What Causes Seizures in Pugs?

A seizure might not always be caused by pug dog encephalitis.
i beautiful pug dog image by John Steel from Fotolia.com

There are a few possible causes of seizures in a pug. Most of these causes, such as epilepsy or exposure to toxic chemicals, are common to all dog breeds. However, one cause is specific to your pug, and that is pug dog encephalitis, or PDE.


PDE is an inflammation of the brain, and it affects about 1.2 percent of the pug population. Little is known about this disease, which tends to affect adolescent pugs age 2 to 3. According to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, female fawn pugs younger than 7 are more likely to develop the disease than are older male fawn or black pugs.

The cause is genetic, and a test for genetic susceptibility to PDE is available. This test is particularly aimed at pug breeders, to avoid pairing pugs likely to produce pups at risk of PDE. If your pug develops PDE you should inform the breeder.

Primary Symptom

The primary symptom of PDE is a seizure. This requires emergency vet attention for tests to establish the cause of the seizure. There are behavioral changes that indicate a pug is about to have a seizure. If you notice these, it is probably wise to visit the vet before it does happen.

Some of the symptoms are fairly generic to a number of health problems, ranging from the easily treatable to the life-threatening. So it is difficult to identify PDE specifically from these changes without clinical tests.

Behavioral Change Symptoms

Lethargy and loss of muscle coordination often precede a PDE seizure. However, lethargy might be simply a symptom of a common infection, so don't immediately assume your pug has PDE just because he is lethargic. Similarly, loss of muscle coordination can come from damage to the eardrums or from another neurological condition.

A pug pacing in circles for long periods and rubbing his head against furniture are other potential signs that he is about to have a seizure. And he might be irritable and aggressive, both behaviors not usually associated with the placid, easy-going breed.

Disease Progression

PDE is classified as having slow or rapid progression. With slow PDE, the pug returns to normal behavior between seizures, which can be days or weeks apart.

With the rapid variety of PDE, the pug does not return to his usual behavior between seizures. He is likely to show symptoms of disorientation and depression as well as the inability to walk.

One reason so little is known about this disease is that it usually strikes very quickly. In many cases the dog dies from the seizures before the vet has time to give him brain scans that could help veterinary medicine understand this disease better. This has contributed to a lack of treatment.

There is no cure for this deadly disease, but your vet might prescribe anti-convulsants and anti-inflammatory drugs to make him more comfortable.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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