Sunday, 2 January 2011

The other PDE - Pug Dog Encephalitis

Some good news from UC Davis. They've developed a new DNA test for Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE), a nasty condition also known as necrotising meningoencephalitis (NME). It claims the lives of about one in 100 Pugs.

PDE/NME is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that is usually progressive and fatal. Symptoms include seizures, depression, ataxia, abnormal gait and blindness.   Female, fawn Pugs younger than 7 years of age are more apt to develop NME than older, non-fawn males.

Last year, researchers found that pugs that have two identical copies of particular markers have an increased risk of developing the condition (an observed risk of 12.75 over  their lifetime compared to a risk of just 0-1.08 for Pugs that have only one or no copies of these markers). (Reference here.) Now UC Davis has made a test available to Pug owners and breeders.

It's important to note that this isn't a "definitive diagnosis" test, just an indicator of risk.  Only one in eight of those dogs with two copies of the risk markers will develop PDE. But it is useful nevertheless and, interestingly, the markers are located at or near what are known as DLA class II genes - genes that code for the immune system. Genetic diversity in this area of the genome is considered a particularly good thing, as I have documented here.

In other words, using this test to help identify dams and sires that won't produce pups that have two identical copies of the PDE/NME markers could prove to be beneficial in other ways too

More info from UC Davis here.


  1. Well done to the American Kennel Club, the Pug Dog Club of America and of course Dr Greer.

    Now I wonder if the UK Kennel Club will recognise this test as a useful tool?

  2. Thanks for the heads-up on the UCDavis work. A Facebook friend of mine in the UK just lost her 3 year-old black female pug to PDE.

  3. It's so exciting that this test has come out of this kind of research. Associations of risk for disease have been linked with DLA genes in superficial keratitis and anal furunculosis in German Shepherds, hepatitis in Dobermans, SLO in Gordon setters, anal sac gland carcinoma in English Cockers, juvenile generalized demodex, autoimmune lymphocytic thyroiditis in Giant Schnauzers, SLE disease complex and hypoadrenocortism in Nova Scotia duck toilers, several different breeds have different MHC associations with IMHA, diabetes in several breeds, hypothyroid in different breeds, uveodermatologic syndrome in American Akitas, susceptibility to leishmaniasis, more things come to light all the time.

    This kind of research is not just exciting for the potential of tests in order to make smart breeding choices, but also for management of dogs that have a higher risk. How cool would it be to know that your dog has a high risk of diabetes, for instance, so you can manage it's diet and perform regular testing to catch the disease in it's early stages?

  4. DNA testing by way of oral swabs is by far the standard procedure of sample collection as it's really quick to perform; nevertheless DNA tests, such as paternity testing.
    DNA Testing

  5. First of all I would like to say I'm not a breeder and I do not condone breeders that have a complete disregard for the health of the puppies they bring into this world, most of which I consider puppy farmers and back yard bandwagon designer mongrel breeders.

    I don't suppose this will be published on the blog but the following makes interesting statistics and puts things into persective. Guess which breed I'm reffering to?:

    1 in 20 have diabtetes in England
    1 in 3 will die of heart disease in England
    1 in 100 will have cancer at any one time in England.

    Which breed do you think? Yes, it's us humans.

    If we DNA tested ourselves for every disease and bred out every genetic abnormality we would die out very quickly. Yes I can understand the need for taking sensible precautions when breeding dogs for our pleasure and testing for the more common genetic problems, but lets have some perspective here people!

  6. If you had watched our beautiful little pug die of PDE this week, you would wish that the breeder had done PDE testing on their dogs, and been more selective of mates. It was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen, and the pain and agony that he went through was horrendous. He was only a year old. If it can be prevented, then why don't we prevent it from happening? What's the difference between PDE testing for pugs, and vaccines for humans? It is all about PREVENTION- not producing a perfect canine or human specimen!

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your pub, Anon. If you would be interested in telling your/his story more widely in order to help raise awareness of this condition, please email me: jem[AT]


  7. To Anonymous,

    My heart goes out to you. I watched my sweet, beautiful 3 year old Grand- pug die of this. I cried & sobbed for days.
    We took her up to K-State animsl Hospital where they have top notch vets.
    They operated on her, but the PDE was so far advanced she didn't make it.
    I thought I would die. They were wonderful there.

    I am thrilled to hear about this new DNA test. I hope it will prevent others from going through the Horror and heartbreak in the future.

  8. Hi just wish we had our two year old pug Holly tested, she was diagnosed with pde last Saturday. Only suffered from this condition since last tuesday. She had no signs of it. She was a healthy little girl until then. It was the most heart braking news we had ever heard. She was rushed to see a neurologist that saturday morning. She was so poorly unable to eat drink see hear and stand. They started her off on steroids and epilepsy drugs. Im so glad to say she is doing really well. She is still wobbly on her feet she's now eating and drinking. No sign of her sight or hearing. But we have everything crossed . We also have another pug which we are going to get tested. Please everyone have your pugs tested