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

Whenever you have a beloved pet that gets sick or injured, you know that just about everything else in your life will 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 tough to focus on anything else!

And what can make…

It matters worse if the cause of this sickness isn’t fully understood. This is why we wanted to take a moment and describe precisely what meningoencephalitis is so that if your vet has recently told you that your dog is suffering from this condition, you may have a better idea of precisely 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, in dogs. The literal definition of meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges. (Meninges are the thin, porous, 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 it occurs separately, so when they appear together, it is critical.


If your dog is already showing apparent symptoms, such as confusion, fever, and convulsions, irreparable damage may have already occurred. There is a bit of hope, though, if meningoencephalitis is one of the types with a curable cause. So, if the reason is curable with immediate veterinary intervention and aggressive treatment, your dog has a chance. This is why knowing what to look for when dealing with meningoencephalitis is essential.

Symptoms of Meningoencephalitis

When the symptoms of meningoencephalitis are noticed, the disease has usually progressed to an extreme state. This central nervous system disease may have already damaged the nervous system by the time the main symptoms are 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 their veterinarian immediately upon seeing any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained increase in 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 of Meningoencephalitis

There are several “types” of meningoencephalitis in dogs, typically defined by the underlying “cause” of the infection. These “types” will include:

  • Bacterial – infection of the eye, ear, sinus system, or an infected wound.
  • Fungal – Blastomycosis.
  • Immune System meningoencephalitis – the body attacking its cells, thus causing the 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.

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 three months of age and Adult dogs over eight years old have a 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

Suppose you even think that there is any possible chance that your dog might have meningoencephalitis. In that case, you must immediately take your dog to the nearest animal hospital or emergency clinic ($150-$300). Make sure you call ahead to let them know that your dog might have contagious meningoencephalitis. This will allow them to make appropriate arrangements for your dog to be ushered into a private room upon your arrival to ensure that no other animals are infected.

The on-call veterinarian will…

First, you likely want to discuss your dog’s medical history, including your vaccination record and why you suspect your dog has meningoencephalitis. Ensure you tell the veterinarian whether your dog is on any medications, regardless of their prescription. This is important because it might affect the diagnosis and the decided-upon treatment.

From there…

They 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 weight, reflexes, blood pressure, and more. After this assessment, your veterinarian will need to perform the most crucial 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 increased 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 urea 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 magnetic resonance imaging, known as an MRI ($2200-$2500), also necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment of Meningoencephalitis

The causes of meningoencephalitis’s motivation must be determined to know how to treat it. Different reasons for meningoencephalitis often require other procedures and various medications.

Fluids and Oxygen

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


There are several different medications that your veterinarian may prescribe for your dog, including antibiotics (e.g., fluorine, metronidazole, tetracyclines, and ampicillin), antifungal medicines, 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 to provide treatment and observation. With the high mortality rate, the veterinarian may deem it permissible to provide you with medication for the pain to let you take your dog home. Your veterinarian may suggest you consider 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 favorable prognosis with a life expectancy of a few days to weeks. Although if the cause of meningoencephalitis is related to the immune system or is bacterial, the chance of a full recovery is not optimistic, it may be possible with aggressive treatment.

If the cause…

If the meningoencephalitis is viral, if your dog can withstand treatment, there is a 15% to 40% chance of survival. It must be remembered that regardless of the cause if your dog has no chance of recovery and is in severe pain, the only choice may be to euthanize. However, there is always a chance, as a therapy combining cytosine arabinoside and prednisone has had promising results.

Which brings us to…

We want to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks 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), you will want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, 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 expensive. This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable 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, we encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance.

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