Their funny flat face, big dark round eyes, and wrinkled skin are all things that make pugs one of the most adorable pets around. Unfortunately, these defining characteristics are also the source of a lot of common health concerns and disease for pugs and many other small dogs.
Whether it’s a pug puppy or a fully grown adult, one of the most recognizable things about a pug is its wrinkles. While these small dogs are cute, these skin folds create a perfect dark, moist environment for bacteria, fungus, diseases, infections, and other health issues. Ringworm is one such fungus and a very common health concern. Healthy pugs will not usually get ringworm but if your pug’s immune system isn’t healthy, ringworm is more common. It usually appears as a ring-shaped lesion that continues to spread.
Allergies are another common ailment that these pets suffer from. Pugs can have allergies to various foods, pollen, or fleas. This will lead to really itchy skin, biting, and possibly bald spots if it persists and can lead to infection. One way to try to control this is to get a high-quality dog food for you pug that only has a few ingredients.
Treatment can be difficult if you’re not sure what the source of the allergy is. You might be able to easily identify something your pug ate that caused an upset stomach or an itchy rash, but there could also be outside allergens in the air that you’re just not sure about. Consult with your veterinarian. There are some treatment options available, like allergy shots or medication.
There are a few reasons that pugs have breathing problems. The first is that they are brachycephalic breeds and were essentially bred to not have a snout. They have broad, short skulls which affect their airway and ability to breathe. They often snore and snort, have a hard time breathing when they’re active and pant because they have a hard time regulating their body temperature. This can also lead to the reverse sneeze which is common among pugs.
Most snorts, gasps, and wheezes are normal, which can be quite surprising to a first-time pug owner.
It’s important to be able to distinguish between these “normal” sounds and the ones that indicate a more serious problem. One is stenotic nares, which means that the pug’s nostrils are too narrow to breathe normally. This is a genetic trait that was bred into pugs to give them their unique appearance. Some pugs outgrow this but others will eventually need surgery.
Another serious problem that can happen is a collapsed trachea or windpipe. Some people think that dogs, in general, are more prone to this but because of the way they’re built, pugs are especially susceptible if they’re walked using a leash and a collar. A harness should always be used with pugs to avoid this and other complications.
Pugs also have an elongated soft palate that can cause trouble. The soft palate is at the top, back of the mouth. It’s a flap that closes the airway when the pug swallows food or water. Since a pug’s soft palate is long, it not only blocks the airway when the pug is eating or drinking; it interferes with normal breathing as well. The elongated palate is also sometimes so severe that it requires surgery to correct.
There are some things you can do to help your pug breathe a little easier. Keep your home around 70 degrees all year round. When pugs overheat, they have a hard time cooling down. This strains their whole system and makes breathing even more difficult for them.
If you do not have air conditioning, use windows, and fans to keep air circulating and block out harsh sunlight so it won’t heat up the house more. A dehumidifier can also help pull moisture out of the air and improve your pug’s breathing.
When taking your pug outside, avoid the middle of the day when it’s the hottest and the sunlight is most direct. Let you pug rest and aim for only 20-30 minutes of activity. Find some shade and let your pug catch his breath. Bring along a bottle of water for your dog to drink. Use a harness, not a collar, and stop if your pug appears to be in distress.
Because of their head shape, pugs’ eyes appear to bulge out of their head. Because of this, special care must be taken to avoid some common problems.
One problem is cherry eye, which happens when the third eyelid slips out of place. A large red or pink bump will appear that covers up part of the white of the eye. This usually only happens to one eye but it’s attributed to weakening connective tissues and will commonly occur in the other eye after a few months. It doesn’t usually correct itself on its own and will usually require a minor procedure.
Because of the way pugs’ eyes are set, they’re prone to inflammation. If you see a lot of blinking, tearing, swelling, or redness it’s time to see the vet. Your pug might need an antibiotic or eye drops.
Dry eye is often common. The film covering the pug’s eyes basically gets dry, tears, and can deteriorate. It can hurt and affect eyesight if not treated. If your pug’s eyes get really red and you can no longer see the white of the eyes or if they look like they have a brown film on them, they’ll need treatment from the vet.
There is some general care you can do to help prevent these problems. Be careful when brushing your pug that no hair gets into its eyes. You should also wipe a pug’s eyes a few times a day with a special eye wipe.
Consult Your Veterinarian
We’ve covered just a few of the common health problems that pugs can have and reviewed some basic care, but it’s important that you pay attention to any changes you notice in your pug and consult your vet if you suspect something might be wrong. Take care of that adorable little ball of wrinkles and it’ll take care of you.