Pug Health Guide:

(This is educational information only and is not intended to replace advice or treatment from your veternarian.)

(Please discuss any health problems or concerns you may have with your own veternarian.)

General Information
            Congratulations on your ownership of one of the most wonderful dogs in the world - the Pug. While Pugs tend to be a healthy, hearty breed that can easily live into the mid and upper teens, there are some health problems you should be aware of and some health problems you can prevent to help your Pug live the longest, healthiest life possible. This guide is meant to introduce you to some of the common health problems seen in Pugs. It is not intended as a guide for home diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for regular veterinary care. We'll start with some general health considerations, and then break down some specific health problems by type, such as eye problems, skin problems, etc.

As mentioned, Pugs tend to be a healthy breed. Probably the number one problem seen by veterinarians is overweight or obese Pugs. Pugs will eat till they burst and always "act" hungry, even if they are well-fed. A recent study by Purina showed that lean dogs live an average of two years longer than overweight dogs and the lean dogs have far fewer health problems. There are many wonderful foods on the market - the key is to feed the proper amount. You base the correct amount on what your dog looks like, not what the bag says or how much the bowl holds. You should just be able to feel your dog's ribs and be able to see a waist.

General upkeep of your Pug should include keeping his nails short, either by cutting them or perhaps grinding them with a rotary grinder, like a Dremel Mototool. You need to pay special attention to your Pug's ears and clean them regularly with an ear wash. It is time to see your vet if you notice any redness, heavy discharge, odor, or headshaking. You also need to clean your Pug's nose roll and wrinkles. You can use some of your ear wash if you are careful to keep it out of the eyes. Some Pugs need their faces cleaned daily, while others can go several days or longer. Sometimes the nose roll gets infected and requires veterinary care.

Pug mouths tend to have a lot of teeth in a small space and they are crowded and crooked. It is hard to visualize the teeth, let alone brush them but you should try and do your best. Your vet may have some products that are easy to use and pointers on keeping the teeth nice. Getting your Pug to chew on nylabones or other special bones can help keep the amount of tartar down and there are special foods made to help as well.

With their short, pushed in face, Pugs can have trouble breathing, especially if there is high heat and humidity. They must be kept cool and exercised with caution in the summer. Part of the short-faced or brachycephalic syndrome can involve having pinched nostrils and an elongated soft palate. Your vet will need to examine your Pug to see if the nostrils are too tight to let air flow freely. There is a surgery to correct this problem. If you notice your Pug snoring excessively or gasping to breathe, it could be that his soft palate (at the back of his mouth) is too long and is in the way. Again, there is a surgery to help correct this problem. While overheating is the biggest weather-related problem, Pugs should also not be exposed for very cold temperatures for long periods of time. They were bred to be housedogs and companions.

Although Pugs were not bred to do any specific work to help out man (except provide wonderful companionship!), Pugs are very trainable. Pugs compete in every sport which they are eligible for, including obedience, agility and tracking. There are wonderful training books and videos available and training classes are offered all over the country. Check around for an experienced trainer who uses positive, motivational methods.

Many people get a female Pug and decide perhaps they should breed a litter or get a male and decide to use him at stud. Both of these decisions require much thought, research, time and money. There is no benefit to the female to have a litter. Pugs frequently need caesarian sections to deliver their puppies. Any time a Pug is used for breeding, extensive health testing should be done first to ensure no health problems might be passed on. In spite of the growing popularity of Pugs, or perhaps because of it, there is also a growing need for Pug rescue across the country. Unwanted Pugs are surrendered every day and if you let your Pugs reproduce, you are responsible for any pups produced for the rest of their lives. You must be willing to take any dogs back that are no longer wanted, for whatever reason. Dogs will live healthier, longer lives if they are spayed or neutered, so we highly recommend this be done.


Pug Eyes:

Pugs have large, expressive eyes but they can also have some serious eye problems that require treatment from your veterinarian and sometimes even a veterinary ophthalmologist. Everyone knows of a one-eyed Pug, so if you suspect your Pug has an eye problem, don't hesitate to get professional care.

