Neurology and Neurosurgery

Flyer for Canine Brain Tumors Clinical Trial

Below, please find links to all of the clinical trials involving neurology and/or neurosurgery. The studies include a multitude of information, including (but not limited to) the study’s purpose, benefits for participating, and financial incentive information. If you have any questions, please contact the individual outlined at the end of each trial summary.

Please visit the Neurology & Neurosurgerservice webpage at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) if you would like to learn more about the amazing things that our neurologists can do for you and your animal.  


NEW! Inflammatory Brain Disease: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of canine inflammatory brain disease

Purpose: Inflammatory central nervous system disease is a severe inflammatory disease in dogs, which can cause severe disease in the brain and spinal cord, causing dogs to become very sick. None of the current treatments are ideal, predictable and without possible complications. In recent years, stem cells have shown some promise as a potential treatment option for chronic inflammatory diseases, therefore, the purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of stem cell therapy on dogs with inflammatory brain disease.

Contact: Dr. Karen Vernau at

Participation Requirements: Dogs diagnosed with inflammatory brain disease

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: If you choose to enroll your dog in the study, the following will happen as part of the study:

  • Chest xrays and abdominal ultrasound at the initial visit;
  • Collection of blood and urine before the treatment and at the 4 and 8 week recheck visits;
  • MRI of the brain and/or spinal cord while under anesthesia and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis performed at the initial visit, and the 4 and 8 week recheck visits;
  • Administration of stem cells either:
    • Intravenously at the initial visit and potentially at the 4 and 8 week visits (Group A); or,
    • Intravenously and directly injected into the spinal fluid at the initial visit and potentially at the 4 week and 8 week visits (Group B).
    • NOTE: Your dog will hospitalized for 1-3 days after every stem cells administration.

Benefits: The study will cover the costs for the blood work, urinalysis, chest xray, abdominal ultrasound, hospitalization, MRI, CSF analysis, stem cell administration, and visit fees. Additionally, the study will also pay up to $2500 for medical treatment to cover any adverse events that occurred as a result of participating in the study.

Participation in this trial will hopefully change the quality of life of your dog. If this study will prove to be beneficial, it will have important clinical applications for other dogs with the same condition. Moreover, it is possible that if proven beneficial, this treatment can be introduced to human medicine for similar indications.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for keeping all scheduled appointments and covering any costs beyond the $2500 credit towards medical treatment of adverse events.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

NEW! Spina Bifida: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Stem Cell-based Treatment of Spina Bifida in English Bulldogs

Purpose: Spina bifida (SB) occurs due to malformation of the spinal cord and/or vertebrae during pregnancy. It markedly affects the quality of a dog’s life. They have difficulties walking, or cannot walk at all, and are incontinent, predisposing them to repeated skin and urinary tract infections. As such, they do not make good pets for people and most often they are euthanized at a young age. The purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of stem cell therapy for spina bifida in dogs and compare the effects of reparative surgery only to surgery plus gel matrix and surgery plus a gel matrix and stem cell therapy for these dogs.

Contact: Dr. Beverly K. Sturges via email ( or phone (530-752-7545 or 530-752-1393)

Participation Requirements: Dogs with spina bifida that:

  • Are less than 9 weeks of age;
  • Have clinical signs compatible with spina bifida (including difficulty walking and/or incontinence);
  • Have radiographs taken to confirm the presence of spina bifida in the lower lumbar region; and,
  • Are deemed healthy in all other respects.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: To determine eligibility, we need to see a video of the puppy OR examine the puppy AND review radiographs of the lower lumbar region of the spine.

Procedures: If you choose to enroll your puppy in the study, the following will happen as part of the study:

  • A physical exam, baseline labwork (CBC, chemistry panel, urinalysis), gait analysis with video recording and assessment of his/her incontinence (diaper-free trials, urodynamic studies);
  • X-rays of vertebral column, an MRI and a spinal tap (collection of cerebral spinal fluid or CSF), multiple electrodiagnostic studies to evaluate the integrity of the nerves and muscles of the hindlimbs, tail, and bladder all while under anesthesia;
  • Surgery 2 to 5 days after the diagnostic tests to repair the spina bifida (SB) defect;
    • If your puppy is in group 1, he/she will only receive the surgery to repair the SB defect.
    • If your puppy is in group 2, he/she will also have gel matrix implanted into the SB defect before surgical closure.
    • If your puppy is in group 3, he/she will have gel matrix with transplanted stem cells implanted into the SB defect prior to surgical closure.
  • Repeat all the initial tests (physical exam, labwork, gait analysis with video recording, incontinence assessment, MRI, CSF, and electrodiagnostic studies) 6-8 weeks after the surgery; and,
  • Physical exam, labwork, gait analysis with video recording, and assessment of incontinence 6 months and again at 12 months after surgery.

