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What is Neurological Disorders (Aging)?

Due to leading advancements in diagnosing and treatments that are now available, there are now many options available to families with an aging dog. As your dog ages, it is more important than ever to be observant for any changes in behavior, and balance loss or incoordination that may be passed over as just ‘old age’.

It could be the start of a disease that could easily be treated in its early stages. While these disorders can be devastating to owners and frustrating to deal with, the sooner you seek veterinarian help the better off your dog will be.

As your dog ages, risks of developing neurological disorders such as strokes, brain tumors and neurodegenerative disorders increases and that may compromise their quality of life.

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Symptoms of Neurological Disorders (Aging) in Dogs

  • Changes in the activity level
  • Reluctance to venture out or join in any high energy activity 
  • Changes in their sleep pattern
  • Wandering around during the night 
  • Spinal pain
  • Limb weakness
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Unexplained changes to their normal temperament 
  • Balance problems such as wobbling and unsteady gait  
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence that may result in house soiling 
  • Vision loss or impairment 
  • Convulsive seizures 
  • Disorientation 
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety 

Types  

  • As your dog ages, dementia and other symptoms as listed above are surprisingly common but most owners put it down as the aging process whereas these conditions signal the signs of developing neurological disease 
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a neurodegenerative disease/condition in older dogs which results in reduced cerebral blood flow to the brain and an accumulation of free radicals in that area
  • Neurological diseases are mistakenly attributed to your dog becoming older and are ignored whereas many great advances in veterinary medication demonstrate that with early treatment your dog can live a full healthy life as it ages

Causes of Neurological Disorders (Aging) in Dogs

As your dog ages, he may suffer some changes in the way his brain works.

  • Brain atrophy - Changes in the weight and size of the brain area and reduced number of brain cells causes a gradual loss of brain function causing notable ‘old age’ symptoms 
  • Increased beta amyloid plaques - This is a protein that accumulates in the brain and damages the cells, inhibiting the normal functioning of the brain
  • Several micro sized hemorrhages (bleeding) may occur, or blood flow can be disrupted both which compromise the blood flow and oxygen needed for a healthy brain 
  • Changes to the neurotransmitter levels - High levels of Monoamine Oxidase B (MAOB) results in a lowering of dopamine levels; dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter in the brain

Diagnosis of Neurological Disorders (Aging) in Dogs

Neurologists in the field of veterinary medicine have made great advances in knowledge, with specialised training in the diagnosis and treatment areas. Your dog may be referred to a specialist who will work with your local veterinarian to diagnose and treat your pet. Any information you can provide your specialist with will help with diagnosis. Details, like noting any unusual behavior and when it began, or even a video of your dog when it is acting differently will be of an immense help. Remember it is never normal for an older pet to show signs of neurological dysfunction; the more observant you are the more relevant information you will be able to provide to your pet specialist. 

After a discussion with them your specialist will perform a complete neurological exam which will include X-rays, MRI, and CT scan as well special blood tests to assist with diagnosis. Samples of your companion’s spinal fluid may also be taken. While it can be upsetting to see your old friend’s health deteriorate, the good news is that there is usually something that can be done to alleviate the condition, and the earlier you notice your dog changing, the easier and more effective it is to provide treatment.

Treatment of Neurological Disorders (Aging) in Dogs

Nutrition and personal attention are ways that you can manage your dog’s cognitive decline. A diet rich in antioxidants and fatty acids can help fight the free radicals that are attacking your dog’s brain and it has been proven through several studies that older dogs respond and can improve in just a few weeks. Your pet specialist will be able to advise of dietary changes needed or whether supplements may help. Keeping your dog’s brain active is important. A home that is rich in play, companionship and active learning is the best prevention. Hiding your dog’s treats in special places or in a dog treat puzzle toy is a good start to exercising the brain. 

Treatment depends on the extent of your dog’s condition; some things we can control, others can be slowed in their progression, and others can be managed, which will make your companion feel better. Training exercises will help strengthen an older dog’s limbs and body to avoid injury. The spinoff is that the extra activity also fires up the brain and will improve your dog’s appetite, mood and sleeping patterns. Medication may be necessary when treating cognitive dysfunction to help prolong the dopamine activity in the brain. While surgery may be required for serious conditions such as cancerous tumors in the brain, or intervertebral disk disease in the spine, most conditions can be managed with supportive care, medication and a change in diet and preferably early intervention.

