Boogie Shoes: Neurological Disorders in Pets

Busta and Boogie in dog wheelchairs


Being a pet on social media is a lot of fun. It’s also a great way for me and my humans to share our experience with my neurological disorder, called Cerebellar Hypoplasia, and to promote responsible pet ownership and pet adoption.

We see a lot of messages with videos from pet parents and rescuers asking us if we think the dog in the video has CH like me. And if they really need to see a neurologist. Our answer is always yes, see a neurologist.

While social media and the internet provide countless videos, pictures, blogs, and personal accounts about neurological issues in pets, a self-diagnosis of your pet’s condition could do more harm than good. The list of neurological conditions and issues is long, and many symptoms and signs overlap with one another. Here is short list of common neurological conditions in pets via Cornell University (https://www.vet.cornell.edu/):

Some Common Neurological Disorders in Pets:

■ Atlantoaxial joint instability

■ Brain tumor

■ Cerebellar disorders

■ Chiari malformation

■ Degenerative disc disease

■ Degenerative myelopathy

■ Epilepsy

■ Head and/or spinal trauma

■ Hydrocephalus

■ Infection of the brain and/or spinal cord

■ Inflammation in the nervous system

■ IVDD

■ Slipped discs

■ Stroke

■ Seizures

■ Tumors

■ Vestibular disease

Boogie and his new adopted sibling, Bust A. Moves, who has hydrocephalus and other brain abnormalities, take a ride in their wheelchairs. PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEYBoogie and his new adopted sibling, Bust A. Moves, who has hydrocephalus and other brain abnormalities, take a ride in their wheelchairs. PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEY»

The list is overwhelming on its own and doesn’t even include treatment options— and those you certainly would not be able to DIY. That is why it is critical for you to see the neurologist when you suspect or see neurological signs or symptoms in your pet. Your neurologist is also the one who can prescribe medications and recommend physical therapists, movement assistance tools, and other resources that can help you provide the best care and enrichment for your pet.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Stephen Hanson of Veterinary Neurology Center about the importance and role a neurologist will play in your pet’s overall health and wellness.

Why is it important to see a neurologist when your pet is exhibiting signs/ symptoms vs. trying to self-diagnose through the internet?

When a pet has a neurological problem, it is ideally handled by a board-certified neurologist. These veterinarians are Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, subspecialty of Neurology, or “DACVIM (Neurology).” Neurologists have completed a one-year internship after veterinary school, followed by a three-year residency in medical and usually surgical neurology.

Boogie Shoes weighs only 2.2 pounds, and uses a wheelchair for extra support. PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEY
Boogie Shoes weighs only 2.2 pounds, and uses a wheelchair for extra support. PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEY»

Many neurological conditions of dogs and cats have symptoms that overlap. For instance, seizures can be caused by genetic epilepsy, a tumor, a brain infection, etc. These conditions are all treated very differently, so it is important that an accurate diagnosis be made. Furthermore, many neurological conditions can cause permanent paralysis, blindness, etc., or can even be life-threatening, so delaying getting a proper diagnosis can have devastating consequences. A diagnosis is not made by symptoms alone, but also factors in the patient’s breed and age, as well as the details of the history of the condition and often advanced testing.

Are there some neurological conditions that are more common than others?

The most common neurological conditions we treat are intervertebral disc disease and epilepsy. We also have a large case load of dogs with immune-mediated encephalitis (brain inflammation) and tumors of the nervous system. Fortunately, infections of the nervous system are fairly uncommon in this geographical area, but they do occasionally occur.

What can an owner expect at the consultation?

During a consultation, we ask the pet owner for their story about how the pet’s symptoms arose, and also look at any pertinent previous lab work, radiographs, etc. Then, the neurologist performs a detailed neurological exam aimed at localizing the problem—is it in the brain, spinal cord, nerves, etc.? The information gleaned this way allows us to come up with a ranked list of potential diagnoses, which we discuss with the pet owner. Then, we make a recommendation on diagnostic testing or treatment and provide a cost estimate for these things. The average initial consultation takes approximately 45 minutes. Afterward, we communicate our findings to the referring family veterinarian with a written consultation report.

Dr. Hanson examining Boogie at Veterinary Neurology Center Palm Desert PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEY
Dr. Hanson examining Boogie at Veterinary Neurology Center Palm Desert PHOTO: © ALICIA BAILEY»

What types of tests could be recommended and why?

The testing is based on our ranked list of possible diagnoses. Sometimes, the first step is advanced imaging, such as MRI, and sometimes we start with lab work. We make every attempt to pursue the most likely diagnoses first, which leads us to an answer as quickly as possible. This is also more efficient financially and prevents the pet being subject to unnecessary testing.

Veterinary Neurology Center has two locations. The main hospital is a fully equipped, state-of-the-art facility that can perform recommended testing and is located in Orange County at 3051 Edinger Ave., Tustin, CA 92780. An additional office is located at 72875 Fred Waring Dr., Ste. A, Palm Desert, CA 92260. Visit vetneurocenter.com for more information.

Follow Boogie at @littleboogieshoes and Bust A. Moves @bust.a.moves on social media.

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