At VCA SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center, our Neurology Department offers complete evaluations and therapy for patients with seizure, neuromuscular, spinal or intracranial disorders and diseases.
Our Neurology Department services include:
- Cerebrospinal fluid aspirates and analysis
- Complete neurologic exams and localization
- On site CT scans
- MRI analysis
- Nerve conduction velocity testing
- BAER (hearing testing)
- Nerve and muscle biopsies
Our neurosurgeons provide:
- Spinal and intracranial surgery for patients suffering from disc disease, brain tumors, and congenital abnormalities
Medical therapy for the following are also offered:
- Neuromuscular disease including myasthenia gravis
- Seizure disorders
What Is Veterinary Neurology?
Veterinary Neurology is the branch of medicine that treats diseases of the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles in pets. This specialty encompasses such common problems as epilepsy, herniated disks, spinal and head injuries, meningitis, and cancers of the nervous system. A board certified veterinary neurologist is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained additional intensive training in veterinary neurology and has been certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) to specialize in veterinary neurology.
While your regular veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary neurology in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.
Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Neurologist?
Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs a veterinary neurologist to help diagnose or treat a problem. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or treatment is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her condition.
Specifically, veterinary neurologists can provide the following:
- A thorough neurologic examination and localization.
- Brain and spinal cord imaging, including CT scans. MRI, ultrasound, myelography, and radiography.
- Spinal fluid tap and analysis.
- Intensive care.
- Neurosurgery of the brain, skull, spine, and peripheral nervous system.
- Electrophysiologic examination of nerves and muscles.
- Knowledge of clinical trials available to pets with specific neurologic disorders.
Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?
Your veterinarian will receive a copy of your pet’s medical records for every visit here at VCA SouthPaws. We work in partnership with your veterinarian to provide necessary follow up care and monitoring.
Did You Know?
- In an emergency, the safest way to transport a seizuring or unconscious pet to its veterinarian, is in an airline crate.
- There are less than 100 veterinary neurologists in the United States today.
- Seizures are the most common neurological problem in companion animals.
- Intervertebral disk disease is the most common spinal cord problem in dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What Problems Does A Veterinary Neurologist Diagnose and Treat?
Veterinary neurology is a challenging field in that some diseases are solely neurologic in origin while in other cases, the neurologic problem may be related to an underlying systemic disease. In the first case, the
veterinary neurologist may be able to treat the neurologic problem directly. In the second case, resolution of the neurologic problem may hinge on the correct diagnosis and treatment of the underlying disease. For example, certain viral infections may result in neurologic signs.
- What Is Epilepsy In Pets?
Depending on the source, the incidence of epilepsy among the general pet population is estimated at between 0.5 and 2.3%. Epilepsy refers to chronic, recurrent seizures and can be inherited or acquired. Thus, epilepsy is a clinical condition, not a specific disease. Idiopathic epilepsy refers to recurrent seizures in which no identifiable cause is found to explain the seizures, such as metabolic disease, toxin exposure, encephalitis, or brain tumors. Seizure diagnosis involves ruling out common causes of seizures. Initially, your veterinary neurologist will likely order a series of blood tests to help rule out metabolic and toxic causes of seizures. Depending on the age of your pet, the course of the seizures, and the results of the neurological examination, the neurologist may recommend an MRI or CT scan of the brain and/or a spinal fluid tap to look for signs of encephalitis or brain cancer.
Idiopathic epilepsy is most common in purebred dogs, with an age of onset between one and five years of age (often before three years). Dogs and cats with idiopathic epilepsy are completely normal between seizures and have a normal neurological examination.
If your pet's first seizure occurs before 1 year of age or after 5 years of age, is not normal between seizures, or if there are any abnormalities on neurological examination, the veterinary neurologist may recommend advanced diagnostics, such as an MRI of the brain, to help determine the cause of the seizure
- What Additional Training Does A Veterinary Neurologist Have?
A veterinarian who has been awarded this specialty status by the ACVIM will list the initials, 'DACVIM (Neurology),' after his or her veterinary degree. Or, the veterinarian may indicate that he or she is a 'Diplomate' of the ACVIM. The word 'Diplomate' typically means the specialist has achieved the following:
- Obtained a traditional 8 year veterinary degree (four years of college plus four years of veterinary medical university education and training).
