Neurologic Examination and Diagnostic Testing in Rabbits, Ferrets, and Rodents

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Rabbits, rodents, and ferrets are accepted as patients in many veterinary practices, with their owners being dedicated to providing excellent health care for their pets. It is of the utmost importance to provide these animals the same level of care offered to more common companion mammal species (e.g., dogs and cats). Veterinarians must be knowledgeable of anatomical and physiological parameters associated with the companion exotic mammal species to appropriately treat these animals when presented for illness or to have a surgical procedure performed. This eventually results in improved medical care and ultimately a longer and healthier life. Neurologic and musculoskeletal diseases commonly affect rabbits. However, neurologic signs are rarely reported in ferrets and rodents and often appear to be a manifestation of systemic illness rather than a primary neurologic disease. The primary aim of a neurologic examination is to determine whether a neurologic problem exists and, if so, to determine its anatomical location. When considered together with the patient’s history and findings of physical examination, neuroanatomical localization allows the formulation of a list of possible differential diagnoses, which then further determines the diagnostic tests that can be performed to reach a definitive disease diagnosis.

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