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Treatment and Prevention of Dog Meningitis

Why Regular Check-Ups Could Save Your Dog’s Life

By Meredith Alling. February 03, 2014 | See Comments

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Meningitis is a neurological disorder that poses serious health problems if not detected and treated early. Learn all about this disease here and how regular visits with your vet can be the difference between life and death for your dog.

Meningitis refers to an inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. When these membranes become inflamed -- often due to an infection -- it can result in serious health complications for your dog, including paralysis, seizure, and even death.

For many dogs, their chances of recovery will depend on how early the condition is diagnosed and treated. Without early intervention, dog meningitis is often fatal. If you ever see symptoms of meningitis, take your dog to the vet immediately. Read on to learn about how to treat and prevent this serious condition.

Treatment for Dog Meningitis

Meningitis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and diagnosis often includes a great deal of testing. A CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) analysis is typically the most accurate and definitive way of identifying meningitis, though complete blood work, biochemistry, urinalysis, MRI, ultrasound, x-rays, and tissue samples may also be ordered to isolate the infectious agent.

Because early intervention can be critical to your dog’s chances of survival, a veterinarian who suspects that your dog is suffering from meningitis will often recommend that treatment is started even before any testing is performed.

Antibiotics

If your dog’s meningitis is the result of an infection, antibiotics that will kill the infectious agent are often prescribed. This is usually a long-term treatment, and your veterinarian may administer the antibiotics intravenously to increase their effectiveness.

Steroids

Glucocorticoids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation around the brain and spinal cord. As the name suggests, dogs with steroid responsive meningitis -- a type of meningitis that affects the central nervous system as well the walls of the arteries -- respond particularly well to steroid therapy.

Anticonvulsants or Antiepileptic Drugs

For dogs suffering from seizures as a result of meningitis, anticonvulsants or antiepileptic drugs may be prescribed.

Supportive Care

Dogs with meningitis will require supportive care to manage their condition. Supportive care can include anything from fluid therapy in the hospital for dehydration to clean water and a comfortable place to rest once they return home. Ask your veterinarian what you can do to support your dog’s recovery -- they may recommend supplements, pain medications, an exercise regimen, and/or physical therapy.

The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with meningitis can vary. Some dogs will respond well to treatment, but may need to be on medications or undergo therapy for the rest of their lives. Other dogs may succumb to the condition regardless of what treatment they receive. Early diagnosis and intervention will give your dog the best chance of survival, so always contact your veterinarian at the first sign that something is wrong.

Preventing Meningitis in Dogs

Because the causes of meningitis can be so varied, there is no one way to prevent it. However, regular trips to the veterinarian can allow your veterinarian to identify a potential cause -- such as an infection -- before it spreads to your dog’s central nervous system and causes meningitis. Keeping your dog cleanly groomed and up to date on their vaccinations can also reduce the chances of them developing an infection that can cause meningitis. In general, a dog in good health is less likely to be affected by the disease, so take care of your pup, and contact your veterinarian if you ever notice any symptoms of illness.

More on Brain Health

Dog Dementia: How it Affects Aging Dogs
Vestibular Disorder in Dogs
Dealing With Your Dog's Seizures

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Meningitis at a glance

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  • 1Meningitis is an often fatal disease caused by an inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spine
  • 2Early diagnosis and treatment give your dog the best chance of survival
  • 3Treatment for meningitis may include antibiotics, steroids, and anticonvulsants or antiepileptic drugs
  • 4Visit the vet regularly so that they have a chance to identify and treat any potential causes of meningitis