Veterinary neurology & neurosurgery services in Colorado.
Diagnosing and treating neurological disorders can be complex due to the various clinical signs and symptoms they can cause in your pet. Our team is highly trained and skilled in identifying clinical signs of neurological conditions, so if your pet is facing a neurologic diagnosis, we are here to provide advanced medical care with a healthy dose of compassion.
Neurological Conditions in Cats and Dogs
Neurological conditions can be debilitating for pets, impacting their quality of life and taking them away from their favorite activities. Fortunately, most of the common neurological conditions in pets are highly treatable with the help of a veterinary neurologist.
Your pet’s primary care veterinarian may refer you to our neurology service if your pet has:
- Ruptured discs
- Spinal or head injuries
- Inflammatory brain or spinal cord disorders
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Cancer of the nervous system
Visiting a Neurologist for Pets: What to Expect
Before your pet can be diagnosed with a specific neurological disorder, we obtain their complete health history and perform a thorough physical and neurological examination. This allows us to create a comprehensive therapeutic plan, which may include diagnostic tests, medications, surgery or prescribed rest in some cases.
After the initial examination, the neurologist may recommend specific diagnostic tests to guide your pet’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Most diagnostic tests can be performed right here at our hospital. If extended testing or procedures are needed, your pet may stay overnight or be scheduled to return on a future day. Our team will discuss any potential risks as well as cost estimates during your consultation and scheduling.
On-Site Veterinary Neurological Services
In order to provide the most comprehensive, convenient care for your pet, we offer the following neurological services on site:
- Complete neurologic examinations
- Seizure and neuromuscular disease assessment
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Cerebrospinal fluid centesis (CSF)
- Electrodiagnostic testing, including electromyography (EMG), motor and sensory nerve studies, brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs)
- Muscle and nerve biopsies
Neurosurgery for Pets
Our neurologist continues to be at the forefront in his field, with board-certified specialization in neurosurgery, part of the specialty of veterinary neurology. Dedicated to providing unmatched medical and neurosurgical care for companion animals in Colorado and the nation, our team provides both spinal and cranial neurosurgery for pets.
Types of spinal surgeries include:
- Ventral slot
- Cervical hemilaminectomy
- Thoracic hemilaminectomy
- Lumbar hemilaminectomy
- Cervical dorsal laminectomy
- Thoracic dorsal laminectomy lumbar/lumbosacral dorsal laminectomy
- Spinal stabilization and fracture surgery
- Spinal tumor surgery
- Caudal cervical vertebral malformation/malarticulation (wobbler) surgery
Types of cranial surgeries include:
- Tumor resection
- Tumor removal/debulkement
- Brain biopsy
Spinal Surgery for Pets: FAQs
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is a complex subject, and a strong understanding of the disease is critical for good decision-making. The intervertebral disk is the connector and shock absorber between each of the backbones (vertebrae).
Age-related and/or degenerative changes in the intervertebral disk can cause predisposition to disk herniation/prolapse/bulge/slip (all interchangeable terms referring to the same condition) where the soft center of the intervertebral disk moves or is squeezed out into a location where it does not belong. The consequence of this is inflammation, contusion and compression of the spinal cord and/or nerves. When this happens, the result is pain, weakness or even paralysis.
It is important to remember that signs of spinal pain, weakness, or paralysis are not limited to disk disease. Many different conditions of the spine can result in these same signs; disk disease just happens to be one of the more common causes of these signs in dogs.
The spinal cord, nerves and intervertebral disks cannot be seen on plain x-rays. Sometimes changes in x-rays suggest the possibility of disk-related problems, but a definitive diagnosis cannot be made with x-rays alone.
Advanced imaging like CT or MRI is used to definitively diagnose disk herniations (slipped, bulging, protruding disks) as these modalities allow us to visualize the intervertebral disks and spinal cord. They also provide more detail about the overall health of the spine (vertebrae) than simple x-rays.
Here are a few key differences between MRI and CT imaging:
- MRI is the ‘gold standard’ of imaging modality when looking at the spine or brain. It is a precision instrument that allows us to look inside specific regions of the body with exquisite detail.
- MRI is excellent at differentiating different types of disease processes. CT is not as good at differentiating disease processes; many things can be missed or misinterpreted by CT, which MRI will detect accurately.
- CT is fast and can be used to screen large areas of the body quickly; the cost is loss of detail in specific body parts. MRI is slow and is used to look at very specific regions in great detail.
- Both modalities require the patient to be completely motionless, so heavy sedation or full anesthesia is required.
- CT exposes the patient to relatively high doses of ionizing radiation while MRI uses no radiation at all.
Treatment options for disk-related problems – or the “best” treatment for disk-related problems – vary. Depending on the dog, the best treatment option may be any combination of:
- Time and rest
- Alternative options like acupuncture
Not all disk problems are alike. Variations in severity, location of the problem in the spine, type of dog affected, age, and concurrent medical conditions are all important considerations when prescribing the most appropriate treatment in an individual dog – or cat, for that matter.
Very often, milder signs associated with some disk-related problems will go away with nothing more than time and rest. In other cases, the signs may be severe, recurring or just fail to improve. In those cases, surgery is often the best treatment.
Certain types of disk problems can be addressed with surgery with greater than 90% success; this means getting your dog back to normal, or very near normal. Other disk-related problems may have lower surgical success rates and higher complication rates.
Yes. MRI is available in our hospital and can often be done on the same day as your consultation. A consultation with the doctor is necessary before an MRI scan can be arranged. This is to ensure that MRI is the most appropriate, efficient, cost-effective and safest test for your pet. You will always be given a complete and accurate estimate of costs before the MRI scan is scheduled.
Yes. There is no ionizing radiation with MRI. We use full gas anesthesia and MRI-compatible anesthesia monitoring equipment. A certified veterinary technician stays in the MRI room with your pet monitoring their anesthesia during the entirety of the MRI.
Our neurologist can discuss the preliminary MRI results right away and your pet can go home immediately following the MRI scan.
No. Spinal surgery for uncomplicated disk problems can be very simple. Surgical success rates for uncomplicated disk problems are greater than 90%. Not all disk problems are uncomplicated, but most are. Most dogs go home the morning after surgery, but some go home the same day.
The total recovery time varies. The more severely affected a dog is before surgery, the longer it will take to recover. That said, even in paralyzed dogs, most are up on their feet again around two weeks after surgery.
While a direct referral from your family veterinarian is not required, it is recommended. It's best to see your veterinarian first to ensure they agree that your dog has signs consistent with disk disease and that a referral is recommended.