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Principles of Therapy of the Nervous System in Dogs

By William B. Thomas, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology), Professor, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee ; Cheryl L. Chrisman, DVM, MS, EDS, DACVIM (Neurology), Professor of Veterinary Neurology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida ; Charles E. Rupprecht, VMD, MS, PhD, Director, LYSSA LLC ; Kyle G. Braund, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), Director, Veterinary Neurological Consulting Services ; Caroline N. Hahn, DVM, MSc, PhD, DECEIM, DECVN, MRCVS, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Clinical Neuroscience, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh ; Charles M. Hendrix, DVM, PhD, Professor, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University ; Karen R. Munana, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology), Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine,North Carolina State University ; T. Mark Neer, DVM, DACVIM, Professor and Hospital Director, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University ; Robert Wylie, BVSc, QDA

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Once a diagnosis is made, appropriate therapy can be considered. There are several groups of drugs that are used to treat disorders of the nervous system. Drugs used to treat epileptic seizures are known as anticonvulsants. Anti--inflammatory medications, including corticosteroids, are used to reduce swelling and inflammation in many types of injuries. These medications may be given intravenously in some cases (such as spinal cord injury) and by mouth in others. Other medications may be needed to relieve muscle spasms caused by neurologic disorders or to treat infections of the nervous system.

After cranial surgery, and in animals with brain tumors or head injuries, there is a risk of swelling caused by an accumulation of fluid in the brain. Mannitol or corticosteroid medications can be given intravenously to reduce the swelling. (For a more detailed discussion, see Drugs Used to Treat Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerve Disorders.)

Nursing Care

Paraplegic or quadriplegic animals need intensive nursing care. The dog should be kept on padding and turned every 4 to 6 hours to help prevent sores from developing on the skin. The skin must be kept clean and free of urine and feces. Urinalyses must be done every 2 to 4 weeks to monitor for bladder infection. Quadriplegic animals need to be hand fed and given plenty of water. Manually flexing and massaging the dog’s joints and muscles can delay muscle wasting in paralyzed limbs.

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