Neurological Symptom Presentation & Diagnosis

Changes in your pet’s behavior could be a symptom of a neurological issue. The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) provides resources to help you identify neurological symptoms. We have the specialized expertise and technology needed to accurately diagnose and treat neurological conditions.

Capturing Presentation Of Your Pet’s Neurological Symptoms

If your pet presents symptoms that are stable or static, our doctors will see them during a neurological exam. However, if your notice your pet’s symptoms are intermittent or vague, diagnosis may be aided by capturing your pet’s behavior on video.

What To Do If Your Pet Shows Symptoms Of Neurological Dysfunction

Observing symptoms of a possible neurological disorder is distressing. You do not have to spend your time researching the symptoms to determine if your pet may be experiencing a medical emergency. Just call us.

When you call The ANIC, you will speak to a board-certified neurologist who can determine if your pet needs emergency service or not. The doctor may also be able to provide information about what to watch for (to gather diagnostic data at home) and how to keep your pet safe and comfortable until your appointment.

Neurological Symptoms

Balance Problems

Abnormal gait patterns are often symptomatic of a neurological problem. One such underlying issue may be a diminished sense of balance. The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) can help pets experiencing balance challenges to restore their abilities and quality of life.

Recognizing Balance Problems In Your Pet
Balance challenges are often recognized by the compensatory or involuntary movements dogs and cats make in an attempt to regain normal balance, such as:

  • Tilting their head to one side
  • Swaying when standing
  • Tipping over
  • Stumbling

Balance challenges may also present with other neurological symptoms, like nystagmus (darting eyes) and/or weakness in one or more limbs (usually on one side or front/back half of the body).

What Balance Challenges May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
Your pet’s sense of balance is controlled by the brain and the ear, so balance challenges can indicate a problem in the nervous system or the ears.

Neurological causes of balance challenges include:

  • Degenerative disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Spinal cord injury or congenital malformation

Advanced imaging is often required to make a definitive diagnosis.

Restoring Balance And Health For Your Pet
The ANIC provides the specialized care and advanced technology your dog or cat needs to recover from balance challenges.

When you visit our clinic, your pet will be given a thorough neurological exam. If necessary, any advanced imaging tests will be done in-house and, to the greatest extent possible, the same day.

Our doctors are veterinary neurologists who have at least four years of advanced training and experience treating neurological disorders, so we can develop a treatment plan that gives your pet the best chances for full recovery.

The first step to getting your pet the help they need is to contact us. You can schedule an appointment or consult with a trained medical professional to determine if your pet needs emergency service.

Behavior changes

Pets have unique personalities that their owners get to know fairly quickly. You may know that Fido does not like loud noises and will always bark at July 4th fireworks and that Whiskers perks her ears when she hears a specific keychain jingle. You will also know when your pets’ behavior changes. If those changes persist for more than a few hours, it may be time to contact The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for neurological testing.

Common Behavior Changes Observed

behavior changesWhile not every type of odd behavior is cause for concern, some behavior changes may indicate neurological dysfunction in your pet, such as:

  • Acting “spacey” and/or confused
  • Change in aggressiveness—either a typically mellow dog or cat getting more aggressive or an aggressive pet becoming inexplicably placid
  • Change in personality
  • Confusion (for example, randomly barking at food bowl)
  • Increase in vocalization
  • Lethargy
  • Moments of disorientation

Some behavior changes may be noticeable right away, such as head pressing or continuous circling; others may take hours, possibly days to discern as lasting behavior changes.

When Is A Behavior Change Symptomatic?

Pets can exhibit behavior changes for a variety of reasons, not all of them medical. For example, moving to a new home or a change in daily routine (as when one of their humans goes away to school) can increase a pet’s stress, which is often demonstrated by behavior changes.

If your pet’s behavior changes have no easily identifiable stimulus and they last for more than a day, the change could be symptomatic of a neurological disorder.

Find Out What May Be Causing Your Pet’s Behavior Change

For many pet owners, peace of mind is invaluable, so it is worth a call to The ANIC to speak to a veterinary neurologist about your pet’s behavior change. Based on your description of the behavior change, we may recommend emergency service or schedule an appointment for a neurological examination when it is convenient for you.

Continuous circles

Behavior changes in pets can arise for a number of reasons, including neurological disorders and/or nervous conditions. One such behavior change that may indicate a problem is continuous circling. The veterinary neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) can determine what may be causing this behavior and how to effectively treat or manage the symptom.

When Circling Is Not Normal

Dogs and cats both “circle” for a number of reasons. Dog owners will, no doubt, have seen their pet circle the area where they are going to lie down or chase their tails. Dogs and cats both circle people of interest—often those with food in hand.

However, circling may be a symptomatic behavior if:constant circling

  • Your pet travels in circular motions to navigate a space or come when called
  • Your dog or cat is circling continuously, obsessively
  • Your pet does not respond when called while circling

Some animals may also tilt their heads when circling.

What Circling Can Mean

Continuous circling can be an indicator of a number of health issues, such as:

  • Vestibular disease (a disease that affects the inner ear, which controls balance)
  • Anxiety
  • Dementia

These health issues may arise from neurological events or conditions, like stroke or degenerative disease, or they may be the result of infection, aging or other systemic problems.

Get Help For Your Pet

If your pet suddenly exhibits continuous circling or if your veterinarian can find no cause for the behavior change, contact The ANIC. We provide advanced neurological diagnostic and treatment services. If the circling behavior is caused by an underlying neurological disorder, the sooner your pet is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis.

Difficulties walking and/or abnormal gait

Neurological dysfunction in pets often presents with walking issues. The board-certified neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) can determine if your pet’s walking difficulties are nerve-related or require further specialist intervention.

