My Dog Has Meningitis

Two weeks ago our 12 month old Golden Retriever, Cooper, was diagnosed with Steroid Responsive Meningitis-Arteritis.


Poor Cooper

What were the signs that my dog had Meningitis?

my-dog-has-meningitisA few months ago Cooper was not himself. He is usually a boisterous dog so it is very noticeable when he is not feeling well. He was moving slower and he wouldn’t bend down to eat his food or drink his water. We took him to the vet. They poked and prodded him. His temperature was normal but his movement was a bit stiff. We did some x-rays and they were all clear. The vet made the decision to give him anti-inflammatories and see how he was the next day. He did tell us that some of these symptoms sounded like it could be meningitis but that meningitis generally comes with a high temperature. He told us if Cooper got worse the next day, to take him to the specialist to test for meningitis. But thankfully the next day, Cooper was back to his crazy self.  


Cooper at the Vet

About a month and a half later, we noticed the same symptoms had come back. Cooper was totally flat, just sleeping, moving really slowly, not doing his usual big stretches, struggling to yawn, not licking and cleaning his private parts and hesitant to bend down to get his food. We took him to our vet and again, he didn’t have a temperature so our vet suggested we go to see the specialist to get some tests done. This was now the 3rd or 4th time Cooper was unwell in the past few months so we decided that this time we wanted to get to the bottom of it, we needed some answers. We took Cooper to Advanced Vet Care in North Melbourne, it’s a 24 hour emergency vet with some of the best vets. The vet that we saw happened to be a guy who was the year above me at school which has been fantastic! We decided to do as many tests as we could to get to the bottom of it. We did a CT Scan, blood tests and a Spinal Tap. The only way to test for meningitis is with the Spinal Tap which is quite a risky procedure and Cooper had to be put under anaesthetic for this. The poor pup had a full examination.

The same day we got the results back that CT scan was clear, ruling out any spinal or neck inguries and disc problems. The blood tests were clear. So we were still stumped. We had to wait till the next day for the Spinal Tap results but at this stage, Jase and I weren’t sure what we wanted to hear. If the spinal tap came back clear, then we were still at square one, not knowing what was making Coop so unwell, but it would also mean he didn’t have meningitis which would be great. And then on the other hand we kind of wanted it to come back as positive because it would mean we knew what was going on and could treat it.


Cooper’s hair cut from the Spinal Tap

The results came through the next day at lunchtime and it was positive. The vet explained that it seemed to be quite a mild case considering he wasn’t dramatically deteriorating and didn’t have a fever. The vet explained that a dog with meningitis feels like they are walking around with a very heavy head and an achy body all over.  And at this stage the cause of meningitis in dogs is still unknown. Poor Coops!


What is the treatment for meningitis in dogs?

As you can probably tell from the name of this disease, Steroid Responsive Meningitis-Arteritis, dogs generally respond well to steroids. Early diagnosis is essential for a successful outcome. And thankfully our vet had told us that we got it in time as Coop didn’t have the high temperature and he appeared to be quite a mild case. Dogs with a severe case, need a larger dose of steroids and need to take them for up to 6 months. In all cases, you need to hit them hard with the steroids at first and then slowly taper off the drugs. The only problem with giving a dog steroids is that side effects are inevitable; hunger, thirst, bloating, muscle loss. And then there are some worse side effects such as gastrointestinal ulceration. Dogs need to be on a low fat diet otherwise they can develop pancreatitis. But thankfully this disease is treatable.


Will he recover?

Yes, Cooper should make a full recovery. The vet has told us that it could take a full 6 months for Coop to get back to his normal self. So it is a slow process.


Could it come back?

There is a chance that meningitis can come back in dogs. That is why it is so important to listen to the vet’s instructions and slowly reduce the dosage of steroids and not to just stop them. 


Where we are at now


Me and Cooper

It is two weeks after being diagnosed with this disease and each day we see small improvements in Coop. We had one set back a few days after starting the steroids when Cooper went off his food and vomited. We put him on some more medication to help with inflammation on the lining of his insides (I think that’s what the vet said). And we changed his diet to boiled chicken and rice. After that we have had no problems with eating, rather he has turned into a scavenger which is also a side effect of the steroids. We also ended up sending off some extra blood work too that the vet had put aside to make sure it wasn’t bacterial or parasitic meningitis (again, I think those were the terms used). And thankfully the bloods came back all clear, confirming that we were treating the right kind of meningitis. 


