We all are familiar with the breed of dog called Pug. It is the most, if not the best popular and friendly breed of dog among the people in the Kathmandu and the other parts of Nepal. As the name implied the pug is cute and adorable pet however it has some serious health issues and one of the most common and fatal one is Pug encephalitis .
Pug dog encephalitis (PDE) is a severe and debilitating disease in small breed dogs that causes inflammation of the brain. This condition is inherited in Pugs but can occur in other breeds as well.
Unfortunately, the disease is fatal and it is estimated that 1.2 percent of Pugs will die from this it. Although there is no cure for this disease, early diagnosis and management can help your dog maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.
What is Pug Dog Encephalitis?
Pug dog encephalitis is the colloquial name for Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis (NME), a severe and incurable condition that causes inflammation and death of the brain tissue.
Although the disease primarily affects Pugs, other small breed dogs—including Maltese, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire Terriers, can be affected as well.
This disease is seen young dog and are diagnosed before seven years of age. Female Pugs are especially prone to developing this condition than male counterpart and fawn( light yellowish tan color coat) colored are more vulnerable in falling for this disease. Male and non fawn pugs are less susceptible.
Cause of the Pug encephalitis
Unlike other forms of encephalitis that can be linked to infections by different organism like bacteria virus and fungi. PDE is unique in that it is idiopathic, meaning that the exact cause is not known. However, because it tends to happened in Pugs who are closely related (e.g., littermates like brother and sister,) 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 of own body 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.
What are the symptoms of Pug encephalitis?
Depending upon the patient the symptom may come on gradually or progress rapidly. Most of the time the owner notice vague symptom such as lethargy and depression which most of the owner as well as breeders overlooked.
Because PDE affects the brain, most of the symptoms are neurological, and include:
How PDE is diagnosed?
If your dog is showing symptoms of Pug encephalitis, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Other conditions may present with similar symptoms, so your veterinarian will recommend several diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s clinical signs.
Sampling the brain tissue through biopsy or necropsy is the only way to definitively diagnose Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis. However, other less invasive tests may be used to establish a tentative diagnosis.
Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination, and will take detailed history from the owner. Beside he would carry out blood test to see the function of organs which may show similar signs and symptoms. Similarly various diagnostic test like MRI and CT scan can be carried out. Often the referral to specialist is preferred. CSF ( cerebrospinal fluid) tapping is also performed to see any abnormality under the microscope. In Pugs, a genetic test is available that can identify which individuals are at higher risk for developing PDE.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Pug encephalitis. Treatment is focused on decreasing the immune response, alleviating inflammation, and minimizing seizures.
Your veterinarian may prescribe steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs to manage the condition. Antiepileptic drugs such as Phenobarbital may also be prescribed for patients experiencing seizures due to NME. Most patients will need to stay on these medications for their entire life time and will relapse if the medication is discontinued or dose is altered without consulting vet. Because these medications can have severe side effects, some trial and error may be necessary by the vet to find the right drugs and optimum dosages that gives best result for your Pug.
Pug dog encephalitis is a serious condition and is ultimately fatal. While some dog may survive for several year with proper care and medication other die within one year of diagnosis. Therefore frequent follow up visit to vet is very important.
If your pug is diagnosed with pug encephalitis it is highly recommended not to use the dog for breeding.
Dr. Pratik Man Pradhan
Mount Everest Kennel Club