Types Of Walking That May Be A Neurological Symptom

Gait irregularities and inabilities that may by symptomatic of neurological dysfunction include:

  • Problems Walking
  • Inability to walk in a straight line
  • Staggering (a “drunken” walk)
  • Stumbling (falling forward or to the side)
  • Sudden inability to walk
  • Tip-toeing
  • Visible body misalignment when walking

Even if you are not confident about how to describe your pet’s walking problems, you are likely confident in your assessment that it is “off.” If the behavior is consistent, our doctors will see it in the exam room. If you notice the symptom is intermittent, providing a brief video of your dog’s or cat’s walking can be helpful.

Other Causes For Walking Issues

Walking problems can be caused by a range of neurological disorders, but neurological disorders are not the only possible cause of all waking issues. Other conditions that can result in irregular gaits include:

  • Cushing’s Disease (an endocrine disorder)
  • Musculoskeletal disease or disorders, including fractures, sprains or strains
  • Inflammation (i.e. osteoarthritis)

Often our doctors are able to determine if your pet’s walking problems are related to a neurological condition or something else. If another system is likely the cause, we can refer you to other veterinary specialists and/or provide our clinical assessment to your regular veterinarian.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Your Pet

In the event that your pet’s walking problems are the symptom of a neurological disorder, you are in the best hands at The ANIC. We have the specialized training, experience and advanced imaging capabilities to accurately diagnose and treat a range of neurological conditions.

As with all neurological conditions, early diagnosis and treatment lead to the best outcomes. If you notice your dog or cat walking “funny,” please call or contact us. You will speak to one of our neurologists who can determine if you need an emergency appointment or if your pet can safely wait for a scheduled exam.

Dragging hind legs/Loss of Use of Back Legs

Pets cannot verbally describe their neurological symptoms, but some presentations are very obvious. Partial paralysis, for instance, may involve your pet dragging their hind legs. If you see your pet is unable to move their hind legs, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for specialized neurological care.

Types Of Leg Dragging In Dogs And Cats
For most pets, leg dragging is obvious—your pet has full mobility in their front legs and paws, but both back legs lie flat against the floor and are dragged as your pet makes forward movement. Occasionally, hind-leg dragging may also involve the scuffing or dragging of one or both front legs. Very rarely a dog or cat may have full mobility of hind legs while dragging (or pushing) front paws/legs.

What Dragging Legs May Indicate
Most cases of hind leg dragging is the result of a spinal cord issue or injury. However, what the specific problem may be requires careful neurological examination and, possibly, diagnostic imaging.

Hind leg dragging is rarely the symptom of another medical condition, but other medical issues can present with similar symptoms, such as:

  • Limping
  • Wobbling
  • Scuffing toes

Pet owners do not have to properly assess whether their pet’s mobility issues are paralysis or another type of gait abnormality. The neurologists at The ANIC will be able to accurately describe and diagnose the symptom and determine the next steps for proper care.

Tips For Transporting Your Pet
Because hind leg dragging may indicate a spinal cord injury, it is important to stabilize your pet’s back and head to the greatest extent possible. When transporting your pet to our clinic, please:

  • Do your best to minimize jostling while getting your pet in/out of your vehicle
  • Secure your pet in a kennel if possible
  • Position your pet in the kennel or on the seat in a way that seems to provide the most comfort

Because your pet may experience pain with movement, take care to prevent bites.


Loss Of Use Of Back Legs As Neurological Symptom In Pets

If your pet loses the ability to use their back legs, pet owners know immediately that something is wrong. The veterinary neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) have the advanced training and technology required to diagnose and treat partial paralysis resulting from a neurological disorder.

How To Recognize Back Leg Immobility
There are a number of reasons why a dog or cat may not use one or more of its back legs, but not all of them are neurologically related. For instance, high-energy, high-activity pets may injure a leg and refuse to put weight on it to avoid pain. When immobility is injury-related, your pet continues to have use of its other limbs and will usually compensate for the hurt leg by hobbling around with the other three.

Back leg immobility is more likely a neurological concern if it affects both back legs evenly and simultaneously.

Pets who lose the use of their back legs for neurological reasons often drag their legs behind them and/or may experience co-occurring symptoms, such as:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle loss

It is also possible for paralysis to progress, resulting in the loss of use of front legs as well.

Possible Causes Of Back Leg Immobility
The most common causes of a pet’s inability to use its back legs include:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal cord stroke
  • Tumor
  • Autoimmune disease

A neurological examination may identify both the location and cause of your pet’s back leg immobility. Some pets, though, require diagnostic imaging (MRI or CT scan) to make a definitive diagnosis.

Help When Your Pet Cannot Use Their Back Legs
The sudden loss of use of back legs usually warrants emergency care. If your dog or cat can no longer use its back legs, contact The ANIC immediately.

Eyes darting

Some neurological symptoms pets experience are obvious—like dragging hind legs or head pressing. Other symptoms may be subtler, such as eyes darting. However, a symptom that is less obvious does not necessarily indicate a lower level of urgency with which it should be diagnosed and treated.

If your pet has darting eyes, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

Recognizing Eyes Darting As A Neurological Symptom
It is fairly easy for a pet owner to distinguish darting eyes (also called nystagmus) from focused concentration or tracking. If your dog or cat is tracking a small object, like a bug or moving shadow, you will see their eyes “jump” vertically and/or horizontally as they follow the object. Your animal will also move its head in the direction of the perceived movement.

Darting eyes, on the other hand, is a repetitive back-and-forth motion of the eyes. Your pet will likely keep their head still, and they do not respond to attempts to get their attention.

What Eyes Darting May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
Eyes darting may be a sign of a neurological disorder in the vestibular system—the part of the brain that controls balance.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Neurological Symptoms
The ANIC is staffed by neurologists who have the specialized knowledge and training to accurately diagnose and treat your pet. When you bring your pet to our nearest clinic, our doctors may determine during an exam (and possibly diagnostic imaging) the cause of your pet’s darting eyes. Diagnosis may be aided by video recording of your pet’s behavior if eye darting is an intermittent symptom.

Accurate diagnosis is required before the proper treatment or referral can be made. Please contact us to speak to a neurologist to find out if emergency service is required or if you can wait for a scheduled appointment.

