Vail Pet Talk: When should you take your pet to a neurologist? |

Vail Pet Talk: When should you take your pet to a neurologist?

Stephen Sheldon
VAIL CO, Colorado

Does your pet need a neurologist? Notice I said neurologist and not psychologist! A pet neurologist is someone who deals with disorders of the nervous system and brain in pets. I thought it would be good to go over what a pet neurologist is and does since Dr. Peter Maguire, a board certified veterinary neurologist, will be seeing patients here at Gypsum Animal Hospital starting today.

Most veterinarians are considered general practitioners; we are like your family practitioner or pediatrician. We are educated in every field whereas a specialist is highly educated in just one field. Here is what we say in the profession: General practitioners know a little about a lot, specialists know a lot about a little, and pathologists know everything but it is too late!

Your veterinarian, a GP, has been trained to diagnose, recognize and treat neurological disorders but we do not have the training or equipment to do specialized tests such as MRIs, myelograms, and brain, back, neck, or spinal surgery. So we often end up referring these cases to a specialist. Until recently the only place to send these cases has been Denver.

One of the more common reasons pets need to see a neurologist is due to inter-vertebral disk problems in the back, simply called disk disease. People have similar problems and we all know someone with a bad back or neck. An MRI or a special X-ray study where dye is injected into the spinal area, called a myelogram, is required to identify which disks are bad requires.

Pet neurologists also provide consultations and second opinions regarding testing or treatment options, spinal surgery for paralysis or difficulty walking, spinal taps and spinal fluid analysis, muscle and nerve evaluation, and evaluating and treating seizure disorders. In addition, they aid in problems such as weakness, paralysis, wobbliness when walking, disorientation and behavior change, balance problems, vertigo and spine or brain injuries.

Maguire is an ACVIM board certified veterinary neurologist. An American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) board certified specialist is one who, after completing four years of veterinary school, completes a one-year internship and a three-year residency in a specific medical discipline (like neurology, cardiology or oncology, for example). As such, pursuing a career as a veterinary specialist requires eight years of academic veterinary training. Oftentimes a master of science (MS) degree accompanies the three year residency program. Finally, a strenuous series of specialty examinations (four days worth of testing!) must be passed before Board Certification is granted.

Maguire will be seeing neurology patients every other Thursday at Gypsum Animal Hospital starting today. Appointments are necessary. Call 970-24-3647 to learn more.

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