Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurrent seizures — convulsions that are set off by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases in dogs, and some forms are heritable. Inherited epilepsy is referred to as idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Pugs are one of the breeds prone to idiopathic epilepsy.
The length of epileptic seizures can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. In rare cases, they can continue for an hour or more. Mild forms of epilepsy can be treated with medication to control the seizures, but the disease has no cure. There's no screening test for epilepsy, and it often doesn't appear until a dog is older. The incidence of epilepsy can be reduced through selective breeding, however. The breeder should be able to tell you the frequency of epilepsy in his dogs.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation funds research into understanding epilepsy. This information could help scientists develop tests to identify carrier, clear, and affected dogs, allowing breeders to make more informed choices in their breeding programs. Owners of pugs with epilepsy can contribute to this research by providing blood samples to the Canine Epilepsy Research Consortium. (See Appendix A for contact information).