Head pressing

Dogs (and cats) do some crazy things, but pet owners tend to know when strange behavior is not viral video-worthy, but a sign that something is very wrong. Head pressing is one such behavior. If you see your furry friend head pressing, consult The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) right away.

Recognizing Head Pressing

Unlike circling that can be confused with normal, instinctual behavior, head pressing is never normal. It is easy to recognize—your dog* may either walk to a wall, solid piece of furniture or other stable object and press its head against it. It is clear during head pressing that your pet is not sniffing or searching for anything; the animal simply stands still pressing its head against the object.

There is no minimum amount of time required for head pressing to be diagnostically significant. However, if allowed to continue, your pet can develop sores on its face where pressure is frequently applied.

Possible Causes Of Head Pressing

Head pressing may be symptomatic of a number of neurological issues, such as:

  • Prosencephalon disease
  • Brain tumor
  • Infection of the nervous system, e.g. rabies or fungal infection
  • Head trauma

There are also a number of possible non-neurological causes for head pressing, including metabolic disorder, tumor located somewhere other than the brain or spinal cord and exposure to toxins (e.g. lead).

Testing And Treatment For Head Pressing

There are a number of tests that may help our doctors determine the underlying cause for your dog’s head pressing. Only after your pet has been given a thorough neurological examination do we proceed to additional tests, such as lab work and imaging tests.

It is essential to determine the underlying cause of head pressing in order for an effective and safe treatment plan to be developed. Our doctors will inform you of all treatment options, at-home care requirements and costs so that you can make the best decision for your entire family.

Contact us any time for emergency services or to schedule an appointment.

High Stepping

Some symptoms of neurological disorder may be easy recognize, as is often the case with high-stepping or goose-stepping, particularly in dogs. These abnormal gaits are types of ataxia, or loss of coordination, that may indicate a problem in the nervous system. If you observe this behavior in your pet, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

What High Stepping Looks Like
“High-stepping” may be used to describe two different types of gait abnormalities:

  1. Gait where the dog brings its knees near chest-height, making the gait look similar to that of a prancing horse
  2. Gait where the dog hyperflexes its joints, making the fore-limb stick strait out during mid-stride, giving the appearance of “goose-stepping”or “soldier marching”

High-stepping is mostly observed in the front legs. In small dogs, high-stepping may be subtler because the behavior appears less pronounced with shorter legs.

What High Stepping May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
High-stepping indicates a loss of coordination/spatial disorientation. While this may be caused by non-neurological medical conditions like ear disease or infection, it may also indicate:

  • Dysfunction in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that fine tunes motor activity
  • Problem with peripheral nerves and/or spinal cord—i.e., nerves sending messages to the cerebellum for fine motor control

What the actual problem with these parts of a dog’s neuroanatomy ranges from inflammation from infection or autoimmune disorder to tumors.

How To Help Your Dog Restore Coordination
Many of the underlying causes of high-stepping are curable or manageable, but they have to be accurately diagnosed before they can be effectively treated.

The ANIC offers the specialized neurological care your pet needs. When you bring your pet to our clinic, they receive:

  • Superior medical care from skilled and compassionate veterinary technicians and veterinary neurologists
  • A thorough neurological examination that is often all that is needed to arrive at a diagnosis
  • Advanced imaging (as needed) performed in-house

As a part of a multi-specialty facility, we offer 24/7 emergency care. Contact us to consult with a trained medical professional to determine if your pet requires emergency service or to schedule an appointment.

Lack of Appetite

All kinds of human illnesses can cause a person to not want to eat. The same happens in dogs and cats. Among the myriad possible reasons your pet may lose their appetite are potential neurological disorders. The best place for neurological treatment is The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

Contributing Factors To Your Pet’s Lack Of Appetite
For many pets, the loss of the desire to eat may stem from:

  • Pain
  • Nausea

Some pets may be too weak to move to their food dishes and/or have trouble supporting their weight to eat. So, it may appear they have a lack of appetite when in reality they simply lack the energy or strength to complete the act of eating.

When Lack Of Appetite Is A Neurological Symptom
Loss of appetite is a very common symptom, so alone it cannot point to any one underlying medical condition. However, lack of appetite is commonly associated with vertigo, a neurological condition. If it is, pet owners will see other signs and symptoms of vertigo, including:

  • Balance problems—i.e., stumbling, inability or unwillingness to stand up
  • Head tilt or turn—one ear may be cocked higher or the head turned to the right or left
  • Circling

Lack of appetite with other behavior changes may also indicate a neurological condition that requires further diagnostic testing and treatment.

What To Do If Your Pet Loses Their Appetite
If your pet loses their appetite, the best course of action is to first schedule a visit with your primary veterinarian for preliminary tests.

If your veterinarian cannot find any underlying cause and/or you notice other neurological symptoms, then contact The ANIC to schedule an appointment.

All pets receive a thorough neurological examination, and many cases can be diagnosed and treatment started without any further testing. If more information is needed, we can perform MRIs and CT scans in-house, often the same day as your exam.

In the event that your pet’s loss of appetite preceded a stroke, seizure or sudden onset of paralysis, contact us for emergency service.

Limp tail

Dogs and cats communicate a lot with their tails. If that tail is no longer bouncy, wagging or swishing, that may suggest the presence of a neurological disorder. If your pet has a limp tail, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for specialized neurological care.

Recognizing A Limp Tail In Your Pet
When your pet is experiencing a limp tail as a neurological symptom, there will be little or no vertical or lateral movement.

A limp tail may or may not present with pain. However, there does not need to be any other co-occurring symptoms for a limp tail to be taken seriously.

What A Limp Tail May Indicate
A limp tail is almost exclusively a symptom of neurological disorder, usually a problem in the lumbosacral region of the spine (the area of the spine near the hips).

In order to determine the cause of the limp tail, our doctors must complete a thorough neurological examination and may need to perform diagnostic imaging.

