The Pug is a small brachycephalic breed (short muzzled) dog. They have Chinese origins and early Pugs may have been the predecessor of today’s Pekingese.
Pugs are alert and are good with children, making them good family dogs. They can also be good watchdogs.
If you don’t have a pug but are thinking of getting one, you need to know about the common health problems that may affect this dog breed.
Of course, not all Pugs will be affected by the common health problems as described below. Just keep in mind that they are more predisposed to these illnesses.
Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE)
One of the many pug health problems is “pug dog encephalitis”. PDE is chronic inflammation of the brain and is an inherited disease in Pugs, affecting Pugs from 9 months to 4 years of age.
Initial symptoms include seizures, confusion, and memory loss.
There are three forms of this disease:
- Disseminated Form – This form of PDE affects all parts of the brain.
- Focal Form – Focal form affects only specific areas of the brain.
- Ocular Form – This form affects the optic nerves but is rather rare.
Signs of the disorder can happen very rapidly or progress slowly.
There is no cure for this fatal disease although progression may be slowed down by the use of certain drugs such as steroids.
Pug Eye Problems
There are quite a few Pug health problems that are related to the eyes, because Pugs have large bulging eyes:
Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a disorder of the tear glands. There is not enough tear production and the cornea becomes dry. As a result, the affected eye becomes irritated, and the conjunctival tissues becomes red.
A thick, stringy, mucoid discharge covers the eye. The cornea eventually will become dry and brown. Blindness can result.
Entropion is a condition where the bottom eyelid rolls inward toward the eyeball, causing the eye lashes to rub against the cornea. This results in pain, tearing, and inflammation. Both eyes may have this problem, which fortunately can be corrected by surgeries.
Pugs have big bulging eyes, so it is easy for them to sustain injuries to their eyes. Corneal abrasions and ulcers are injuries to the cornea caused by trauma, such as scratches.
Ulcers are deeper wounds that involve the middle and sometimes even the inner layer of the cornea.
Corneal ulcers are very painful and cause severe tearing, squinting, and pawing at the eye. A Pug with a corneal ulcer usually avoids the light.
Prompt treatment is essential to avoid complications and even loss of the eye. Therefore, if your Pug shows the above symptoms, take him to the vet immediately.
Pug Joint Problems
Pugs are also prone to the following joint issues:
Luxating patella is a congenital disease. In this disease, the alignment of the bones and joints of the hind leg is abnormal. This results in a displacement of the patella to the side of the joint.
The main symptom of luxating patella is an intermittent hopping on the limb when the patella pops out of place. Depending on the severity of the problem, dogs with luxating patella may need surgical correction.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint. The typical sign of hip dysplasia is limping and bunny hopping. The condition can range from “mild” to “severe”. Treatment includes medical therapy and/or surgery.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Brachycephalic breeds (such as the Pug) are unable to breathe properly or efficiently, mainly because of their short muzzle and inherited anatomical problems. They are not as efficient as other dog breeds to regulate their body temperature through evaporation from the tongue.
Therefore, keep your pug cool and indoors on hot summer days because the heat may cause breathing difficulties. For the same reason, do not allow your pug to exercise too much in the summer.
Specifically, pugs commonly suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome, which affects various locations of the respiratory tract. If left untreated, this will result in chronic breathing problems.
Brachycephalic airway syndrome includes the following conditions:
Stenotic Nares (Collapsed Nostrils)
This is a birth defect rather commonly found in pugs. It is characterized by overly narrow nasal openings and soft nasal cartilage. This causes the nostril to collapse when the dog breathes in, obstructing the airway.
Depending on the extent to which the airway is obstructed, stenotic nares can result in noisy breathing (snorting, snoring). It may also cause gagging and coughing.
Treatment of stenoic nares is by surgically enlarging the nasal openings.
Elongated Soft Palate
This is a problem of the anatomy of some dog breeds, such as the Pug. The soft palate is elongated, partially obstructing the airway during breathing. This results in gagging, snorting, snoring, and gurgling, especially during and after exercise.
The treatment of an elongated soft palate is by surgically shortening the palate.
This condition occurs primarily in older dogs. Obese dogs are especially vulnerable to this health problem.
The trachea (windpipe) is made up of cartilage rings called tracheal rings. Tracheal collapse occurs because the rings are not rigid enough. This results in the collapse of the trachea wall as the dog inhales. The collapse of the trachea wall leads to a narrowing of the windpipe.
The typical sign of this problem is a goose-honk cough. Sometimes the dog also gags and has harsh breathing. These symptoms get worse with stress and exercise. Coughing may also occur when the dog eats or drinks.
For mild to moderate symptoms, a vet usually prescribes bronchodilator drugs. The dog should have a low-stress routine, and avoid situations that trigger coughing episodes.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. To protect the dog’s throat and keep pressure off the airway, using a harness instead of a collar is important.
Other Pug Health Problems
Other Pug health problems that we need to pay attention to include:
Hydrocephalus refers to an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain. It tends to affect most puppies before they reach 9 months of age. However, some dogs may not show symptoms until they are older.
Hydrocephalus causes seizures, partial or complete blindness, dementia, and eventual death. Some dogs may be able to live with a mild case of hydrocephalus throughout adulthood.
Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids and diuretics to reduce the production of cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
Pugs usually live a sedentary life. As a result they are prone to obesity. Be sure to give a balanced and healthy diet and enough exercise to your pug to prevent unhealthy weight gain.