Brain surgery in dogs and cats was limited to mild trauma cases in the past. Now with access to MRI, they are more common.

In Ireland, brain trauma in dogs and cats is mostly caused by car accidents and falls.

Timing or deciding to do decompressive surgery is still an area of debate. These would be the same goals of veterinary neurotrauma management and you would find similar treatment options.

Mildly displaced bone fragments usually caused by a fall or a car accident can be removed. If they are large enough, they can be plated back into position. MRI images allow for accurate diagnosis and location of lesions.

Brain Tumours and Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Brain tumours can be removed in some cases leading to symptomatic relief. Veterinary brain surgery was quite uncommon until a few years ago. The increased availability of MRI’s had made the ability to diagnose, locate and subsequently treat brain disorders (and spinal cord diseases) more regularly.

Neoplasia (cancer) is three times more common in dogs and cats than humans.

The principal determinants of successful resection of brain tumours, is location and biological classification i.e. benign or malignant. Slow growing meningiomas are the best candidates for surgery and the prognosis is good especially in cats. Benign brain tumours of the dog and cat are common. Meninjiomas and gliomas can be removed to relieve symptoms and in some cases give excellent survival times.

Adjunctive chemotherapy can extend survival times even further. The extensive experience in man with brain tumours has yet to be analysed sufficiently to make any firm comparisons to the same diseases in pets.

Syringomyelia or Chiari Malformation

Syringomyelia or Chiari like malformation is a very common problem in Cavalier King Charles spaniels, due to breeding programs for a certain head shape. Screening programs have been started in the USA to try and control this international epidemic.

Some symptoms can be successfully reduced by using occipital decompression surgery, although the outcomes are somewhat unpredictable.  Sometimes the major achievement is symptom reduction.

In humans, the main symptoms are headaches and posterior fossa decompression with or without duraplasty is the surgical treatment. The difficulty for humans with syringomyelia is choosing which cases will benefit from surgery. Lessons learned may help veterinary surgeons target their surgical cases more efficiently. Complete removal of all tumour tissue can be difficult if not impossible, and adjunctive chemotherapy or radiation therapy should be considered.

Another condition frequently seen is syringomyelia, which is most commonly associated with Cavaliers. Syringomyelia can only be diagnosed by using MRI. Surgical decompression of the cerebellum and brain stem as treatment for syringomyelia can provide a reduction in symptoms, and is some cases can lead to significant improvement. Surgical treatment of hydrocephalus is possible but there is a significant rate of complications.