Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

The 4 Most Common Reasons Pets Visit Our Neurology Service

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If your pet is experiencing active seizures, cluster seizures, or status epilepticus, these are considered “RED” – or true emergencies – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

Note that a single seizure that lasts less than five minutes with full recovery is considered a “GREEN” case on our Fast Track Triage system. This means emergency care isn’t needed, but your pet should be evaluated by your family veterinarian within the next few days.

  • If your pet is currently experiencing seizures, keep them safe. This may include blocking off stairs or sides of furniture.
  • A seizing pet is not aware of his/her surroundings. They can continue to seem “out of it” for minutes to hours afterwards and behavior can be unpredictable. 
  • To avoid being bitten, do not place hands near your pet’s mouth.
  • To transport your pet to the car, roll the pet onto a blanket, and then lift the blanket.
  • If your pet is experiencing weakness, incoordination, or neck pain, these are considered “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.

To transport a pet with a suspected spinal injury, gently move them onto a flat, firm surface such as an ironing board, piece of plywood, sled, or even a cookie sheet for smaller pets.


There are many reasons why your pet may need to see a veterinary neurologist. The top four reasons our Neurology Service sees pets are for seizures, pain, difficulty walking, and vestibular disease. There are many causes for the four presenting signs; therefore, many patients will be managed and treated differently – depending on the underlying cause.

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Some causes to the big four listed above include: 

1. Seizures 

  • Idiopathic or genetic epilepsy 
  • Meningitis or encephalitis 
  • A stroke in the brain 
  • Brain tumor
  • A congenital or development abnormality (such as hydrocephalus) 

2. Pain 

  • A herniated or slipped disk 
  • Meningitis 
  • An infection of the vertebrae or disks
  • A mass pushing on the spine
  • Abnormal development of the spinal canal (such as Wobbler’s Disease) 

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3. Difficulty Walking 

  • A herniated or slipped disk 
  • Meningitis 
  • A disease affecting the muscles, nerves, or how the muscles and nerves communicate 
  • A mass pushing on the spinal cord 
  • A stroke to the spinal cord (called a Fibrocartilaginous embolism or FCE)
  • Joint disease (we know this is neurology, but it is quite common that we diagnose severe inflammation in the joints of patients, because these patients are so painful that they do not want to walk) 

4. Vestibular Disease 

  • A middle or inner ear infection 
  • “Old dog” vestibular disease
  • A stroke in the brain
  • A meningitis or encephalitis
  • A mass in the brain 

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How Does A Neurologist Diagnose My Pet? 

For our board-certified veterinary neurologists to discover the underlying cause to your pet’s problem, first, they perform a thorough neurologic evaluation. Then, the team will consider various diagnostic testing based upon the history that you provide and the results of the examination. Most often, this will include an MRI of the nervous system area identified as the problem (for example, the brain, neck or lower spine).  

Since our patients do not lie perfectly still for the MRI, general anesthesia is utilized. Prior to anesthesia, blood work and radiographs may be recommended based on your pet’s history and overall health. The MRI allows us to see any structural cause for the problem your pet is experiencing. A spinal tap to evaluate spinal fluid may also be recommended; however, a spinal tap is only performed if safe and necessary based on the MRI.  

Depending on the results of the above listed tests, further testing may be necessary (such as muscle or nerve biopsies or evaluating for infectious diseases). Most commonly, a treatment plan can be created from the information obtained via MRI and/or spinal fluid analysis to get your pet on the road to recovery. In some cases, for example – when a herniated or slipped disk is present and causing significant compression on the spinal cord – surgical intervention is necessary and will be discussed.  

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Although many pets’ neurologic signs can be severe, it does not mean that there aren’t treatment options to get them back to living a great life! If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s symptoms, talk to your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary neurologist. 

Continued Reading: 

Missy Carpentier, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), board-certified veterinary neurologist, board-certified veterinary neurosurgeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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