What is Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis)?
Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis (GME) is a disease of the central nervous system that can be severe, causing serious damage. It is progressive and can come on suddenly. This inflammatory disease mostly affects middle-aged breeds of dogs. Since this autoimmune disease can strike quickly, it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you can.
The inflammation from this disease forms small groups of cells, or granulomas, when the dog’s immune system tries to fight infection or other foreign matter that enters the body. These granulomas form within a localized area, in multiple areas of the body, or all through the central nervous system. When this occurs, the dog begins to exhibit different symptoms, depending on what part of the body is being negatively affected.
Brain and spinal cord inflammation in dogs, or granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis, is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that can adversely affect the eye, brain, or specific parts of the central nervous system.
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Symptoms of Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis) in Dogs
Symptoms of granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis are dependent on what part of the body the disease is directly affecting. If the disease is ocular, then the eye will have symptoms. The brain and spinal cord will show more symptoms if the dog has disseminated granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis. Symptoms include:
- Weakness in the legs
- Pressing the head against the wall
- Headaches or migraines
- Changes in behavior
Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis (GME) has three different types. All three have unique and similar symptoms. Dogs can have more than one type of GME simultaneously and depending on the type the dog has determines the onset and the severity.
- Focal – localized in one central nervous system area
- Ophthalmic – in the optic nerve
- Multifocal (disseminated) – in multiple locations in the nervous system
Causes of Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis) in Dogs
Much research has been completed regarding granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis in dogs and there is no known specific cause. There is speculation from medical professionals due to the results of research that this disease can be caused by the following:
- An autoimmune disorder
- Vaccinations against Lyme disease
- Vaccinations against rabies
- Vaccinations against leptospirosis
Diagnosis of Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis) in Dogs
If your loved one has any symptoms of GME, make an appointment with your veterinarian. The veterinarian will want to know any behavioral changes, will ask about the history of your dog, and will ask other general questions. She will want to perform tests to get a clearer picture of what is going on with your dog’s health, such as a complete blood count and testing and a urinalysis. These are the basic tests that will begin the diagnosing process. She may want to do a spinal tap to test the fluid of the spine and this will mean that your dog will have to have anesthesia.
Other tests in which the veterinarian chooses to perform will be necessary, and this will depend on the dog and other symptoms the dog is having. These tests will help the vet rule out any other diseases and bring her one step closer to a definite diagnosis of granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis. A test that is used for acquiring clear images of the brain is an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to further confirm the diagnosis after the spinal tap.
Treatment of Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis) in Dogs
This disease can be fatal, and in some cases once the dog is diagnosed it is too late, especially in cases of multifocal GME. Many veterinarians do believe that granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis is caused by an autoimmune disorder, so treatment may include medications to help with this. Treatment options include:
Your veterinarian may decide to prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to attempt to suppress the autoimmune disorder that may be causing the GME. A chemotherapy drug may be combined with the steroids to help lengthen remission.
For granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis that is localized, radiation may be a form of treatment your veterinarian suggests. There are cases of GME that have dramatically improved because of radiation, but it really depends on the location and if your veterinarian believes it is safe.
For severe granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis, your dog may require hospitalization in an intensive care unit to allow the disease to somewhat stabilize. The veterinarian will provide the treatment specified for the type of GME your companion has been diagnosed with.
Recovery of Brain and Spinal Cord Inflammation (Meningoencephalomyelitis) in Dogs
Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis is very serious, and many dogs do succumb to this disease. However, some dogs do survive due to the quick diagnosis and treatment given by medical professionals. Once your fur baby is home from the hospital or veterinarian’s office visits, it is crucial to follow the treatment protocol instructed by your veterinarian.
Be sure you encourage your dog to get plenty of rest and to take it easy. Your veterinarian may also give you suggestions on lifestyle, such as exercise and diet. If you have any questions or see any adverse changes in your companion’s behavior when he is home, do not hesitate to call your medical professional.
Once your dog is home and you are helping him through recovery and management, you may wish to seek out a holistic practitioner for additional advice on this disease. The drugs your dog may be prescribed may have adverse side effects, and some dog owners feel better seeking a second opinion through other channels do find more answers. Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis in dogs is still being researched, and it may help ease your worries by finding answers from other experts as well.