multidisciplinary teams. Chemotherapy may be considered, especially for certain tumor types. However, only a professional team can determine its suitability.

It’s essential to seek help promptly if you suspect your pet may have a brain tumor, as early intervention can significantly impact their prognosis. Veterinary neurology specialists will tailor treatment plans based on individual cases, providing the best possible care for your beloved pet.

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.