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Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis, Eosinophilic) in Dogs

Meningoencephalomyelitis in Dogs

Meningoencephalomyelitis in dogs is characterized by inflammation affecting the brain, spinal cord, and their surrounding membranes, triggered by elevated levels of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Typically, the surge in eosinophils occurs in response to a parasite infection, tumor, or allergic reaction in the dog. While dogs of any age can be affected by eosinophilic meningoencephalomyelitis, there appears to be a predisposition among Golden Retrievers for this condition.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of eosinophilic meningoencephalomyelitis can vary in both location and severity, typically manifesting in nervous system-related issues such as circling, memory loss, seizures, and blindness.

Causes

The underlying cause of eosinophilic meningoencephalomyelitis is often idiopathic (or unknown) in nature. Other typical factors associated with this disease include:

  • Allergies (also common)
  • Tumors
  • Parasite infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Vaccinations

Diagnosis

Diagnosing eosinophilic meningoencephalomyelitis involves providing a detailed history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of symptoms. The veterinarian will then conduct a thorough physical examination and various laboratory tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), blood culture biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, to pinpoint the cause of inflammation.

Blood tests may reveal elevated eosinophil levels, while biochemistry profiling can indicate abnormal liver enzyme activity associated with parasitic infections. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may uncover tumorous lesions in the dog’s brain or spinal cord.

A crucial diagnostic test is the analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A sample of your dog’s CSF will be collected and sent to a laboratory for culturing and further evaluation. In cases of idiopathic or allergic causes, the CSF may show increased eosinophil numbers. Tumors, on the other hand, are generally linked to decreased white blood cell counts and a small number of eosinophils in the CSF.

Treatment

Considering the seriousness of the disease, the majority of dogs diagnosed with eosinophilic meningoencephalomyelitis will require hospitalization. In situations where an underlying cause cannot be determined (idiopathic), veterinarians may administer steroids for a few weeks to alleviate inflammation. Alternatively, dogs may be placed on specific dietary and movement restrictions until a cause is identified, and a more tailored treatment plan can be established.

Living and Management

The overall prognosis largely relies on identifying the underlying cause of the disease. However, a favorable prognosis is anticipated with prompt and aggressive treatment—most dogs exhibit improvement within the initial 72 hours and fully recover within six to eight weeks.

During hospitalization, your dog will typically undergo examinations every six hours. Following treatment, your veterinarian may advise regular follow-up evaluations for your dog.

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