Canine Meningitis Symptoms

Meningitis in dogs is a severe condition that can often prove fatal. Pet owners need to therefore understand and notice the symptoms of meningitis, because this will aid the vet in diagnosis and treatment of the condition. Dogs develop meningitis when some of the membranes that cover the brain or the spinal cord become inflamed. The reason for such inflammation is varied and most pets experience it when they contract a viral or a bacterial infection. Although all breeds are susceptible to meningitis, there are certain breeds that are at greater risk of developing this condition.

Breeds Highly Susceptible to Meningitis Include:

  • Maltese Terrier
  • Burnese Mountain Dog
  • Beagle 
  • Pug

Symptoms of Meningitis in Dogs

Meningitis often occurs along with other underlying diseases or conditions, particularly viral infections. The onset of meningitis can be sudden and it's important to notice all the symptoms exhibited and inform your vet of these. The most common symptom of meningitis is fever. The dog will also show signs of a stiff neck and stiffness of the muscles around the neck. The pet will be very sensitive to touch and may experience spasms in his back. Some dogs appear unsteady while walking, while others may tilt their head to one side. Vomiting is another accompanying symptom along with depression or aggression. If the meningitis is in its advanced stage, most dogs will start walking abnormally or exhibit signs of uncontrolled actions. They may also appear confused or walk about in circles.

Diagnosis of Meningitis

After the vet has performed a physical examination and carefully evaluated the symptoms, blood and urine tests will be performed to rule out underlying diseases. Other tests that are performed include CT scans, MRI's and testing of the spinal fluid. Since these tests are highly priced, the vet might start treating the dog for meningitis if all other causes of the symptoms are ruled out. If the pet responds favorably to the treatment, there isn't any need to perform MRI's or CT scans. Since meningitis progresses rapidly, it's important to diagnose and treat the condition promptly. You need to work with the vet to help your dog recover quickly.


The most common treatment option used is steroid therapy. Since each dog responds differently, the vet will have to initiate treatment to find out if the dog shows signs of recovery. However, if the cause of meningitis is associated with viral or bacterial infections, the vet will prescribe antibiotics. Some pets may also develop seizures due to the inflammation of the tissues in the brain. Such pets require anti-epileptic medications to prevent the recurrence of seizures.

Tips for Pet Owners

Since the response to treatment depends on the severity of meningitis, you need to notice any changes in your dog's behavior, particularly if your pet is suffering from a bacterial or viral infection. You also need to provide your pet with a nutritious diet and plenty of rest. Prevent him from coming in contact with other pets.

If the meningitis has caused a lot of bodily damage, your pet may require physical therapy for the rest of his life.