What is Brain Inflammation?
Inflammation in the brain is also known as encephalitis. This condition can have a variety of medical causes. It can also occur with inflammation of the spinal cord and the membrane covering the brain. This condition is known as meningitis. Both encephalitis and meningitis are serious conditions that must be addressed quickly to avoid fatal consequences.
Your cat’s brain is as complex as any human brain. While most cats do not develop any adverse conditions that affect his brain, some can develop inflammation that can be serious or even life-threatening.
Symptoms of Brain Inflammation in Cats
The symptoms of brain inflammation in cats can vary, depending on the cause of the condition. Some other factors such as the age of the cat and overall health can affect the symptoms associated with encephalitis. The following is a list of some of the most common symptoms associated with encephalitis in domestic cats.
- Changes in behavior
- Muscle weakness
- Tilting of the head
- Circling movements
- Sudden lack of coordination
- Facial paralysis
- Lack of consciousness
- Small pupils
- Uneven pupils
- Pain in the spine
- Meningitis or inflammation of the spinal cord, often associated with encephalitis.
Causes of Brain Inflammation in Cats
There are several different causes or conditions that can cause inflammation to occur in the brain. Here is a brief overview of the most common conditions associated with encephalitis:
- Bacterial infections
- Viruses, such as rabies
- Parasitic infection
- Fungal infections
- Immune-mediated disorders
Diagnosis of Brain Inflammation in Cats
Your veterinarian will take a full medical history regarding your cat’s health to diagnose the cause of brain inflammation. Be sure to include information such as any conditions your cat has been diagnosed with and birth history. Your doctor will ask you when you noticed the symptoms in your cat and if they have worsened recently. After obtaining a detailed medical history, your doctor will examine your cat. He will check his gait, neurological functions, and overall behavior.
Most veterinarians take a blood sample to check for infection. This usually includes a complete biochemical profile and a CBC or complete blood count. Cats that have a high white blood cell count may have a viral infection. Blood work gives your veterinarian the information he needs to begin ruling out certain conditions, which leads to an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will also express urine from your cat and run a detailed urinalysis to check for infection.
Diagnostic imaging tests may also be used to determine the cause of encephalitis. X-rays are typically the first imaging test to be performed. To observe the brain, doctors may order more sophisticated tests such as a CT scan or MRI. Doctors may also take a sample of spinal fluid to send to the laboratory for cultures. If infection is not the cause of brain inflammation in cats, it is then determined to be immune-mediated.
Treatment of Brain Inflammation in Cats
The treatment for brain inflammation in cats depends on the cause of the condition. Cats with immune-mediated encephalitis are often treated with medications such as corticosteroids. These medications can alter the immune system and reduce inflammation in the brain in some cats. If infection is the cause of brain inflammation, doctors often treat it with antibiotics. Fungal infections are typically treated with antifungal medications to reduce symptoms.
In many cases, doctors must use a variety of medications and treatments to control brain inflammation. Since it can be a life-threatening condition, prompt diagnosis and treatment is key to your cat’s recovery. Your cat may need life-saving treatments such as IV fluids and medications to stabilize his condition.
Recovery of Brain Inflammation in Cats
How fast your cat recovers depends largely upon the cause of brain inflammation. In some cases, antibiotics or antifungal medications are all that is needed to restore good health, and cats may return to normal in 2 to 8 weeks. However, this may not be the case if your cat has suffered severe neurological damage or the infection was very serious. The overall prognosis depends on the condition that caused the brain inflammation to occur in your cat. Your veterinarian may need to see your cat for ongoing treatment. Your cat’s recovery will depend on you keeping these appointments and working with your doctor to keep him healthy.
Many veterinarians recommend special diets for cats, depending on the cause of his condition. It is important to follow his recommendations and report any changes in your cat’s behavior or condition after discharge. If your cat’s condition cannot be treated or is very advanced, palliative care may be necessary to keep him comfortable. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to reduce symptoms and keep him comfortable. In very severe cases, euthanasia may be recommended. This is the most humane way to eliminate the suffering of your cat if he has an untreatable underlying condition causing brain inflammation to occur.