Recovery of Neurological Disorders (Aging) in Dogs

Ideally from the moment you get your dog right through to the aging of your pet, prevention through diet, exercise and a happy environment will be practiced. The observant owner can notice the early onset of any health problem, even though dogs are clever and keep their pain to themselves. While you don’t want to be going to the veterinary clinic every time your dog sneezes, common sense will dictate when it is necessary to do so.

Early intervention will prevent disease from settling in to your dog’s system and taking over. It is far easier to treat a condition before it becomes rampant, it is also cheaper, and it is kinder on your dog. Home care for the older dog, including the correct diet combined with enjoyable activity and care management of medication and treatment, will see a spring in your pet’s step as he enjoys his later years.

Neurological Disorders (Aging) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sadie
Poodle x Shih-Tzu
15 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Walk Unevenly

Medication Used

prednisone

We took Sadie to the vet bc she has been walking sideways and not with it. Her hind legs are giving out. She has also lost her bark. The vet suspects neurologial issues bc he sees her eyes are not matching. One eye looking down and the other is normal which why he thinks is causing her to walk sideways. He suggested to see a neurologist so they can do an MRI on her but he said it could be expensive and in the end the meds they will prescribe will be the same my dr will give us now. So we decided not to go through with it.He prescribed Prednisone and I’m
Not sure if it’s Fonitidine? I can’t read their writing. And Tobrex antibiotic for the green muk my husband found on her eye. I hope all these will bring down some inflammation on her brain which is causing her eye to look like that! And do you think we should still see a neurologist or should we just wait to see if these meds will work! We r hoping for the best because this is devastating watching my dog go through this.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
I think that it is reasonable to wait and see if the medications help with Sadie's current signs, and if they don't improve, have the consultation with the neurologist, since your veterinarian seems to think that there is a chance that this will happen. The treatment plan that your veterinarian has recommended is reasonable. I hope that all goes well with her.

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Bam
pit bull terrier
12 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Growling
manic pacing
Muscle Tremor
Disorientation
Pacing
Seizures
Weakness in back legs
Weak Bladder

Medication Used

Pimobendan
Spironolactone
Phenobarbital
prednisone
amlodipine
Benazepril
Furosemide

My dog had a "seizure" or a "collapse" attack back in January. I brought him in to emergency due to breathing issues that progressed throughout the day. He was discovered to be in the early stages of heart failure and was kept overnight so that they could give him i.v diuretics and attempt to get him out.They were able to reverse him out of it and he came home on 5 medications. When he came home I noticed his behavior was changing. He was growling at me, in an almost defensive manner, at the touch or if I looked at him a certain way. I passed this off as him just having a traumatic experience. This behavior has not changed but then he had a seizure last Friday night and another one on Tuesday night. Both of these happened around 11:45pm while he was sleeping. Since the first seizure he has started manic pacing, regular pacing, disorientation, weakened limbs, minor muscle twitching, aggression if you try to pick him up or go near his back end, pressing his head against the wall, etc.. After speaking with his normal vet and his cardiologist they are both thinking brain tumor. The only thing that is throwing me off is the close timeline of the CGF and the other symptoms. It is clear that something neurological is going on but are there other possibilities other than a brain tumor? I know this cannot be diagnosed without extensive testing (which I can't really put him through due to his heart) but I am just looking for some other answers that can quiet the timeline question in my mind.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
I'm sorry that this is happening. Sometimes things just start to happen all at once, especially as our pets age. I would have to agree with your veterinarians, that a tumor is most likely causing his seizures and behavioral changes. I hope that you are able to keep him comfortable for a while longer.

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Lucky
Bassett hound mix
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Vision Difficulty
Vision Problems

Medication Used

Amoxicillin

My dog (8 year old bassett hound mix) woke today and wouldn't open his eyes. after warm gentle compress he was occasionally opening the right but the left seemed rolled up in his head or at least not looking in same direction as the right but mostly he shuts them. He is at vet now. They think it may be neurological.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
Your veterinarian is the best place for Lucky to be right now - I hope that everything goes well for him.

