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Pug Health

pug dog

Your Pug’s Health

Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed.  That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that they are more at risk than other dogs.

General Health Concerns:

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Pug is more likely than other dogs to have problems with their teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If you don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose their teeth and be in danger of damaging their kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Pug’s lifespan may be cut short by one to three years!  At MVH we will clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.


Obesity can be a significant health problem in Pugs. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when they look at you with those eyes, you can “love them to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats.


All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Pug’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest their skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into their system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Pug is to have her spayed or him neutered. In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.

Genetic Predispositions for Pugs:

Liver Problems

Your Pug is more likely than other dogs to have a liver disorder called portosystemic shunt (PSS). Some of the blood supply that should go to the liver goes around it instead, depriving the liver of the blood flow it needs to grow and function properly. If they have PSS, his/her liver cannot remove toxins from their bloodstream effectively. To check for this problem, we’ll conduct a liver function test in addition to a standard pre-anesthetic panel every time he/she undergoes anesthesia. If they develop symptoms such as stunted growth or seizures, we’ll test their blood and possibly conduct an ultrasound of their liver. Surgery may be needed, but in some cases, this can be managed with a special diet and medication.


Pugs are more prone to an uncommon but serious condition called chylothorax where the chest cavity fills with a milky substance called chyle. In affected dogs, chyle accumulates in the chest cavity because of a faulty lymphatic duct called the thoracic duct. Chylothorax, while rare, is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Often surgery is needed to help manage the disease. Watch for difficulty breathing, coughing or lethargy as these may be the first signs of this disease.

Eye Problems

Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of there eyes. Unfortunately, Pugs can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful!

Because your Pug has eyeballs that naturally protrude, they are more vulnerable to eye injuries. Scrapes or punctures to the cornea are the most common injuries. Not only do they hurt, they can become infected and affect their vision. A damaged cornea is painful and should be treated immediately. Medication and sometimes surgery are required.

Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea. This is an extremely irritating and painful condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. It can happen in any dog breed; however, your Pug is especially at risk for this heritable disorder. Surgical correction is usually successful if performed early.

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, is common in Pugs. The tear glands no longer produce enough tears to keep the eye moist, which results in sore, itchy eyes and infections. Symptoms include a thick discharge, squinting, pawing at the eye, or a dull, dry appearance of the eye. This is a painful condition; please call us immediately if you notice any of these signs. We’ll conduct a tear test when we examine him/her. If he/she has this disease, we’ll prescribe an ointment that you’ll need to apply for the rest of your dog’s life.


Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Pugs have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.  Table foods and obesity have been linked causal agents of diabetes in both cats and dogs.


In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than a sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Pugs often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition


Demodex is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles of dogs. All dogs have them. Normally a dog’s immune system keeps the mites in check, but some breeds, like your Pug, develop an overabundance of these mites. In mild cases, pet owners may notice a few dry, irritated, hairless lesions. These often occur on the face or feet and may or may not be itchy. Secondary skin infections may occur. Prompt veterinary care is important to keep the disease from getting out of hand. Many pets seem to outgrow the problem, while others require lifelong management.

Skin Infections

Your Pug is prone to a form of skin infection called lip-fold or skin-fold pyoderma, which occurs because the folds of skin along the lower jaw are usually moist. Bacteria and yeast can readily gain a foothold and cause a reddened, smelly area that is uncomfortable for your dog. We will examine him for this problem, but let us know if you see signs. We’ll recommend treatment with antibiotics as necessary. When symptoms are severe, the excess skin folds can be surgically removed.

Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME)

GME is an acute, progressive inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) of dogs. It can cause severe and often irreversible damage to the brain. Middle-aged, small breed dogs such as Pugs are more susceptible. The cause is unknown. Three syndromes of GME have been recognized, and symptoms may be acute, leading rapidly to death, or they may chronically progress over several months. Sometimes only the eyes are involved. Treatment includes corticosteroids. Response to therapy is variable and the prognosis is generally poor.

Bone and Joint Problems

A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in Pugs. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering.  Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Pug’s elbows or hips may become a problem for them, especially as they maturer. You may notice that they begins to show lameness in their legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!

Young Pugs may be prone to a painful degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. The exact cause of this condition is still not completely understood, but it is thought to be a problem with blood supply to the hip, which causes the femoral head (the top of the thigh bone) to become brittle and easily fracture. Usually occurring between six and nine months of age, it causes pain and lameness in one or both rear legs, and often requires surgery.

Sometimes your Pug’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that they run along and suddenly pick up a back leg and skip or hop for a few strides. Then they kick their leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and they’re fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.

Spinal Deformities

Pugs are more likely than other canines to be born with spinal deformities (a condition called hemivertebrae), which may lead to spinal cord damage, instability, or disability. We can take X-rays when hehy are young to ensure that we identify problems early because symptoms can worsen with age, weight, and sometimes activity. During their life, if she/he develops symptoms of any back problems, we’ll rule out any other causes, such as a slipped spinal disc or arthritis and may prescribe medication, acupuncture, or rehabilitation.

Mast Cell Tumor

Mast cell tumors are a particularly nasty type of skin cancer found more often in Pugs, and the sooner they are surgically removed the better. Trouble is, they often look just like other kinds of skin lumps and lesions, some of which are harmful, and others not. All suspicious lumps should be tested and any questionable lump should be surgically removed as soon as possible. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, so early detection and removal is critical.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy is a neurologic condition, similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in people, that causes weakness and poor nerve function in the hind legs. It affects Pugs more frequently than other breeds. If your dog has this disease, they will become increasingly weak and disabled in the hind legs and will eventually suffer from paralysis in their hindquarters, along with incontinence. Rehabilitation, exercise, acupuncture, and dietary supplements can be helpful, but there is no cure. A genetic test is available to determine whether your dog is at risk for this heritable disease.

Bladder or Kidney Stones

There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and Pugs are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his urine for telltale signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!

Respiratory Distress Syndrome

This disease, also known as brachycephalic syndrome, affects dogs with a short nose, like your Pug.  They have the same amount of tissue in their nose and throat as the longer-nosed dogs, but there’s no place for it to go. As a consequence, the soft palate (the soft part at the back of the roof of the mouth), is too long and hangs down into the airway. The nostrils are often too small, and sometimes the trachea, or windpipe, is narrow and undersized. All of these things lead to a narrow and obstructed airway. Many of these dogs can barely breathe! Watch for exercise intolerance, loud breathing, coughing, bluish gums, or fainting. With their short nose, they are also more likely to develop other problems, such as flatulence from excessive air intake, pneumonia from aspirating food, or heat stroke. In severe cases, surgical correction may be recommended.


This information is not to scare you away from a great dog and although they may be at risk that does not mean they will inheritant these disorders.  This is to serve as a reference of possibilities and to help guide you on what to look out for.   If you have any questions about your pug, contact us at Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital @ 201-646-2008 or www.meadowlandsvethospital.com and we will help to address them together!

By |January 16th, 2018|

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