Encephalitis in dogs

Encephalitis (meningitis) in dogs

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Canine encephalitis is an infectious or non-infectious disease that, unlike epilepsy, which has the same seizures, is accompanied by inflammation. Encephalitis causes symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath, and is diagnosed by blood tests and MRI/CT examinations, but in many cases the cause is unknown. Without early treatment, the condition may deteriorate rapidly and reach its final stage. Now PetsVary, explains about encephalitis in dogs.

What is canine encephalitis?

What is canine encephalitis
What is canine encephalitis

Encephalitis is an inflammatory disease of the brain that can be broadly divided into “infectious” and “non-infectious” according to the cause. Many of them are caused by unknown causes and are non-infectious, so there are many cases where fundamental treatment is not possible. However, encephalitis can progress rapidly and can be treated symptomatically, but can die in a few days if not properly cared for.

A similar disease is “meningitis”, but whereas encephalitis is inflammation of the brain itself, meningitis is a disease in which the meninges covering the brain become inflamed. Together, they are sometimes called meningoencephalitis.

Types of encephalitis

Encephalitis can be either infectious or noninfectious, but it can also be “secondary” encephalitis caused by another brain disease. Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, while non-infectious diseases are mainly caused by autoimmune disorders.

Infectious Bacterial infection
viral infection
parasitic infection
fungal infection
non-infectious Meningoencephalomyelitis (MUO) Necrotizing meningoencephalitis (Pug encephalitis, NME) Unknown cause (autoimmune disorder, hereditary, wheat sensitivity, etc.)
Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME)
Necrotizing leukoencephalitis (NLE)
Steroid responsive meningitis (SRMA)
Eosinophilic encephalomyelitis (EosME)
idiopathic tremor syndrome
secondary Brain tumor, cerebral infarction, brain damage, etc.

dog breeds prone to encephalitis

Encephalitis can occur in any breed or age, but non-infectious and hereditary terrier breeds such as pugs, maltese, chihuahuas, shih tzu, French bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers and West Highland white terriers. , commonly found in poodles.

Symptoms of encephalitis in dogs

Symptoms of encephalitis in dogs
Symptoms of encephalitis in dogs

When encephalitis develops, the initial symptoms include seizures, decreased visual acuity/blindness, and decreased motor activity.

  • trembling
  • convulsions
  • fever (high fever)
  • pain
  • paralysis
  • head tilt (torticollis)
  • Loss of balance (e.g. bumping into objects, tripping)
  • go round and round
  • Shortness of breath/irregular breathing
  • Left and right pupillary anomalies

These symptoms are not limited to encephalitis but are seen in various diseases. In any case, there is a possibility that something is wrong, so please go to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Difference Between Encephalitis and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that causes chronic (2 or more seizures or convulsions at intervals of 24 hours or more). Structural epilepsy is caused by encephalitis. A similar seizure is a “reactive seizure” (non-epileptic seizure, induced seizure).

The cause of idiopathic epilepsy is unknown (including hereditary) , and seizures occur due to abnormalities in “brain function” even though there is no abnormality in “brain structure”. Structural epilepsy is caused by brain diseases such as encephalitis, sequelae of vascular disorders (cerebral infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, etc.) , and hydrocephalus. For this reason, it is basically diagnosed together with some kind of brain disease, such as “encephalitis and structural epilepsy” or “brain tumor and structural epilepsy”. may be stored away).

Reactive seizures are triggered by hypoglycemia, liver/kidney disease, toxic symptoms, etc., even though there is no abnormality in the brain. It is distinguished from an “epileptic seizure” because it is caused by a problem other than the brain.

Read Also: Kidney Stones in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Causes of encephalitis in dogs

Causes of encephalitis in dogs
Causes of encephalitis in dogs

The causes of encephalitis are divided into infectious, non-infectious and secondary, with non-infectious being the most common.

Causes of infectious encephalitis

There are four possible causes of infectious encephalitis: bacterial infection, viral infection, parasitic infection, and fungal infection. Inhabitation conditions such as bacteria and viruses that cause it differs depending on the region.

