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What Does a Veterinary Neurologist Do?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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In general, a veterinary neurologist studies the nervous systems of cats, dogs, and other animals to diagnose and treat a variety of neurological ailments, such as epilepsy or spinal cord diseases. Sometimes, a veterinary neurologist will specialize in a single ailment or in neurology issues relating to a single type of animal, such as dogs, cats, or horses. Typically, a veterinary neurologist will not do routine health check-ups, but will be recommended to a pet owner by a general veterinarian when a neurological issue is possible.

Usually, a veterinary neurologist will look at a health ailment of a pet very analytically, taking logical steps to diagnose and plan the proper treatment. For example, when a pet first visits a veterinary neurologist with a potential neurological issue, she will analyze the pet to see if the nervous system actually has anything to do with the ailment. This can be done through a review of the pet's medical history, x-rays, or other tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The information gained from such tests help the veterinary neurologist determine the severity of the problem as well as which part of the nervous system is affected. The tests may also help the veterinarian decide what treatment options are best.

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Not all veterinary neurologists handle all aspects of neurology. Some specialize in a specific ailment, such as epilepsy or diseases affecting the spine. In those cases, the veterinary clinic may have equipment that other clinics do not have. As a result, a more detailed analysis of the illness may be possible. For example, a pet in an epilepsy clinic might have its brain waves monitored using an EEG machine. Also, a veterinarian may specialize in a specific animal, such as horses. This allows her to become familiar with routine problems affecting the nervous systems of those animals and also to be an expert on the most effective treatments.

Many times, a veterinary neurologist will specialize in specific treatments of diseases or disorders that affect a pet’s brain, nerves, and spinal cord. Although some neurologists may feel comfortable conducting brain surgery on a dog or a cat, others might prefer to have a skilled veterinary neurosurgeon handle the procedure. In addition, many neurologists know exactly what types of veterinary pharmaceutical drugs will treat a pet, but they may not be familiar with alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage, or holistic herbs. Some veterinary neurologists specialize in these alternative treatments, filling a smaller niche in the field.

In general, a veterinary neurologist will have extended schooling and experience, making her an expert in the field of neurology. Typically, she will have a bachelor’s degree from a college or university. She also will complete four-years of veterinary medicine. In addition, she will complete an internship that lasts one year and a residency program that lasts another three years. If she wants to become board certified, she must apply to the board and successfully pass additional exams.

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