Advanced Neurological Diagnosis And Treatment For Your Pet
Our neurologists have the expertise and advanced technology required to accurately diagnose your pet’s neurological symptoms—and that is a necessary first step to finding the least invasive, most effective treatment.

Get your pet the specialized care they need at The ANIC. Contact us to schedule an appointment or to consult about emergency care.

Loss of Coordination

Disease or injury to the nervous symptom can result in the loss of coordination in pets. If your pet is experiencing balance challenges, walking with an abnormal gait or demonstrating a loss of limb coordination, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for advanced diagnostics and treatment.

How Loss Of Coordination May Present In Your Pet
Common signs that a dog or cat has lost coordination include:

  • Falling to one or another side when standing or attempting to walk
  • Walking in a staggering or “drunken” manner
  • Crossing their legs as they walk

Loss of coordination may present with other neurological symptoms, such as nystagmus (darting eyes) and/or tilting the head, a common indicator of loss of balance.

Possible Causes For Loss Of Coordination
Pets may experience a loss of coordination as a result of metabolic disorders, including low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and electrolyte imbalances.

Potential neurological causes range from vestibular disease to spinal cord injury to brain tumors. The affected limbs, severity of the loss of balance and speed of onset often provide diagnostic clues to help our doctors locate the source of the neurological dysfunction.

What To Do If You Notice Your Pet Has Lost Coordination
Most attentive pet owners take their pets to their primary care veterinarians when they first notice signs of lost coordination. If your veterinarian cannot conclusively determine the cause of your pet’s loss of coordination, they can refer you to The ANIC.

However, if your pet suddenly loses coordination, you may contact us to make an appointment without a referral. We offer 24/7 emergency medical care, and scheduled appointments are usually made within one business day.

At The ANIC, your pet will receive a thorough neurological examination from one of our veterinary neurologists. If advanced imaging is required for diagnosis or treatment planning, we can perform MRIs and CT scans in-house.

Our clinics are equipped with everything your pet needs for specialized neurological care, and our compassionate and skilled team offer your pet the personal attention required to ensure their safety and comfort.

Loss of muscle mass and/or control

Nerve signals do more than control your pet’s movements. Nerve signals conduct electrical impulses that help keep muscle tissue healthy. So, if your pet is experiencing unexplained muscle loss (atrophy), there may be an underlying neurological condition. The veterinary neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC)  has the expertise and advanced technology that is needed to diagnose the cause of your pet’s muscle atrophy.

Signs Of Muscle Loss In Pets
Pet owners often notice muscle loss because of a change in their pet’s appearance. Your dog or cat may:

  • Have one limb that is noticeably thinner than the other
  • Appear leaner
  • Experience disfigurement on the head and/or face

Muscle atrophy may present alone or with other symptoms, such as weakness, trembling and/or trouble standing.

Possible Causes Of Muscle Atrophy
Muscle loss can result from a number of health issues, including muscular, endocrine or neurological disorders.

Neurological (including neuromuscular) conditions that may cause muscle loss include:

  • Myopathy
  • Myositis
  • Masticatory muscle myositis (MMM)
  • Neuropathy
  • Trigeminal neuropathy
  • Lumbosacral disease
  • Spinal cord problems

Masticatory muscle myositis most commonly affects large dog breeds. However, most other neuromuscular and neurological conditions that cause muscle loss equally affect all breeds of dogs and cats.

Diagnosing The Cause Of Muscle Atrophy
Determining which biological system is causing your pet’s muscle loss typically begins with lab work, which your primary care veterinarian will likely perform. These tests may be all your pet needs if muscle atrophy is the result of an endocrine disorder.

But, if your pet’s lab work shows no markers of endocrine disruption, then you may need to consult a specialist. The doctors at The ANIC are board-certified neurologists (or residents working toward board certification); their advanced training and experience often allow them to distinguish muscle loss caused by muscular conditions vs. neuromuscular or neurological conditions through a neurological examination alone. Our clinic is also equipped with the advanced imaging technology if needed.

If you observe muscle loss in your pet, you can seek advanced medical care at The ANIC.

Pacing

Pacing can be normal behavior in dogs and cats. Pets often pace in anticipation of someone’s arrival, when following a person or object outside or when they sense changes, like an upcoming trip or move. Pet owners can usually tell when pacing is normal behavior and when it’s not.

If you suspect that your dog’s or cat’s pacing is an indicator of a health problem, bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC). We have the advanced training and technology to determine if your pet needs specialized medical care.

When Pacing Is Not Normal Behavior
Pacing is most likely symptomatic of a health problem when it presents with other symptoms, like:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Disorientation
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive thirst
  • Discolored urine
  • Increased vocalization

For some pets, what pet owners describe as “pacing” may actually be continuous circling.

Possible Causes Of Pathological Pacing
Pacing as a symptom is often seen in pets with anxiety, liver disease or Cushing’s disease.

As a neurological symptom, pacing is usually associated with dementia or brain tumors.

Help For Your Pacing Pet
Pet owners do not have to discern whether their pet’s pacing is neurologically related or not. The neurologists at The ANIC can often determine the underlying cause of pacing during a neurological examination. If your pet’s pacing is the result of another medical condition, we will refer you to your primary care veterinarian or another veterinary specialist.

If your pet’s pacing does indicate a neurological condition, we may perform advanced imaging tests or move directly to treatment. Our doctors consult with you so that you understand all treatment options, costs and at-home care requirements so that you can make the best decision for your pet.

With most neurological conditions, the earlier you can start treatment, the better. Contact us as soon as you suspect abnormal pacing. You may consult with a trained medical professional to determine if your pet needs emergency service or may wait for a scheduled appointment (usually available the same day or day after you call).

Pain

Your pet is a member of your family, and like other family members, you tend to keep tabs on their activities, moods and general health. So, you are likely to know if your pet is in pain because of an activity-related injury or because they ate something they weren’t supposed to. But, if your pet is experiencing pain without any obvious cause, it may be the result of a neurological condition.

The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) provides the advanced diagnostics and treatment your pet needs for relief.

