CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM INFLAMMATION
Central Nervous System (CNS) inflammation is a common cause of
neurological disease in cats and dogs.
The term meningitis is used when the lining surrounding the CNS is
affected. The terms encephalitis and myelitis refer to inflammation
of the brain and spinal cord, respectively.
Dogs and cats with CNS inflammation can exhibit a variety of
abnormalities. These may include behavioral changes, weakness,
abnormal limb coordination, blindness, and seizures. Some animals
have signs that develop over weeks or months, whereas others appear
to be suddenly affected.
There are many diseases that can mimic CNS inflammation such as
tumors, strokes, malformations, and metabolic abnormalities.
Appropriate testing is required to diagnose CNS inflammation and
determine the type of inflammatory disease.
Animals suspected of CNS inflammation usually receive blood cell
counts, blood chemistry tests, nervous system imaging, spinal fluid
evaluation, and testing for infectious disease. Magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) is the preferred means of imaging the CNS. An MRI
provides clear pictures of the brain and spinal cord and is the
only way to diagnose many diseases that can mimic CNS inflammation,
such as stroke.
Research performed at Texas A&M University, the University of
Georgia, and elsewhere has highlighted that the majority of dogs
with CNS inflammation do not have an active infection at the time
of diagnosis. Most dogs appear to have abnormal immune system
responses, which result in the disease process. Animals with
immune-based CNS inflammation typically require drugs that slow
down the immune system.
With properly tailored treatment these animals can live for years
with excellent quality of life. Cats with CNS inflammation often
have an active infection and may respond to treatment with
antibiotics or other drugs.
Some animals with CNS inflammation can have seizure disorders.
Although seizures can be distressing to owners, they can usually be
controlled (but not entirely eliminated) with medications. Newer
anti-seizure drugs are easy to use and likely have fewer side
effects when compared to older standard medications.
Finally, animals with CNS inflammation may require intensive care
unit-type care if they are severely affected. Treatments may need
to be administered that can decrease brain swelling and lower the
pressure within the skull.
Intravenous treatments to suppress the immune system may also be
required. Round the clock nursing care, board-certified critical
care specialists, and access to a team of specialists can be
essential in giving the patient the best chance for recovery.
Most Frequently Affected Breeds