Head trauma

5 Head trauma


Initial assessment of a traumatized animal is done quickly and is repeated at frequent intervals. Mental state, pupil size and pupil light reflex (PLR), eye movement (resting position, spontaneous movement, and vestibulo-ocular reflex, VOR) should be noted. Approximately 10% of traumatic brain-injured humans also have a cervical spine injury. Avoid rotating or hyperextending the neck.

The Glasgow Coma Scale was modified by Dr Andy Shores for use in small animals and this helps monitor progression of signs (Table 5.2). One study found that there was a 50% probability of survival during the first 48 hours after head trauma in dogs with a score of 8. Contrary to humans, the age of the animal did not predict survival. The study was not able to suggest a long-term prognosis based on either survival or functional capacity.

Table 5.2 The modified Glasgow Coma Scale for small animals

Small animal coma scale Score
Motor activity  
Normal gait, normal spinal reflexes 6
Hemiparesis, tetraparesis, or decerebrate activity 5
Recumbent, intermittent extensor rigidity 4
Recumbent, constant extensor rigidity 3
Recumbent, constant extensor rigidity with opisthotonus 2
Recumbent, hypotonia of muscles, depressed or absent spinal reflexes 1
Brainstem reflexes  
Normal pupillary light reflexes and oculocephalic reflexes 6
Slow pupillary light reflexes and normal to reduced oculocephalic reflexes 5
Bilateral unresponsive miosis with normal to reduced oculocephalic reflexes 4
Pinpoint pupils with reduced to absent oculocephalic reflexes 3
Unilateral, unresponsive mydriasis with reduced to absent oculocephalic reflexes 2
Bilateral unresponsive mydriasis with reduced to absent oculocephalic reflexes 1
Level of consciousness  
Occasional periods of alertness and responsive to environment 6
Depression or delirium, capable of responding but response may be inappropriate 5
Semicomatose, responsive to visual stimuli 4
Semicomatose, responsive to auditory stimuli 3
Semicomatose, responsive only to repeated noxious stimuli 2
Comatose, unresponsive to repeated noxious stimuli 1

Note: Asymmetrical abnormalities (e.g. pupil size) are assigned the lower score of the two possible. Score before medication and supportive care administered. Oculocephalic reflex, VOR; Semicomatose-stuporous.

Examination in this case revealed:


Sep 3, 2016 | Posted by in SMALL ANIMAL | Comments Off on Head trauma

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