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What is Pain from the Nervous System?

The unpleasant feeling of nervous system pain can come from multiple areas of the body, for multiple reasons, sometimes at the same time, and can range from mild to severe, depending on the underlying cause of the neurological pain.  Pain is not something any of we humans wish to experience and, because we love our family pets, we definitely do not want them to experience it either.  

But, because our pets can’t vocalize when they hurt or where they hurt, it becomes incumbent upon we owners to learn what pain can look like in our doggy family members so that medical assistance can be provided when it is needed. The origin of nervous system pain can be difficult to determine; your veterinarian will work closely with you to make an accurate diagnosis in order to provide relief best as possible.

Pain from the nervous system in dogs is an unpleasant feeling of varying degrees provoked by damaging or intense stimuli.

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Symptoms of Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

Pain from the nervous system in dogs can come from many places in the canine body and can be displayed in a variety of ways:

  • Tremors or shaking - may not be painful at first but can progress to various degrees of pain
  • Stiff body movements
  • Reluctance or unwillingness to move
  • Lying still or assuming an unusual posture
  • Guarding of particular areas of the body (biting, licking, scratching)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased panting
  • Changes in alertness (the degree will be consistent with the pain being experienced)
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in behaviors/responses to people
  • Changes in normal vocalization (being very quiet, howling or whimpering, especially when alone, or growling with no apparent reason)

Types 

Pain from the nervous system in dogs can come from diseases of the neurological system and from lesion formation in the neuro system.  The types of neuro system disease mechanisms from which pain can be experienced are varied:

  • Congenital or familial
  • Infectious or inflammatory
  • Toxic
  • Metabolic
  • Nutritional
  • Traumatic
  • Vascular
  • Degenerative
  • Neoplastic (cancerous)
  • Idiopathic (unknown origin)

Causes of Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

The causes of pain from the nervous system in dogs can emanate from some of these areas:

Congenital or familial - Passed from parents

Infections - Infections can come from specific viruses, fungi, protozoa, bacteria, rickettsia, prions and algae

Inflammation - Non infection related:

  • Steroid-responsive meningoencephalomyelitis and meningoencephalomyelitis of unknown etiology (MUE) - this was formerly called granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis 
  • Pug dog encephalitis  
  • Other central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory diseases 
  • They may be immune-mediated
  • Toxicity caused by insecticides, medications and vaccinations

Metabolic causes generally come from:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Large variations in oxygen levels 
  • Liver dysfunction 
  • Vitamin and mineral imbalances 
  • Urinary issues 
  • Thyroid issues 
  • Adrenal gland irregularities
  • Other endocrine disorders

Trauma - Can cause damage to both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS)

Vascular lesions - Generally come from infections which get into the bloodstream and travel all through the body

Neoplasms - Cancers are common causes in the PNS and CNS of the canines and felines 

Idiopathic - Causes generally refer to those which no cause can be connected even after necropsy is done

Diagnosis of Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

When your veterinary professional diagnoses the cause of the pain in your doggy family member, your input, as always, will be vital to his assessment.  He will need to know the history of the symptoms you are noting, the severity and the duration.  Since nutritional elements can be a cause, he will need to have the dietary regimen as well as the history of any changes made and the reasons for the changes.  Heredity also being an issue will require some information, if you have it, on the health of the canine’s parents and siblings.  Your vet will conduct his own physical examination which will likely include some quantitative sensitivity testing and blood work.  

The sensitivity testing will ascertain if there is an abnormal response (or lack of it) when certain stimuli are applied.  Your family pet will demonstrate to this stimuli if he feels the sensation by some physical reflex which your vet is trained to pick up. He will likely also utilize radiographic imaging (x-ray), CT or MRI studies if he suspects a lesion, mass or tumor anywhere in your pet’s body.  Once he has the results of his testing, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.

Treatment of Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

Treatment of the pain from the nervous system in dogs will, of course, be dependent upon the cause determined for the pain.  The identification of the underlying disease process or condition is tantamount to knowing how to treat your pet.  Treatment plans might include:

  • Medications given for thyroid issues
  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications to manage any infections which have been found
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce and manage any inflammation which is causing the pain
  • Medications and dietary regimen for those canines suffering from diabetes related neurological pain
  • Various types of medications administered to treat the various diseases and conditions which have been determined to be any part of the cause for the pain
  • Surgeries of various types and / or removal of any tumors, lesions or masses found, whether malignant or benign if their removal is warranted to relieve the pain and improve the canine’s condition

Some treatment plan options might include some dietary changes to correct any nutritional deficiencies and vitamin or mineral imbalances, or, perhaps it could include some household routine changes determined to be of benefit to your ailing canine family member.

Recovery of Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

The prognosis and recuperation of your beloved canine family member will, of course, be, dependent upon the cause of the pain.  Once the underlying cause is determined and treated, it is hoped that your family pet will be more comfortable and will experience decreased or non-existent pain.  

Your veterinary professional will provide you with a complete explanation regarding what was found as the underlying cause of the pain, what the treatment options are and which ones will best benefit the canine patient. He will give you the most accurate information possible regarding the outcome of the treatment and will guide you through the process.  And, always remember that your pet needs the three A’s (affection, affirmation and attention) from you and the rest of your human family to complete his healing process.

Pain from the Nervous System Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Hudson and Haley (bro & sister)
Golden Retriever
12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Twitches, jerks, leg weakness

Our two goldens (12 yrs old) exhibited neurological effects (twitches, jerks, leg weakness and imbalance) after we gave them one NexGard flea and tick treatment. That was a couple of months ago. They are still exhibiting these symptoms. What can we do to remedy these reactions to this horrible medicine?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that your dogs had that effect from Nexgard - it is typically a very safe medication to prevent flea and tick infestations. Neurologic side effects are not common with that medication, so it would be a good idea to make sure that there wasn't something else in their environment that they were exposed to around the same time. If you are certain that the effects happened after giving Nexgard, the signs should decrease as the drug wears out of their system. If the signs haven't decreased over time, it would be best to follow up with your veterinarian, as they will be able to examine them, determine what might be going on, and suggest treatments if possible. They will also be able to report the incident to the manufacturer, as they do want to know about any adverse reactions. I hope that both Hudson and Haley recover uneventfully.

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