Pug Seizures: Learn The Triggers And What You Can Do

All dogs experience health issues from time-to-time, and pugs are no different. Some canine medical problems are more serious than others, especially if they’re neurological disorders. While it’s distressing to see their dog in an epileptic fit, owners need to be able to react quickly and appropriately.

Are pugs known to have seizures? Seizures are not exclusive to pugs, as they can be experienced by all dog breeds. It involves involuntary shaking and twitching that’s caused by an electrical disturbance in the nervous system. The underlying causes will need to be treated in order to prevent them from reoccurring.

Seizures are a serious matter and they can even be fatal. Being aware of the symptoms and knowing what to do in these scenarios can save your pug from suffering irreversible brain damage. Reoccurrence is preventable as long as the epileptic causes are treated, so a veterinarian diagnosis will be essential to recovery.

Types Of Dog Seizures That Affect Pugs

Seizures, often referred to as epilepsy, is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity in the dog’s brain. This causes temporary body contractions and movements, as well as a change in their behavior and state of awareness. Most commonly, seizures are notable for the uncontrollable twitching, shaking, limpness, and stiffness that’s involves. Epileptic episodes can last for a few short seconds, or several minutes.

It’s worth noting that not all seizures are alike. They range in seriousness, the way it’s triggered, and how the body responds to them. The two most common types of seizures that can affect a pug includes:

  1. Grand mal-type seizures: Involves severe thrashing over a human or animals’ entire body.
  2. Petit mal-type seizures: Only a specific region of the body experiences abnormal, uncontrolled motor responses. This can include fly biting in dogs, which is a triggered behavior of this type of seizure.

Are Seizures Capable Of Killing A Dog?

The short answer is yes, seizures can certainly be fatal, or at the very least cause irreversible brain damage. Some cases will be more serious than others, especially when they occur repeatedly or for very long periods of time. For instance, if the seizure goes on for over 30 minutes, it can lead to permanent brain damage.

If your pug experiences more than one seizure within 24 hours, this is known as “cluster seizures”. It is very serious, and you will need to see the vet for immediate treatment. Try and keep note of the length of time between each epileptic fit, as this information will assist your veterinarian with a diagnosis.

One neurological condition that is unique to pugs is known as “Pug Dog Encephalitis” (PDE). It is caused by inflammation in the brain that affects approximately 1.2% of all pugs. It is the leading cause of death in pugs and it usually involves seizures, loss of muscle control, and extreme weakness. PDE is more likely to affect young and middle-aged dogs. The seizures will be more frequent and aggressive as the disease worsens. This neurological disorder can be screened with a DNA test.

Causes Of Seizures In Pugs

Idiopathic epilepsy is the most popular cause of pug seizure. This is most likely an inherited condition but the cause of it is still unknown. As earlier mentioned, the faulty electrical occurrence in your pug’s brain leads to uncontrollable body spasms and behaviors. Below is a list of potential causes that may bring on epileptic seizures:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Nutritional imbalances like thiamine deficiency and problems with electrolyte levels
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Irregular blood sugar levels
  • Strokes
  • Tumors – especially related to the brain
  • Ingestion of poisons like chocolate and caffeine
  • Head and brain trauma
  • Infectious illnesses such as rabies and canine distemper virus infection (CDV)
  • Anemia – low levels of red blood cells
  • Encephalitis – inflammation of the brain tissue

Signs & Symptoms

A pug can experience a seizure in multiple forms, whereby some are more aggressive than others. Some of these symptoms are more common, while others are not so recognizable. Therefore, it’s important for all dog owners to be aware of the following:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Falling to your floor immediately without laying down as it normally does
  • Twitching
  • Unconsciousness
  • Visual impairment
  • Drooling
  • Jerking bodily motions
  • Chomping
  • Tongue chewing
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Defecating or urinating uncontrollably
  • Biting or snapping at the air
  • Staring blankly while still standing
  • Running in circles

When any of these signs are showing, it’s very handy to record a video of your pug while in a fit. Rather than explaining the situation to your vet, it will give them a much better idea of what they’re working with. Take note of whether this is happening while your dog is awake or asleep. If the muscle spasms are happening while awake, it can signal are more serious issue, so you need to take your pug to the vet as soon as possible.

Some less aggressive signs of uncontrolled movements can be mistaken for deep sleep. During a dog’s rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle, it’s possible that they can intermittently twitch and kick their legs. However, it is usually brief and their breathing should be deeper like they’re in a very relaxed state. Seizures, on the other hand, will sound like they’re struggling to breath, as if they’re not able to get enough air into their lungs.