Diagnosing The Cause Of Pain
Pain is often a challenging symptom to work with because it is often transferred to a part of the body away from where nerves are actually being affected. For instance, pinched nerves in the spinal cord may cause pain in your pet’s paws or limbs. Pets may also display behaviors interpreted as lethargy or paralysis because they are not moving parts of their body that cause pain.

The neurologists at The ANIC have the advanced training it takes to accurately diagnose pain. Our doctors’ extensive knowledge of feline and canine neuroanatomy allows us to locate the source of the neurological problem based on where pain is actually sensed.

When pain is caused by a neurological disorder, the most common reasons include:

  • Inflammation and pressure on cranial or spinal nerves as a result of dislocated tissues, as in the case of fractures or ruptured discs
  • Tumors, cysts or lesions

Pain as a neurological symptom may present suddenly or gradually increase to a level that affects your pet’s movements and/or demeanor.

Our Diagnostic And Treatment Process
To determine the underlying cause of your pain, all patients first undergo a thorough neurological examination. Some causes of pain may be evident in the exam room, allowing treatment to begin immediately or a referral made to your primary care veterinarian or another veterinary specialist.

If our doctors need an internal view of your pet’s nervous system to locate the cause of pain, we have the technology in-house to perform:

  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiography

Once imaging test results have been evaluated, our doctors will consult with you to let you know what treatment options are available.

If your pet’s pain is severe, you may contact us any time to consult with a trained medical professional to determine if emergency service is required.

Seizures

Seizures are common neurological events that may be symptomatic of a number of conditions. If your pet experiences a seizure, please bring them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center for advanced diagnostics and treatment.

Types Of Seizures In Dogs And Cats
There are two main types of seizures that small animals may experience:

Generalized seizures

A generalized seizure affects the pet’s entire body and may present with signs such as:chewing

  • Legs paddling
  • Chewing motion
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control

For the duration of the event, which may be seconds to minutes, the animal is usually aware of its surroundings. For hours to days after the event, your pet may exhibit behavior changes, experience vision loss and/or suffer from lethargy.

Focal seizures
Focal seizures are also called partial seizures because they only affect a part of the animal’s body. Partial seizures may present as:

  • Twitching limb
  • Twitching part of the face

During the event, your pet may not be aware of its surroundings, appearing “spacey.”

Focal seizures are more frequently experienced by dogs.

Events Confused With Seizures
Seizures may be confused with other events, such as fainting episodes, which are common in pets with heart disease. Before running an MRI, which requires anesthetization, we may first refer your pet to a cardiologist.

What To Do In The Event Of A Seizure
If your pet experiences something that looks like a seizure for the first time, call us. Our doctors are available 24/7 to conduct a brief phone consult to determine if your pet needs emergency services.

If you are actively managing epilepsy in your pet, please contact us. We have a program for at-home neurological care.

Shaking legs

Neurological disorders in dogs and cats may present with signs and/or symptoms that are seemingly minor, such as shaking legs. If your pet has shaking legs that affect their ability to walk or stand, you may benefit from the advanced diagnostics and neurological treatment available at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

Reasons Why Your Pet May Have Shaking Legs
“Shaking legs” is a common way of describing tremoring in one or more limbs. Shaking legs is often an indicator of weakness, which may be the result of:

  • Arthritis or autoimmune-induced inflammation
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Exposure to toxins

Shaking legs may also indicate that your pet is in pain.
Depending on the underlying cause, your pet’s shaking legs may be noticeable when your pet is at rest or only when trying to stand or walk.

Caring For A Pet With Shaking Legs
If your pet has shaking legs, you should first consult your primary care veterinarian. Although shaking legs by itself provides doctors with minimal diagnostic information, your family veterinarian may be able to rule out common causes, like arthritis, with a physical exam.

If your pet’s shaking legs persist, then it may be a sign of neurological disorder. Conditions that involve or affect the health and/or function of the brain and spinal cord are best treated by specialists—veterinary neurologists at The ANIC.

Superior Care At The ANIC
The ANIC provides a higher level of diagnostics and specialized treatment. Our clinic is equipped with advanced imaging technology, and we have the capabilities to provide other advanced diagnostic procedures, like spinal tap.

Our doctors have completed training in neurology and neurosurgery, giving them the knowledge and experience required to interpret imaging test results and perform sophisticated surgical procedures.

But more importantly, our entire staff are compassionate animal lovers, dedicated to providing the best care for your pet.

You do not have to wait to be referred by your family veterinarian to see a specialist at The ANIC. You may contact us to schedule an appointment or consult with a trained medical professional to determine if your pet needs emergency neurological care.

Slipped Disc

A “slipped disc” is a bit of a misleading term for the neurological issue it describes. This condition is actually caused by the rupture or tear of the cartilage discs between each vertebra in your pet’s spinal column. The jelly-like substance that protrudes from the slipped disc puts pressure on the spinal cord, resulting the presentation of neurological symptoms.

The board-certified neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) has the expertise and advanced technology required to accurately diagnose and treat your pet.

How To Recognize A Slipped Disc In Your Pet
Slipped discs are more common in dogs than cats. If your dog has experienced a slipped disc, you may notice:

  • Difficulty walking—one or more limbs may not move at all, or your dog may lose coordination, resulting in staggering
  • Vocalization or behavior changes associated with pain

Often pet owners become aware of their dog’s pain when trying to pick them up and mistakenly think the pain is in the belly. In reality, it is the upward pressure from the belly on the slipped disc that increases pain.

Possible Causes For A Slipped Disc
Slipped discs are more common in dogs because some breeds have a genetic susceptibility or congenital abnormality. A slipped disc may also be the result of:

  • Age
  • Inflammation (osteoarthritis)
  • Trauma

Mild trauma, such as jumping out of a car or off furniture, may be enough to rupture discs that are already compromised because of degenerative disease.

Treatment Options For Slipped Disc
The location of the slipped disc impacts the severity of the symptoms; it may also determine the type of treatment.

