A veterinary neurologist has extensive training, knowledge, and experience in this field to diagnose and treat conditions such as epilepsy, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), brain tumors, and meningitis. Depending on your pet’s condition, your primary care veterinarian may consult with a veterinary neurologist about your pet’s case or refer you to the specialist.
What training is required to become a veterinary neurologist?
Becoming a veterinary neurologist requires many years of intensive training. First, undergraduate courses and veterinary school at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited veterinary university must be completed successfully. Then, further training involves:
- Internship — After completing veterinary school and passing the North American Licensing Veterinary Examination (NAVLE), a veterinarian completes a one-year internship at an approved veterinary university hospital or practice.
- Residency — The aspiring veterinary neurologist must then complete a three-year residency to receive expert-level education and training under the mentorship of one or more board-certified neurologists.
- Certification — After completing the residency training and fulfilling the necessary credentialing requirements, the veterinarian must pass the general American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) examination, as well as the neurology certifying examination, to become a board-certified veterinary neurologist.
When does my pet need a veterinary neurologist?
Pets are affected by a wide array of neurologic conditions, and may need a veterinary neurologist’s care in these instances:
- Your pet has a neurologic disorder that is not improving, or is getting worse, despite treatment by your primary care veterinarian.
- Your primary care veterinarian has limited experience with your pet’s specific neurologic disorder.
- Your pet has seizures that are not well-controlled with medication.
- Your pet is partially or completely paralyzed in one or more limbs.
- Your pet has an unexplained behavioral change.
- Your pet experiences brain trauma.
- Your pet’s breed is prone to a particular neurologic disease, and you want them screened to see if preventive measures are necessary.
- Your primary care veterinarian is unable to determine the cause of your pet’s gait abnormality, pain, hearing loss, or other neurologic-associated issue.
What specialized care can a veterinary neurologist provide?
Veterinary neurologists can provide specialized diagnostics and treatments, including:
- Comprehensive neurologic examination — A veterinary neurologist evaluates your pet’s gait, posture, cranial nerves, postural reactions, spinal reflexes, and pain response.
- Myelography — A myelograph uses contrast dye to evaluate your pet’s spinal cord.
- Computed tomography (CT) — A CT scan uses special X-ray equipment to create images of your pet’s brain and spinal cord.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — MRI uses radio waves, a powerful magnet, and a specialized computer to create detailed images of your pet’s brain and spinal cord.
- Spinal tap — A veterinary neurologist may perform a spinal tap to evaluate your pet’s spinal fluid.
- Electrodiagnostics — A veterinary neurologist may use electrodiagnostics to measure the speed and degree of electrical activity in your pet’s muscles and nerves.
- Muscle and nerve biopsies — A veterinary neurologist may take a muscle or nerve biopsy to help with a diagnosis.
- Neurosurgery — Most veterinary neurologists are trained to perform complicated surgeries on your pet’s brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.
Neurologic disorders can be complicated and challenging to diagnose and treat, and a veterinary neurologist has the knowledge, training, and skills to best care for affected pets. If your pet needs a veterinary neurologist, contact your nearest Ethos Veterinary Health location, or use the ACVIM’s searchable online directory.