Diagnosing Meningitis in Dogs

Meningitis in dogs is a condition that occurs when there is marked inflammation in the tissues surrounding the dog’s nervous system. Such inflammation normally takes place in the tissues around the dog’s brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is often known to occur in pets that are already suffering from a viral or bacterial infection. Since this condition can lead to death, care takers need to watch for any visible symptoms of meningitis especially if the dog is suffering from a viral infection. Prompt diagnosis is essential because meningitis can often cause irreversible body damage.

Symptoms of Meningitis Include:

  • High fever
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Stiffness around the neck and shoulder muscles
  • Pet tilts head to one side
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Pet walks unsteadily 
  • Uncontrolled bodily movements

Diagnosis of Meningitis in Dogs

If you notice any of the symptoms of meningitis, you need to seek immediate medical help. The vet will perform a thorough physical examination and evaluate the pet’s medical history. The vet will also perform a few blood tests and urine tests to find out if there are any abnormalities present. Since meningitis often accompanies other disorders, the vet will try to find out if there are any other underlying diseases that the dog is suffering from.

Apart from blood and urine tests a CT scan and an MRI scan will be performed, to find out if there are any visible changes to the brain and the spinal cord. Another test also known as the spinal tap test may also be performed. The spinal tap test involves extraction of a sample of the spinal fluid, which is then sent for analysis. Since this procedure is expensive and painful, the vet may consider initiating treatment for meningitis without performing the spinal tap test. If the dog responds favorably to the medication, meningitis is confirmed and treated accordingly. As a pet owner, you need to work with the vet to do what’s best for your dog which includes administering all prescribed medication on time.

Treatment and Prognosis

Most dogs that suffer from meningitis recover if the treatment is initiated promptly. Since each dog responds differently to medication, it’s important to monitor the pet and notice any signs of change. Dogs may also suffer from seizures due to the inflammation that surrounds the brain. Such dogs require anti-epileptic medication to control the seizures. If the meningitis is in its advanced stage, the pet may succumb to the condition. However, some pets recover partially and have to take medications for life. Depending on the damage that occurs in the body, the dog may have to also undergo physical therapy for life.

When it comes to medication, antibiotics are the most commonly used drugs to treat meningitis that’s caused due to viral or bacterial infections. Other treatment options include steroids. Since these drugs have their own side effects you need to exert caution when administering them to your pet.

If your dog has meningitis, make sure you keep him comfortable and feed him a nutritious diet. You should take him for follow up vet checks in order to assess his overall condition.