PDE or Pug Dog Encephalitis Guide: A Deadly Disease

PDE or Pug Dog Encephalitis Guide: A Deadly Disease

Pug dogs are pretty friendly and affectionate creatures. Their playful and charming nature makes them the best family pets. They are exceptionally superb companions for children. However, some health-related conditions may affect your beloved Pug. Many owners show concerns about “Pug Dog Encephalitis.” Pug Dog Encephalitis is also known as PDE. They have many questions related to this alarming condition. For instance:

What is Pug Dog Encephalitis?

Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is the progressive neurological disease of Pug dogs. It causes inflammation of the central nervous system, especially the brain. PDE is considered a fatal condition, and almost 1.2 percent of all Pugs die due to this disease.

Alternative name: Necrotizing meningoencephalitis Encephalitis 

What are the Important Things to Know About Pug Dog Encephalitis? 

According to the scientific literature, Pug Dog Encephalitis is an idiopathic condition. This means the actual cause of this disease not clear. However, PDE is considered an inherited autoimmune disorder. Therefore, various factors can cause this disease. Here, we have summarized two key reasons.

  1. Genetic causes: Several genetic markers are associated with Pug Dog Encephalitis.

2. Immune-mediated causes: This is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune cells attack the body’s normal tissues. For example, the immune cells attack the brain tissues in the case of PDE).

Which Dogs are More Susceptible to get Pug Dog Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. This occurs in different breeds of dogs due to various causes. But Pug Dog Encephalitis is mainly associated with Pugs. This is important to know that, Pug dog of any age can develop PDE. However, according to scientific literature, the rate of PDE is higher in Pugs under three years. 

How Animal Genetics and DNA Testing is Vital in PDE?


Let’s understand the genetic phenomenon behind PDE and the role of DNA testing in predicting this disease in Pugs. 

The prediction of Pug Dog Encephalitis in Pugs is made based on critical genetic markers. These markers tell us about the risk of development of PDE in dogs.

Three Dog leukocyte antigen (DLA) class II genes are necessary, which put the Pug at risk of developing PDE. These genes have as follows:

  1. DRB1
  2. DQA1
  3. DQB1

Note: One in eight Pugs with two copies of PDE-linked genetic markers is more likely to develop Pug Dog Encephalitis.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is crucial. It verifies the presence of genetic markers (recessive genes) in the Pugs. This helps in the prediction of Pug Dog Encephalitis.

Genetic marker:


In this case, the standard and mutant copies of genes are found in the Pug. Therefore, this carrier Pug can easily pass a copy of the defective gene to half (50%) offspring.


In this case, the Pug carries two copies of Pug Dog Encephalitis susceptible marker genes. Hence, Pugs with two copies of genes are 12 times more at risk of developing PDE.


No risk state 

In this case, the Pug carries two copies of low-risk Pug Dog Encephalitis markers. But they will pass the high-risk defective genes to the offspring. 

In simple words, Pug dogs that are homozygous for Pug Dog Encephalitis are at higher risk of developing the signs and symptoms of the disease. Homozygous is a genetic condition. The Pug inherits the same paired function for a particular gene from both parents. Then, the carrier (Heterozygous) Pugs pass the defective genes to their offspring.

Carrier (heterozygous) × Carrier (heterozygous) = 25% Probability of homozygous offspring that will develop signs.

What are the Critical Signs and Symptoms of Pug Dog Encephalitis?

Clinical manifestations of PDE vary from dog to dog. There are several signs which victimized Pug shows. Here we have summarized a few essential vital signs:

  1. Seizures
  2. Loss of coordination (Due to inflammation of the brain)
  3. Stiffness of neck
  4. Observable change in the Pug’s behavior 
  5. Depression and lethargy 
  6. Abrupt weakness and dullness
  7. The affected Pug tends to move in the circle due to neurological troubles 
  8. Head tilt and pressing the head against the objects 
  9. Confusion and abnormal gait 
  10. Collapse, coma, and blindness

What are the Types of Pug Dog Encephalitis?

sleeping black pug

Remember, these signs and symptoms vary with the type of PDE. Here, we have summarized two critical kinds of Pug Dog Encephalitis disease.

