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.
When dogs develop the disorder, the main symptoms they typically display are as follows:
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 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.
As previously mentioned, studies have shown that some breeds are more predisposed to developing SRMA than others and this includes the following breeds:
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.
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 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.
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:
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 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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