- Completed a one year internship and an additional two to three years of advanced training, including a residency at an approved program where the doctor will have trained with some of the best experts in the field and obtained hands on experience.
- Following this training, the aspiring veterinary neurologist must pass a series of examinations covering all aspects of general internal medicine and neurology.
After completing and passing all of these rigorous requirements, the veterinarian is then recognized by his or her peers as a board certified specialist in veterinary neurology. . Our SouthPaws Neurologists are proficient in both medical and surgical neurology. When your pet needs the care of a veterinary neurologist, years of intensive training and additional education will be focused on helping him or her to recover from his or her problem or enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
- What are Examples of Neurologic Diseases In Pets?
- Congenital deafness
- Viral infection (canine distemper, feline infectious peritonitis, feline leukemia, rabies)
- Fungal infection (Cryptococcus, Coccidioides)
- Tick-borne infections (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Lyme Disease)
- Granulomatous Meningioencephalitis (GME)
- Myasthenia gravis
- Hepatoencephalopathy (brain dysfunction due to liver disease)
- Toxicity due to pesticides, lead, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), certain antibiotics
- Nutritional disorders, such as thiamine or vitamin E deficiency
- Traumatic brain or spinal cord injury
- Degenerative myelopathy
- What Is A Neurologic Veterinary Emergency?
- Loss of function of one or more limbs
- Recurrent or intractable pain, specifically of the back and neck
- Head trauma
- Spinal trauma
- Severe depression or inability of the patient to respond to its environment
- What are Signs of Neurologic Disease In Pets?
- Behavior changes
- Altered consciousness (e.g., depression, disorientation, coma
- Complete or partial paralysis
- Neck or back pain
- Generalized weakness or weakness in one area of the body
- Incoordination or imbalance
- Gait or stance abnormalities (e.g., straddling or shuffling of rear limbs; crouched position)
- Loss of sensory function (sight or hearing)
- Head tilt
- Fecal or urinary incontinence
In some cases, your veterinarian may be able to consult with the veterinary neurologist about your pet's care. In other cases, it is necessary to refer you to the specialist. Veterinary neurologists are trained in state of the art diagnostic techniques and will utilize advanced imaging such as CT or MRI scans to look at the structures of the nervous system. With electrodiagnostic tests, a neurologist can examine the function of the peripheral nervous system, particularly the nerves and muscles. Spinal fluid analysis can provide clues to such infectious diseases as encephalitis or meningitis. Veterinary neurologists also will be able to make appropriate recommendations for your pet's rehabilitation period, especially after such major procedures as back surgery. Lengthy recuperation times can be necessary, and your pet may be referred to for physical therapy or acupuncture. Pain management will also be addressed.
Services Offered in Neurology
- Multimodal analgesia
- Comprehensive peri-operative monitoring
- Blood chemistry analyzer
- Coagulation analyzer
- Hematology analyzer
- In-house STAT laboratory
- Abdominal ultrasonography-abdominocentesis and cystocentesis
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computed Tomography (CT scanning)
- Digital radiography
- Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy
- Continuous ECG monitoring and telemetry
- Direct blood pressure monitoring
- Nasal and transtracheal oxygen therapy
- Aggressive analgesia
- Seizure diagnosis and management
- Non-surgical spinal cord disease diagnosis and management
- Neuromuscular disease diagnosis and management
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Nerve conduction velocity (NCV)
- BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potential) Testing
- Cerebrospinal fluid collection and analysis
- Brain and spinal MRI
- CT Myelography
- Spinal radiography and fluoroscopy
- CT scan (brain, bullae, skull, spine)
- Physical Rehabilitation
- Advanced anesthetic monitoring
- Brain and spinal surgery
- Tissue biopsies
- Ventral slot surgery
- Dorsal laminectomy (cervical and lumbosacral)
- Craniotomy/craniectomy-diagnostic and therapeutic
- Spinal distraction and stabilization
- Genetic screening