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Zena - lost to Granulomatous meningoencephalitis

By Carole & Stewart Thornley


Kehala Touch of Gold

Belgian Shepherd Tervueren Bitch, Born 5 November 2007

I have decided to write this article to raise awareness of this traumatic condition. It is, apparently, very rare, therefore unlikely to inflict your dogs.

It was Tuesday evening when Zena twitched quite vigorously whilst dozing off to sleep.

She appeared to settle but had a slightly disturbed night. The following morning as she wasn’t quite her usual bright self, we took her to the Vets for a check. Her temperature was slightly high and due to this was given an injection, antibiotics and anti inflammatory.

Checking her temperature the following day, it had barely dropped, so we were given a further appointment for Monday morning. Over the weekend, Zena seemed back to normal, Saturday running around the fields with her usual vigour and Sunday enjoyed the day out at Birmingham Champ Show. On arrival home, she had had little exercise, I took her to our agility equipment. Zena went down on her back legs at the beginning of the dog walk and again on jumping one hurdle. Moving her, ring craft style, we could not detect any discrepancies in her stride.

It worried me somewhat and the following morning took her to agility once again. Even though she was willing to try, she experienced a repeat of Sundays evenings performance. As we had an appointment with the Vet, I explained the condition and she was thoroughly checked. Nothing extraordinary was reported. The following day (Tuesday) Zena’s condition had deteriorated. She was collapsing on the back legs, through general walking and she was obviously distressed.

As a result our Vet took X rays, blood tests and spinal fluid tests. The X rays and blood tests were perfectly clear, shown no signs of any problems. The Spinal fluid test showed some discrepancy although nothing critical. By Wednesday Zen’s condition was extremely worrying. She could barely walk. When trying to quicken her pace, she either fell on to her side or performed somersaults. Her distress was mounting uncontrollably. Our vets were astonished at the rapid deterioration and we were offered an appointment at Liverpool Animal Hospital the following morning. I.e. Thursday.

Zena hat to be carried into the car and into the hospital where we had an appointment with the top neurologist who examined her for one and a half hours. She was retained for MRI scan, extra MRI scan, blood tests and more spinal fluid tests. As she was very weak Zena was detained there until Friday evening. We were given steroid treatment which we were asked to abstain from unless it was absolutely essential.

When we collected her she was in a dreadful state. However, the following morning there appeared a fantastic improvement. It felt as though a miracle had been performed. She could actually stand. Sunday was similar. The improvement was short lived and from Monday, the deterioration was like an inferno. She twitched as though having fits, first every 30 mins. or so until they became much more frequent. The steroid treatment had to begin, by permission from the Hospital. Zena’s nervous system had been attacked and she even had to go to the Vets on three occasions to extract her urine. For the final 2 days of her short life, we could only stroke her muzzle and head. Touching her elsewhere caused the frantic fit-like actions. Even when we entered her sick room, these actions occurred. She was excited to see us, but her body could not cope.

By Thursday, we received the results for which we had been waiting. The condition was Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) which is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS).

We were offered treatment either at the Animal Hospital or at our home. This would be 24 hour care, every day for an on-going amount of time. The prognosis was extremely poor.

Internet information was frightening and we felt the kindest thing would be to put Zena to sleep.

We were totally devastated, heartbroken. (and still are).
During her short life Zena qualified for the GCDS Stakes Semi-Finals on two occasions, she won 12 rosettes in 6 agility competitions, at champ shows, gained a reserved C.C. one Best Bitch, and one Best Puppy in breed. She was entered for her first Championship Working Trials Competition and her first Rally Trial. (we knew she was ready to compete with the possibility of success in both disciplines).

At the YKC Summer Camp she was awarded the Kennel Club GCDS Gold Award at the age of nine months.

Zena was only two and a half but she had given us 10 years of pleasure and joy. She was so special and will always remain so in our thoughts. We can only thank her for the enormous pleasure she brought to us, to other trainees at our centre and to Spice & Ross who adored her. Thanks to Lynda, her breeder, for such a Special Girl.


On reflection about 14 days before this started we noticed that our two other Belgians sniffed along Zena’s back while she was standing, then walked away rather sadly.

About the same time she would come for a cuddle and push her head under my chin, I noticed that the top of her head was very hot. (and it remained hot during her illness)

Carole & Stewart Thornley
Bridge Farm
Alkington Road
SY13 3NE
01948 667413


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