Benefits: The study will cover costs for:

  • The surgical procedure and post-operative care for a routine recovery of up to 7 days, associated laboratory data, MRI, CSF collection and analysis, electrodiagnostic tests, gait and incontinence analysis;
  • All routine medications including anesthetic drugs, routine antibiotics, fluids, and routine supportive care;
  • Post-operative recheck examinations, including diagnostic studies as outlined; and,
  • Complications that are associated with the procedure up to a limitation of $1,000 and would include infections and/or inflammation (‘reactions’) to the implanted gel matrix or cells.

Participation in this trial will hopefully increase your dog’s ability to walk more normally and improve urinary and fecal incontinence.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for keeping all scheduled appointments and covering any costs extending beyond routine recovery from surgery and anything beyond the $1000 credit towards medical treatment of any adverse events.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

NEW! Epilepsy: Assessing a New Treatment

Title: Chronic Wireless Electrophysiology and Modulation in Epileptic Dogs

Purpose: Epileptic seizures can significantly alter the quality of your dog’s life, especially when they don’t respond well to classical treatment with anti-seizure medication. The purpose of this trial is to investigate the efficacy of a new device to determine when your dog is likely to have a seizure, thereby allowing us to treat pre-emptively.


Participation Requirements:

  • Dogs with epilepsy:
    • Having at least 2 identifiable seizures per month (separated by at minimum 8 hours and maximum of 60 days) that are poorly controlled with any of the typical medications or treatment (e.g., anticonvulsant medications with or without diet or nutraceuticals interventions);
    • That have shown resistance to at least two anti-epileptic drugs with therapeutic blood levels;
    • Taking anti-epileptic drugs for the past 3 6 months prior to the study; and,
    • Otherwise medically normal and neurologically stable between seizures.
  • Not eligible: Dogs –
    • Having seizures because of another disease/condition (e.g., brain tumors, infections, immune-mediated disease or congenital malformation)
    • That have had previous brain surgery
    • With other systemic diseases that could influence brain function

Initial Evaluation for Participation: To determine eligibility, we need a detailed history of your dog’s seizure disorder and/or a log tracking your dog’s seizure activity for the past 6-12 months, routine laboratory tests recently performed (including complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile, and urinalysis), recent thoracic radiographs, a recent abdominal ultrasound, and a recent MRI of the brain.

Procedures: If the exams, tests, and procedures show that your dog can take part in the study, and you choose to enroll them, then the following will happen as part of the study:

  • A repeat MRI of your dog’s head
  • Brain surgery to implant electrodes
  • CT scan of your dog’s head after surgery to make sure the electrodes are in the right place
  • A surgery at the same time to implant a radio device under the skin near the shoulder blades
  • Recheck physical and neurological examinations and evaluation of device function every 2 months for up to 2 years


  • This study will cover the following costs:
  • The surgical procedure, post-operative care for a routine recovery of up to 5 days, associated laboratory data, MR/CT imaging associated with implant placement, CSF collection and analysis;
  • All implanted devices;
  • All routine medications including anesthetic drugs, routine antibiotics, anticonvulsants (in hospital), fluids, and routine supportive care. Post-operative recheck exam;
  • Regular maintenance recheck exams every 2 months for 2 years;
  • You will be provided with an estimate of the costs that are likely to be incurred during the treatment of your dog. If there are any significant changes to this estimate that arise during treatment, these will be discussed with you prior to proceeding with medical care of your dog; and,
  • Complications that are associated with the procedure up to a limitation of $5,000 (e.g., seizures and complications from seizures (such as brain swelling); infection around the implant).

Participation in this trial will help predict when you dog is going to have a seizure so we can treat pre-emptively and prevent the seizure, as well as use brain stimulation to try to treat your dog’s seizures. The number and severity of the seizures may be noticeably reduced while participating in the trial.

Owner Responsibilities: Participation in this clinical trial will last for up to 2 years maximum. If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for keeping all scheduled visits, learning to care for and maintain the implanted device, commiting to recharging of the ‘radio’ and transmission of data into storage, and covering the following costs:

  • Diagnostics, treatment, or increased costs of hospitalization for unrelated illness that may develop during the 2 year course of the study;
  • Veterinary care costs relating to treatment and hospitalization of chronic breakthrough seizure episodes, during the 2 year course of the study, unless it is likely to be related directly to the implanted device (infection or migration);
  • Costs of complications from the implanted device above $5,000; and,
  • Costs associated with rechecking, maintenance, or explanting of the device after the study is completed at 2 years.
  • NOTE: At the completion of the study (24 months), the implanted device will be removed. If you think it is helping your dog’s seizures and you would like to keep the device, it will be donated to you for the life of the device. However, ongoing recheck examinations will not be considered part of the study. Neither will the device be supported technically by the research personnel or grant money following the completion of the study. If you decide to keep the device after study completion, and it stops working, you will be responsible for paying for it’s removal. Conversely, it may be left in place but non-functional. If you do not want to keep the implanted device at the end of the study (i.e. at 2 years), it will be surgically removed, and paid for by the study.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Brain Tumors: Assessing a New Drug Delivery System

Title: MPR nanoparticles to define brain tumor margins in canine primary brain tumors: Phase I pilot study

Purpose: This clinical trial is being done to investigate whether small particles called nanoporhphyrins can be used to better visualize tumors during surgery and potentially to see if they will be a useful method to deliver drugs into brain tumors for treatment.

