The Brain And Nervous System

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The brain's billions of cells communicate with every living cell in your pet's body through nerves and chemicals called neurotransmitters. Good functioning of brain cells needs plenty of nourishment. Although it makes up only about two percent of a pet's weight, the brain receives around 20 percent of the blood the heart pumps out. The brain, through its connections with the spinal cord and peripheral nerves coordinates all activities, thoughts, senses, feelings, emotions, movement and body functions. Brain damage can lead to seizures, loss of coordination, paralysis or coma. Spinal and nerve damage interrupts sensation and muscle activity causing partial or complete paralysis. Deep inside the protective skeleton the brain and spinal cord have little capacity for repair. Damage to either is often irreparable.

How The Brain Works

In simple terms, the cerebrum is the behaviour, learning and vision centre of the brain. A cerebral disease causes changes in mental status and vision.

The cerebellum is needed for fine coordination of body movement. Cerebellar diseases usually cause ataxia, head tilt and nystagmus. The hypothalamus receives information from the cerebrum and regulates appetite, thirst, body temperature, sleep and wakefulness. It also passes on instructions to the pituitary, the body's master gland.

The most primitive part of the brain is called the brain stem. This is where heart and breathing rates and consciousness are controlled. All the nerves that control facial muscles and the senses (12 cranial nerves) emanate from here. The brain stem narrows and becomes the spinal cord.

Within the brain are cavities filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which also fills the core of the spinal cord and the space surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This fluid acts as a shock absorber. The brain itself is wrapped in a protective membrane, the meninges. This membrane can become infected or inflamed. It is also the site of the most operable "brain" tumours.

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