  1. Rapidly progressive PDE:  Frequent episodes of seizures characterize this type. The Pug constantly experiences symptoms. The symptoms are poor muscular coordination, depression, confusion/disorientation, and abnormal gait.
  2. Slowly progressive PDE:  Frequent episodes of seizures characterize this type. However, the Pug returns to the normal condition in between each bout of seizure. In this case, the Pug will restore its normal behavior and not show typical Pug Dog Encephalitis signs.

How is PDE Diagnosed in Pugs?

Yet, this is difficult to diagnose Pug Dog Encephalitis without the help of an expert vet. Also, the signs and symptoms of PDE confuse with the other related medical condition. So, the owners should contact the vet if they suspect any PDE signs immediately. 

Diagnostic Features

The vet diagnoses this condition with the help of the following essential things:

  1. The clinical picture of Pug Dog Encephalitis. These are the behavioral changes and other typical PDE associated signs and symptoms.
  2. Diagnostic imaging tests: These diagnostic tests are essential. They show the inflammatory changes in the brain and spinal cord due to PDE. For instance, C.T. scans, MRI tests can help in diagnosing the PDE in Pugs.
  3. DNA/genetic testing: As described earlier, genetic testing helps in the diagnosis of PDE. This test detects the presence of PDE-associated genetic markers (two copies of genes) in Pugs. Pugs with two copies of genetic markers are at higher risk of getting PDE than those with only one or no gene.
  4. Hematology (Blood tests)

These tests check for any infection, leading to a similar clinical presentation as Pug Dog Encephalitis. So, your vet can recommend a total blood count or biochemistry panel to reach the exact diagnosis.

5. Brain Biopsy and CSF Examination:

These two examinations are also very much important to diagnose Pug Dog Encephalitis by figuring out the actual reason. 

The brain cells and the brain fluid (Cerebrospinal fluid, CSF) are collected using a specialized protocol. In addition, these things are examined under the microscope. These two diagnostic examinations help in differentiating the PDE from other similar conditions. 

How can PDE be Treated?


Although there is no exact cure for Pug Dog Encephalitis available, this disease can be managed. It is reduced to a considerable extent by using the following medications:

  1. Anticonvulsant medications- Your vet may prescribe these medications to stop the seizures in your beloved Pug. 

Example: Phenobarbital and valium

2. Anti-inflammatory drugs- These medications are given to a Pug to reduce inflammation and decrease the severity of pain.

Example: Corticosteroids 

3. Immunosuppressant: These drugs are also prescribed to treat Pug Dog Encephalitis, as it is an autoimmune disease. Immunosuppressant tend to reduce the overactivity of dog’s immune system and decreases the severity of symptoms.

Note: Euthanasia is the painless killing of a dog suffering from an incurable and painful disease. This may also be performed in case of severe complications.

What is an Estimated Pug Dog Encephalitis Life Expectancy?

Generally, the Pugs experience rapidly progressive PDE that leads to a quick death. However, the Pug dog’s life expectancy depends upon the severity of the disease and the quality of treatment.

  • Pugs receiving good quality treatment can survive up to several years.

According to a scientific trial,

  • The mean survival for Pugs with Pug Dog Encephalitis was found to be 93 days. Mean range: 1-680 days. 
  • The mean life expectancy of Pugs that didn’t receive any treatment was found to be 6-7 days.

Note: This is a tentative statement; it may vary from dog to dog. Also, there are exceptions. 

Keep an eye on the signs and symptoms that your beloved Pug is showing. Then, stay in touch with your vet and use all the medications as described by your vet timely. 

Keep in mind; there is no such cure available for non-infectious encephalitis in dogs. Only supportive treatment can increase the lifespan of your Pug and his quality of life.

What is the Estimated Cost to Manage PDE?

Pug Dog Encephalitis can put a large financial burden on you. The diagnosis of this condition requires costly advanced tests such as MRI, CT-SCAN, and several genetic tests. All along with that, you should include the expenses of other medications as well. In simple words, the diagnosis and treatment require several thousand dollars overall. 