After just 10 days of being on the steroids, Cooper lost 4kg, he had become extremely depressed and was drinking water like it was running out of fashion and as a result peeing almost every half an hour. The vet explained that even if we fed him 8 meals a day, he would still shed the weight due to the drugs. So we took him for a check up and the vet decided we were ready to half his dosage of steroids. If he got worse, we would put it straight back up but if he improves, we will be able to half the dosage again soon. He was unsure if the depression was a side effect from the drugs or a result of the disease.


Cooper slowly getting back to his happy self

It’s now a couple days after reducing the drugs by half and Cooper is definitely less depressed and less lethargic, he has a little spark back and we see that smile on his face a little more often. He is still sleeping lots and is not interested in playing with other dogs. He is actually the best behaved he has ever been. But until he is pulling me to play with other dogs, I know he is still not himself. Considering Coopers progress, our vet thinks we will only need to have him on the drugs for a couple of months and not the full 6 months. So day by day, we watch our little boy get a bit better. And we just can’t wait to get our crazy boisterous pup back.


For those of you who are interested and would like to know more, this is a fantastic article that explains the disease and actually made me feel a bit better about it all.

We will make sure to keep you updated on Coopers progress.

And we would love to hear from anyone else who has had a dog with meningitis…

Cooper at the vet with our vets 7 month old Golden, Churros



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  1. Gabby
    Gabby says:

    I’m so thankful I’ve come across this article at the time I have, our Pembroke welsh corgi Monty is so unwell with a high fever, lethargy, very similar symptoms to what you described in Cooper. He is having an X-ray tomorrow to rule out the musculoskeletal concerns in the neck but the vet thinks most likely it is meningitis (most likely steroid responsive as he hasn’t responded to antibiotics). I’ve been so worried about Monty but your story gives me faith that there is effective treatment available. Thank you for sharing your experience, I wish all the best for Cooper’s recovery!

  2. BB
    BB says:

    Hello there, My dogs experience with menengitis was so similar to Coopers and many dogs. I read tons of articles and most dogs experience same symptoms as my precious Diamond. Unfortunately Diamond did not respond to the steroids and her illness became worse. Our vet told us there was one more treatment that we could try, it’s called Cytosar. She went in on a Monday and had four hour intervenous (chemo). We took her home and still was on steroids and some pain Meds. Tuesday she still was not well and by Wednesday was much worse. She could not walk, she was falling. She was a very determined dog and would not give up. I took good care of her and cried so much everyday. I just had this feeling she was not going to make it. On Thursday she was so sick I told her it was okay if she wanted to go to heaven. She was in such bad shape. At 8:40 pm she took 3 big stretches and then started to throw up. I went to get ready to take her to the hospital but she passed away at 8:45pm. When I took her into the hospital on the Monday when she got the Cytosar treatment she wasn’t in such bad shape. I think the treatment was just to much for her. She walked into the hospital that morning with just a bit of a stiff neck and when she walked out in the evening she was not walking straight. I wish the Vet would have told me that this treatment was very strong, specially for a small dog.
    It’s been a month that my beloved Diamond has passed and I miss her so much. Ask questions when doing the Cytosar treatment. If I could do it all over again I would have put her on a higher dosage of the steroids. ???

  3. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Oh no! I am so sorry to hear about your loss. You must be heartbroken. To be honest, I wouldn’t have done anything differently with Cooper as he came out of it all good. He has had one relapse since but that is it. Again, so sorry for your loss 🙁
    Mel xox

  4. JG
    JG says:

    My dog 3 yr old rescue dog gusty was diagnosed last week with GME. He was treated and over came heartworm disease and was just starting to enjoy life. We started noticing he was becoming very clumsy, banging into furniture and walls and very lethargic. We had an MRI and spinal done because knew something was very wrong. He has been on a high does of steroids for 10 days now and has improved a lot. The Neurologist wants him to start Cyclosporine in addition to the prednisone and I am very scare to do this since he appears to be doing well. I know this is so we can taper him off steroids which are very hard on their bodies. Has anyone had experience with cyclosporine? Our vet also suggested doing Cytostar chemo and we declined that treatment. Any information is so appreciated we are so devasted by this diagnosis. So glad cooper has gone into remission! I had a golden retriever prior to rescuing gusty and love the breed!