Contact: Lisa Winn (Neurology Scheduling Coordinator) at or (530) 752-1393

Participation Requirements: Dogs provisionally diagnosed with a brain tumor

Procedures: If you agree to let your dog participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • Administration of nanoparticles approximately 12-36 hours, collection of blood and urine for analysis prior to surgery
  • Brain surgery to remove the tumor (standard therapy for brain tumors)
  • Blood collection 1-week post-administration of nanoparticles

Benefits: The study will provide up to $5,000 credit towards your dog’s treatment. 

We hope that this technique will help us to better visualize the tumor on MRI, allowing for better planning of the surgery. Information obtained from your dog's treatment may help to further develop this type of treatment for both dogs and humans and could improve the treatment in both species in the future.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for keeping all scheduled appointments, and covering the costs of your dog’s standard treatment during the clinical trial and any complications arising from that treatment or from the clinical trial procedures. 

Printable Flyer (PDF)

NEW!  Intervertebral Disc Disease in Poodles: Understanding the Genetics

Title: Intervertebral Disc Disease in Poodles

Purpose: Some breeds of dogs are at an increased risk of type 1 Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), which is described by herniation of the calcified nucleus pulposus into the intervertebral column. Type 1 IVDD causes severe pain and neurological dysfunction and requires prompt corrective surgery. While a genetic cause for chondrodystrophy (CDDY) has recently been identified, not all chondrodystrophic dogs suffer an intervertebral herniation event in their lifetime, suggesting that there may be additional factors that increase risk for type 1 IVDD.

While CDDY is fixed in some breeds, such as Dachshunds and Beagles, CDDY is variable within poodles, making them ideal for studying IVDD. Studying IVDD in poodles could allow us to determine the relative risk for IVDD associated with 1 or 2 copies of CDDY, as well as determine any other factors which could contribute to increased risk of IVDD within the breed.

Contact: Kevin Batcher at

Participation Requirements: Any poodles that have received corrective surgery for IVDD

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures:  The only procedure required is the collection and submission of a blood sample for DNA extraction. Please contact Kevin Batcher for details.

Benefits: There are no direct benefits but results from this study could be very helpful to the breed.

Owner Responsibilities: If you decide to participate in this study, you (or your veterinarian) would be responsible for collecting and submiting a blood sample and necessary documentation (including consent form) to us.

On Hold Until Further Notice

Intervertebral Disc Herniation: Understanding the Condition in Dachshunds

Title: Phosphorylated heavy chain neurofilament as a biomarker in dogs with intervertebral disc herniation

Purpose: Intervertebral disc herniation commonly results in compression and bruising of the spinal cord in dogs, and is commonly seen in dachshunds. Surgery to remove disc material compressing the spinal cord leads to recovery of function in almost all dachshunds that still have pain sensation in their pelvic limbs but the outcome is much more variable when pain sensation has already been lost. Additionally, about 10% of the most severely affected dogs develop a fatal destruction of their spinal cord (myelomalacia) regardless of our attempts to intervene. For dogs that have lost pain sensation, we know that approximately half of them, if surgery is performed promptly, will recover the ability to walk on their own, but we do not have a good means of predicting which dogs will improve following surgery, and how quickly or completely this will happen. The purpose of this study is to assess the utility of pNF-H, a biomarker released from damaged axons of the spinal cord into the bloodstream, to predict return of function following surgery in dachshunds without pain sensation in their hind limbs due to disc herniation.

Spinal Cord Injuries in Dogs: Finding a Treatment in Dogs

Title: Transplantation and Tracking of Autologous Epidermal Neural Crest Stem Cells into the Spinal Cord of Dogs with Acute Severe Spinal Cord Injury

Purpose of Study: Dogs that have suffered spinal cord trauma due to a disc herniation are typically treated with decompressive surgery and medication of various kinds. Most dogs do very well with this treatment. However, dogs that have suffered an injury severe enough to cause complete paralysis and loss of feeling to the hind legs often do not recover with conventional treatment. In these dogs, stem cell therapy may improve the ability of the dog to use his/her hind legs and/or to have control of his/her bladder. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for acute severe spinal cord injuries in dogs.

If you cannot find what you are looking for, please email us or call (530) 752-5366.