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Meningoencephalitis in Dogs… Causes, treatments, and possible expenses!

Any time you have a beloved pet that gets sick or injured, you know that just about everything else if your life is going to come to a “standstill”.  This is because, for most of us, once we know that our dog or cat isn’t 100% healthy, it’s just tough to focus on anything else!

And what can make…

Matters worse is if the cause of this sickness isn’t fully understood.  This is why we wanted to take a moment and describe exactly what meningoencephalitis is so that if you’ve recently been told by your vet that your dog is suffering from this condition, you may have a better idea of exactly what it is and what to expect while treating it.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

What is meningoencephalitis in dogs?

Meningoencephalitis is the merging of two debilitating disorders, meningitis and encephalitis, that occurs in dogs. The literal definition of meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges. (Meninges are the thin, permeable, protective layer that covers the brain and spinal cord, i.e. the central nervous system or CNS.)

The definition of encephalitis then…

Is the inflammation of the brain. Each disorder is dangerous when they occur separately, so when they occur together it is critical.


If your dog is already showing some of the obvious symptoms, such as confusion, fever, and convulsions, irreparable damage may have already occurred.  There is a bit of hope though if the meningoencephalitis is one of the types with a curable cause.

So, if the cause is curable…

With immediate veterinary intervention and aggressive treatment your dog has a chance.  This is why it’s so important to know what to look for when dealing with meningoencephalitis

Symptoms of meningoencephalitis in dogs

By the time the symptoms of meningoencephalitis are noticed the disease has usually progressed to an extreme state. This central nervous system disease may have already done damage to the nervous system by the time that the main symptoms evident and it may already be too late for treatments.


There is always a possibility that with aggressive treatment some of the damage done may be reversible or at least minimized which is why you’ll want to get your pet to his or her veterinarian immediately upon seeing any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained increase of body temperature,
  • Unexplained lethargy,
  • Rigid stance,
  • Neck pain (evident by holding the head very stiff),
  • Depression,
  • Loss of balance,
  • Loss of motor control,
  • Disorientation,
  • Unexplained irritation and nervousness,
  • Sensitivity to touch,
  • Walking in circles,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Partial paralysis (typically seen in the face or legs),
  • Blindness,
  • Seizures,
  • Fainting,
  • Coma.

Types or causes of meningoencephalitis in dogs

There are several “types” of meningoencephalitis in dogs which are typically defined by what the underlying “cause” of the infection is.

These “types” will include:

  • Bacterial – infection of the eye, ear, or sinus system, or an infected wound.
  • Fungal – Blastomycosis.
  • Immune System meningoencephalitis – the body attacking its own cells, thus causing inflammatory response of the nerves.
  • Viral – Rabies or Distemper.
  • Parasitic – Trichinosis.
  • Rickettsial – Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia.
  • Protozoan – Toxoplasmosis.
  • Idiopathic – Unknown type and cause.

Types of meningoencephalitis and the dog breeds most commonly affected by them.

There are also certain types of meningoencephalitis are more breed specific and they include:

Causes of meningoencephalitis

Certain dogs are more at risk of getting meningitis than others. This doesn’t mean that dogs outside of these groups cannot get it; it simply means these dogs are more likely:

  • Puppies and Senior dogs – Puppies under 3 months of age and Adult dogs over 8 years old have lower immune system
  • Specific Breeds are predisposed –
  • Dogs who have chronic immunodeficiency diseases

There are types, such as necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME), where the cause is unknown.

Diagnosis of meningoencephalitis in dogs

If you even think that there is any possible chance that your dog might have meningoencephalitis you need to immediately take your dog to the nearest animal hospital or emergency clinic ($150-$300).  Make sure that you call ahead to let them know that your dog might have a contagious for of meningoencephalitis.

This will allow them…

To make appropriate arrangements for your dog to be ushered into a private room upon your arrival, as to ensure that no other animals are infected.

The on-call veterinarian will…

First likely want to discuss your dog’s medical history, including vaccination record and why you suspect your dog has meningoencephalitis. Make sure that you tell the veterinarian whether your dog is on any medications, regardless of whether they are prescribed or not. This is definitely important because it might affect the diagnosis and the decided upon treatment.

From there…

He/she will do a complete medical examination. This will investigate your dog’s general health. If you’ve ever taken your dog for a medical exam you know it includes things like weight, reflexes, blood pressure and more.

After this assessment…

Your veterinarian will need to perform the most important test, a spinal tap ($950-$1500), which is where your dog is placed under anesthesia and the veterinarian takes a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for CSF analysis.

If your dog does have meningoencephalitis…

the results will likely show that there is an increase of protein, globulin, and white blood cells.

There is also a possibility…

That other blood tests ($150-$400) may be needed including; a CBC (complete blood count), a BUN (blood area nitrogen), a PCV (Packed cell volume), and a serum biochemical analysis.  With this your veterinarian may also deem imaging; such as x-rays ($80-$450), CT scans ($1000-$1500), and a magnetic resonance imaging, known as an MRI ($2200-$2500), also necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment of meningoencephalitis in dogs

The cause of the meningoencephalitis must be determined in order to know how to treat it. Different causes of meningoencephalitis often require the use of different procedures and different medication.

Fluids and Oxygen

Your dog will most likely require intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes to offset the dehydration in order to boost the metabolism.


There are several different medications that your veterinarian may prescribe for your dog including antibiotics (e.g. fluorquines, metronidazole, tetracyclines, and ampicillin), antifungal medication, clindamycin and anticonvulsants for seizures, pain medication, and itraconazole or fluconazole if the dog is found to have a mycotic infection.


Dogs will most likely be hospitalized for the first 24 hours in order to provide treatment and observation. With the high mortality rate the veterinarian may deem it permissible to provide you with medication for the pain so as to let you take your dog home. Your veterinarian may suggest that you look into euthanizing your dog if it is suffering.

In many cases…

Once your dog shows symptoms of meningoencephalitis their CNS has already been affected. Thus, the diagnosis of meningoencephalitis does not typically offer a positive prognosis with a life expectancy of a few days to weeks.


If the cause of meningoencephalitis is related to the immune system or is bacterial the chance of a full recovery is not positive it may be possible with aggressive treatment.

If the cause…

Of the meningoencephalitis is viral, if your dog can withstand treatment, there is a 15% to 40% chance of survival. It needs to be remembered that regardless of the cause, if your dog has no chance of recovery and in severe pain the only choice may be to euthanize.

That said however…

There is always a chance though as a therapy combining cytosine arabinoside and prednisone has had promising results.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have meningoencephalitis (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Because let’s face it…

Veterinarian care at this level can be really expensive.  Which is why, we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance

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