Brain Lesions in Dogs

Brain lesions in dogs are frequently hard to treat. Common treatments don't always work, are extremely expensive or have serious side effects. Your veterinarian will come up with the best treatment plan depending on the reason for the lesion. However, some pet owners find themselves faced with the heartbreaking choice of treatment versus euthanization.

Understanding how Lesions Kill Dogs

The problem with lesions is that they take up space within the cranium eventually killing of brain tissue. As the brain tissue dies off, commands to the rest of the body slow or stop. Symptoms are dependent on the location of the lesions. Those nearer the part of the brain that controls vision will cause sudden blindness, while others may cause severe problems with movement. Some lesions cause seizures, while others will trigger the body's immune system leading to fever.

The faster the lesions grow, the sooner a pet will die. There are treatments veterinarians can use to slow the lesion's growth, but few treatments are effective for more than a few weeks or months.

Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis

Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis is most common in small breeds, though it can affect any dog breed. It usually presents itself around the mean age of five. Brain lesions form on the brain stem, cerebrum, cerebellum and upper spinal cord.

Symptoms of Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis are:

  • Depression

  • Facial spasms

  • Falls down a lot

  • Fever

  • Head tilts to the side

  • Lack of coordination

  • Neck pain

  • Seizures

  • Sudden blindness

The disease is diagnosed through a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. Veterinarians look for the white cell count that will be extremely high. CT scans or MRIs may also be ordered to locate brain lesions. Radiation, steroids or chemotherapy may be used to try to lengthen the pet's lifespan, but most affected dogs die within two to six months.

Some veterinarians prefer to try anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medications. Regardless, the outlook for a dog with Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis remains poor.

Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis

Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis brain lesions tend to form asymmetrically particularly on the hippocampus and thalamus. You may also find lesions on the brain stem, cerebellum and upper spinal cord. Dogs most susceptible to this disease are Pugs. Symptoms include:

  • Behavioral changes

  • Blindness, may appear suddenly

  • Difficulty walking around, repetitive circling is common

  • Seizures

CT scans and MRIs are often used to look for lesions on the brain. These lesions tend to be very aggressive and respond poorly to medications and treatments. Most dogs die or have to be euthanized within six months of the first symptom.

Necrotizing Leukoencephalitis

Necrotizing Leukoencephalitis is most common in Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs, Shih-Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers. Many dogs do not show signs of the disease until mid- to late-life. The lesions tend to form on the brain stem, cerebellum and middle areas of the brain. The lesions appear randomly and don't tend to follow any set pattern like you find in Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis.

Again, CT scans and MRIs are used to located the brain lesions. Treatments include immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory medications. As with the other diseases, the brain lesions rarely disappear and most dogs succumb to the effects of Necrotizing Leukoencepalitis within a few weeks or months. Rarely do dogs live beyond a year.