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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 20925
Experience:  Hello, I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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I live in NY and I was told my dog might need a spinal tap

Customer Question

I live in NY and I was told my dog might need a spinal tap or MRI to determine if what they thought was marijuana toxcicity is actually a neurological isdue
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I am afraid that the expert you have requested is not currently available. Still I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
Was he tested for Marijuana toxicity?
Since you didn't actually ask a question, are you looking for information on where your local veterinary neurologists (the vets that tend to carry our CSF taps and MRIs) are located?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
They determined marijuana toxicity based on symptoms such as wobbly, drunken gait, his head was also wobbly. The first time, he also was shaking and the doctor said he had a red rash all over his body (they gave him Benadryl for that). His fever was 103.5. They gave him a human drug test for thc; however, the results were negative so they said that is inconclusive. He also piddled when he walked. His pulse was very slow and his temperature also went down very low. They gave him fluids intervenously. That was at night around 7 last Sunday. He was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon. While he was still tired, there was no more wooziness or shaking. He slept for 8 hours and the next day he was good as new. All was fine for a week until this past Sunday when he developed similar symptoms except for the fever, rash, shaking and pee piddle. But he still appeared woozy, his head wobbled and when he walked it was a drunken gait. I didn't take him to the hospital this time. I sought support from home and monitored his vitals as instructed by the ER vet. In the morning when he was a little more alert I gave him water from a syringe until he willingly drank about an ounce. My son continued that a couple of times until he was ready to drink from his water bowl. He got up and started walking with no problem again and has apparently recovered. Today, he is fine. But in speaking with the vets at the hospital and my personal vet, they now wonder if it might not have been marijuana toxicity..(of course when I was in the hospital, they were 99.9% sure it was marijuana toxicity).and possibly it could be a neurological disorder. So, they said to take a video if it happens again so they can see what happens when it starts and he might possibly need a spinal tap or MRI. The last time I asked about an MRI for a dog I was told it would $3,000, which is way out of my price range. The doctor also said maybe a spinal tap. So, my question is.....which is more accurate and or less expensive but still can see what is going on. They think he might have a problem with his spine ...herniation, which could possibly cause these symptoms.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the further information about Buddy,
While the signs do sound potentially of an adverse reaction to a toxic substance he had been in contact with (the rash especially being suspicious), to see it on more then one occasion means we have to question if it could be something he has been exposed to again (which hopefully rules out marijuana) or as you have rightly noted, we have to consider another issue.
Now you noted spinal based issues, but I have to say that if he had a head tremor on both occasions, then we'd be more suspicious of a brain based issue. Of course, if he is mostly having issues with the legs and the head issue didn't recur, then a disc herniation could be a differential we'd also have to consider.
In regards ***** ***** and testing options, it does depend what is present to what would be of more value (which is why both are often done at the same time and why these conditions can be tricky to catch). The spinal tap will be much cheaper (since it is the MRI scanning that is the most expensive part for that) and would be worthwhile ruling out inflammation/infection (bacterial or protozoal)/changes in the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal canal. It would not likely be of much benefit if his signs are suggesting a disc herniation though. That is where MRIs would be of value. This is because the MRI is like a 3-D xray and it would be able to see into the spine/skull (where regular xray cannot) to see any protruding discs, masses,and changes in brain density associated with those issues that could change the nature of the fluid from the spinal tap. So, it too is of value, but as you noted much more costly.
In regards ***** ***** in this situation, if Buddy is not paralyzed with a suspect disc, you can speak to his vet about possible medical management if this is what they suspect. While some cases need surgery to remove the disc compressing the spinal cord, the more mild ones can be helped with rest, pain relief, and steroids.
Otherwise, if they have any doubt on cases and you have a video, you can have them send this to their local veterinary neurologist. These specialists only deal with brain/spinal cases and often can glean more information from seeing a dog's neurological signs then a general practice vet will. And they may be able to help your vet get an idea if this is a disc or possibly something else. Which can help further you guide you to which would be the best choice for testing and or treating Buddy.
Finally, I do just want to note that you can check for the vet neurologists near you via the ACVIM database ( -- remember to click on "neurology" as the specialty you need). If you contact your local ones, they may be able to check the video for you or offer a lower cost for testing if needed.
Overall, it sounds like Buddy is being a wee bit tricky here. His head wobble, rash, and the rest of his signs sound more suspicious of a brain based issue (be it a toxicity or something present within) then a spinal one. Therefore, before choosing either test, it'd be worth having your vet show that video to the local vet neurologist. And depending on their suspicions, you will know which test will give you more answers and what treatments you can use to help Buddy.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
Dr. B.
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need as this is how I am credited for assisting you today. Thank you! : )
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your thorough response. Not what I hope to deal with because he is my little boy and I don't want him to suffer. The one thing I neglected to note in both cases was that each time, there was a point where he broke into zooms before exhausting himself. It's as if he swallowed speed and ran all over the house for about 3 minutes and then was tripping on LSD before falling out As of this writing; however, he seems fine. no issues for 36 hours. Is it possible for a dog to develop a brain issue so quickly?
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
You are very welcome,
I know that none of us want anything like that to be present, but I would note that bacterial and protozoal brain based infections are quite treatable (and often treatment is less invasive then spinal surgery). So, it is not nice but it isn't such bad news if one of those are present. And I would note that all the brain issues we discussed can be sudden in onset (they often present to us as emergencies even though most times they were lurking for a while before they get to a clinically appreciable point). So, they are all quite possible. And while it is difficult to say what motivated his zoom/agitation signs, I would also note that those signs are also more suggestive of a brain issue as opposed to spinal one.
All the best for Buddy,
Dr. B.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

I'm just following up on our conversation about Buddy. How is everything going?


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