Meningitis, Meningoencephalitis, Meningomyelitis in Dogs


Bacterial Meningitis and other Nervous System Infections in Dogs

Much like in humans, the system of membranes which envelops the dog’s central nervous system is called the meninges. If this system becomes inflamed, it is referred to as meningitis. Meningoencephalitis, meanwhile, is the inflammation of the meninges and brain, and meningomyelitis is the inflammation of the meninges and spinal cord.

Inflammation of meninges commonly leads to secondary inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord, resulting in various neurological complications. Long-term inflammation can also obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — the protective and nourishing fluid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord — which leads to accumulation of CSF in the brain and thus severe complications such as seizures and paresis.

Symptoms and Types

Neurological symptoms often associated with meningitis, meningoencephalitis, and meningomyelitis such as impaired movement, altered mental state, and seizures, may be profound and progressive. Other symptoms generally seen in dogs suffering from one of these conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Shock
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal increase in sensitivity to various stimuli (hyperesthesia)

Causes

The most common cause of meningitis is a bacterial infection in the brain and/or spinal cord originating from elsewhere in the body. Meningoencephalitis, meanwhile, is usually due to infections of the ears, eyes, or nasal cavity. And meningomyelitis generally proceeds following diskospondylitis and osteomyelitis. In puppies and dogs with compromised immune system, such infections commonly reach the brain and spinal cord via the blood.

Diagnosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. The veterinarian will then conduct a complete physical examination and several laboratory tests — such as complete blood count (CBC), blood culture biochemistry profile, and urinalysis — to help identify and isolate the type of infection.

Biochemistry profile, for example, may indicate liver and kidney involvement, while blood testing may reveal an increased number of white blood cells, which is evidence of an ongoing infection. Urinalysis may also reveal pus and bacteria in the dog’s urine, an indication of urinary tract infections.

Other tools often used to identify the infectious agent involved include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), abdominal ultrasounds, thoracic and abdominal X-rays, and samples from the skin, eyes, nasal discharge, and sputum.

One of the most important diagnostic tests, however, is CSF (or cerebrospinal fluid) analysis. A sample of your dog’s CSF will be collected and sent to a laboratory for culturing and further evaluation.

pus

A product made of fluid, cell waste, and cells

sputum

The term used for phlegm that is ejected from the mouth; it is secreted in the lower respiratory tract

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

thoracic

Pertaining to the chest

osteomyelitis

A medical condition in which bone and bone marrow becomes inflamed

hyperesthesia

Extra sensitive in nature

meninges

The term for the connective tissue around the brain and spine

meningitis

A medical condition in which the meninges becomes inflamed

blood pressure

The amount of pressure applied by the blood on the arteries.

paresis

A type of paralysis that may be only slight; affects the way that an animal is able to move

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