  5. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this!! My advice if you’re unsure, is to go and get a second opinion. We took Cooper to a specialist vet when our vet told us they were unsure of what was going on and it was the best thing we did. Good luck! Thinking of you.

  6. Karin
    Karin says:


    I have read this and the comment from Gabby ( below) with the Welsh Pembroke Corgi jumped out at me! Our little Miss Mia ( one year old Pembroke) was diagnosed whit this horrible disease yesterday ( in Perth) i was wondering if they could be from the same bloodline or just a co-incidence? Good Luck with Cooper ( i can see the love in his eyes) Miss Mia is coming home today( slept in hospital last night) and will be on steroids moving forward. Have anyone a good diet for these special furr-kids of us? x

  7. Duane Chambers
    Duane Chambers says:

    Our four year old Jack Russell, Gracie began not wanting to walk then couldn’t walk or stand in March, 2018 during our winter camping in Florida. We were in St Augustine & made several trips to Matanzas River Animal hospital and they referred us to North Florida Neurology in Jacksonville. Dr.Hopkins began treating her immediately & did a spinal tap & MRI which confirmed spinal meningitis. By the time we arrived, Gracie was screaming in pain & not eating or drinking (couldn’t bend her head). After several days of treatment & a two week recheck, Gracie was sent home on baytril, pepcid and Prednisone indefinitely. It is now July & Gracie is much better, she plays & as always still constantly wags her tail. She can do our walk halfway (she uses a dog stroller when she tires) she still can’t jump & needs help up on the couch or car. It has been a slow process but she improves daily. She has gained weight which we are working on. The Prednisone is now 1/4 every other day. Today our local vet in Michigan wants to cut her dose to 1/4 every 3 days which I am concerned about. Any suggestions or thoughts or experiences by anyone would be welcome. I will call the neurologist in Jacksonville for advice also. Thanks! Every day that we have Gracie is a joy, she makes us laugh!

  8. Judy
    Judy says:

    I’m researching this condition because my vet suspects meningitis in my Whippet, Tate. He had exactly the same symptoms as Cooper – all the way down to it going away for a few months an then coming back. We are waiting for the results of the spinal tap now. She gave him a steroid shot and he slept all night, which he hasn’t done in a while because he couldn’t get comfortable because of the pain. This morning he seemed better. Wagging his tail and trotting around – not moving around stiffly and hanging his head. He ate most of his breakfast, which he also hasn’t done in a long time. It’s funny, over the past several months, I have become enthralled with a Facebook page called Billy Whippet which chronicles a Whippet who is recovering from parasitic meningitis. He had to learn how to walk all over again. I never thought I would face this. Fortunately, Tate has not reached that point. He is able to walk and function just fine.

  9. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    I am so glad to hear that Gracie is doing so well. My advice as always is to consult you vet if you are concerned. And to even get a second opinion from a specialist vet if you need more clarification. I hope she is doing even better now. Kind Regards, Mel

  10. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Thanks for getting in touch Judy. I’m glad to hear that Tate has responded to the steroid shot. Fingers crossed he gets better and better each day now! And happy to hear that he didn’t get to that same point at Billy the Whippet. Keep us updated on how he goes.
    Mel x

  11. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I noticed that your dog was diagnosed 5 years ago. Is he still doing well since treatment? And has the meningitis ever come back? My dog was diagnosed this May with meningitis and was taking 7 pills a day. Now he’s down to just taking prednisolone, 1/2 pill every other day. I’m hoping he doesn’t ever have to go through this ever again.