What To Do During An Epileptic Seizure

If you suspect that your pug is experiencing a seizure, there are a few things you can do immediately to improve the situation. This includes things not to do as well.

Keep Calm

While it is distressing to see your pug in such a helpless state, owners need to try and remain as calm as possible. There is no point in crying or yelling, as this may frighten your dog more and add further stress to what’s happening. It’s essential that you keep your wits about you and act in a way to better the situation.

Comfort Your Pug

You can sit near your dog but be careful not to pet it, especially around their head where you are in reach of their mouth. You need to keep in mind that they’re in an uncontrollable state in that moment, and can react with a bite. If you think your dog responds well to being touched, the most we would advise you to do is to pet areas towards the back of their body where you aren’t within reach.

However, given the circumstances, you need to understand that if they do snap at you, it’s because they’re dazed and in a state of pain, fear, or confusion. If it’s your first time dealing with a pug seizure, try and give your dog space. Instead, start by talking in comforting tones.

Talking in a gentle tone can help soothe and reassure your dog that everything is fine. Some people will even put on soft and gentle music for their pet after a seizure. Limit loud noises and distractions that can cause shock, and give them time to revert back into their normal state.

Once your pug has calmed, you can try and wrap them in a towel and hold them closely to provide additional comfort. Again, only do this when your pug is alert and back to its normal self. Check that they respond well to it, as some may find it uncomfortable.

Carefully Move Your Pug To A Safer Spot

If your pug has a seizure while being close to the stairs or at the edge of your bed, try and carefully push them to a safer place. Their uncontrollable movements can lead to further accidents, so you’ll need to prevent them from falling. Dogs often panic after or before a seizure and might end up running around without looking or thinking where they are going. Also, there is the potential that they can potentially seize and fall hard.

Reduce Their Body Temperature

Seizures increase the pug’s body temperature very quickly. As a result, you should carefully place a damp washcloth around its feet after the seizure ends. But you should wait for your dog to come next to you before cooling it because it could bite if you are not patient with it.

Allow For Rest, Food, And Water

After the seizure, your pug might appear to be worn out. So, let your pug sleep but keep checking on them periodically as they rest. Also, they might feel extremely thirsty or hungry coming out of an episode. While you shouldn’t force your dog to drink or eat, make sure you provide them with access to it. They will likely nourish themselves once they can stand on their own.

Time And Record The Seizures

As previously mentioned, recording a video and timing the seizures can help your vet with a more accurate diagnosis. Keep a close eye on your pug and keep note of the duration of the seizure. If there is more than one, you’ll need to note the time in between each epileptic fit as well.

If it goes for a maximum of two minutes, then that is less concerning. A fit that goes on for up to five minutes should be a dire warning sign. Lastly, if it goes on for more than five minutes, then that is worse case scenario. You also need to keep in mind that cluster seizures are much more serious. Regardless of the timings, you should get your dog to the vet as soon as you can.

Treatment Options

A dog may or may not experience a seizure at some point in their lives. When they do, it’s crucial that they are taken to the vet for a clinical examination. Treating the condition will depend on the underlying issue that’s causing it. The vet will normally run several tests to help determine the issue. If no cases are found, it may be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy.

If the veterinarian is able to pinpoint the issue, they will look at factors such as your pug’s health, age, and pre-existing conditions to determine the best available treatment. Some of these include:

  • Seizure medication
  • Dietary changes
  • Melatonin
  • Acupressure

Dietary changes will usually involve the introduction of essential fatty acids into your pug’s diet. It may also entail changes to alter their blood sugar levels if it is too low or too high.

Two known medications commonly used treat seizures in dogs are potassium bromide and phenobarbital. Although, the newer anticonvulsants like zonisamide and levetiracetam are getting more popular around the world. However, there is more research going on in regards to using other anticonvulsants. Also, note that combination therapy is usually effective for pugs that poorly respond to standard treatments.

Related Questions

What can trigger a seizure in a dog? Heat exhaustion, irregular blood sugar levels, nutritional imbalances, brain trauma, tumors, and organ failure are common causes of seizures.

What age do pugs have seizures? Seizures can happen at any age, but PDE specifically is likely to happen in adolescent pugs that are under the age of three.

Are pugs prone to neurological disorders? Besides PDE (inflammation in the brain) being unique to pugs, all dogs can experience seizures and other related neurological disorders.

How to test for PDE in pugs? Pug Dog Encephalitis can be screened with a DNA test.


Carolina Veterinary Specialists Greensboro, n.d. What causes seizures in dogs?

Fetch by WebMD, 2021. Seizures in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & What to Do.

Ward, E. & Gollakner, R., n.d. Seizures in Dogs.


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