It is possible for a slipped disc to heal naturally, but this is typically only the case if it is found early, before the inner disc material has begun to put pressure on the spinal cord. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Consequently, most slipped discs require spine surgery.

If your pet is showing signs of a slipped disc or other neurological disorder, contact The ANIC right away. Our doctors are always available for consultation and can help you determine if emergency services are required or if it is safe for your pet to wait for a scheduled appointment.

Spatial Disorientation

Neurological disorders in dogs and cats often make them unaware of where they are or how to control or move their body in space. If your pet shows signs of spatial disorientation with no obvious cause (like trauma), they may benefit from the specialized care available at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

How Your Dog Or Cat May Exhibit Spatial Disorientation
Spatial disorientation makes it difficult for your pet to locate their bodies in a space. They may show disorientation by:

  • Falling to one side or another when walking
  • Swaying when standing
  • Walking in a staggering or “drunken” manner
  • Crossing their legs when they walk

Sometimes when animals do not feel confident in their stability or ability to navigate an area, they may limit movement. As a result, spatial disorientation could look like weakness, fatigue or lethargy.

What Spatial Disorientation May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
Spatial disorientation often points to a problem with the vestibular system—the part of the nervous system that controls balance. Potential vestibular problems include:

  • Idiopathic or geriatric vestibular disease
  • Stroke
  • Injury, inflammation or infection in the brain or spinal cord
  • Brain or spinal cord lesions or tumors

There are also non-neurological medical causes for spatial disorientation, most commonly metabolic disorders and/or electrolyte imbalances.

Advanced Veterinary Diagnostics And Treatment
If you have already consulted with your primary care veterinarian about your pet’s spatial disorientation or disorientation presents with other neurological symptoms, contact The ANIC to schedule an appointment.

Our neurologists perform a thorough neurological examination and can run advanced imaging tests, often the same day as the exam. Our doctors have the advanced training and technology required to diagnose the cause of your pet’s spatial disorientation so that we can find the best course of treatment to restore their balance, coordination and quality of life.

Spinal Cord Injury

Not all neurological disorders stem from problems in the brain. Injury to the spinal cord can interfere with nerve messaging, resulting a wide array of neurological symptoms. The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) provides advanced diagnostics and treatment for spinal cord injury.

What To Look For
Observable symptoms of spinal cord injury typically involve your pet’s walking. Symptoms of spinal cord injury are often progressive. You may notice:

Loss of coordination, like scuffing of toes à staggering à complete loss of uses of one or more limbs

However, spinal cord injury may not be noticeable until an inciting event, so symptoms can present suddenly, too.

Common Causes Of Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury can, of course, be caused by severe trauma, like a car accident. However, low-level trauma (like jumping out of a car) can result in injury if your pet’s spinal column has already been compromised by:

  • Disc disease (see slipped disc)
  • Autoimmune inflammation
  • Inherited anatomic abnormalities

Natural degeneration of cartilage because of age can also increase your pet’s risk of spinal cord injury.

See our client resources for more information on spinal cord disorders.

Treatment For Spinal Cord Injury
What your pet needs for spinal cord injury treatment is determined by the cause for the injury. For instance, if the injury was caused by a disc rupture, the treatment is spinal surgery. If the injury was the result of inflammation, medication to manage the underlying condition may be the best course of treatment.

The doctors at The ANIC will help you understand all possible treatment options once a full diagnosis has been reached. To get your pet the advanced neurological care they need, contact us to schedule an exam. If your pet is in severe pain or symptoms of spinal cord injury present suddenly, please call us for a consultation to determine if your pet requires emergency services.

Stroke

The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) provides advanced neurological diagnostics and treatment. We are the place that gives your pet the best chances of recovery after a stroke.

Symptoms Of A Stroke In Your Pet
In order to get your pet the care they need in the event of a stroke, you need to recognize the signs and symptoms. Dogs or cats that have suffered a stroke may:

  • Experience vision loss
  • Have difficulty eating
  • Have seizures
  • Lose sensation in parts of their face
  • Lose use of one or more limbs
  • Stumble

Strokes can happen in the brain and spinal cord. Where the stroke (i.e. oxygen deprivation) occurs determines the severity and location of symptoms.

Possible Causes Of Strokes In Pets
There are a number of possible reasons your pet may experience a stroke, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Endocrine disorder

Some strokes (called idiopathic strokes) have no underlying cause.

The advanced imaging available at The ANIC allows our neurologists to locate where the stroke happened. Imaging and other tests often identify the cause. Finding the underlying medical condition that caused the stroke is the necessary first step to creating an effective treatment plan.

Trembling/Tremors

Pet owners use a variety of terms to describe involuntary movements they observe in their pets. Among some of the most common are “trembling” and “shivering.” These symptoms may point to a neurological disorder. The only way to know for sure is to bring your pet to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

Types Of Trembling In Pets
“Trembling” is a vague term that may be used to describe:

  • Tremoring in one or more limbs
  • Shaking legs when your pet stands or attempts to walk

However, our doctors most often hear the term “trembling” to describe full-body movements, possibly a generalized seizure.

Possible Causes Of Trembling
Trembling is another challenging symptom to diagnose because it may actually be a visible sign of other subjective symptoms, like:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Nausea

The presence of other symptoms, however, helps our doctors make an accurate diagnosis.

Some causes of trembling are not neurologically related, such as:

  • Poisoning/toxicity
  • Excitement
  • Anxiety
  • Kidney failure

There are also a number of possible neurological causes, including:

  • Distemper
  • Seizure disorder
  • Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Degenerative diseases that cause the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells to deteriorate can also result in shaking.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Trembling Pets
Many medical conditions that cause trembling can be accurately diagnosed and treated by your primary care veterinarian. However, if trembling persists or you think that your pet’s trembling was a seizure, contact The ANIC for emergency or scheduled care.

Our doctors are veterinary neurologists. They have the advanced training required to make a differential diagnosis and provide the right neurological treatment or refer you to another veterinary specialist better suited to help.


