Meningitis is a condition in which the layers of protective tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord, called the “meninges,” become inflamed. Cats diagnosed with meningitis often develop the disease in combination with feline infectious peritonitis, toxoplasmosis, feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus. In some cases, cats develop bacterial meningitis or meningitis caused by parasites, fungi or other microscopic organisms, but this is uncommon. Meningitis is an extremely serious condition, and unfortunately the prognosis is usually very poor in companion cats. Thankfully, the disorder is not all that common in domestic cats.
Treating Meningitis in Cats
Meningitis in cats is often difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. Some veterinarians may start a treatment program with corticosteroid medications even before a diagnosis is confirmed, to calm the effects of central nervous system inflammation that often are virally-induced. Aggressive inpatient treatment is often necessary. Bacterial meningitis, when it does occur, requires strong antibiotic medications that can cross the blood-brain barrier, given at high doses and for long periods of time.
Supportive nursing care is also important to manage the dangerous side effects that meningitis can cause in cats. Anti-seizure medications, anticonvulsants, intravenous fluid therapy, nutritional supplementation and pain medications are normally needed in advanced cases of meningitis. It can take months for a cat to recover from meningitis, and often these treatments and supportive care will need to be administered for weeks to months.
If your cat is diagnosed with meningitis, you will want to have a frank discussion with your veterinarian about realistic treatment options and how well your pet may respond to those options.