Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis in Dogs
Necrotizing meningoencephalitis is the scientific name for a disease that causes two crucial health issues. Meningoencephalitis, which causes the brain to swell, describes the disease’s primary condition. Necrotizing is a secondary condition where brain inflammation leads to the death of cells and tissues.
The Cause of Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis in Dogs
Researchers do not know the cause of necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs, although many suspect that the condition has genetic roots.
Since no one knows what causes necrotizing meningoencephalitis, it gets categorized as a meningoencephalitis of unknown etiology (MUE). Other MUEs include granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME, necrotizing leukoencephalitis (NLE), and steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis (SRMA). All conditions in this group cause brain swelling, often accompanied by secondary maladies.
Breeds Most Commonly Affected by Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis
Many researchers believe that necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs is a genetic disease because it tends to affect certain breeds. Some of the breeds most commonly affected by necrotizing meningoencephalitis include:
Pugs are so disproportionately affected by the disease that it has earned the name “Pug dog encephalitis.”
All toy breeds have a higher risk of getting the disease. Necrotizing meningoencephalitis also occurs in medium to large breeds, but not as often.
Symptoms of Canine Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis
Symptoms of necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs include:
- Back and neck pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty walking
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Falling when trying to walk
- Weak limbs
- Facial paralysis
The majority of dogs with necrotizing meningoencephalitis begin experiencing symptoms at around 18 months old.
Diagnosing Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis in Dogs
Diagnosing necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs is a challenging task that often involves several steps. Blood tests may show abnormal results that point to necrotizing meningoencephalitis. Unfortunately, blood tests often produce normal results even when dogs have an MUE.
Even when blood tests return abnormal results, they don’t indicate which form of meningoencephalitis a dog has.
More reliable diagnostic tools include spinal taps and MRIs. During a spinal tap, veterinarians can collect fluid that tells them whether the brain and its related tissues are inflamed.
An MRI produces images of the dog’s brain and spinal cord. Veterinarians can review the images to determine whether the tissue has become inflamed. MRIs can also help doctors determine whether any of the tissue has become necrotic.
Treatment Options for Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis in Dogs
Veterinarians choose treatment options based on the underlying cause of encephalitis. If the condition started with a bacterial infection, then the dog will receive antibiotics.
In many cases, no one can determine the underlying cause of necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs. When this happens, animals may receive immune suppressors and non inflammatory medications. Popular treatment options include rounds of chemotherapy, followed by daily prednisone tablets. The treatment may last for several weeks or months before the symptoms of necrotizing meningoencephalitis in dogs subside.
Dogs may need surgery to remove dead tissue caused by the illness.
Luckily, many dogs return to their regular routines after they have been treated for necrotizing meningoencephalitis.
Cost to Treat: $1,500 to $4,000