Types Of Tremors Pets May Experience
The word “tremor” may be used by pet owners to describe a number of symptoms, including:

  • Shaking legs—one or more limbs that shake continuously or when the animal attempts to stand and support its own weight
  • Trembling—a wobbling, often started in the limbs that may “spread” to affect the animal’s core, appearing like a whole-body shiver
  • Focal seizure—twitching in the face or limbs
  • Generalized seizure—a convulsive spasm that typically affects the animal’s entire body

Tremoring may be a constant or intermittent symptom. If it is intermittent, capturing the tremor on video can help our doctors better understand the type and extent of involuntary movements your pet exhibits, facilitating speedier diagnosis.

What Tremors May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
Tremors can point to a host of medical conditions, not all of them neurologically-related. For instance, tremoring limited to the paws may indicate:

  • Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Injury

Infection- or autoimmune-induced inflammation in a joint or in the spinal cord where nerves to the limb originate
Full-body tremors may indicate:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Excitement or anxiety
  • Kidney failure
  • Distemper
  • Seizure disorder
  • Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Tremoring may also indicate poisoning or toxicity.

Superior Care For Your Tremoring
Tremoring by itself is typically not enough to make a diagnosis. To find out what is causing your dog or cat to shake uncontrollably, they need a neurological examination.

At The ANIC, your pet will receive a thorough examination by a veterinary neurologist. Our doctors have the advanced training and experience to distinguish between different types of tremors, often allowing us to determine if the cause of tremoring is neurological or not without further testing.

In the event that more diagnostic information is needed, we can perform advanced imaging tests (MRI, CT scan) in-house.

If we find your pet does not have a neurological disorder, we may refer you back to your primary care veterinarian or another veterinary specialist for care.

If your pet’s tremoring is neurologically-related, we will discuss all treatment options with you so that you can make the best decision to improve your pet’s health and quality of life.

Trouble standing

Trouble standing may simply be a sign that your pet is getting older and experiencing the same joint mobility issues humans face. But, if your dog or cat does not have arthritis and has not experienced a recent injury, then trouble standing could be the sign of a neurological disorder. You may find the advanced medical care your pet needs at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

How To Know If Your Pet’s Trouble Standing Is Neurologically Related
Familiarity with their pet’s medical history allow many pet owners to know when their pet’s trouble walking is the result of a degenerative condition (like arthritis) or related to a recent injury.

Trouble standing is more likely to be the sign of a neurological disorder if it presents with other walking problems, like a staggering or “drunken” gait. Although less common, trouble standing may also be a sign of gradual-onset paralysis.

Advanced Diagnostics And Treatment
The most common reasons your dog or cat may have trouble standing are likely to be diagnosed by your primary care veterinarian. However, if your pet’s trouble standing does not resolve with treatment or standard diagnostic procedures provide no answers, then contact The ANIC for specialized medical care.

Our doctors are veterinary neurologists who have extensive training and experience in identifying neurological disorders and developing effective treatment plans. Often, we may be able to diagnose the cause of your pet’s difficulty standing and/or walking through a neurological examination alone.

When needed, we have the capability to perform advanced imaging tests. Our clinic is equipped with equipment for:

  • Radiography
  • Electrodiagnostics
  • MRI
  • CT scan

Our doctors strive to treat animal neurological disorders using the least invasive means possible, but we do have the expertise to perform sophisticated brain and spinal surgeries as needed.

In the event that our diagnostic tests indicate a non-neurological condition is causing your pet’s loss of mobility, we can refer you to another veterinary specialist.

Contact us to schedule an appointment or to talk to trained medical staff to determine if your pet requires emergency service.

Twitching

Neurological disorders can become apparent with a wide array of symptoms, such as twitching. Although twitching may be caused by a number of medical conditions, your pet is best served by bringing them to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for advanced diagnostics.

How To Recognize Twitching In Your Pet
“Twitching” is not a clinical term for a neurological symptom, but a common way pet owners describe their pet’s involuntary behavior. Other terms they may use include:

  • Tremoring
  • Shaking
  • Convulsing

Twitching most commonly affects one or more paws, limbs or areas of the face; however, some pet owners may use the term to describe a whole-body seizure.

What Twitching May Indicate About Your Pet’s Neurological Condition
Twitching very often indicates a focal seizure. But, it is important to note that twitching is not synonymous with a seizure. In other words, other neurological or medical issues can cause involuntary spasms, such as:

  • Meningitis
  • Brain disorder
  • Neuromuscular conditions
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Toxins

Pets in severe discomfort because of a slipped disc or experiencing other nerve problems may also shake. Such twitches and tremors may also present with other symptoms, such as weakness and trouble standing or walking.

What To Do If Your Pet Is Twitching
If your pet is twitching, tremoring or shaking, please contact The ANIC. Because there are so many conditions that could cause the involuntary movements of your pet’s extremities or facial muscles, we need more information to determine if emergency services are required.

When you call, you will speak to a neurologist who will, in just a few minutes, help you understand the urgency of your pet’s condition. In many cases, your pet can safely wait for a scheduled appointment.

Vertigo

Vertigo is the sensation of loss of balance. In humans, it may cause feelings of dizziness or falling. Animals cannot describe the sensation of vertigo, but their behavior indicates a disorienting, discomfiting experience.

If your pet is suffering from balance issues, it may be an indication of neurological dysfunction. The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) can help determine the cause of your pet’s vertigo and may have the advanced neurological treatment needed to remedy it.

How To Recognize Vertigo In Pets
Signs that your pet may be experiencing vertigo include:

  • Stumbling
  • Head tilt or turn (one ear may be higher than the other or your pet’s head may be turned to the left or right)
  • Circling
  • Inability or unwillingness to stand (your pet may roll instead of walk)

Pets with vertigo may prefer to stay in one place to minimize dizziness and disorientation. As a result, you may notice your dog or cat seems sedentary but not lethargic.

Possible Causes Of Vertigo
Vertigo may be caused by neurological dysfunction or a neurological event, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Inflammation

Vertigo may also be caused by an ear infection or ear disease.