Note: The estimated cost may vary from dog to dog and other essential factors.

How to Prevent Pug Dog Encephalitis?

PDE is an inherited disease that runs in the genes. This is highly recommended to get the genetic testing of dogs before breeding. Never breed the Pugs having PDE-associated marker genes. There is a high possibility that they will pass these defective genes to their offspring. 

Regularly go for blood tests to know about the health status of your Pug. In addition, always go for genetic testing to figure out the potential carriers of PDE.

How can Other Medical Conditions be Confused with PDE?

Pug Dog Encephalitis is characterized by the inflammation of the brain along with other neurological signs and symptoms. It can be easily confused with a number of other medical conditions with similar signs and symptoms. We have summarized some other medical conditions that may look like PDE or Pug Dog Encephalitis:

  • Canine Epilepsy
  • Rabies 
  • Poisoning in dogs 
  • Bacterial meningitis 
  • Steroid-inflicted meningitis/arteritis
  • Other encephalitis-causing conditions.


Pug Dog Encephalitis is a fast progressing, fatal neurological condition of Pug dogs that can affect the Pug of any age. Usually, it occurs between 2-3 years. The typical signs of PDE in Pugs include lack of coordination, abnormal gait, circling, and stiffness of the neck, depression, and dullness. 

It is essential to diagnose quickly. The help of various genetic testing tools, diagnostic tools, and clinical manifestations results in better management. Unfortunately, this is a kind of n non-infectious condition which is not curable. 

Supportive and symptomatic treatments are available in anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other pain killers. Always stay in touch with your vet and don’t give any medication without the vet’s recommendation. 

Last but not least, always go for genetic testing before making a breeding plan. Never bred Pugs carrying genetic markers of Pug Dog Encephalitis. They have a great tendency to pass them to their puppies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pug Dog Encephalitis an Infectious Disease?

Not at all. This is a non-infectious type of encephalitis that occurs due to an attack of the body’s immune cells on the brain tissues.

Are Females Dogs at Higher Risk of Developing PDE?

yawning pug

Yes, fawn-colored female Pug dogs are at a higher risk of developing PDE than non-fawn male dogs.

Can Pug Dog Encephalitis Reoccur in Pugs?

Yes, this is an autoimmune disease that can re-occur in dogs again and again. So, better management can only ensure the better quality of your Pug’s life.

Why are Immunosuppressants Given to Pugs Suffering from PDE?

PDE occurs due to the overreaction of the immune system and its attack on the brain cells. The immunosuppressant drugs reduce the activity of the immune system. This curbs the severity of the symptoms.

Can I Breed PDE-Positive Pugs?

No, this is not recommended as they can pass the defective genes to their offspring.

When Should You Contact the Veterinarian?

If you suspect any sign of encephalitis in your Pug, talk to your vet immediately. Early diagnosis guarantees the early treatment of Pug Dog Encephalitis.

Can Pug Dog Encephalitis Spread from One Pug to Another?

No, this is not an infectious disease. An affected Pug can’t transmit it to other dogs.

Can PDE be Observed in Young Pugs?

Yes, this condition can occur in the young Pugs of even six months old.

Is Pug Dog Encephalitis Painful for Dogs?

Yes, this is an inflammatory condition that causes pain in Pug dogs. That is why; we use various painkillers to alleviate the pain in Pug dogs.

Can Genetic Testing Confirm the Diagnosis of PDE?

Genetic testing helps predict the PDE in Pugs. In addition, it makes effective breeding policies to prevent the occurrence in the next generation. So you can say, genetic testing is crucial in managing Pug Dog Encephalitis.

Can Canine Distemper be Confused with PDE?

Yes, there are similar neurological signs in canine distemper as Pug Dog Encephalitis. So, it can be easily confused with this medical condition. But there are some other typical signs of CD which differentiate it from PDE.

Is there Encephalitis in Rabies as well?

Yes, rabies is a viral disease in which encephalitis is very much expected. But a biopsy of the brain of a rabid dog shows a higher quantity of Negri bodies. This is the differential point between PDE and rabies.

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