Meningitis in dogs: everything you should know


Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that They cover the spinal cord and brain caused by infection by viruses, bacteria or fungi.

The breeds that tend to suffer meningitis most often are Bernese, Pug, Maltese and Beagle, but really any dog ​​can have it, regardless of race or age. The risk of suffering it is not very high, since they are not susceptible to contagions of viruses, fungi or bacteria, but if meningitis occurs, the results can be fatal.

Symptoms of meningitis in dogs

The key to overcoming meningitis is to detect it in time to be able to treat it. To recognize it, you should know that the symptoms of meningitis in dogs are:

  • Extreme touch sensitivity
  • Loss of coordination
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty moving
  • Fever
  • Unusual behaviors
  • Stiff neck muscles
  • Agitation and disorientation or general confusion

If you observe these symptoms in your dog, Go to the vet urgently. There they will check the inflammation of the meninges by means of a spinal fluid puncture and an MRI.

Treatment of meningitis in dogs

If it is confirmed that your dog has meningitis, The treatment will vary depending on what caused the disease. The most common medications to treat meningitis in dogs are:

  • Corticosteroids: anti-inflammatories to reduce the response of the immune system, in addition to deflating the meninges.
  • Antibiotics: If meningitis is of bacterial origin, the antibiotic will impede its progress and end up eradicating them.
  • Antiepileptic: Normalize neuronal functions and prevent seizures.

The main thing It is to end the inflammation as soon as possible to prevent damage to the brain. Once in treatment, the dog is monitored to assess its level of response to medications.

Sometimes, The dog may need chronic medication to prevent relapse. In case of severe meningitis, it is very likely that your dog is admitted to receive constant hospital care and be able to recover. But do not worry! As we said, if caught in time, meningitis can be cured without much difficulty.

Did you know that there is meningitis in dogs?

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of meningoencephalitis are sudden onset and rapidly evolving. The most characteristic symptom of meningitis is cervical pain (hyperesthesia). The hyperesthesia It is an increase in touch sensitivity. A dog suffering from this disease will present pain in the neck and spine on palpation. Other clinical signs that can be observed are hyperthermia, muscle stiffness, lethargy, fever, nausea, vomiting, ataxia (loss of coordination) as well as behavioral disturbances and seizures.

Meningitis is a serious disease, which can end life of your dog A timely diagnosis is essential for the treatment to have a favorable result and thus avoid possible complications, such as hydrocephalus. The hydrocephalus It consists of an increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. It can be communicating, when the absorption of the CSF is diminished in the subarachnoid space and in the venous sinuses, or non-communicating, if due to inflammation the ducts through which the CSF is distributed are occluded.

Diagnosis of meningitis

The diagnosis of meningitis should be made as soon as possible. Therefore, if you notice that your dog suffers from any abnormal symptoms, take him to his veterinarian and that this be in charge of the possible diagnosis and treatment.

The diagnosis, at first, will consist of the history. With this, the veterinarian will collect data from the animal's medical history that can help further diagnosis. He will then proceed to a comprehensive general examination, that is, of the heart and respiratory rate, mucous membranes, capillary refill time, dehydration and temperature. In addition, it will evaluate the symptoms that the animal presents in order to reach an assertive diagnosis and can perform certain tests such as a blood and urine test.

The diagnosis is confirmed with a laboratory analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid, when it presents an increase in leukocytes (white blood cells) and potreins. In meningitis due to bacterial and fungal infections, proteins are especially high. The CSF culture can be negative in a high percentage of times, but if there is a presence of intracellular bacteria, the diagnosis can be confirmed.

Cases of computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) show cases of obstructive hydrocephalus. Other tests that can be performed are radiography, ultrasound, as well as skin, saliva or nasal samples.

Suppurative sterile meningoarthritis

Suppurative sterile meningoarteritis is also known as steroid-semen meningoarthritis or necrotizing vasculitis. Most cases diagnosed are in young and large breed dogs, like the Boxer, Bernese Mountain Dog and Beagle. Almost all animals have spinal pain on palapation. In the diagnosis, the CSF will have an increase in neutrophil counts (the most common white blood cells) and proteins.

Granulumatosus meningoencephalitis (MEG)

It is an autoimmune disease that is more frequent in young and breed dogs, such as the Poodle or the Terrier. Females have a higher incidence than males.

There are several types of granulomatous meningoencephalitis:

  • Focal: It is the most frequent and slow evolution.
  • Diffuse or multifocal: It is acute and rapidly evolving, with seizures as the most characteristic symptom.
  • Ocular: It is acute and usually triggers blindness. It can appear along with the other two types of granulomatous meningoencephalites.

In the diagnosis, the CSF presents pleocytosis (number of cells in the cerebrospinal fluid above normal) mononuclear and a slight increase in the concentration of proteins. The prognosis is serious, especially when the multifocal type occurs.

Necrotizing encephalitis

It is an inflammation of the brain that produces necrosis affecting the white matter and the gray matter of the brain. It includes necrotizing meningoencephalitis and necrotizing leukoencephalitis. Affects young and small breed dogs such as Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Chihuahuas or Shi-Tzus.

The symptoms are multifocal and rapidly evolving with encephalomalacia (cerebral softening). Among them is abnormal behavior, seizures or blindness.


Vasculitis usually involves meningitis and polyarteritis. They give the young dogs (> 1 year) and breeds such as the German Beagle or Braco. Dogs have hyperthermia, stiffness and cervical pain.

The CSF will present with sterile neutrophilic leukocytosis. Neutrophilic leukocytosis is an increase in leukocytes and neutrophils in blood, respectively.

Causes of meningitis in dogs

Normally, the main cause is the complication of other diseases, including parasitic, vital, protozoan or fungal diseases. Any type of difficulty that comes with a disease could be the "telonera" of meningitis.

A) Yes, exposing the animal to chemical toxins puts it at risk of meningitis, for example, a wound infected by a bite, a bacterial migration through the nasal passages, the ear or other areas that were infected.

It has been discovered that This disease can also be aseptic, which means that it could be caused directly by bacteria that are still unknown. This usually affects smaller dogs that are between 4 and 24 months old. Whatever the type, meningitis should not be taken lightly as it could even kill your pet.

Treatments for meningitis

As for meningitis treatments in dogs, the options are several. Depending on the type of meningitis that is diagnosed, one treatment or another will be applied. Steroids are usually prescribed, so that the inflammation of the brain decreases and there are no sequelae.

When meningitis is caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, antibiotics are given intravenously. In addition, other symptoms such as seizures are treated, with specific medications that help stop them.

If it is a serious case, the dog will be hospitalized and will be controlled by a specialist until the crisis is over. You should know that the prognosis of meningitis is very variable, as it depends on both the cause and the physical state of the can.

It is true that meningitis of viral origin They are usually the most difficult to handle. However, there are many cases in which the dog does respond well to treatment and, with proper care, can return to a normal life.

So if you are at this point, do not lose hope and do not neglect the controls of your canine friend to avoid relapses. Remember: you never have to fight for loss, but don't forget the fight after achieving a single victory.