When dogs have neurological disorders the signs can start extremely quickly which is scary for both the dogs and their owners. Whilst the symptoms may not necessarily mean it is something to be concerned about, the treatment options available will be more successful if the symptoms are spotted sooner. Therefore, owners must understand what the signs are. With a range of possible diagnoses and treatments, here we explain the most common neurological disorders in dogs.
What are canine neurological disorders?
Canine neurological disorders are classed as any illness that stems from the dog’s central nervous system. These disorders are common caused by injury, diseases, or other health issues. As they can target the brain, spinal cord, and nerves and can be severe, they need treatment as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
What are some of the symptoms?
Whilst the symptoms can vary significantly, here are some of the common symptoms that indicate a potential neurological based disorder in dogs:
How to diagnose neurological disorders in dogs?
Whilst there is no single way to diagnose, a veterinary may start their medical investigation by seeking out the answers to the following:
What are common neurological disorders in dogs?
The vestibular system helps maintain balance and coordination of the head and eyes. If there is a problem with this system, dogs can usually show symptoms such as a strange head tilt, nausea, sporadic eye movement, and even difficulty standing.
A specific type of vestibular disease can be found in more mature dogs. Commonly known as Old Dog Vestibular Disease. This adversely affects the balance of the dog and can feel like the room is spinning.
These symptoms can be scary for an owner to see and some owners confuse them and assume their dog is having a stroke when this may not actually be the case.
Depending on the patient and the severity, there are anti-nausea drugs that can be administered to help keep the dog feeling more comfortable.
An issue with the spinal cord is called myelopathy and signs can vary from pain to complete paralysis. From carrying out imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans, veterinarians should be able to localise the pain and get a clearer understanding of what is causing it.
One type of spinal disease is Wobbler Syndrome. This disorder is caused by abnormalities in the back and soft tissues of the neck that lead to the compression of the spinal cord. Over time this can lead to the dog showing an unsteady gait. Once the disorder has been diagnosed, it can often be treated via surgery or a combination of surgery and other medical therapies.
A common cause of back and neck pain in dogs that can lead to a lack of coordination is Intervertebral Disc Degeneration and Herniation. (IVDD) . The discs usually function to provide cushioning between the bones and spine, so when this starts to degenerate, it hardens and causes compression of the spinal cord which can be extremely painful.
Seizures can be a terrifying and traumatic thing for the dog and the owners to see. The fact that they are sudden is part of why they are so scary. Seizures are a sign of abnormal electrical activity in the brain for a varying length of time and can be an indication of several issues.
Seizures can be caused by metabolic problems such as a deficiency in vitamins like calcium or because the patient has low blood sugar. Carrying out blood tests should be able to identify this. They could also be caused by something a bit more sinister such as a tumour or infection in the brain. CT and MRI scans again should be able to be used to see if this is the case or to rule it out. If none of these are causing the seizures, the dog could be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Once the root of seizures has been figured out, the treatment aims to decrease the frequency that they occur. This can often be done with anti-epileptic drugs or a combination of medication and other forms of treatment.
Treatments for neurological diseases
The treatments available depends on the individual dog and its condition. However, popular treatments that can be used on a range of disorders include hydrotherapy, balance exercises, acupuncture, cryotherapy, and laser therapy - all of which can potentially be effective techniques for pain control. There also may be surgical options available. Whilst some of the disorders will be able to be healed or cured, others may not be and will have to be managed instead.
We understand that neurological disorders can be serious and sudden which is a terrifying prospect for owners. However, by having an understanding of what the symptoms are and what signs to look out for, owners will be in the best position possible to seek medical help urgently if any of these symptoms occur. The swiftness of the response will hopefully help the disorder be diagnosed as quickly as possible and a treatment plan put in place that is tailored to the dog.