Yorkie Encephalitis: Signs, Treatment and Recovery

Yorkie laid down

If you own a Yorkshire Terrier, you should be aware of a disease that is often found in Yorkies as well as other dogs, including pugs, German Shorthaired Pointers and Maltese.

The cause for Necrotizing Encephalitis is somewhat unknown, although there is evidence that it is an auto-immune disease.

It is characterized by inflammation of the brain and may also cause inflammation of the spinal cord.

The origin of the name is that “encephalo” means the brain and the word “itis” is a term for inflammation.

According to Veterinary Specialists,

“Smaller breed, younger to middle aged dogs appear more predisposed to immune-mediated encephalitis than larger breeds.”

Very recent studies have shown that necrotizing encephalitis is caused by a genetic defect.

Research for a cure for (NLE) Necrotizing Encephalitis, found in Yorkies, is currently being done at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

You can read about some of their discoveries, including the fact that the disease may be caused by a genetic link.

Infectious Encephalitis

  • Bacterial
  • Viral
  • Fungal
  • Parasites

Yorkies that live in tick-infested areas are more prone to this infectious form of the disease.


Bacterial infections can also cause the disease in Yorkies. In the Southwest area of the country, valley fever is thought to be a cause of this disease.


According to PetMD, among the symptoms that you might notice in the behavior of your dog include:

  • Circling
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Blindness

It can come on suddenly and progress quickly, so if symptoms are observed, you should take your Yorkie to the vet immediately.

Other symptoms observed in the Yorkie include lethargy, head-tilting, pain and difficulty walking.

Symptoms are variable, and it will depend on which area of the brain is affected.

According to the Animal Specialty Group in Southern California,

“On a neurologic examination, the hallmark finding is neurologic symptoms that relate to multiple areas of the nervous system simultaneously.

Symptoms overlap with many other neurologic diseases, however, and it really takes the trained eye of a veterinarian to recognize the multi-focal nature of the symptoms.”

What Your Vet Will Do

To confirm the diagnosis of necrotizing encephalitis (NLE), the vet conducts magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on your dog’s brain.

Another diagnosis might come from blood or your Yorkie’s spinal fluid (CFS) to confirm that it is encephalitis.

Diagnosis of this disease is often made by ruling out other diseases, including cancer.

Dr. Karen Becker mentions, on the Healthy Pet website that one way it is diagnosed is,

“A significant increase in white blood cells in the spinal fluid usually indicates encephalitis.”


When a diagnosis of encephalitis is made, the next step is to determine whether the disease is caused by an infection or is one of an auto-immune type, such as necrotizing encephalitis.

Treatment of Encephalitis in the Yorkshire Terrier

According to Southeast Veterinary Neurology, the present treatment is the following,

“Encephalitis in dogs is thought to be an autoimmune disease. Treatment involves medications to decrease the inflammation and suppress the overactive immune system.

Prednisone is often used for this, however, dogs treated with prednisone alone often have shorter survivals.

Recently, ‘newer’ drugs have been studied for use in dogs with encephalitis that may increase survival times.

These medications include cytosine arabinoside, cyclosporine, azathioprine, leflunomide and procarbazine.”

It is also thought that aggressive treatment can sometimes cure the dog of encephalitis.

Because there are many different ways to treat encephalitis that is immune related, many different medications have been used.

Treatment involves on-purpose suppression of the immune system and can last from three to six months or longer.

If the dog is having seizures, some type of anticonvulsant medication may be prescribed.

Sick Yorkie

Some Yorkie owners also opt for holistic therapy. Holistic treatments include ozone therapy, homotoxicology and herbal protocols alongside traditional treatments.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that address “heat” and “wind” has helped reduce the symptoms and shortened the course of this disease.


According to Veterinary Specialists,

“Even though any form of encephalitis can be rapidly life threatening, the prognosis is often good if identified early and treated aggressively.

Overall, prognosis for encephalitis is variable, and depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation.”

It is also believed that after a bout of encephalitis, a dog should never again be vaccinated.

According to Dr. Becker on Healthy Pets,

“I firmly believe that all pets that have recovered from idiopathic or immune-mediated encephalitis should never be vaccinated again for any reason.

These animals should have antibody titer tests performed in lieu of traditional vaccines.”

In Yorkies, slowing down the progress of the disease is often one of the goals. Symptoms may be suppressed to a large extent.

Yorkie on the grass

Dietary changes and special care along with aggressive treatment can often prolong the life of the Yorkie with this disease.

Your furry friend may live for years after a diagnosis of encephalitis.

The most important issue is an accurate and early diagnosis of this disease, so that treatment can begin immediately.

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