Yorkshire terriers can come down with different types of encephalitis. One type, necrotizing encephalitis, is also known as "Yorkie encephalitis" because it generally occurs in this Yorkshire terriers and other small breeds. While your dog might somewhat recover from other forms of the disease, the prognosis for Yorkie encephalitis isn't good.
Encephalitis is the formal term for brain inflammation. It's caused by infectious agents, such as viruses or bacteria, or by parasites or protozoa. Idiopathic encephalitis, the most common type, results from unknown factors but appears to be an autoimmune disease. Encephalitis often involves related spinal cord inflammation, or myelitis. If your vet suspects necrotizing encephalitis, that means parts of your Yorkie's brain are dying. Necrotizing encephalitis is not contagious, so that's some comfort if you have more than one Yorkie in your household.
Yorkie encephalitis generally develops in young to middle-age dogs. Initial symptoms might include perpetual head-tilting, seizures, vision loss and lethargy. The dog may display difficulty walking and pain. It's usually quite obvious that something is very wrong with the dog. Symptoms of other types of encephalitis include seizures and tilting, along with personality and behavioral changes and circling. Take your dog to the vet immediately if he displays any of these symptoms.
Encephalitis symptoms mimic those of other brain and spinal cord diseases, including cancer. Your vet will conduct magnetic resonance imaging on your Yorkie, which gives clues as to brain condition. She might also test your dog's spinal fluid and take blood samples. Unfortunately, the only way to definitely diagnosis necrotizing encephalitis is by a necropsy after the dog is dead or via a brain biopsy.
As of 2013, there is no cure and no effective treatment for necrotizing encephalitis. It is inevitably progressive and fatal, with most owners choosing to euthanize their dogs. If your Yorkie comes down with another form of the disease, your vet might prescribe phenobarbital to control seizures, along with antibiotics if an infection is involved. If the disease is idiopathic, antibiotics aren't administered but your vet might prescribe steroids to suppress your Yorkie's immune system. Treatment at high doses might last six months or more, and the dog will likely require lifelong lower doses to control the disease. Some dogs do well on such treatment, while others don't respond or suffer relapses.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.