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sophie
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Aggression
Coughing
Pain
Depression
Incontinence
Muscle Tremors
Wobbly
Shaking

My pooch has started to have muscle tremors all legs, she lost control of her bladder for a day but this has happened before and we only noticed it as she noticed it first. She has become leave me a lone don't touch me, she’s snapped at her dad when she was sat next to him for no reason at all. She is now slow to walk and wobbly on her feet. She had lumps, years ago we had some tested and they were fat cells, but she does not like the vets it really stresss Sophie so we have not had the others tested. She has a check up every April but the Vets don’t get to look at them as she is muzzled but growling at them. Years ago she had bad legs she couldn’t get up and was in pain, the vets just gave her pain medicine, we found Riaflex which was like a miracle a new pup. Recently we have run out, and I don’t know if what has happened is linked to this (new arriving Wednesday) or if there is something else is going on. She is currently sleeping more than she did before and does not want to play, she didn’t want to go for a walk at first, we did eventually which she was o.k.
She will start growling if you look at her, talk or try and touch her, so I’m trying not too. Sophie booster is due next week I don’t know what to do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
It is possible that the aggression is due to Sophie being in pain, you need to see how she is once you start the Riaflex again; there is however the chance that the symptoms are not related to the Riaflex but until you start her on them again and monitor her we cannot be sure. Your Veterinarian should make a thorough examination of Sophie which may be difficult to do with her temperament; without examining Sophie myself I cannot give you any guidance unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jazz
Labrador Retriever
11 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Vision loss
Behavior Changes
exposed third eyelid
Vision Problems

Medication Used

Prozac

Our 11-year old Lab recently had a change in behavior; digging in boxes and shredding cardboard, shredding cardboard soda cases, destroying a chair cushion, burrowing in the closet, panting, "smiling". The last 3 things he has done before when he was stressed, like during storms and fireworks; the shredding and destruction are completely new.

After a vet visit he was placed on Prozac and kenneled during the day, and these behaviors seemed to diminish (but not completely disappear); because he used to roam freely through the house, we are not sure if the diminishment is due to the Prozac or being kenneled.

In the last few days, his third eyelid on the left side has been exposed and will not retract. It occurs sporadically in the right eye as well. He appears to have serious vision issues on the left side (husband playing fetch with him stated Jazz could not see anything thrown to the left of him).

A vet visit yesterday showed that his pupils will not constrict when a bright light is shone into them. Given the other symptoms, our vet ruled out Horner's Syndrome, and is leaning toward Canine Dysautonomia or another neurological disorder. Everything I read says that Dysautonomia occurs in much younger dogs, so I'm unsure of this diagnosis. He also does not seem to have any other symptoms (seizures, head tilts, dizziness, etc). Is there anything else this could be?

Thank you for your time.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
I'm sorry that this is happening to Jazz. Unfortunately, at his age, with a change in behavior and the signs that you describe, it is possible that he is developing a tumor on his brain. The next best step may be an MRI to see what is happening, as that would give you more information on how best to treat him. I can't examine him, of course, but it would be worth discussing with your veterinarian.

Thank you for the quick reply. The brain tumor possibility did occur to our vet, and to us. It is good to hear another opinion, even if it wasn't what we wanted to hear.

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Aly
American Bulldog
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Walk Unevenly

Medication Used

none

My 8 year old American bulldog had an episode a year ago where I came home and she was hiding in the corner of the room fearful and shaking. When she walked towards me she was walking sideways and her back legs kept crossing. I rushed her to the vet but they said maybe a seizure but they couldn’t be sure. Her only medical concern is a grade 2 heart murmur. A year later, the same thing happened again but it took a full day for her to start walking better versus a few hours the first time. I have noticed some weakness in her back legs in regards to jumping on the bed but doesn’t appear to be in pain.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Without examining Aly, I cannot really say what is going on or whether this is a neurological issue or musculoskeletal issue; you should return to your Veterinarian whilst Aly is still unsteady on her feet for a thorough examination to try and determine the cause of the unsteadiness. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sadie
Chihuahua
17 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Spins and balance

Sadie has good bowel control and eats well,but her balance and this circling and spinning appears to be getting worse. What could it be related to and can it be treated?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
Thank you for your email . There are many causes that could be the source of this behavior for Sadie. Ear infections, neurologic infections, or brain tumors can all cause these signs, among other things. It would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian, as they can examine her, determine what might be going on, and recommend any treatment that might help.

