Pug Dog Encephalitis – Why This Is A Fatal Disease And How It Manifests

Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is a disease characteristic of this dog breed (but can also occur in others) and it refers to an inflammatory process producing damage to the brain and the spinal cord. How can this be identified? What causes the disease and how can this be treated? Let’s understand what this illness is and see how you can help your pug deal with it. 

What is Pug PDE – Overview 

PDE is the informal version for the medical term “Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis (NME)”, a deadly disease that has serious implications on the nervous system by compromising the brain tissue. It is believed to be a genetic condition, as brachycephalic dog breeds are often affected.

It is a rapidly progressing condition for which there is no cure. The cause of the condition is yet unknown. Although it is known that infectious diseases cause encephalitis, apparently the infection is not the cause of PDE.

Recent studies suggest that an abnormal response of the body’s immune system may play a role in the development of the disorder. Affected pugs show clinical signs of a problem with their brain and nervous system. The progression of Pug Dog Encephalitis can be broken down into 2 categories:

It can be slow progressive – the occurrence of seizures (the most common symptom) is scarce and it lasts from seconds to several minutes and in between, there are no other signs signaling the PDE. 

It can be fast progressive – the seizures are recurrent and the pug also presents other signs of PDE such as depressive mood, inability to walk too much, and disorientation. PDE is invariably fatal. Most dogs die within a few months of the onset of clinical signs and statistics reveal that around 1.2% die from this illness. 

Causes of PDE

It seems that there’s no exact answer for what can cause this disease. Although, there are several factors that can influence its onset. Encephalitis can be the result of brain infection (bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic are examples of infectious causes of encephalitis) or it can be an immune response of the body, which means that the immune system is malfunctioning and creates abnormal inflammation.

Symptoms and pathological signs of PDE

In general, there are pathological changes in locomotor function: paresis, ataxia, and paralysis. Ataxia occurs when there’s damage to the cord and the brainstem of the spine. Then it may be neurological deficits of the cranial nerves. The symptoms that show the gravity of the disease consist of:

  • Seizures – based on how fast the illness is evolving, episodes of seizure can occur at a distance of days and even weeks and when they happen they usually last for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Apathy and loss of muscle control – these indicate a lack of energy or lethargy and difficulty to control the mobility due to muscular dysfunctions
  • Moving or pacing in circles – pugs can lose the sense of what they are actually doing 
  • Convulsions
  • Blindness
  • Distress and confusion
  • Depression
  • Looking into void 
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulties walking 

The danger of encephalitis lies in the complexity of diagnosing the disease because the symptoms of the disease are quite diverse. For the correct diagnosis, in addition to the examination of your pug, a series of clinical and laboratory investigations need to be carried out.

To correctly diagnose a dog, several studies of the brain and spinal cord can be prescribed: computerized, X-ray examination, cerebrospinal fluid investigation, ultrasound examination of internal organs, and laboratory examination of blood. 

Can PDE be prevented and how to treat it 

The bad news here is that this illness cannot be prevented as most symptoms overlap with other conditions. As a genetic degenerative disorder, this can be transmissible to the next generation so the pug breeders should avoid breeding parents that are diagnosed with severe illnesses. 

When this is already diagnosed, usually therapy is considered in order to alleviate the symptoms and make the pug feel a bit better. Despite that there is no full recovery from that, if diagnosed in the early stages, there’s a slight chance to prolong the lifespan of your pet.

This would normally entail regular visits to vet clinics, and checks to undertake in order to monitor the progression and various treatments that can be prescribed in their case.

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