Neurological disorders in dogs can be difficult to recognize unless you know the warning signs that can clue you in to the fact your dog is suffering damage to his nervous system. This is because your dog cannot tell you he’s in pain or that he has suffered a contusion, so it is very important that you know when to take your dog to the vet before it’s too late and the damage becomes irreparable.
In this article, we will give you an idea of neurological disorders and how to discover and treat them in time so that you can improve your pet’s quality of life.
What are neurological disorders?
A dog’s nervous system is as complex as a human’s. A healthy system is very important for dogs’ development of motor and intellectual activities. The nervous system is made up of nerves, the spine, and the brain. This massive complex controls physical and emotional actions. A neurological disorder is any ailment that stops the nervous system from behaving as it normally would in a healthy individual. This ailment can be hereditary, caused by injury, or even have unknown causes.
What are the most common neurological disorders in dogs?
– Convulsions and epilepsy: these occur due to abnormal activity in the dog’s brain. The type of convulsion that occurs is identified by the symptoms present while it is happening. This neurological condition can present itself due to hepatic diseases, brain tumors, or the ingestion of toxic substances, although it can also happen for unknown reasons and these are called idiopathic. Pet owners can learn to manage dogs who suffer from convulsions. Most pets are prescribed anticonvulsants to keep the problem under control.
– Neck conditions: some dogs develop neck problems after accidents or trauma to the spine due to very rough games. The symptoms of neck conditions include neck pain, inability to stand up or walk, and insensitivity to pain.
– Degenerative myelopathy: this condition is developed when there is a deterioration in the nerves present in the spinal cord. This causes a reduction in nervous function, which leads to the development of various symptoms. Pets who suffer from this condition experience discomfort during their daily lives, such as when climbing stairs, running, urinating or defecatin, due to loss of muscle mass in the legs. Treatment involves moderate exercise and vitamin supplements to improve the dog’s quality of life.
– Hepatic encephalopathy: this conditions comes with liver disease. It is a degenerative illness that causes impediments in brain function and a change in awareness due to abnormal liver function. Pets suffering from hepatic encephalopathy display symptoms such as hysteria, convulsions and other uncontrollable behaviors. Treatment involves antibiotics to treat any health conditions present, and diet modifications. If a hepatic cause is diagnosed, the symptoms will lessen with treatment.
– Canine dementia: this type of disorder is more common in pets over 10 years of age. Symptoms include personality changes, cognitive impairment and confusion. The vet will prescribe drugs to control nervous impulses in the brain. Pet owners should also learn certain techniques for handling dogs suffering from dementia.
– Granulomatous meningo-encephalomyelitis: this condition is associated with inflammation of the cells present in the nervous system. Symptoms can vary between dogs. Owners should seek veterinary help if their dog is suffering from facial paralysis, convulsions, or sudden collapses.
Causes of neurological disorders in dogs
– Poisoning: your dog may have ingested toxic substances either at home or in the street, or may have had a reaction to his food and this could cause a type of reaction that triggers neurological damage.
– Metabolic disorders: there may be a sodium imbalance in your pet’s blood or he may have other metabolic disorders that affect brain function.
– Tumors: brain tumors as well as those in any other part of the body could be affecting your dog’s nervous system causing unwanted symptoms.
– Rabies: this disease can affect brain function, as can any other infectious disease affecting parts of the nervous system.
– Accidents: if your pet was hit by a car or fell from a great height, any accident that might have caused trauma to the brain or spinal cord can cause neurological disorders.
– Distemper: this highly contagious disease attacks brain cells and usually occurs in puppies and young dogs.
Symptoms of neurological disorders in dogs
– Pressing of the head: you might see your dog putting pressure on his head by pushing it against a wall or other surface for no obvious reason.
– Walking in circles: this is a compulsive behavior where the dog walks endlessly or in repeated circles, which can also cause foot problems.
– Changes in behavior: your dog might stop responding properly to commands he easily recognized before, like “sit” or “lay”, or you might see personality changes like aggression that wasn’t common before.
– Convulsions: one likelihood is that your dog will shake involuntarily and uncontrollably. Convulsions themselves can present a risk to your pet and are one of the most visible symptoms of damage to the nervous system.
– Visual problems: the dog can start to trip up on things or constantly rub his eyes, which can cause lesions. This generally indictaes that the damage to his nervous system is impeding normal visual function.
– Problems with reflexes: your pet may also have problems stopping a ball or going up and down stairs, or he may find it hard to gauge spaces and his reactions may seem slower than usual.
– Head-shaking: they do this continuously when they are trying to rid their ears of water – however, it is a warning sign as it can indicate small convulsions
– Dragging their feet: this symptom should be checked over urgently by a vet as it can indicate loss of limb control.
– Staring at a fixed point: this can happen due to lack of orientation, and the dog may not be able to find its water and food bowls, or the place it usually goes to the bathroom.
– Lack of appetite: constant nausea is another sign to bear in mind and can be caused by neck injuries for example, that cause vertigo which in turn reduces appetite.
Diagnosis of neurological disorders
Although many of the neurological illnesses share common symptoms, it is important to get an accurate diagnoses as despite these similarities, treatments differ. Treatments can include drugs, therapy, and lifestyle modifications for the animal. As soon as you notice any of the above symptoms, consult a specialist – this could make a big difference to your dog’s health.