Steroid Responsive Meningititis-arteritis

Steroid responsive meningititis-arteritis is a condition that appears to affect certain breeds more than others, although any dog can develop the condition. It is what is referred to as being an immune mediated condition which is also known as an "auto-immune" condition and it negatively impacts blood vessels found in a dog's nervous system. Fortunately, steroid responsive meningititis-arteritis or SRMA is a condition that's not commonly seen in the UK.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When dogs develop the disorder, the main symptoms they typically display are as follows:

  • An elevated temperature
  • Spinal pain which is extremely severe around a dog's neck, but less so on their lower backs
  • A reluctance to move
  • A serious loss of appetite

A dog's joints become inflamed and therefore painful which in turn makes it hard for them to walk. This results in a stiff and awkward gait.

The Causes

The actual causes of why some dogs develop steroid responsive meningititis-arteritis remains a bit of a mystery, but what is known is that the condition is an immune-mediated disorder that affects dogs when they are around two years old. Research has also established that no infection is associated with SRMA and that the condition is not contagious.

Breeds Most at Risk

As previously mentioned, studies have shown that some breeds are more predisposed to developing SRMA than others and this includes the following breeds:

The Genetic Link

Again, research suggests there is a genetic link although it is also thought that environment can contribute to why some dogs develop the disorder. Studies lean towards the fact that a young dog's immune system starts to fight against its own system, but why this is so remains unknown.

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would need to have a dog's full medical history and ideally know their ancestry which helps when confirming a diagnosis. They would also need to know how any symptoms first manifested themselves. A vet would rule out any other reasons why a dog might be suffering from spinal pain which could include any soft tissue or bone infections or immune-mediated joint diseases. The type of tests that a vet would recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • A complete blood count
  • A urinalysis - to rule out any infections
  • X-rays
  • A cerebro-spinal fluid analysis (CSF) - this is carried out under general aneasthetic

A dog would need to be hospitalised and given fluids intravenously to prevent any damage occurring to their kidneys and other vital organs. Their condition would be closely monitored during their initial treatment.

Treatment Options

A vet would want to suppress a dog's immune system in the first instance which they would do by administering particularly high doses of a chosen corticosteroid. After this, a dog would be given high doses of steroids which would be administered either orally or by injection. The dose is then reduced gradually over time as needed and as a dog's immune system gets back to normal.

The downside to the treatment options for dogs with the condition, is there are certain side effects associated with steroids and this includes the following:

  • An increased thirst - leading to the need to urinate that much more
  • An increased hunger - which leads to weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • An increased risk of developing a respiratory or urinary infection as well as other sort of infection

The Prognosis

Most dogs that develop steroid responsive meningititis-arteritis recover providing they are treated early and they respond to the treatment. On the whole dogs show signs of getting better within fourteen days of being treated for SRMA. However, their treatment would have to be ongoing which in short means they would need to be given steroids for anything from five to seven months. If dogs respond well, they recover and can go on to lead full and active lives.

The Risk of Relapse

The risk of a dog relapsing is small, although they may at any time during or after their treatment develop SRMA again, but luckily this is quite rare and in general relapses are treated successfully. As such, a vet would typically recommend seeing a dog that's been treated for steroid responsive meningitis-arteritis every few months so they can carry out further blood tests.


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