Posted By: Ellen - Vet

Murphy gets Steroid Responsive Meningitis

Puppies and young dogs tend to be lively and full of energy. Murphy is a 7 month old  Golden Retriever who is usually no different. However, his owners noticed he was becoming quieter than normal, not wanting to get up and play, and was no longer keen to eat. They were understandably worried about this and bought him down to the surgery.  When he first came in he had a temperature. Sometimes this happens in young dogs, and they often respond well to anti-inflammatory medication and, if needed, a short course of antibiotics. Murphy was started on these medications.

The next day Murphy was worse and wouldn’t get up at all. He was admitted to the practice for blood tests and additional fluids as he was becoming quite dehydrated. Further checks revealed he still had a high temperature and also had a lot of neck pain. This made us suspect a disease called Steroid Responsive Meningitis.

This causes exactly the signs Murphy had: lethargy, a high temperature and reluctance to walk and move their neck. It is usually seen in young dogs between 6-18 months old. The exact cause of the disease isn’t known, but it is thought to be immune mediated. The animal’s own immune system causes the inflammation of the tissues around the spinal cord. The best way to definitively diagnose the disease is to do a ‘CSF tap’ – where we sample some fluid from around the brain and spinal cord. This is a delicate procedure and usually done at specialist centres where they can analyse the fluid quickly. We try to get a definite diagnosis of this condition because treatment for it is a long course of medication which suppresses the dogs immune system. This can have side effects so we avoid giving it unless absolutely necessary.

We sent Murphy to a referral hospital to have this test done the next day. However by the time he arrived there his symptoms had improved. This meant that although he stayed there to be observed and examined, they were not able to perform the test. He went home without any medication and for the next 3 weeks he was doing well.

Unfortunately for Murphy his signs returned. His owners were very observant and bought him back as soon as they noticed them. His temperature was very high again and we sent him straight back to the referral hospital where they performed the test that day. It confirmed our suspicions and the diagnosis of Steroid Responsive Meningitis was given. Murphy has initially been started on a 6 week course of medication. He has now been home for 4 weeks and is currently doing very well. He is going from strength to strength and each day we are seeing improvement in him. The likely outcome for Murphy is very good and response to treatment is usually very quick and successful. Sometimes the problem can come back so we will have to be on the lookout for any of the same signs. We are just glad to see him back to his happy, bouncy self and carrying his toys around again. 

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