Effects of Meningitis
Meningitis is not a specific disease, but instead refers to the pathological condition of inflammation of the tissues surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord. The causative agent can be anything that triggers an inflammatory process in a particular dog, including bacteria, virus, fungus, chemical toxins and/or other agents. Meningitis is a very serious condition, and if a dog exhibits signs associated with this disorder it should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to a successful outcome. Without treatment, the prognosis is poor.
Symptoms of Canine Meningitis
Most cases of canine meningitis happen as secondary complications of other diseases caused by bacterial infection. Dogs of any age, breed or gender can be equally affected. Newborn puppies seem to be especially at risk.
With meningitis, the affected dog is almost always systemically ill. Clinical signs include one or more of the following:
- High fever (elevated body temperature)
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the back (often painful)
- Rigidity of the muscles of the neck and forelimbs (often painful)
- Extreme sensitivity to touch (hyperesthesia); may jump or yelp when touched
- Loss of appetite (anorexia; inappetence)
- Stiff, awkward stilted gait
- Inability to bend legs
- Head tilt
- High fever
- Vision impairment/ blindness
- Progressive paralysis
- Loss of coordination (ataxia)
Meningitis can be fatal. Advanced cases of meningitis can cause extreme depression, blindness, progressive paralysis, seizures, confusion, agitation and/or aggression. Severe cases can also cause ataxia, which basically means lack of muscular coordination. Affected dogs may be unable to coordinate their movements. They might move in uncontrollable circles, stand up then stumble when trying to walk, or stand and walk with their front legs spread abnormally far apart.
The clinical signs of meningitis can mimic those of other disorders. In order to successfully diagnose meningitis in dogs, a series of tests and examinations will need to be performed by a skilled and perceptive veterinarian.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Dogs of any age, breed or gender can be equally affected. Newborn puppies are especially at risk. Affected animals are almost always systemically ill. They develop a high fever, a stiff awkward gait, painful back spasms, rigidity of the neck and forelimbs and extreme sensitivity to touch. They become lethargic, anorexic and nauseous. Advanced meningitis causes extreme depression, blindness, progressive paralysis, seizures, confusion, agitation, ataxia and/or aggression. It can be life-threatening.