Certain breeds of dogs and cats are predisposed to certain types of neurological diseases. Dachshunds are the classic example, and are at risk of spinal problems due to their exaggeratedly long, stretched out back.
Neurological problems can cause ataxia (difficulty walking), weakness, lethargy, back pain, head tilt, lack of balance, seizures or blindness. It is important to deal with these problems as soon as possible, as in some cases, the ability to successfully treat the condition decreases over time.
The neurological examination consists of a series of specific tests designed to locate exactly where a problem is originating — ie. what part of the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves is affected. We will assess your animal’s gait (walking, running, turning), the nerves controlling the face and head, and a variety of reflexes for any abnormalities.
Once we know where the lesion is located, then we can concentrate on that area with diagnostic testing to determine the problem. Radiographs can easily be performed in our hospital to look at the spine. More involved procedures such as myelograms (special spinal Xrays where dye is injected around the spinal cord), CT scans, MRI, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis require referral to a veterinary neurologist. We are very lucky to have several exceptional veterinary neurologists practicing right around the corner from us at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic and Referral Centre.