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Step-by-Step: The Neurologic Examination

Cheryl L. Chrisman, DVM, MS, EdS, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)


May 2018
Peer Reviewed

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Step-by-Step: The Neurologic Examination
Editor's Note: The following article has been edited and reformatted from an article that originally appeared in our January 2006 issue of Clinician's Brief. View a printable version of the article here.

The neurologic examination is a series of observations and tests done to answer the following four questions:

  • Is a lesion in the nervous system present?
  • Where is the lesion located (focal or multifocal)?
  • How severe is the lesion?
  • Is the disease worsening, improving, or staying the same? (serial neurologic examinations)


How to Perform a Neurologic Examination


Clinician's Brief

Initial Observations & Cranial Nerves

Gait Evaluation & Postural Reactions

Spinal Reflexes

The anatomical components of each spinal reflex are specific peripheral sensory nerves, spinal cord segments, motor peripheral nerves, and muscles (indicated in parentheses below). All components must be functional for the spinal reflex to be present. A depressed or absent spinal reflex indicates a lesion in the specific region of the spinal reflex tested. An exaggerated spinal reflex often means a lesion is present somewhere between the brain and the spinal reflex tested.

Thoracic Limb Reflexes

Pelvic Limb Reflexes

Other Examinations

Neurologic Exam: Introduction

Neurologic Exam: Initial Observations

Neurologic Exam: Gait Evaluation

Neurologic Exam: Spinal Reflexes (Thoracic Limb & Pelvic Limb Reflexes)

Neurologic Exam: Other Examinations

Acknowledgments: In memory of my beloved whippet, “Solo” Windsome’s A Simple Twist of Fate, 1993-2005, the model in the photographs. The author thanks Mark Hoffenberg for the photography.


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