Meningitis In Dogs

Today’s blog comes out of a situation experienced by a good friend of mine and her dog over the past six months.  I say six months because this is how long it has taken for a fair few very experienced veterinary professionals to finally get to the bottom of this problem and come up with a diagnosis – a delay probably due to the fact that meningitis is a fairly uncommon problem in dogs. For my friend, and more importantly her dog, it has obviously been very distressing but finally, her beautiful girl has been diagnosed as having this condition.


Unlike humans, the most common form of meningitis in dogs is called “Aseptic Meningitis” and it does not seem to have an infectious cause.  In fact, it is not known why it occurs but its appearance is more commonly among larger breeds of dogs, affecting them USUALLY (but not exclusively) between roughly 4 months and around 2 years of age.


* Depression

* Not wanting to move around very much

* Exhibiting signs of severe neck pains

* Exhibiting signs of reluctance to allow you to touch their head

* Not wanting to have their head moved up, down or to the side (even gently)

* They may appear hunch-backed and walk very stiffly


The above signs may come and go (for my friend, her dog suffered intertmittently for a full 6 months before getting to the bottom of the problem with the symptoms returning acutely and then abating repeatedly).   Often, when examined by the vet, all of the dog’s nervous reflexes appear normal.

It will be necessary for your vet to carry out various tests to confirm a diagnosis of meningitis and, as this is quite a rare condition, it may not necessarily be top of the list when confronted with the symptoms.  Indeed, it was originally thought that my friend’s dog had damaged her neck while playing with her other dog in the park, as it was during this play that she first yelped and elicted signs of pain. More likely as it transpires, she had already contracted meningitis and the play hurt her already uncomfortable head and neck areas.

Tests to diagnose Aseptic Meningitis (or Infectious Meningitis which although a very rare disease would cause the dog to be very sick indeed) include taking X-rays, blood samples and a spinal tap of the fluid in the spinal cord to be analysed.  Where there is any doubt, prompt referral to a veterinary neurologist for further testing and perhaps an MRI scan may also be necessary.


It would be necessary to administer a prolonged course of steroids (usually something like Prednisolone) to treat a case of Aseptic Meningitis and a low dose of medication would need to be continued, even after their recovery, for a further two months or so.  This continuation of the steroidal treatment is to prevent the patient relapsing once it has seemingly recovered.