Encephalitis in a Dog

Young dogs, primarily but not exclusively small breeds, can occasionally develop encephalitis. Most people think of encephalitis as being infectious in origin, such as the much-publicized West Nile Encephalitis virus. Infectious encephalitis does occur in dogs, but at a much lower rate than in human beings.

A more common form of encephalitis in dogs is immune-based. This means the body's own white blood cells (the cells that normally fight infections) are attacking the normal brain. Commonly called GME (granulomatous meningoencephalitis), this type of immune encephalitis has a "bad rap". The veterinary literature portrays this disease as fatal, but this is often not the case.

Common clinical signs of encephalitis are confusion, bumping into things, imbalance and stumbling. Or, the dog just isn't acting right, forgetting who the owner is or where the dog's food or bed is located. The MRI combined with examination of spinal fluid can provide an accurate diagnosis and lead us to corrective treatment.

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Midgie Movie

In Migie's case here was some of the pattern:

Jan. 20, Sat. Took Midgie to Vet ... she was not acting right; put Midgie on Antiibiotic and scheduled her to get her tooth pulled
Jan. 25, Thurs. took Midgie to vet for tooth extraction; picked her up around 5 p.m. and she was alert and spunky when we brought her home that evening. Came home with a supply of antibiotic and pain meds.
Jan. 29, Mon., Midgie tried to jump on bed in the evening, didn't make it and fell on her side
Jan. 30, Tues. by after dinner time Midgie was not acting right.
Jan. 31, Wed. took Midgie back to Lane veterinarian; she thought she hurt her neck... gave her valium on top of the antibiotic and pain meds she was given
Feb. 5 Mon Took Midgie back to Lane veterinarian after having stopped giving her the Valium because she seemed too drugged; however, Dr. said to cut the pill in 1/2 because it would provide her with ease and continue it and to also give her 25 mg. of Deramaxx, an anti-inflammatory.
Feb. 10 Sat Midgie seemed to be getting worse so I scheduled another vet appt for Monday.
Feb. 12 Mon Midgie could barely stand up, and stumbled in circles. Our current vet said we should go to the "big dogs" and we were referred to a facility that specialized in neurology, had a MRI and treated more serious issues. Monday pm called and made appt. for Tuesday.
Feb. 13 Tue Midgie could not walk on her own at this point. FYI, a MRI is about $2,000, a spinal tap and a titers test to try and analyse the problem about $800. I chose the spinal tap and we started another five drugs to treat a wide variety of possible causes. We were feeding her and giving her water by hand since she could not feed, drink, or walk on her own at this point. I started giving her the medicines below as prescribed:
Meclizine - dizziness
Prednosone - for swelling
Omeprazole - for acid in stomach
Doxycycline - treats bacterial infections
Clindamycin - antibiotic treats infections
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/medmaster/a682548.html (good web page for drug info)

Feb. 14-16 I gave her water by a plastic syringe and food that was in a tube and put it on her tongue. She was not able to move on her own, and had trouble even with her tongue.
Feb. 16 Fri pm She was able to control her head and seemed slightly better. By the next day she stood and by the next day rebounded and was able to walk, and eat on her own.
Feb. 18-24 She never got back more than 50%. She could not run, jump, etc. The neurology vet said the titers test came back borderline. There are two antibodies they look for IGM (something the body makes in responses to an initial attack, then drops) or IGG (a long term response).

Midgie kept taking the medicines as prescribed all during this period
Meclizine (for dizziness) until it was gone
Prednosone (for swelling) as prescribed, the dose goes down after 10 days, then down more, and then more, see instructions (You hope she does ok, as the amount drops. If not, you may need another drug or keep her on medication.)
Omeprazole - for acid in stomach (she keeps taking this until the Prednosone drops down to every other day)
Clindatabs (antibiotic) they called in an additional prescription (2x per day, until the next titers test).

He stopped the Doxycycline when the initial quantity prescibed ran out.

Feb. 25 Sunday, she started digressing again. We attributed it to starting to wean her off of the steroids as prescribed. We called and the vet upped the steroids again.
Feb. 25 Mon She kept going downhill, so he added another toxic medicine. One you needed to wear gloves and not touch. She did not seem to rebound and we think she also went blind.
We planned on getting another titers test for Midgie, two weeks from when the first test was done, (Tuesday Feb. 27th). Sadly, this is the point we thought her quality of life was not good and getting worse. We had our local vet call the neurology center and get the Dr's opinion. He said she should have been better by now if it was going to work, and our vet confirmed that she was blind, so we made the tough decision to put her to sleep.

The Neurology center vet said 1/3 of the dogs can bounce back from encephalitis, 1/3 can manage it with medicine and 1/3 will not respond. I hope this gives others a little more knowledge.