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Why pugs can unfortunately no longer be considered 'typical dogs'

Pugs are of course cute and a firm favourite with many, but those adorable little faces come with an abundance of serious health problems. Only yesterday a client came in to the clinic thinking their precious pug was having a panic attack, it was in fact the result of the wee dog going out and playing with another dog and now struggling to breathe after exerting itself for only a few minutes. It was heart breaking seeing the panic in the little dogs face as he struggled to gasp and pant for air after a short play.

New studies have confirmed Pugs can no longer be considered 'typical' as their inbreeding has lead them to suffer such severe health conditions. Their appearance has altered so dramatically from the mainstream dog.

Pugs are far more likely to suffer from breathing problems, heat stroke, eye and skin problems and hip/ knee problems.

Here are a list of some problems Pugs are prone to and how many more times than the typical dog.

  • BOAS (click for .more info) , Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome 54x

  • Narrow nostrils 51x,

  • Corneal ulcers 13x

  • Skin fold dermatitis 11x

  • Obesity 2.5x

  • Overgrown nails 2x

The pug is a brachycephalic breed, and this means their facial structure puts them at a much higher risk of health conditions. These issues cause growing concerns to animal welfare. Research shows they are at increased risk of 23 common conditions out of 40.

While the length of the skeletal muzzle is greatly reduced the size of the soft tissues within this structure are not. This causes overcrowding which therefore leads to partial obstruction of the throat. This means they have to put more effort into breathing which can lead to further swelling of these tissues causing them to collapse further. If this cycle continues they can develop fluid in the lungs, reduced oxygen uptake causing increased blood pressure and even heart failure.

Heat stroke in more common in pugs and bull dogs. Dogs do not sweat like humans, they lower their temperature by panting. Dogs with longer noses like a labrador are able to pass air quickly over the throat and nose and cool down from evaporation of saliva and moisture as the air passes over the tongue and oral tissues in the mouth and nose. In dogs with very short noses the airways become inflamed and swollen as they pant causing greater obstruction and the dog can overheat. this in severe cases can be fatal. Click for more information.

Narrow nostrils, also known as stenotic nares occur when the nostrils are pinched/ narrowed causing difficulty breathing which can cause panting. It is a congenital abnormality which can be improved with surgery.

Corneal ulcers occur from erosion to the surface of the cornea, causing oedema. They are often the consequence of trauma which is more common in the pug due to the eyes protruding more therefore having less protection. These ulcers are painful and are sometimes mild and fast healing but can get very deep at times and potentially the eye ball can rupture causing irreparable damage. In extreme cases the eye ball needs removed.

Skin fold dermatitis occurs when an infection forms in a pocket between 2 folds of skin. A common area in the pug is in the face folds where the skin is warm and moist. Initially owners usually notice the smell the infection produces usually from a secondary fungal infection. The skin becomes red and painful. Skin fold dermatitis can be minimised by regular cleaning of folds and keeping them dry. If your dog develops dermatitis they will likely need treatment from your vet.

Obesity is detrimental to your animals health whatever the breed. Pugs can be greedy dogs and will often over eat. Physical activity plays an important part in weight control and many pugs have limited exercise tolerance due to respiratory problems so cant exercise as much as other breeds. Shorter more frequent walks are better, with stimulating play time.

It has been shown an obese dog lives 1.8years less than a lean one. The respiratory problems associated with BOAS will only worsen when overweight and they will struggle further the breathe. Heat intolerance (click for info) is far more common in over weight Pugs and can be life threatening at times.

Not is all doom and gloom for the breed, they have shown to be at lower risk of heart murmurs and aggression. The findings were that their disease predispositions were more common than disease protections and this confirmed the hypothesis that there are many critical health/ welfare challenges that pugs must overcome.

It has recently been revealed that pugs are among the dog breeds with he shortest life expectancy at 7.7 years.

While a Pug is a fantastic, intelligent, companion and very loving dog, be aware if you are looking into getting one or already have one, that there are many conditions to be aware of and monitor for. Also owning a pug is not a cheep business, not only the initial purchase price should be considered but the high chance of vet visits and treatments required through their life.

The Kennel club has rated the Pug as a 'Category 3' breed, the highest category due to their physical conformation and inbreeding meaning they are very likely to suffer from serious health and welfare issues.

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