Meningitis is a disease that affects the meninges, or the membranes that cover the central nervous system. Most of the time, meningitis is a result of a bacterial or viral infection, but in some cases is can be the result of an inherited abnormality of the nervous system. In this article, we'll take a look at three forms of meningitis that seem to be inherited, as well as the most common form, Steroid Responsive Meningitis.
Beagle Pain Syndrome, obviously affecting beagles, can develop in puppies between three and ten months of age. The most common symptoms are fever, intense neck pain and depression. This disease can be diagnosed through a spinal tap. The disease can be controlled through steroid medication, which helps relieve the inflammation of the spinal cord.
Bernese Mountain dogs can inherit Aseptic Meningitis. This disease can develop as early as three months all the way until the first year. Symptoms for Aseptic Meningitis include fever, neck pain and a stiff gait. Like Beagle Pain Syndrome, it can be diagnosed through a spinal tap and treated with steroid medication.
Pug Encephalitis, or Necrotizing Meningo-Encephalitis, as it is known medically, can affect pugs and Maltese terriers. The symptoms can include seizures, neck rigidity and pain, and a change in behavior. This disease can develop anywhere between six months and seven years. While it is also diagnosed through a spinal tap, there is unfortunately no cure for this disease. Seizures will become more frequent and violent as the disease progresses and the life expectancy after diagnosis can be as short as a few weeks.
The most common form of meningitis is Steroid Responsive Meningitis. Most dogs contract meningitis through a bacterial or viral infection, but it can develop in some dogs that have autoimmune problems, meaning that the immune system will suddenly see a part of the body as "foreign" and begin to attack it. Steroid Responsive Meningitis is usually seen in dogs in young adulthood, and symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, reduced mobility because of this stiffness, and a painful reaction to touch. Like other forms of meningitis, Steroid Responsive Meningitis can be diagnosed through a spinal tap, as well as other laboratory tests, x-rays and CT scans.
Luckily, Steroid Responsive Meningitis doesn't have to mean a death sentence. Just as its name suggests, this form of meningitis usually responds well to steroid therapy, which helps to reduce the inflammation around the spinal cord. Therapy usually begins with high doses of steroids, which are then tapered down slowly every other day. After a period of six months on a low dose of steroids with no problems, the veterinarian could suggest taking the dog off of the steroid therapy. Some dogs will never need the steroid therapy again, while others may need to stay on a low dose for the rest of their lives.