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Pug Dog Encephalitis

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is a unique form of brain inflammation affecting adolescent and young adult pugs. It is believed to be a genetic condition, as littermates and closely related dogs are often affected. It is a rapidly progressing disorder for which there is no cure.

The cause of the condition is unknown. Although infectious disorders are known to cause encephalitis, infection is apparently not the cause of PDE. Recent studies suggest that an abnormal response by the body's immune system may play a role in the development of the disorder.

The disease is limited to pugs. Female pugs are slightly more likely to be affected compared to males. Although it has been reported in middle aged pugs, the majority of affected pugs are less than 3 years old, and pugs as young as 6 months can be affected.

PDE is invariably fatal. All dogs either die or are put to sleep within a few months after the onset of clinical signs.

Affected dogs show clinical signs that indicated a problem with the brain and nervous system.

What to Watch For

  • Seizures
  • Walking in circles
  • Pressing their heads against the wall or furniture
  • Ataxia (a staggering walk)
  • Apparent blindness
  • Neck pain

    See your veterinarian immediately if any of these signs develop.

    Diagnosis

    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognized PDE and exclude other diseases, including:

  • Complete history and physical exam, including a complete examination of the neurologic system.

  • A spinal tap (a procedure in which a small sample of the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord is obtained and analyzed) may give helpful information for making the diagnosis.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that allows visualization of the structures of the brain and is very useful in making a diagnosis. It requires specialized equipment available only at referral centers and universities.

  • Post-mortem tissue analysis, in which a sample of brain tissue is examined after the dog dies or is euthanized, is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.

    Treatment

    Although PDE is invariably fatal, treatment may control clinical signs for a brief period of time. Treatment may include the following:

  • Anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital, may help control seizures, the most common clinical sign of PDE.

  • Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs, and may help reduce some of the brain inflammation associated with the disorder.

  • Homeopathic remedies, such as Japanese Kampo (a plant product) have been tried.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication as prescribed.

    As the disease is believed to be genetic, there are no preventative measures. Affected dogs should not be bred, and owners of any littermates or closely related dogs should be informed that their dog is highly susceptible to the condition.

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