VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) prevents neuronal death in different models of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), but few studies have addressed the efficacy of VEGF to protect motor neurons after the onset of symptoms, a critical point when considering VEGF as a potential therapeutic target for ALS. We studied the capability of VEGF to protect motor neurons after an excitotoxic challenge in two models of spinal neurodegeneration in rats induced by AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) administered either chronically with osmotic minipumps or acutely by microdialysis. VEGF was administered through osmotic minipumps in the chronic model or injected intracerebroventricularly in the acute model, and its effects were assessed by immunohistochemical and histological analyses and motor performance tests. In the chronic model, VEGF stopped the progression of the paralysis and protected motor neurons when administered after AMPA before the onset of the motor symptoms, whereas no protection was observed when administered after the onset. VEGF was also protective in the acute model, but with a short time window, since the protection was effective when administered 1 h but not 2 h after AMPA. Our results indicate that while VEGF has an indubitable neuroprotective effect, its therapeutic potential for halting or delaying the progression of motor neuron loss in ALS would likely have a short effective time frame.