Canis ISSN: 2398-2942


Contributor(s): Rodney Bagley, Laurent Garosi


  • Inflammatory disease of the brain.
  • Encephalitis and meningitis often exist concurrently in dogs and cats.
  • Incidence of infectious agents causing meningitis varies with geographic location.
  • Cause: infectious or non-infectious (numerous agents incriminated):
  • Signs: progressive central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction +/- localizing signs.
  • Diagnosis: altered mental state, seizures.
  • Treatment: for specific causative agent + supportive.
  • Prognosis: guarded.



Predisposing factors

  • CDV - failure to vaccinate.
  • History of travel to endemic areas or recent tick exposure may suggest fungal or rickettsial disease, respectively.


  • Disruption to blood-brain barrier → entry micro-organism.
  • Trauma → direct invasion by micro-organism.
  • Trans-neural spread micro-organism, eg rabies.
  • Local white blood cell accumulation → mass lesions, release of toxins → vasculitis, local ischemia, edema → neuronal necrosis, secondary demyelination.
    Increased intracranial pressure → risk of brain herniation Brain: tentorial herniation.


  • Variable.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Smith P M et al (2009) Comparison of two regimens for the treatment of meningoencephalomyelitis of unknown etiology. JVIM 23, 520-526 PubMed.
  • Young B D et al (2009) Magnetic resonance imaging characterisitics of necrotizing meningoencephalitis in Pug Dogs. JVIM 23, 527-535 PubMed.
  • Adamo P F, Rylander H & Adams W M (2007) Ciclosporin use in multi-drug therapy for meningoencephalomyelitis of unknown aetiology in dogs. JSAP 48 (9), 489-496 PubMed.
  • Coates J R et al (2007) Procarbazine as adjunctive therapy for treatment of dogs with presumptive antemortem diagnosis of granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis: 21 cases. JVIM 21 (1), 100-106 PubMed.
  • Zarfoss M et al (2006) Combined cytosine arabinoside and prednisone therapy for meningoencephalitis of unknown aetiology in 10 dogs. JSAP 47 (10), 588-595 PubMed.
  • Burtch M (1998) Granulomatous meningitis caused by Coccidioides immitis in a dog. JAVMA 212 (6), 827-829 PubMed.
  • Kipar A et al (1998) Immmunohistochemical characterization of inflammatory cells in brains of dogs with granulomatous meningoencephalitis. Vet Pathol 35 (1), 43-52 PubMed.
  • Thomas W B (1998) Inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system in dogs. Clin Teach Small Anim Pract 13 (3), 167-178 PubMed.
  • Muñana K R (1996) Encephalitis and meningitis. Vet Clin North Am 26 (4), 857-74 PubMed.
  • Thomas W B, Sorjonen D C & Steiss J E (1993) A retrospective evaluation of 38 cases of canine distemper encephalomyelitis. JAAHA 29 (2), 129-33 VetMedResource.
  • Bagley R S (1992) Tremor syndromes in dogs - Diagnosis and Treatment. JSAP 33 (10), 485-90 VetMedResource.
  • Guilford W G, Shaw D P, O'Brien D P et al (1990) Fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence, and priapism associated with multifocal distemper encephalomyelitis in a dog. JAVMA 197 (1), 90-2 PubMed.
  • Cordy D R & Holliday T A (1989) A necrotizing meningoencephalitis of pug dogs. Vet Pathol 26 (3), 191-4 PubMed.
  • Hass J A, Shell L & Saunders G (1989) Neurological manifestations of toxoplasmosis - A literature review and case summary. JAAHA 25 (3), 253-260 VetMedResource.
  • Lappin M R, Greene C E, Prestwood A K et al (1989) Diagnosis of recent Toxoplasma gondii infection in cats by use of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for immunoglobulin. Am J Vet Res 50 (9), 1580-5 PubMed.
  • Meric S M (1988) Canine meningitis. A changing emphasis. J Vet Int Med 2 (1), 26-35 PubMed.
  • Greene C E, Cook J R Jr. & Mahaffey E A (1985) Clindamycin for treatment of toxoplasma polymyositis in a dog. JAVMA 187 (3), 631-4 PubMed.
  • Breazile J E, Blaugh B S & Nail N (1966) Experimental study of canine distemper myoclonus. Am J Vet Res 27, 1375-9 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Plummer S B, Wheeler S J, Thrall D Eet al(1992)Computed tomography of primary inflammatory brain disorders in dogs and cats.Vet Rad Ultrasound33, pp 307.