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Taffy
Cocker Spaniel
11 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Seizures

My cocker spaniel had idiopathic epilepsy for 11 years and then had a facial stroke and cluster seizures. No brain tumor found at that time and was put on medication zonisimide and for five months was slowly losing weight but was doing ok, she was starting to eat less after five months and weaned off zonismide thinking it was a side affect of the medication. She was shaking and not eating much and then kicked her right leg out and a week later was knuckling and the doctor gave her steroids and was doing ok for couple of days and then continuing oral steroids and a few days later woke up to her on the floor with paralysis of legs and scooting all over panting and didn't seem to know who I was, took her to ER to see neurologist and he said disc or tumor but had a bad heart murmur and pausing between breathing, she seemed like she was suffering and after tests done to see why she was losing weight found polypoid gastritis and enlarged liver, and the best interest was to let her go due to nothing can do about the legs, so no MRI done. Not knowing what happened has devastated me, any conclusions?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Without performing a necropsy on Taffy I cannot say what the specific cause of the symptoms were; tumours, organ failure, poisoning, aging among other causes may have contributed to her death. I wish I could give some closure for you, but I do not want to speculate about a cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Chance
Pit bull
14 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Noticed a spontaneous onset of problems with my dog (most severe within 1-2 days). She is a 14 year old pit bull who recently had oral surgery (removed two teeth) due to an abscess/infection which went to the bone in her nose and made a large lump on the top of her nose (which never fully healed after multiple rounds of antibiotics). Two days ago I noticed she hadn't eaten or drank in two days and her rear legs appeared weak and seemed to be crouching down to the floor and her tail was tucked in between her legs. She seemed uncomfortable before this as she would pace throughout the night. While standing she is making a head/body "twitch" which looks like a person would do/make when they feel/catch themself falling asleep. She seems unsteady/ wobbly on her feet and has been very inactive/tired. But also at times (very few and far in between) gets bursts of energy and runs around like she is a puppy. Her bloodwork and urinalysis were "unremarkable for a 14 year old dog". Thought to be some sort of neurological problem and just given prednisone to see if it helps any of the symptoms. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
In cases like this, there is a large unknown area of whether the symptoms are due to aging, a tumour, poisoning, hormonal conditions or another cause; also these cases are never exactly similar to other cases making treatment or prognosis difficult. At this point with many unknowns, prednisone is a good starting point to see if there is any improvement; without spending money on x-rays, MRI etc… it can be difficult to determine what the specific cause is and sometimes after that you’re still in the same place due to the result being unremarkable. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Wally
Greyhound
6 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

nuerological

Wally ex racing greyhound, totally out of the blue is now having difficulty walking (shuffles like an old man he's 6) appears to have seizures has been snappy and did snarl at my husband, new vet is mystified previous vets checked for thyroid issues he has had a diagnosis of kidney damage with previous vets but we weren't told how much damage was there he also has the most disgusting smell (think rotten meat) any ideas ? I've spent thousands trying to help him we do know that he was disqualified from a race due to having cocaine in his system (we also had to witness him having drug withdrawals which was horrific)

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Given his history, there may be more substances which he was exposed to which may be causing long term issues with seizures and behavioural problems; I would say that the issues may be related to the drug use from his racing days since issues may present weeks, months or years afterwards. Without examining him, blood tests etc… I couldn’t start to comment on a specific cause or a way forward. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

he is also licking paws excessively, drools a lot , yelps if you try and touch his ear (right) the vet has checked and can find nothing in his ears at all, he self mutilates (bites his boy bits) this dog has been up and down to the vets since we got him (February 2016)

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Bailey
Pomeranian
7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Pom / spaniel mix, rescue so don't really know age or breed. Out of the blue yelping and over couple days full screaming and leg lifting up. Tried med of pain and anti inflammatory with no response. Has episodes mostly while lying down and occasionally when in movement. Attacked me when had episode as sitting beside her at the time. Vet added toro doll and did X-rays which showed mid back age related damage and stated was responding overly in pain for damage shown. Still having episodes even with both Meds on board and lifting her front paw. The smallest subtle movement sends her into a screaming pain yet can also easily do stairs and eating. Drinking and still excited to leave the home or greet family. Does this seem neurological as Meds not really helping but only on Meds 21/2 full days? Unbearable to see her in pain if prognoses poor

