Aseptic meningitis in dogs is not a well-known disease to some owners, but if you have a medium to large breed of dog, it can be a very real threat.
If your dog starts to have any type of neck pain at all, you should take it very seriously and have your dog examined as quickly as possible.
If your dog is two years old or younger and experiences this pain, it is very likely this disease.
Meningitis is a situation where the there is an inflammation of your dog’s meninges, which are a series of three membranes that cover both their brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis has several potential causes such as bacterial infections, or some type of viral infection.
It could also be a fungal infection, or what is referred to as an immune-mediated disease.
What separates Aseptic meningitis in dogs from other forms of meningitis, is that it is believed to be the result of an immune-mediated disease.
This makes this condition extremely difficult to prevent as well as treat in some cases if advanced, as immune-mediated diseases have no real known cause.
Aseptic meningitis in dogs is also sometimes referred to as sterile meningitis.
It is a condition that affects the layers lining your pets brain but there are no bacterial, fugal, or viral infections present.
The term aseptic is slightly confusing with this disease, as it implies that there is a lack of infection altogether.
However, there is a growing consensus in the medical community that viral infections or mycobacteria may indeed be present; they are just not detected in routine examinations.
However, there is one thing that is fully understood by the medical community; the meninges in your dog become inflamed as the result of an invasion of inflammatory cells.
This invasion, like any immune-mediated disease, is an overreaction on the part of your dog’s immune system to what it believes is an attack.
That than magnifies the question that still lingers; what it is actually attacking.
Dogs Most At Risk
Aseptic meningitis in dogs is almost always seen in medium to large breeds of dogs and it can occur at any age and to both females and males.
However, there does seem to be a much larger occurrence in dogs that are two years old or younger.
The breeds that are most affected by this potentially very dangerous disease include Labrador and Golden retrievers, Bernese Mountain dogs, Weimaraners, as well as German shepherds.
Aseptic meningitis in dogs has some very distinctive symptoms.
If your dog fits into the classification for the size, age, or breed, it will be extremely important to understand these signs.
The first sign that you will see will be a very mild neck discomfort in your dog.
This will be visible in the form of your dog seemingly having trouble moving their neck or raising their head.
If you notice this, gently rub their neck. If they wince or full away from you at all, this sign has been confirmed.
However, as the disease progresses and if is not detected, the warning signs start to intensify.
The next set of symptoms are usually a very severe cervical rigidity as well as what is referred to as intractable pain.
This simply means that it is now very difficult for your dog to move their neck at all.
But there is one other symptom that is almost confirms any type of meningitis; fevers.
Fevers in dogs are not normal and in almost all cases are associated with some type of an infection or inflammation. In this case, in may be both.
Aseptic meningitis in dogs is the most common form, but there are other diseases that show similar symptoms.
The major difference between Aseptic meningitis and the following diseases is in the very narrow range of symptoms that it produces.
Viral meningitis that is caused by canine distemper or adenovirus is similar, but it will show other symptoms as well.
Bacterial meningitis is also quite similar, but it is considered very rare in dogs.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, fungal infections, as well as parasite infections are also quite similar in the initial symptoms.
However they will also show a much broader range of signs.
Brain tumors initially will show all of the same symptoms as Aseptic meningitis as the tumors attack your dog’s neck, but this also produces much broader overall symptoms.
There are several very effective treatments for Aseptic meningitis in dogs, and the actual treatment will all depend on the severity of the disease.
The first form will be to attempt to treat the immune-mediated condition with immunosuppressive drugs.
The most common of these drugs is called prednisone, but it does have side effects.
The usual dosage is 2 mg/kg twice a day and is given orally, unless your dog is too sick to take it orally.
If this is the case, it will have to be injected.
The side effects include a very sudden increase in your dog’s appetite and well as a huge increase in drinking.
Because of this, your dog will naturally begin to urinate more frequenting as well begin to pant much heavier.
The excessive panting in this case is not dangerous, but it will be very noticeable.
However, in most all cases, this form of treatment will usually result in an improvement within 24 to 48 hours.
The next form of treatment is with other types of medications that will differ depending on your veterinarian.
Whatever medication is chosen, it will be given for a much longer period of time, usually 30 days or longer.
There is another factor that is very common with this disease; relapses.
This is not an extremely difficult condition to treat, but it can be quite challenging.
If there is a relapse, your veterinarian will simply add a second type of immunosuppressive drug as well as increase whatever type of medication is being used.
Aseptic meningitis has no real effective method of home care, other than to watch for any signs of a relapse very closely.
The main concern with this potentially dangerous disease is to catch it in the early stages.
In the vast majority of cases with this disease, the long term prognosis is very good.
If you understand the symptoms, catch it early, have it treated and watch closely for relapses, your trusted friend will rapidly return to their normal self.