Inflammation of the Meninges and Arteries Resolved with Steroids in Dogs
Steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis describes the combined conditions of inflammation of the protective membranes covering the spinal cord and brain (meninges), and inflammation of the walls of the arteries. It causes changes in the blood vessels of the heart, liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal system.
Steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis occurs worldwide and it is thought dogs may be genetically predisposed to the disease. However, any dog breed may be affected. Moreover, it occurs mainly in dogs that are less than two years of age.
Symptoms and Types
The disease can be sudden (acute) or long-term (chronic):
- Increased sensitivity to stimuli
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain
- Stiff gait (walking motion)
- Fever of up to 107.6 degrees Fahreinheit
- Further neurologic problems: paralysis, hind leg weakness, etc.
- Possibly immune-mediated, related to abnormal IgA production (Immunoglobulin A – an antibody in the mouth and on mucosal surfaces)
- Triggered by environment, possibly infectious cause
You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition, such as accidents or previous illnesses. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a neurologic exam. Standard laboratory tests will include a biochemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. A sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will also be taken to check for cells and protein levels.
Your dog will need to be hospitalized initially to treat the fever and for fluid therapy. Ice packs or cool water baths are the standard treatment for lowering body temperature, but your veterinarian will base which treatment to use on your dog's overall condition. The dog's physical activity level should not be reduced, as muscle atrophy can result from lack of movement. If your dog is in pain or suffering from paralysis of any kind, you will need to plan a physical routine that will work around those problems, while still keeping your dog in motion to prevent muscle atrophy. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication and steroids for your pet, and can help you to make a plan for keeping your dog physically active without placing too much pressure on the dog and causing more pain or stress.
Treatment must be continued for six months or the patient will relapse.
Living and Management
Your veterinarian will schedule a follow up appointment for your dog every four to six weeks after the initial treatment to check the bloodwork and to test the CSF. Treatment lasts about six months.