  12. Wanda
    Wanda says:

    Thank you so much for your information on Copper. It has help me so much. We too are in the same boat with our dog Zeus. Reading this is our story to the T. Just no confirm diagnosis. Zeus though has been running a high fever and they told us the same thing this last time. They suggested a spinal tap or to try an antibiotic along with pain meds to see if it helps. Which it has he also is back to his playful self. Just feels like we are waiting for the relapse. So if he starts feeling bad again we have done been referred to the specialist for the tap we just have to take him. Just a releave to hear your story we were and are just as you were hoping it’s not but also wanting to get a diagnosis. So I pray it’s not but if he starts to feel bad again, he is definitely getting the spinal tap.

  13. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Hi Wanda,
    Thanks so much for reaching out. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through the same thing. Fingers are corssed that Zeus has a full recovery.

  14. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Hi Ashley,

    Yes Cooper has had one relapse since. it was about a year after he first had it but it was a much quicker progress. We knew exactly what it was so we got him straight onto the right meds, he responded so quickly to them. It was still hard to watch but much easier this time round. And he recovered perfectly and no issues since then. I hope all is ok with your dog.

    Mel xox

  15. Yuna
    Yuna says:

    Thank you so much for sharing about Cooper’s victory over meningitis. It has given me much needed hope. Our 11 year old Golden Sourdough came down with meningitis and/or meningoencephalitis in July this year, her numbers from the spinal tap were off the charts many times over. The neurologists did not know what they were dealing with. She pulled through, is on prednisone and 2 antibiotics, and needs help to get up and be taken out to the loo with a special harness. My heart is shattered anew everyday. Cooper’s story and reading other’s comments here has given me much needed comfort. Thank you!

  16. Danella Azzopardi
    Danella Azzopardi says:

    My Chihuahua was diagnosed with meningitus 5 days ago and has been home from the specialist vet since yesterday. His initial improvement was dramatic from when we left him there. I’m concerned about recovery times and side effects of the steroids. Finding details of how Coopers recovery was is reassuring. I’m assuming after all this time he hasn’t had a relapse at all?

  17. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Hi Danella,
    Thanks so much for getting in touch. I hope your gorgeous pup has made a big recovery since you wrote to me. Cooper responded well to the steroids. He had all the side effects which was sad to see but it helped him. He did have one relapse about a year later but has been amazing since then. Good luck! And keep us posted how you go.

  18. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Oh No you poor thing!! Must be so much harder in an older dog!! I really thought meningitis was more in puppies and younger dogs. I hope Sourdough is doing better and responding well to the meds. Thanks for reaching out and I’m so glad my post helped.

    Cheers, Mel

  19. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    My 2yr old Aussie, got Meningitis, 2 months ago. She’s gotten 2 chemo treatments and has been on Steroids. Still wobbly, but is able to walk.

  20. Abby
    Abby says:

    Our boxer may also have meningitis and we have started steroids today. I was wondering, due to the steroids increasing the need to drink and pee…how did you handle the night? You mentioned he had to pee every half hour? Our doggie is already having accidents in the house, but being up all night letting him out sounds defeating…what did you guys do?

  21. Gail
    Gail says:

    Thanks so much for this article. Our 11mth old goldie Cash has same symptoms (two episodes 6 weeks apart) and spinal tap has also shown its meningitis. We are awaiting bloods and cultures to determine if its steroid responsive or bacterial. Just getting through the next few days on antibiotics, strong painkillers, fluids, handfeeding and lots of love.
    Cash has gone from a mischievous energetic pup to a tired fretful almost geriatric like dog over the past four days.
    Was great to read a story so similar to ours and hope we both have great outcomes, with the return of our lovable cheeky pups to full health.

  22. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Oh Gail I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to Cash too!! Sounds the same as Cooper. I hope he is ok and responds to the medication very quickly. Please make sure to keep me updated on how he goes. Fingers and toes crossed for a quick and speedy recovery.
    Mel xox

  23. Cooper and Kids
    Cooper and Kids says:

    Hi Abby, I am so sorry to hear this! We have a doggy door at our house. We usually lock it at night time so he can’t go out but during this time we left it open for him. Is there any chance you could leave a door open? Or maybe too unsafe?! Good luck and i wish your dog a speedy recovery!
    Mel xox

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