Brain Tissue Inflammation and Death (Breed Specific) in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 30, 2009

Breed Specific Necrotizing Encephalitis in Dogs

Necrotizing encephalitis is inflammation of the brain with concurrent necrosis (death) of brain tissue. It is seen only in a few breeds of dogs, including pugs, Yorkshire terriers, and Maltese. It is also occasionally seen in chihuahuas and shi-tzus. Symptoms vary in different breeds.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms depend on the area of the brain that is affected, but may include:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Seizures
  • Circling
  • Blindness


The exact cause for this condition is unknown.


You will need to give your veterinarian a detailed medical history, including a background of the symptoms, time of onset, and the frequency of the symptoms present. After taking a history, your veterinarian will examine your dog in detail. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. The laboratory tests are usually within normal ranges. Radiographic studies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a computed tomography scan (CT-scan) also typically give non-specific results.

A more conclusive diagnosis may be made using a sample taken from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the protective and nourishing fluid that circulate around the brain and spinal cord. The sample will be sent to laboratory for a further evaluation. The results of the CSF testing may reveal an increase in the leukocytes (white blood cells or WBCs) count, an abnormal condition referred to as pleocytosis. The laboratory tests may also indicate inflammation, infection, or the possible presence of a tumor. However, a brain biopsy (taking a small sample of brain tissue for analysis) is the only way to conclusively determine the cause for the brain disturbance.


Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available, and treatment that is given is primarily for the reduction of symptoms. Medicines to reduce inflammation in the brain, or to reduce the over-reactivity of the immune system can be used, but otherwise there is no clear-cut treatment. Your veterinarian may also suggest treatment to control seizures.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, there is no treatment yet available for this disease. Some drugs may help in reducing the symptoms but an ultimate cure is not possible. This disease is chronic in nature and symptoms are usually progressive in nature.

Your dog may require long-term treatment. If so, you will be dispensing medication to your dog at home. Always follow proper medication guidelines, including exact dosage and frequency of medications. Over dosage of medications is one of the most preventable causes of death in pets. Your will need to stay in regular contact with your veterinarian, as adjustments to the dosage will be made over time as the inflammation in the brain lessens. Your veterinarian will set up a clinic schedule for your dog in order to monitor treatment response and make adjustments to medication and home therapy as necessary.

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