Encephalitis in Pets

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain or spinal cord (myelitis) due to viral or bacterial infection, skull fracture, wounds, parasites or fungi. It may be idiopathic (unknown)and can be immune-mediated where the immune system attacks the brain or spinal cord.

Symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected and can appear suddenly and advance quickly.

Involvement of the forebrain (the forward most part of the brain) can produce seizures, blindness, changes in behavior, depression, circling. Other signs can be fever, unequal or smaller sized pupils. Abnormalities can include mid- and hind-brain.

Diagnosis includes blood tests, urinalysis, chest x-rays, medical history. It’s possible that these will not be conclusive.

A definitive test is a spinal tap where the cerebrospinal fluid will directly indicate what is happening in the central nervous system.

Before a spinal tap is administered, your vet will require an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT scan (computerized tomography) test.

A spinal tap can be risky, but an MRI or CT scan can rule out other causes. An elevated white blood count in the spinal fluid is usually an indication of encephalitis.

Treatment depends on the symptoms your pet is showing.

If there is infection, antibiotics or antifungals will be prescribed. For seizures, anticonvulsants will be given. Steroid therapy may be used to treat inflammation.

Idiopathic or immune-mediated encephalitis can be treated with long-term medications that suppress the immune system.

Other holistic remedies can be added such as Chinese herbal protocols, ozone therapy and more.

Holistic vets believe that pets recovering from idiopathic encephalitis should never receive vaccinations. Titer testing should be done instead.

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