Pugs can develop a neurological disease that has been described as a severe meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The specific cause is still unknown but it can affect pugs from 6 months to 7 years old.
The inflammation that this disease causes in the brain results in behavior changes, seizures, neck rigidity, disorientation or incoordination, head pressing against objects or walls, walking in circles, muscle weakness, lethargy and even vision loss or blindness. In some cases, the clinical signs progress rapidly causing rapid death. In other cases, affected dogs have been reported to live for years with the help of anticonvulsant medication.
A tentative diagnosis can be made based on the breed, age and clinical signs. A definitive diagnosis can be made based on CT scan or MRI, cerebrospinal fluid analysis and biopsy of muscle or neural tissue. Unfortunately, treatment is limited to supportive treatment to control the seizures and other clinical signs. The use of corticosteroids to decrease brain inflammation is controversial.
Pug encephalitis is believed to be a hereditary or inherited disease. For prevention, it is recommended to avoid breeding any pugs diagnosed with this disease or with seizures and other neurological signs.
Pug encephalitis is not the only cause of seizures on this breed. A pug with neurological signs and seizures should be evaluated for other diseases such as intracranial tumor, toxicity and idiopathic epilepsy.
Nydia Melissa Perez, DVM