Brain Inflammation in Cats

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Encephalitis in Cats

Inflammation of the brain, also known as encephalitis, is a life-threatening condition that affects cats. It is occasionally accompanied by the inflammation of spinal cord (myelitis), and/or the inflammation of the meninges (meningitis), membranes which cover the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms and Types

Although symptoms may vary depending on the portion of brain affected, they typically appear suddenly and are rapidly progressive. Such symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes (e.g., depression)
  • Decreased responsiveness
  • Head tilt to either side
  • Paralysis of face
  • Uncoordinated movements or circling
  • Unequal size of pupils (anisocoria)
  • Smaller sized pinpoint pupils
  • Decreased consciousness, which may worsen as disease progresses


  • Idiopathic (unknown cause)
  • Immune-mediated disorders
  • Viral infections (e.g., FIV, FIP, rabies)
  • Bacterial infections (anaerobic and aerobic)
  • Fungal infections (e.g., cryptococcosis, blastomycosis)
  • Parasitic infections (e.g., Cutebra)
  • Foreign bodies


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count — the results of which will depend on the underlying cause of the encephalitis.

If your cat has an infection, the complete blood count may show an increased number of white blood cells. Viral infections, meanwhile, may decrease the number of lymphocytes, a type of white cells (also known as lymphopenia). And abnormal reduction in platelets (small cells used in blood clotting) is a good indicator of thrombocytopenia.

To confirm lung involvement and related complications, your veterinarian may employ chest X-rays, while MRIs and CT-scans are used to evaluate the brain involvement in detail. Your veterinarian may also collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is then sent to a laboratory for cultures. This is necessary for definitive diagnosis and to determine the severity of the problem. If culture assays are unsuccessful, a brain tissue sample may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, but this is an expensive procedure.

  • Bacterial infections
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An inflammation of the bone marrow or spinal cord


The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


A medical condition in which the meninges becomes inflamed


A decreased number of lymphocytic leukocytes in an animal’s blood system


A medical condition in which the pupils of both eyes are differently sized.


The collection of fluid in the tissue


a) living in an environment lacking free oxygen b) pertaining to an organism with the ability to live in an environment lacking free oxygen.


The term for the connective tissue around the brain and spine

Courtesy of Original Article