Meningitis and meningoencephalomyelitis in horses: 28 cases (1985-2010)

Balazs Toth, Monica R Aleman, Nora Nogradi, John E Madigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objective-To describe clinical and clinicopathologic findings and outcome of horses with meningitis and meningoencephalomyelitis. Design-Retrospective case series. Animals-28 horses. Procedures-Medical records of horses admitted to the hospital during a 25-year period were reviewed. Horses with a definitive diagnosis of meningitis or meningoencephalomyelitis were included in this study. Information extracted from the medical records included signalment, history, reason for admission, clinical signs, results of clinicopathologic testing and diagnostic procedures, treatment, outcome, and necropsy findings. Results-22 horses had confirmed infectious disease (19 bacterial, 2 parasitic, and 1 fungal), 4 had suspected infectious disease on the basis of CSF cytologic examination findings, and 2 had noninfectious meningitis or meningoencephalomyelitis. Trauma of the head and vertebral column with disruption of the blood-brain barrier and local ascending or hematogenous spread were the most common routes of infection. Common neurologic signs included abnormal mental status, cranial nerve deficits, vestibular dysfunction, ataxia, tetraparesis, and apparent neck pain. Common hematologic abnormalities included leukocytosis, neutrophilia, lymphopenia, and hyperfibrinogenemia. Cytologic examination of CSF samples revealed moderate to marked suppurative inflammation. Mortality rate was 96.4%. Microbial culture of CSF yielded bacterial growth in 15 of 23 horses (before death [2 horses], after death [11], and both [2]). Conclusions and Clinical Relevance-Results suggested that meningitis and meningoencephalomyelitis are uncommon disorders in horses. Infectious disease was more common than noninfectious disease. Local trauma, ascending infection, or hematogenous spread of infection were the most common causes of meningitis or meningoencephalomyelitis. Neurologic deficits, neutrophilia, lymphopenia, hyperfibrinogenemia, and CSF with neutrophilic pleocytosis were common findings in affected horses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-587
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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