What is Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection?
Parasitic encephalitis can be caused by many different parasites that can get in through your dog’s ears, nose, open skin wounds, or infections. This dangerous and fast moving disorder can be fatal if not treated in time. If you see your dog falling down or having trouble walking, you should make an appointment immediately with your veterinarian or take him to an animal hospital or clinic. There are other reasons (i.e. stroke, brain tumor) that your dog may have these symptoms, but none of them is good, so it is essential to the health of your dog to get medical attention right away. The veterinarian will be able to rule out other disease and disorders to get to the real problem right away. Balamuthia mandrillaris, free-living amoebae, acanthamoeba spp, naegleria fowleria, toxoplasma gondii, and neospora caninum can all cause parasitic infection of the central nervous system (parasitic encephalitis).
Brain inflammation due to parasitic infection (parasitic encephalitis) is a disorder indicated by central nervous system abnormalities due to swelling of the brain and spinal cord. This happens when there is an infection from parasites in your dog’s brain that can invade the brain through an ear infection, sinus infection, bites, or other injuries. Swimming or playing in stagnant water can give access to these parasites by entering their ear or nose, an open sore, or if your dog swallows water containing the parasite. There are many parasites that can be the cause of parasitic encephalitis, such as toxoplasma gondii and neospora caninum, but only your veterinarian can find out for sure.
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Symptoms of Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection in Dogs
The symptoms of parasitic encephalitis will vary depending on the cause of the swelling. In other words, what parasite is infecting your dog will decide what symptoms he has. Symptoms can also vary by the area of the nervous system that is infected and swelling. Some of the most common of parasitic encephalitis symptoms are:
- Walking in circles
- Inability to walk straight
- Stumbling or falling
- Tilting of the head
- Paralysis in the face
- Leg weakness
- Behavioral changes
- Stiff neck
- Muscle spasms
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Walking aimlessly
- Unequal pupil size
If your dog has any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Causes of Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection in Dogs
There are many different parasites that can cause parasitic encephalitis, which are:
- Balamuthia mandrillaris
- Free-Living Amoebae
- Acanthamoeba Spp
- Naegleria Fowleria
- Toxoplasma Gondii
- Neospora Caninum
In addition, certain dog breeds are predisposed to parasitic encephalitis. These breeds include:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- German Shorthaired Pointer
Diagnosis of Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection in Dogs
For a correct diagnosis, you have to be sure the veterinarian knows your dog’s medical history, especially if it is not your usual veterinarian. The things you need to let him know are whether your dog has been ill or has had any illnesses recently, whether your dog is up to date on his shots, and any changes in diet or behavior. If you have been to any areas where your dog was allowed to swim or play in water, you should let the veterinarian know that as well.
The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination, which includes body temperature, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. Some basic laboratory tests will be run, such as a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, blood sugar, stool sample, and maybe a blood chemistry test. They will also need to do digital radiographs (x-rays) and possibly a CT scan to see if the infection shows up on an x-ray.
Most of the time, the only true way to determine if your dog has parasitic encephalitis is by doing a spinal tap to check the cerebrospinal fluid for an increase in white blood cells. This test requires that your dog be put under general anesthesia. There is a risk if your dog has a build-up of intracranial pressure, so the veterinarian will need to run an MRI first to determine if there is any pressure in the brain.
If the veterinarian does find that your dog has parasitic encephalitis, they will run a liver function blood test because some of the medication used for this infection has to be absorbed and broken down by the liver.
Treatment of Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection in Dogs
The first medication the veterinarian will use is a strong antibiotic for the infection, such as cephalosporin, tetracycline, sulfonamide, fluoroquinolone, metronidazole, and ampicillin. If your dog has been having seizures, the veterinarian will prescribe anticonvulsant medicine such as phenobarbital or diazepam. Steroid medications, such as prednisone, will be prescribed to alleviate the inflammation.
Recovery of Brain Inflammation Due to Parasitic Infection in Dogs
Although parasitic encephalitis can be fatal, if your dog is able to get treatment in the early stages of the infection, there is a good chance of recovery with the proper medications. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions and return for the follow-up appointment to be sure your dog is free of infection. It may take several months to get rid of the parasites, so you have to be vigilant and be sure to let your veterinarian know if your dog has any further symptoms or if the symptoms disappear and then return.