Veterinarian finds treatment for brain lesions in dogs

Oct. 22, 2004

A veterinary neurologist at the School of Veterinary Medicine believes he’s on track to offer a more comfortable and effective treatment for dogs with a fatal neurological condition called granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis, or GME, which causes lesions in the brain.

In a paper published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Filippo Adamo notes that his work with cyclosporine, a drug originally developed for use in patients with immune-system problems or after a kidney transplant, has had good results.

“The drug is easy to administer, and so far the only adverse effects have been hair discoloration and temporary reduction of white blood cells,” he says. Two out of three dogs with GME became free of clinical signs in the preliminary study. Since then, more dogs with GME have been successfully treated with cyclosporine.

GME is one of the most common neurological problems in dogs. Left untreated, the condition is usually fatal. And to date, available treatments have been marginally effective. Steroids, radiation therapy and available drugs all have side effects or are very labor-intensive and costly to administer.

When a dog suddenly develops central nervous system signs — including seizures, circling, head tilt, leaning, falling, incoordination, paralysis, cervical pain or eye oscillations — in most cases, they can be traced to lesions in the brain.

Deb and Jack Sarver, owners of Spud, a dachshund who they describe as having a great personality, were quite pleased with the results of the new drug treatment.

“Before treatment, Spud looked terrible,” Deb Sarver says. “He was so wobbly he couldn’t even navigate the ramp we built so he can get on the bed.”

Spud gained 16 months of quality life before succumbing to GME in July 2004. Many dogs are still alive after two years of treatment. More cases and longer follow-up are needed, but cyclosporine holds promise as an answer for dog owners whose dogs are affected by this condition.