Pug Specific Issues

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All breeds have medical problems that often are more common in a specific breed. Some medical problems specific to Pugs are as follows:

Elongated Soft Palate: Common in short muzzled breeds, ESP is the obstruction of the dog's airways. The standard snoring of a Pug is a degree of ESP in action, though more severe cases can be heard through sounds such as honking, gasping for air, and the blocking of the dog's vocal box. ESP can be corrected through surgery.

Stenotic Nares: This is a birth defect found in breeds with short noses, including the Pug, and is essentially overly soft nasal tissue. When a dog with overly soft nasal tissue breathes, its nostrils collapse, leaving it to breathe through its mouth to get the necessary oxygen. You can identify a dog with SN by noting a foamy discharge when it breathes or excessive breathing through its mouth when it gets excited. SN can be corrected through surgery.

Collapsing Trachea: Collapsing and hypoplastic (small, narrow) tracheas are usually congenital in Pugs. Affected dogs suffer from a chronic "honking" cough or dyspnea (difficulty breathing) during exercise. These conditions are usually diagnosed on radiograph. Narrowed or collapsed tracheas are very difficult to correct surgically and are usually treated medically with cough suppressants and bronchodilators.

Eye Problems: Pugs are very susceptible to eye problems, including cataracts, ulcers which can occur from a scratch or injury, dry eye, generalized progressive retinal atrophy, pigmentary keratitis, and other eye problems.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy: PRA is the degeneration of the vessels around the retina. It usually begins with night blindness in younger dogs, with vision progressively continuing to deteriorate, eventually leading to blindness.

Pigmentary Keratitis: PK is the deposit of pigment on the white surface of the eyes. It is the result of many factors that either irritate or inflame the cornea. If the factor causing the inflammation or irritation can be identified, PK can be corrected with surgery.

Entropion: This occurs when the eyelids roll in and the eyelashes rub on the surface of the eyes, irritating and causing scratches. If left untreated, this condition can lead to loss of vision and blindness.

Luxating Patella: Commonly referred to as "trick knee," Luxating Patella is fairly common in Pugs and other breeds of small dogs. In simple terms, it is the dislocation of the small movable bone in the knee called the patella from the femur, where it is normally held in place by ligaments. Mild and severe cases are differentiated by the patella falling back into place on its own in mild cases; and in severe cases, the patella will fall out of place frequently, even after being popped back in by a veterinarian. Severe cases normally require surgery, not only to correct the problem and relieve pain, but also to prevent the onset of arthritic conditions associated with Luxating Patella. The surgery is delicate and expensive, though frequently successful. General symptoms of Luxating Patella can be seen in the dog favoring the affected leg when it runs or walks, placing the leg down after several steps. In addition, Pugs affected by it may also have difficulty sitting down and getting up and may run in a bunny-hop style, lifting both legs up at the same time and jetting them outward.

photo credit: Jantoo Cartoons   Cartoonist:  Tony Zuvela    

photo credit: Jantoo Cartoons 

Cartoonist: Tony Zuvela


It is important to note that while Luxating Patella is a genetic condition often found in Pugs, it also can be brought to the forefront and exacerbated by excess weight. Keep in mind as well that a Pug diagnosed with Luxating Patella may or may not require surgery. Some Pugs can and do live their entire lives trouble free with Luxating Patella. Only time will tell whether surgery is necessary.

Pug Dog Encephalitis: Commonly called PDE, Pug Dog Encephalitis is, as the name implies, unique to Pugs. Little if anything is known as to the cause of PDE, which is essentially an inflammation of the brain. PDE tends to affect young to middle aged Pugs and features seizures as its primary symptom. Lethargy or listlessness and loss of muscle coordination can precede the seizures. Accompanying seizures are several symptoms ranging from aggression to pacing in circles to the Pug pressing its head against objects such as walls and people. PDE appears to come in two forms: Slow Progressive and Rapidly Progressing. The Slow Progressive form features seizures that recur in a matter of days or weeks, with the Pug returning to normal after the seizures. Rapidly Progressing PDE features seizures, often more frequently, and disorientation in between seizures. While phenobarbital can be used to control the seizures and Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation, there is no cure for PDE. It is important to note, however, that seizures are not necessarily a sign that your Pug has PDE. Pugs, like many dogs, can have epileptic seizures that can be treated with Phenobarbital and have absolutely nothing to do with PDE.

In spite of the potential medical problems, once you are owned by a Pug, you probably will always have one in your life!

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