Bacterial infection

Inflammation of the mouth, nose (sinusitis), ears, urinary tract infection, sepsis, infective endocarditis, trauma, etc. Bacteria are carried by the blood to the brain, leading to encephalitis.

viral infection

Canine distemper virus is particularly common, and parvovirus, canine herpesvirus, canine adenovirus, etc. are carried to the brain by blood and lead to encephalitis.

parasitic infection

Encephalitis is caused by Lyme disease caused by Borrelia bacteria that are infected when ticks suck blood, Ehrlichiosis caused by microorganisms (rickettsia) , tick-borne diseases such as flaviviruses that are infected when ticks suck blood, and toxoplasmosis.

fungal infection

Severe cryptococcosis caused by the fungus Cryptococcus may lead to encephalitis.

Causes of noninfectious (idiopathic) encephalitis

Encephalitis of unknown cause that is not contagious is called idiopathic encephalitis. Although the cause is unknown, it is thought to be related to autoimmune abnormalities and hereditary factors. Some studies point to the possibility of wheat sensitivity, so switching to a wheat-free diet is an option if the cause is unknown.


Strictly speaking, infectious encephalitis is also secondary, but encephalitis can also be caused by a brain tumor, stroke, or brain damage.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Encephalitis

Treatment of Canine Encephalitis
Treatment of Canine Encephalitis

Diagnosis of encephalitis begins with a medical history and includes blood and urine tests, neurological tests, X-rays (X-rays) , MRI/CT, ​​and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests.

In the interview, we will ask when the symptoms started, how often they occur, whether there are any other abnormalities, and whether you have been out recently and have been bitten by ticks. If you have a seizure, you can make a diagnosis smoothly if you can take a video of the situation.

MRI/CT scans check for inflammation in the brain and check for problems such as tumors. MRI/CT examination and cerebrospinal fluid examination are performed under general anesthesia, so they are generally performed at the same time. A brain biopsy is required for definitive diagnosis, but it is not often performed because of the high risk involved.

Encephalitis treatment

Treatment of encephalitis depends on the cause of the inflammation.

Treatment of infectious encephalitis

Infectious encephalitis occurs when the infection is quite advanced. Treating the underlying infection with antibiotics and antifungals is a treatment for encephalitis, but in some cases it is difficult to treat. Symptomatic treatment includes steroids to reduce inflammation, and anticonvulsants if seizures are present.

Many infections are preventable. To help your dog live a long life, don’t neglect regular vaccinations and flea and tick treatment.

Treatment of non-infectious encephalitis

There is no cure for meningoencephalomyelitis (MUO) because the cause is unknown. Symptomatic treatment is focused on reducing inflammation using steroids and immunosuppressants, and controlling seizures with anticonvulsants. Even if the drug seems to be effective and cured, it often recurs, and in many cases continuous medication is required.

Care of dogs with encephalitis

Care of dogs with encephalitis
Care of dogs with encephalitis

The symptoms of encephalitis vary greatly from dog to dog, and it is necessary to respond to changes in the condition. Observe your dog regularly and report any changes to your veterinarian. In order to reduce stress, it is also important to prepare a room with a calm environment where the sound and light coming in from the outside do not become a strong stimulus.

If you have a seizure, spread a highly cushioned mat on the floor, put it on the wall, or put something dangerous on it so that you don’t get hurt when it happens. If muscle weakness (muscle atrophy) is observed, massaging the hands and feet is effective to increase blood flow. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

If daily activities become difficult, watch out for malnutrition, dehydration, and bedsores. If you fail to use the toilet, you will need care to improve the quality of life, such as using diapers. Please consult with your veterinarian for proper care.


  • Encephalitis is an inflammatory disease of the brain
  • Seizures, blindness, torticollis, etc.
  • In most cases, the cause is unknown, and symptomatic treatment is the main focus

Encephalitis is an inflammatory disease of the brain that is classified as infectious or noninfectious, but most are noninfectious. Symptoms include seizures, leg wobble, blindness, torticollis, and rough breathing. It is important to start treatment as early as possible because it often worsens rapidly.

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