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Without examining Bailey I cannot give you much indication to the severity of the condition, but if medical management of the symptoms seems to be ineffective I would recommend you consult with a Neurologist to get their input on Bailey’s condition. It is difficult to pin down some neurological conditions and further testing may be required (MRI), a visit to a Neurologist would be beneficial to cover all bases. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Lila
Rottweiler
7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

The hospital exam kinda confirmed my suspician of a neuro problem. However, no complete diagnoise. Been through similar situation before. Vet suggested a lot of treatments that were very expenseive only to hhim put down. I just need a straight answer. She has had regular checkups sinceabout 6months old. Twice a year to be exact, including dental care. Her eyes have always twiched and would have head tilt eposides ocasionally, getting stuck in that position. Im questioning our vet now as to why nothing was ever said. Please give us a straight answer

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Unfortunately without examining Lila and possibly doing a CT or MRI I cannot give a straight answer to what the cause of her symptoms are; if there have been issues with eye movements and head tilting in the past, these should have been addressed when they first presented but many times on physical examination a dog isn’t having an episode so Veterinarians won’t see those symptoms. I wish I could give you answers but I am in the dark since I haven’t examined her. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Buddy
Jack Russell Terrier
14 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loss of Balance

My Buddy, about around 2 weeks ago started to slip losing controll of back leg thought it was a combination of tiled floor an perhaps a mild infjury, didn't seem to be in any pain. Now at 3 weeks is regularity loosing conroll (5 times in 30 minutes) took him to the vet who diagnosed neurological disorder effecting spine and message to limbs. Is there mediation to slow down and does it cause pain. Symptom shaking head and rump, bit a a snap of teeth and lost of controll in back legs resulting in slipping or falling.

Buddy's Mate

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1103 Recommendations
Thank you for your email - Im sorry that Buddy is having these problems. Since your veteirnarian has seen him and examined him, that would be a great question to ask them, as they knwo what is goign on with him and will be able to suggest medications or physical therapy that may help with what he is going through. I hope that he does well.

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peanut
Border collie mix
14+
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Border collie mix 14+ years old (weight 49 lbs, is tubby) has hardly moved for 3 days, he will not stand on his feet and is completely limp regardless of what we do, however if you catch his attention he will look at you (only with his eyes, will not move his head), he shows no signs of discomfort. If we hold food/water in front him he will eat and drink sparingly, if we put food on the floor just out of his reach he will attempt to reach it but generally will have difficulty getting it. Our Vet has done a check; heart, lungs and temperature seem to be in order. Urinating and defecating is done in the house as getting him outside is almost impossible.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
The cause for Peanut’s condition may be due to a variety of different causes which may include neurological disorder, spinal disorder, poisoning or another cause; without examining Peanut it is difficult to say what the possible cause is and any effective treatment. I would suggest having an x-ray done to see if there is any vertebral instability or other issues which may explain the symptoms Peanut is showing; if there is still no success, you should consult with a Neurologist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bull
Rat Terrier
15 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Staring at walls, balance problems,

I took my aging dog to vet because he was losing weight.They did blood work and said he was anemic. We changed his diet but there's no improvement.Now he's staring at walls for no reason and walking sideways.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
The cause of the anaemia is important, it is due to a decrease in production or an increase in destruction? I would take Bull back to your Veterinarian for another examination and blood test to see if there are any new issues arising like kidney issues (kidneys produce a hormone which stimulates red blood cell production). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Buddy
Chien Francais Blanc et Noir
7years
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

That told me today my dog has a brain disorder he did a test on his foot by bending it and the dog dident respond he also now walks unsteady am I going to put my dog down is he going to lose all fiction it kills me to c my friend like this u love him so much he is takeing starioids now will he b able to walk again I'm so sad

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2520 Recommendations
Without examining Buddy, I cannot give for you any indication of prognosis or the possible efficacy of treatment; you should allow any treatment given time to work and to assess Buddy’s condition and any improvement day by day. If you have concerns or want a second opinion it would be best to speak with a Neurologist who would be able to guide you better after examining Buddy; also CT scans may help to to better understand his condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Thank you

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