CORNEAL ULCERS - If you see your Pug squinting or the eye seems red or weepy, he may have a scratch or ulcer on his cornea (the clear part of the eye). Your vet may want to put special stain on the eye to observe the ulcer and will send home medication. Ulcers can deepen quickly and the eye can rupture so you should seek veterinary care right away.

DRY EYE (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or KCS) and PIGMENTARY KERATITIS (PK) - Commonly seen in Pugs, these 2 problems often, but not always, occur together. Some Pugs don't produce enough tears to keep their eyes moist and have KCS. You may see excessive mucous in your Pugs eyes and they may be red. Your vet can do a special test called a Schirmer Tear Test to determine if your Pug is affected. If he isn't producing enough tears, there are medications available that will stimulate the tear glands to produce more. You usually need to keep the excess mucous flushed out of the eyes as well. With PK, owners sometimes see dark black spots on the cornea or clear part of the eye, especially in the corner near the nose. Sometimes there is just a little bit near the inside corner, but some Pugs have the pigment cover their corneas and they are blind. Medications can help keep the eyes moist and disperse the pigment. Both of these problems require life-long therapy.

DYSTICHIA - these are extra eye lashes that rub against the eye and can cause irritation and sometimes ulcers. Some dogs require surgery to remove the offending lashes.

ENTROPION - this is a condition where the eyelid, often the lower lid, rolls in like a window shade. This causes the hair on the lid to rub on the eye and irritate it. There is a surgery to correct the rolling lid.

PROPTOSIS - because Pug eyes tend to protrude, it is easier to have them forced from the eye socket than with other breeds. If a Pug is bitten near the eye, the eye could be pushed forward in front of the lids. The eye is still held in place by nerves and muscles, but it is often too damaged to be sighted. This is a medical emergency since rapid response may allow surgical replacement and some sight might be saved.


Pug Skin:

Pug skin is covered with TONS of hair that seems to always be shedding and that is normal. However, there are some skin problems that Pugs seem to be prone to.

Allergies - some Pugs can get seasonal allergies. They often are quite itchy and sometimes chew their feet. This can start out during a limited time of the year but it can also expand to problems year round. Sometimes antihistamines, steroids and special shampoos are needed. A veterinary dermatologist can test your dog to see what the offending substances are and make up special allergy injections to desensitize your dog. Food allergies aren't terribly common but a trial on a hypoallergenic diet might be ordered by your vet.

Demodectic mange - usually a problem in young Pug puppies, this mange, caused by the Demodex mite, appears as patchy hair loss in 1 or more areas. The skin is sometimes pink and there may be an odor. There can be a secondary bacterial infection associated with this disease which can make the condition itchy. It is diagnosed by a deep skin scraping. It is not thought to be contagious. There are many treatments available. It is thought to "run" in families so dogs that are affected should not be bred, especially if they have more than 1 or 2 small patches as puppies. Demodex can appear in older dogs but they often have compromised immune systems or other diseases as well.

Staph infections - Staph is a kind of bacteria that is commonly found on skin. Some dogs will break out in pimples and infected hair follicles if their immune systems are stressed. The lesions can look like hives because they make the hair stick up on the bumps. On non-haired areas, the lesions can look like ringworm - a circular patch with a crusty leading edge and sometimes a dark center. Your vet will usually prescribe oral antibiotics and medicated shampoo.

Yeast infections - if your Pug stinks like dirty feet, is very itchy and has blackened, thickened skin, his problem could be a yeast infection. This problem can often be seen in a dog which had a previous Staph infection and was treated with antibiotics because the drug kills off the bacteria and the yeast takes over. The most commonly seen locations are in the armpits, on the feet, in the groin and on the underside of the neck. When there is a yeast infection in the ears, there is usually a foul odor and excessive light tan or golden wax. Your vet will need to do skin scrapings and ear swabs. There are special anti-yeast medications and shampoos available.


(Information obtained for this page from the PUG DOG CLUB OF AMERICA)