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Brain Diseases in Dogs

Encephalitis (Brain Infection) continued...

The diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis is based on analysis of cerebrospinal fluid obtained by spinal tap. Serologic tests may identify the cause of the inflammation.

Treatment: Corticosteroids are used to reduce inflammation and swelling of the brain. Seizures are controlled with anticonvulsants. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Rickettsia are extremely sensitive to tetracycline and doxycycline. Dogs who recover from encephalitis may develop seizure disorders and other neurological symptoms. Rabies is almost always fatal.

Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis

This common inflammatory brain disease in dogs is abbreviated GME. The cause is unknown. Female dogs of small breeds, especially terriers, Dachshunds, Poodles, and Poodle crosses, are predisposed. Although GME can occur at any age, most affected dogs are 2 to 6 years of age.

A chronic form of GME called Pug encephalitis occurs as an inherited disease in Pugs between the ages of 9 months and 4 years. It often begins with seizures, confusion, and loss of memory. This form of the disease has also been seen in Yorkshire Terriers and Maltese.

GME can affect all parts of the brain (the disseminated form), or only specific areas (the focal form). There is a rare ocular form that targets the optic nerves of the eyes.

The disseminated disease appears suddenly and progresses over a matter of weeks. It is characterized by incoordination, stumbling, falling, circling, head tilt, seizures and, dementia.

The focal disease begins with symptoms such as those of a brain tumor. Behavior and personality changes may predominate. The focal disease progresses to the disseminated disease over a period of 3 to 6 months.

The ocular disease is characterized by sudden blindness with a dilated pupil. It progresses to the disseminated disease more slowly than does the focal disease.

GME can be suspected when a toy dog such as a Poodle inexplicably develops confusion, disorientation, seizures, or other neurological signs that progress rapidly over a matter of weeks. A spinal tap with analysis of cerebrospinal fluid helps confirm the diagnosis. A CAT scan or MRI is useful in determining the form and location of the disease.

Treatment: Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs may slow the progression of GME and provide temporary relief for several months. However, GME is almost invariably a progressive and fatal disease.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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