Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Neurology: examination

Contributor(s): Prof Joe Mayhew , Paul Wood

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  • The primary aim of a neurologic examination is to confirm whether or not a neurologic abnormality exists.
  • Omission of parts is the most common mistake made during the neurologic examination.
  • Having a standard order in which the examination is performed helps obviate omissions of tests and observations.
  • The rationale for the sequence of the examination is:
    • It starts at the head and proceeds caudally to the tail.
    • It is used for patients of all sizes and whether the patient is ambulatory or recumbent.
    • It considers the anatomic location of lesions as the examination proceeds.
    • Even if parts of the examination must be omitted because of the nature of the patient, suspicion of fracture, or financial constraints, the sequence ought to be followed.
  • Frequently, the presence of a neurologic lesion(s) cannot be deduced until the end of a thorough neurologic, and sometimes orthopedic, examination.  
  • Neurological evaluation Neurological evaluation gives an outline of the recommended format for neurologic examination of cattle, and an example of a form to record the results of the examination is given in Neurological record Neurological record.
  • Gloves should normally be worn when examining a patient when there is any possibility of rabies in an endemic region. 
The following article describes the examination of a very co-operative adult or a calf. Obviously, we are not always faced with the "ideal patient"! However, even with a bull free in a paddock or a wild steer in a crush, a quiet, thoughtful examination, considering a nose-to-tail approach, can be fruitful in obtaining enough evidence to make a general neuroanatomic diagnosis..

1. Head

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2. Body

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3. Gait and Posture

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • D’Angelo A et al (2015) Seizure Disorders in 43 Cattle. J Vet Intern Med 29, 967–971 PubMed.
  • Ramírez-Romero R et al (2014) Bovine diseases causing neurological signs and death in Mexican feedlots. Trop Anim Hlth Prod 46, 823-829 PubMed.
  • Constable P D (2004) Clinical examination of the ruminant nervous system. Vet Clin Nth Am Food Anim Pract 20, 185-214.
  • Welles E G, Tyler J W, Sorjonen D C & Whatley E M (1992) Composition and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid in clinically normal adult cattle. Am J Vet Res 53, 2050-2057 PubMed.
  • Barlow R (1983) Neurological disorders of cattle and sheep. In Practice 5, 77-84.

Other sources of information

  • Cockcroft P (2015) Bovine Medicine. 3rd edn. Wiley.
  • Van Metre D C & MacKay R J (2014) Large Animal Internal Medicine. 4th edn. Ed: Smith B P. Mosby.
  • Scott P R, Penny C D & Macrae A (2011) Cattle Medicine. CRC Press.
  • Lorenz M D, Coates J R & Kent M (2011) Handbook of Veterinary Neurology. 5th edn. Elsevier Saunders.
  • Mayhew I G (2009) Large Animal Neurology. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • de Lahunta A & Glass E (2009) Veterinary Neuroanatomy and Clinical Neurology. 3rd edn. Elsevier Saunders.
  • Divers T J & Peek S F (2008) Rebhun's Diseases of Dairy Cattle. 2nd edn. Elsevier.
  • Jackson P & Cockroft P (2008) Clinical Examination of Farm Animals. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Palmer A C (1976) Introduction to Animal Neurology. 2nd edn. Blackwell