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What are Pug Dog Encephalitis?

Pug dogs are recognized worldwide for their pushed-in faces, globular, expressive eyes and sparkling personalities. While the breed standard includes silver and black Pugs, the most common coloration is fawn with a black mask and ears. This adorable, spirited breed makes a wonderful family pet, but unfortunately is associated with a rare neurological disease, Pug dog encephalitis (PDE). This disease is only found in Pugs, and is most likely fatal. 

Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain tissue that tends to strike adolescent Pugs between two and three years of age. PDE is idiopathic, meaning that the cause of the disease is not entirely clear. In many cases, PDE appears to strike dogs who are closely related, leading many veterinarians to believe that the disease is genetic and likely immune-mediated. An immune-mediated disease is characterized by an abnormal immune response, such as when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue. In the case of this rare, fast-moving disease, the Pug’s immune system attacks the brain. 

While PDE is a difficult disease to definitively diagnose, associated symptoms (such as seizures) will be neurological in nature. Seizure activity, though having a high incidence in the symptomology of PDE, may point to other medical problems such as epilepsy, a tumor, or toxic chemical or gas poisoning. No matter the cause, a seizure in your pet calls for an immediate veterinary visit.

Pug encephalitis (PDE) is a rare, neurological disease that typically strikes adolescent Pugs under the age of three. While the cause of the disease isn’t clear, PDE appears to have a genetic link.

Pug Dog Encephalitis Average Cost

From 543 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,600

Symptoms of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Dogs

  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizures
  • Neck stiffness
  • Head tilt
  • Pressing head against walls or object
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Walking in circles
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Blindness

Types

Slow Progressive 

This type features seizures and sometimes other symptoms preceding seizure activity. Seizures may last seconds or minutes. In between seizures, the Pug will likely resume normal behavior and be asymptomatic. 

Rapid Progressive

This type often, but not always, features more frequent seizure activity than in slow progressive PDE. In between the seizure activity, however, the dog does not return to normal, but continues to display PDE-associated symptoms.  These commonly include disorientation, lack of muscle coordination, trouble walking, confusion, and signs of depression.

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Causes of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Dogs

  • The cause of the disease is not entirely clear
  • PDE appears to strike dogs who are closely related
  • The disease may be
  • The disease ay be immune-mediated
  • An immune-mediated disease is characterized by an abnormal immune response, such as when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue
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Diagnosis of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Dogs

PDE is extremely difficult to diagnose, primarily because PDE symptoms often mirror epilepsy, bacterial meningitis, effects of a tumor or some type of poisoning. There is also evidence that female, fawn-colored Pugs under the age of three are most affected by PDE. Unfortunately, since PDE is often fast-moving and the survival rate is low (either PDE kills the Pug or the owner opts to euthanize), veterinarians may lack the time to perform diagnostic tests such as CAT scans or MRIs.

PDE can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has PDE or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Treatment of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Dogs

In the early stages of slow-progressive PDE, some owners pursue medical treatment for their Pug. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids may help to reduce inflammation of the brain and anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital aim to treat seizures (if part of PDE). Valium has also been used in veterinary medicine to reduce seizure activity. Based on personal experience, some Pug owners recommend trials of different alternative treatments, but such methods are not part of standard veterinary care for PDE. Ultimately, treatment should be given with a focus on the dog’s quality of life.

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Recovery of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Dogs

Sadly, the veterinary community regards PDE as an invariably fatal disease.  A significant part of a veterinarian’s job is to give the pet owner a realistic picture of the months, or years, that typically lies ahead. The most humane choice may be putting the dog to sleep, but a veterinarian will discuss all available options. 

While current cases of PDE are heartbreaking, there may be reasons to be hopeful about the future. Veterinary research activity is expanding as Pugs become more popular with people around the world. Current signs point to a genetic link, a discovery that may provide veterinary researchers with a plausible lead.

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Pug Dog Encephalitis Average Cost

From 543 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,600

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Pug Dog Encephalitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pug

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6 months

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Unknown severity

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16 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures,Walking In Circles,Off Balanced

My pug had a seizure one day and afterward was fine like nothing happened. About 4 days later she had 3 in a row in a 4 hour period. I took her to the vet where they did blood work that came back normal, then sent us home with Phenobarbital. She's been taking ever since and has not had a seizure since. Can this be PDE?

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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16 Recommendations

Hello, SO sorry to hear about your dog. PDE is very rare. Your vet can test your dog for this disease with genetic testing to see if that is what is causing this. This is more likely epilepsy and your dog will need to be on seizure medication for the rest of her life. I hope your dog continues to do well.

July 9, 2020

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dog-name-icon

Pugsley Addams

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Puggle

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2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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6 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Seizure

2 year old male fawn pug. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed that Pugsley had peed the bed in his sleep. He did not get up to pee or ask to go out, so it really scared me. He did not shake or display physical signs of a seizure - he was sleeping with me, and I would have felt it if he was shaking. He sometimes shakes in his sleep, but always stops when I wake him up, so I’ve always assumed he was just having puppy dreams. But now, I’m worried that he had a small seizure in his sleep, and that the seizure made him pee. He was shaking & shivering after I took him outside and cleaned him up, but otherwise, he was acting normal. Could he have had a seizure in his sleep, causing him to pee? Does any of this sound like encephalitis?

Sept. 2, 2018

Pugsley Addams' Owner

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Pug Dog Encephalitis Average Cost

From 543 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,600

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