Help For Your Pet With Vertigo
Vertigo by itself is not a life-threatening condition. However, the underlying condition causing vertigo may pose a serious health risk to your dog or cat. And any time spent suffering vertigo can diminish your pet’s quality of life.

The ANIC can help your pet get the treatment they need for vertigo. We perform neurological exams and advanced imaging tests (as needed) to determine if vertigo is a neurological symptom. If so, by identifying the cause, we can determine an effective treatment plan. If vertigo is the symptom of an ear issue, we can refer you to your regular veterinarian or another veterinary specialist for treatment.

Contact us to schedule an appointment. We can often accommodate same-day appointments, even for non-emergency cases.

Vision loss

Vision loss can indicate that something is not working properly in the brain and/or nerves connecting to the eyes. If your pet has experienced sudden vision loss or gradual vision loss that your regular vet cannot explain, bring your furry family member to The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) for advanced diagnostics and treatment.

How To Identify Vision Loss In Pets
Because pets cannot tell you when their visual acuity is diminishing, you must rely on other signs of vision loss. Pets who are losing their ability to see may:

  • Bump into objects
  • Exhibit difficulty tracking and/or locating an object (like their favorite toy)
  • Use their nose more than their eyes to detect or locate things or navigate spaces

Pets with vision loss may also be more “clingy,” sticking to familiar spaces and people.

Possible Causes Of Vision Loss
Vision loss in pets can be the result of either dysfunction or degeneration in the eyes or the neurological system.

Primary eye causes of vision loss include:

  • Cataracts
  • Retinal degeneration

These issues may require intervention from your regular veterinarian or other veterinary specialists.

Neurological causes of vision loss include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Stroke
  • Tumor

The ANIC has the advanced training and imaging capabilities to accurately diagnose and, in many cases, effectively treat or manage neurological -related vision loss.

Treatment For Neurological-Related Vision Loss
For many pets who have experienced vision loss because of a neurological disorder, vision loss can return—sometimes on its own, sometimes after treatment. Treatment for vision loss is most commonly prescription medication or surgery. Our board-certified neurologists will help you understand treatment options and prognosis for your pet after we identify the cause of vision loss.

Weakness

Weakness is not necessarily a normal part of aging in pets. More often than not, weakness is a symptom of deteriorating health. When caused by neurological disorders, the right treatment can often restore your pet’s strength and motor control. The right treatment may be available at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC).

Recognizing Weakness In Cats And Dogs
Weakness in pets is often observed by pet owners as lost abilities. For instance, dogs and cats may no longer be able to:

  • Get up quickly or easily from a reclined position
  • Jump to heights they could once reach with ease, such as the countertop or high bed
  • Stand or walk without shaking, stumbling or collapsing

These presentation of weakness may look similar to that of other neurological symptoms, such as loss of coordination and/or loss of muscle. When weakness is a neurological symptom, it may present without pain.

Possible Causes Of Weakness
There are a number of medical conditions that may cause weakness, including:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Endocrine disorder
  • Exposure to toxins

There are also a host of potential neurological causes of weakness, ranging from degenerative myelopathy to degenerative disc disease.

Advanced Diagnostics And Treatment For Your Pet
A pet’s health history may give owners some indication of the underlying cause of weakness, but if it doesn’t, the neurologists at The ANIC provide the advanced diagnostics your pet needs.

Often, our doctors can distinguish weakness caused by a neurological disorder from weakness caused by another medical condition during a neurological exam. If that’s the case for your pet, we can refer you to another veterinary specialist.

If your pet’s weakness is a neurological symptom, our clinic is equipped with the advanced technology required for a definitive diagnosis and surgical planning (if required). We strive to perform all imaging tests the same day as your exam to reduce travel for you and your pet.

Our doctors consult with you throughout the diagnostic process and help you understand all treatment options so that you can make the best decision for your entire family.

Contact us today to speak to a trained medical professional who can determine if your dog or cat requires emergency services or may safely wait until a scheduled appointment.

Weak Reflexes

The veterinary neurologists at The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) can often locate the cause of a dog’s or cat’s neurological disorder by assessing reflexes. And, the neuroanatomical location can help our doctors accurately diagnose the underlying condition.

Understanding Weak Reflexes
Reflexes are involuntary movements resulting from a stimulus to a specific area of the body. Normal reflexes tested in dogs and cats include:

ReflexTesting ProtocolExpected Response
Patellar, bicep, tricepStriking patellar, bicep or tricep tendonJerk or bend of the knee or elbow
Withdraw reflexGently squeezing a toeAnimal withdraws its paw
Perineal reflexStroking skin near the anusAnal sphincter contraction
Cutaneous trunci reflexPinching skin about 1” from midline (spine), usually between the hip and shouldersSkin twitches

Weak reflexes mean that the involuntary movement is less pronounced or completely absent. (Some neurological disorders may also cause exaggerated reflex responses.) Because of the structure of the reflex arc, these reflexes “map” directly to spinal or cranial nerves, allowing doctors to locate the source of neurological dysfunction.

What Weak Reflexes May Indicate About Your Pet’s Health
Weak reflexes are a common symptom associated with:

  • Neuropathy
  • Myopathy
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis, more commonly known as Coonhound Paralysis

Weak reflexes may also present as a result of poisoning or exposure to toxins, and is commonly seen in pets with botulism.

Testing For Weak Reflexes
Testing animal reflexes in-depth knowledge of their anatomy and a practiced eye. The doctors at The ANIC are neurologists with years of extensive practice diagnosing and treating neurological disorders in dogs and cats. We have the expertise to identify and interpret your pet’s reflexes during a neurological examination. When needed, we can also perform advanced imaging tests in-house.

Contact The ANIC to schedule an appointment. We are able to provide 24/7 emergency medical care.

If Your Pet Presents Any Symptoms Of Neurological Disorder, Contact Us For Emergency Service Or To Schedule An Appointment.