When your pet is referred to a neurologist at CARE, the first step is always a thorough, hands-on examination. Because neurologic diseases can be complex, a significant amount of thought goes into choosing the best diagnostics for each of our patients. Before any testing is done, the neurologist will talk with you about tools for neurological assessment and treatment of pets. Some of your options may be tests you didn’t even know we could do in animals.
Two tests that you might have heard of in human medicine are CT scan (also known as CAT scan) and MRI. We take a closer look at these in the blog post, CT or MRI To Diagnose Nervous System Problems. However, there are many other tools available for your pets. Some others at CARE include fluoroscopy, electrodiagnostics, and a surgical exoscope. In addition to advanced diagnostic equipment, CARE has advanced neurosurgical tools to maximize our patient’s safety and outcomes.
Like CT scan, fluoroscopy utilizes X-rays to acquire information. At CARE we have a mobile fluoroscopic unit called a C-arm which we can use intra-operatively in neurosurgery. The C-arm gives us real-time images during the surgery. This lets us evaluate spinal alignment and ensure proper placement of surgical implants, such as screws or pins. Because fluoroscopy uses X-rays, all doctors and staff in the operating room wear special leaded clothing including leaded surgical gloves to protect them from radiation. The use of fluoroscopy in neurosurgery allows us to make adjustments to the position of implants during the surgery. This increases patient safety and decreases time under anesthesia for the patient.
CARE neurologists also use electrodiagnostics. The most common uses of electrodiagnostics are testing hearing, testing the muscles and nerves for abnormal electrical activity and testing the speed at which nerves can send a message to the muscles.
- Hearing tests evaluate animals for deafness in one or both ears. This can help pet owners to make informed decisions about the training or future breeding of those pets. However, the tests are not able to detect whether pets can hear certain frequencies or at different volumes. Most puppies are awake for hearing tests, but sometimes the rambunctious ones need a little sedation to hold still.
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests measure muscle activity and nerve speed when a small needle is inserted into a muscle belly and around nerves. Because this can be a bit uncomfortable, dogs and cats are usually under general anesthesia for this testing. We may assess the muscles of the legs, spine and head. This can reveal disease affecting the muscles or nerves. Or it can reveal a problem in the signaling between the muscle and nerve. Sometimes the results can lead us to a definitive diagnosis of what is causing weakness or stumbling. Other times the test only tells us that there is a problem in a specific area which allows us to focus our MRI or CT scans to that area.
CARE has a Karl Storz VITOM 3D Exoscope. Because of the advanced surgeries that we do, visualization via magnification and powerful lighting are key. Our exoscope camera is smaller and lighter than an operating microscope and allows the entire surgical team to view the surgical procedure. Having the whole team able to visualize the procedure allows for better anticipation of our neurosurgeons’ needs during the surgery, this maximizes our efficiency and provides the best patient care. Also, using the exoscope allows us to record surgical procedures. Our neurologists then use these recordings when teaching at scientific meetings both in the US and abroad.
Other tools our neurosurgeons use are spinal implants. CARE is the region’s leader in advanced veterinary care. As such, our neurologists are highly trained with years of neurosurgical experience. Because we want the best for your pet, we use state-of-the-art surgical implants that many other academic institutions and private practices do not yet carry. For example, our pedicle screw and rod system treats spinal bone injuries, spinal deformities and chronic neck and back issues. These implants have been the standard of care in human spine surgery for more than 20 years. At CARE, we use a system designed for all sizes of pets.
What Do These Tools for Neurological Assessment and Treatment of Pets Mean to You?
There are many special considerations when we discuss both diagnosis and treatment of neurologic disorders for your pet. At CARE we are happy to answer all your questions regarding recommended diagnostic testing as well as the benefits and risks of any treatment. We maintain state-of-the-art equipment to help you make the best decision for the care of your furry family members.
Charlotte Animal Referral and Emergency is the pet equivalent of a human medical center. CARE offers all types of treatments, from emergency attention 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to board-certified specialty care after a referral from your primary veterinarian. Please take a visual tour of the practice at carecharlotte.com/tour.