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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

versão On-line ISSN 2224-9435
versão impressa ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.79 no.4 Pretoria  2008




Review of idiopathic eosinophilic meningitis in dogs and cats, with a detailed description of two recent cases in dogs



J H WilliamsI; L S KösterII; V NaidooIII; L OdendaalI; A Van VeenhuysenIV; M de WitV; E van WilpeVI

IDepartment of Paraclinical Sciences, Section of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IIDepartment Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IIIDepartment of Paraclinical Sciences, Section of Pharmacology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IVOnderstepoort Training Animal Unit, Faculty of Veterinary Science. Univerisity of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
VVeterinary student, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
VIDepartment of Anatomy and Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa




Eosinophilic meningoencephalitis (EME) has been described in various species of animals and in humans. In dogs it has been associated with protozoal infections, cuterebral myiasis and various other aetiologies. Ten cases of idiopathic eosinophilic meningoencephalitis have been reported in dogs and one in a cat where the origin was uncertain or unknown. The dogs were all males, of various breeds but with a predominance of Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers; they generally had a young age of onset. Two cases with no apparent underlying aetiology were diagnosed on post mortem examination. The 18-month-old, male Boerboel presented with sudden onset of cerebellar ataxia, as well as various asymmetrical cranial nerve deficits of 2 weeks' duration and without progression. Haematology revealed a peripheral eosinophilia. Necropsy showed extreme generalised congestion especially of the meninges and blood smear and histological sections of various tissues showed intravascular erythrocyte fragmentation with the formation of microcytes. Histopathology revealed severe diffuse cerebrocortical subarachnoidal meningitis and submeningeal encephalitis, the exudate containing variable numbers of eosinophils together with neutrophils and mononuclear cells. There was also deeper white matter and hippocampal multifocal perivascular mononuclear encephalitis and multifocal periventricular malacia, gliosis and phagocytosis of white matter. The cerebellum, brain stem and spinal cord showed only mild multifocal oedema or scattered occasional axon and myelin degeneration respectively, with no inflammation. Immunohistochemical staining of central nervous tissue for Toxoplasma gondii failed to show any antigen in the central nervous tissue. Ultrastructure of a single submeningeal suspected parasitic cyst showed it to be chromatin clumping within a neuron nucleus indicating karyorrhexis. Gram stain provided no evidence of an aetiological agent. The 3-year-old Beagle bitch had a Caesarian section after developing a non-responsive inertia 8 days prior to presentation. This animal's clinical signs included status epilepticus seizures unrelated to hypocalcaemia and warranted induction of a barbiturate coma. She died 4 hours later. Post mortem and histopathological findings in the brain were almost identical to those of the Boerboel and she also showed histological evidence of recent active intravascular haemolysis with microcyte formation. Rabies, distemper and Neospora caninum immunohistochemical stains were negative in the brains of both dogs. Immunohistochemical staining of the cerebral and meningeal exudates of the Beagle for T- and B-lymphocyte (CD3 and CD79a) markers showed a predominance of T-lymphocytes with fewer scattered B lymphocytes. A possible allergic response to amoxicillin/clavulanate is considered, as this appeared to be the only feature common to the recent history of both animals. An overview of EME in humans, dogs and cats is given and the previously published cases of idiopathic EME in dogs and the single published cat case are briefly reviewed.

Key words: Beagle, Boerboel, cats, dogs, drug-induced allergy, eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, histopathology, idiopathic, intravascular haemolysis, review



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Received: April 2008
Accepted: November 2008



* Author for correspondence. E-mail:

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