Encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier dogs are more vulnerable to encephalitis – inflammation of the brain. It can impact your pet at any age. Necrotizing encephalitis, a rapidly progressive, fatal inflammatory brain disorder, is so pervasive in this breed of dogs that the disease is often referred to as “Yorkie encephalitis.” The treatment focuses on offering relief from symptoms by slowing down the progression of the disease.

What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis refers to the inflammation of the brain, affecting the central nervous system (CNS). The medical terminology originates from two words – “Encephalo” or involving brain and “itis” or inflammation. It occurs when inflammation pervades the membrane surrounding the brain. With brain inflammation, the CNS cannot function effectively, and your dog suffers from neurologic disorders.

Encephalitis may occur with or without spinal cord inflammation. Yorkshire Terrier and a few other dog breeds, such as German Shorthaired Pointers, Chihuahua, and Maltese, are more likely to have the disorder.

Necrotizing encephalitis is a form of this disease characterized by death of brain cells in your pet.

Causes of Encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier

Infectious agents, such as bacteria, fungal infection, virus, or parasites, are the most prevalent causes of the disease in Yorkies. Researchers also link the problem to the presence of foreign bodies in these dogs. Infectious encephalitis is more common in Yorkies living in areas where tick-borne infections are common. Though encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier related to bacterial infections is not common, yet it cannot be ruled out.

Idiopathic encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier is due to an autoimmune disorder.  The most important types of the autoimmune encephalitis include:

  • Granulomatous meningoencephalitis
  • Necrotizing meningoencephalitis
  • Necrotizing leukoencephalitis

It often affects middle-aged small dogs. The malfunctioned immune system fails to recognize its own body parts and infections. It attacks the brain and the spinal cord, causing slow death of brain cells.

A few dogs have been reported to have encephalitis associated with post-vaccine complications. However, it is rare.

When Does A Yorkie Get Encephalitis

A middle-aged Yorkie remains at a risk of autoimmune encephalitis more than any other period of its life. The breed is genetically vulnerable to the disease linked to the immune disorder.

Infectious encephalitis, though is a risk for any age group of Yorkies, it is more apparent in mature dogs. Astute care of puppies somehow minimizes the risk. But as your dog turns into an adult, he becomes more independent with a letup in your careful grooming. This increases the risk of viral, fungal, or parasitic infections.

Symptoms of Encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier

At the onset, your Yorkie will have encephalitis symptoms, such as unusual lethargy, fever, depression, and seizures. After a while, the dog may have perpetual head-tilting.  You may notice an unequal size of pupils and brain edema. There may be a partial or complete loss of vision in your dog.

You may observe your dog behaving abnormally as if there is something wrong with it. He may be seen circling around himself with a noticeable decrease in responsiveness. The behavior and temperament will undergo a change with the disorder becoming more apparent.

Paralysis of the face can be a result of the progression of encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier. Your dog’s consciousness too reduces significantly as the disease spreads.

Diagnosis of Encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier

Many of encephalitis symptoms look identical to that of other diseases, impacting the brain and the spinal cord. These signs often mislead owners to consider the possibility of cancer in their pets. This makes a diagnosis of encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier tricky.

Your vet may ask you to provide as many details as possible about your dog’s health. Tell him about all preexisting or past health issues along with the exact onset and nature of present symptoms. Take note of particular incidents that precipitate complications and make your vet aware of it.

Usually, a physical verification is the first line of medical examination. The vet may recommend testing of blood samples and spinal fluid and analyze results in the light of physical signs and biochemistry profile. A blood test, indicating a higher than normal amount of white blood cells, helps detect infection in your dog’s body.

The vet may recommend CT-scans or MRI of your Yorkie’s brain to confirm the diagnosis of encephalitis. The examination of brain tissue sample is the best option. However, the cost is very high.

Treatment of Encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier

With no cure in sight, encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier is considered an ominous sign. There is no cure for it. However, with proper care and regular medication, you can prolong the survival of your pet, suppress symptoms, and improve his quality of life.

Antibiotics are prescribed to reduce or curb the infection affecting the brain. Anticonvulsant drugs help contain seizures. If there is a severe spinal inflammation, you may treat your Yorkie with a low-dose steroid therapy.

Immunosuppressant medications provide relief when encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier is due to the malfunctioning of the immune system.

The high-dose treatment lasts for six to eight months while maintenance doses continue until your dog is alive. You can use alternative therapies, such as ozone therapy or traditional herbal medication, besides medical treatment. The discontinuation of treatment may lead to the reappearance of symptoms.

Living With Encephalitis

When a dog responds to the treatment, the progression of encephalitis in Yorkshire Terrier slows down. It helps suppress symptoms to a great extent. Medical reports indicate improvements in encephalitis symptoms within two to eight weeks of treatment. You can support your dog’s health with dietary changes and better care. Your Yorkie may live for years with the disease if there is an accurate diagnosis and the condition is treated with an aggressive medical therapy.

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