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Causes and Symptoms of Pug Dog Encephalitis

A Fatal Condition With Unknown Causes

By February 03, 2014 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian


A Pug Laying On The Ground With A Sad Face

As cute as Pugs are, they are susceptible to a brain disorder with unknown causes called encephalitis. This neurological disease is only found in Pugs and can be fatal. Find out the warning signs for encephalitis here.

The adorable wrinkly Pug makes a wonderful family pet, but unfortunately, some of these dogs fall victim to a neurological disease called Pug dog encephalitis (PDE). Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain tissues that causes pain, seizures, and ultimately death.

Read on to learn about the causes and symptoms of this serious condition.

Causes of Pug Dog Encephalitis

Unlike other forms of encephalitis that can be linked to infections, PDE is unique in that it is idiopathic, meaning that the cause is not known. However, because it tends to strike Pugs who are closely related (e.g., littermates), many veterinarians suspect that it is hereditary and immune-mediated. Immune-mediated diseases are those characterized by an abnormal immune response in which the body’s immune system is tricked into seeing normal tissues as dangerous, and then attacks them. In the case of PDE, the immune system would attack the brain.

Regardless of this widespread theory, there is still no definitive answer for what causes Pug dog encephalitis.

PDE usually strikes pugs between 2 and 3 years of age, though it can be seen in Pugs as young as 6 months old and as old as 7 years.

Symptoms of Pug Dog Encephalitis

Because PDE affects the brain, most of the symptoms are neurological, and include:

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

In many cases, the symptoms of PDE will progress rapidly (in a matter of days or weeks) and result in sudden death, usually due to a seizure. In other cases, a Pug may be able to live a while longer with the help of anticonvulsant drugs to control seizures. Ultimately, all affected Pugs will succumb to the disease, usually within months after the onset of symptoms.

When to Seek Help for PDE

You should contact your veterinarian at the first appearance of symptoms. Because PDE is not the only cause of seizures in Pugs, your dog will likely be examined for other diseases such as epilepsy, intracranial tumor, and poisoning. If PDE is found, supportive treatment will be started immediately.

More on Pug Health

Pug Information: Health
Bathing a Pug's Wrinkles
The Best Food for an Obese Pug

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.


Our 8-year-old pug recently was put down because of complications with PDE. He was diagnosed in 2014 and started having cluster seizures in 2015. The steroids helped him bounce back. In the last month (April 2016) he started having back disk problems then two weeks later diarrhea from the steroid. He was off the steroid for only a week to calm down the tummy issues. About a week ago (May 18, 2016), he had "status seizures" that wouldn't stop which also entailed "focal seizures (in his face). The doctors couldn't stop the seizures after 12 hours of giving him an IV of Valium and Lorezepam. When we went to visit him at the hospital he started having focal and body seizures again. He had been off of Valium for 4 1/2 hours. The plan was to let his brain rest from the seizures. Then once he could handle being off the Valium he could be put on steroids. But that didn't happen. He also started showing other brain damage symptoms such vestibular problems. In the last two years we had spent a ton of money for scans, a spinal tap, hospital stays, ER visits, medications, etc. In the end he appeared to be suffering not only physically from the non-stop seizures but also mentally from confusion. The experience was quite traumatic. And losing him was very painful and difficult to do. But it was probably the most humane as he was crying and struggling. The doctor could NOT promise his quality of life if they could have stopped the seizures even with chemo therapy. And we had say enough was enough. This is a horrible disease that does need more research. The grief is tremendous. I miss my cuddle bug.


My beautiful adorable daughter (pug) had a grand mal seizure on Monday morning and I rushed her to the Vet. They sent me home with liquid Valium and I made an appointment for Kaliki Mae to see the Neurologist. The soonest they could get her in was Thursday morning. On Wednesday night Kaliki Mae had 2 more very violent grand mal seizures at 11:15 pm. I rushed her to the Emergency Vet but unfortunately she was suffering so I had to put her to sleep. They feel it was PDE. Kaliki Mae was 5 years and 4 mos. She was my baby. She passed away on March 17th, 2016. She had never had a seizure before. Within 3 days she was gone. This was so fast. I love her so much. I am heart broken!


I have a 4 yr old female pug.She was diagnosed last April.It has been a scary ,crazy year. She was classic PDE. She had every symptom. Her first Neurologist was older and pretty much gave up of trying to save her after all its a death sentence so i thought. In a crisis i was forced to go to an emergency clinic close by me (other guy was over an hour away) and after getting the seizures under control they recommended their neurologist (a much younger female Dr.) she told me they have had an 80% success rate of remission with a specific chemo therapy.So we desperate for anything!!!!it was 4 doses one every 3 weeks.High doses of Prednisone and seizure meds. This was VERY expensive but sooo worth it! We are off prednisone and no seizures for almost a year. In 3 weeks we will do another spinal tap but The doctor is confident we have beat this!!!!!!!! She is my baby and i still feel like the other shoe could drop at any time but the doctor keeps trying to reassure me things look really good long term.


Jessica, I'd be interested in learning any information you may have learned and or can share with us. We are not sure at this point if thats what it is or not.


We have a 2 year old black female pug that appears to have had symptoms of this a couple times in the last week. It's very scary and the vet can't find anything wrong.


Jacob, I am a pharmacy student studying pug encephalitis, I have a few questions for you about your pug if you wouldn't mind emailing me at
I have a pug as well and in my studies at school I have found some interesting information that will maybe help us learn more about this horrible disease.


My pug had this. Thank you to the authors of this page. I wanted to know what happened.

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Pug Encephalitis at a glance

  • 1Pug dog encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissues
  • 2While the cause is unknown, some research suggests that PDE is hereditary and immune-mediated
  • 3Symptoms include behavioral changes, seizures, disorientation, neck stiffness, depression, and head tilting
  • 4The disease is always fatal, but supportive care may help your Pug live longer

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