What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a disease disorder of the nervous system that may vary depending on its location, extent and severity. This condition is rare in dogs and cats, and there is also no breed, age, or sex predisposition. However, it can become a severe life-threatening condition.
Meningitis is caused by bacterial, viral, fungal, and protozoal infections. These infectious diseases can reach the central nervous system via the sinuses, the inner ear, the vertebrae, the bloodstream or through traumatic injuries. Non-infectious conditions such as an immune-mediated inflammatory response can also cause meningitis, in which the body attacks its tissues. Additionally, parasites can also cause meningitis, as they can migrate through the brain or central nervous tissues. In rare cases, heartworms are known to cause the disease.
The signs of meningitis may include fever, generalised pain, lethargy, refusal to eat, head tilt, circling, ataxia, hyperaesthesia, neck rigidity, blindness, seizures, and comas. If your pet shows any of these signs, you should immediately take your pet to the emergency room.
At NCVS, our veterinarians will begin by performing a thorough physical and neurological examination on your pet and identify any signs that suggest meningitis. This can include neck pain, low blood pressure and changes to the optic nerve. Our veterinarians will perform tests including complete blood cell count (CBC), serum biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to further understand your pet’s health. Our veterinarians will also perform a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap if the results are inconclusive. A veterinarian will place your pet under general anesthesia, and a needle will be inserted between the neck and lower back vertebrae, allowing the veterinarian to collect a sample of the CSF fluid. This fluid is analysed for abnormal protein levels, inflammatory cells, infectious organisms, or other indicators of the disease.
In many cases, analysing the CSF fluid can diagnose meningitis and suggest the underlying cause. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) will also be performed to provide the veterinarian with additional information on the diagnosis.
Treatment of meningitis will depend on the underlying cause. In cases of infection, the veterinarian will treat the patient with antibiotics. However, other cases do not have a medical cure and are treated with supportive care, including:
- Medications to suppress the patient’s immune system and decrease inflammation.
- Intravenous fluids if the patient has not been eating or drinking.
- Antiepileptic drugs if the patient is seizing.
- Pain medications to alleviate discomfort.
- Nursing care.
Why should you choose NCVS?
At North Coast Vets, we pride ourselves on our wealth of knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, your pet cannot tell us how they feel, so we aim to get to the bottom of your pet’s health issues. Our vets may need to perform blood, urine or other tests to understand the problem better and correctly diagnose your pet. We have access to the necessary equipment, medicine and critical care services for your pet. We also complement local veterinary practices by offering services on their behalf when they cannot. We are dedicated to providing excellence in veterinary and patient care.