Pug Health Issues

Below is a list of issues that are common in the pug breed. If you suspect any of these conditions in your pug, please see your vet. It is important to have a vet that is familiar with the pug breed.

Bilateral Cataracts

Cataracts are any opaque spot on the lens of the eye, causing at least some loss of vision. Some cataracts are hereditary and some are not. Surgery may help the dog recover some vision.

Corneal Ulcers

Also called indolent ulcer, recurrent corneal erosion, or ulcerative keratitis, ulcers on the eye are most often caused by an initial scratch or injury. They must receive immediate attention or there will be some loss of sight. Ulcers require a vet's attention to determine the best way to proceed with treatment. Some lines of pugs can go through life without an eye problem, while others have chronic problems.



When a Pug has entropion, the eyelids roll in, and the eye lashes or hair rub on the surface of the eye, irritating and causing minor scratches. If left untreated, in time, this can lead to a lessening of eyesight. Surgery can normally correct the problem.


A double row of eyelashes, normally on lower eye, that works much the same way to irritate the eye that is seen in Entropion. Again, surgery is called for because it causes the dog to be very uncomfortable and can go blind. Not life-threatening.

Dry Eye (keratoconjuctivitis sicca)

Dogs with dry eye normally do not have shiny, glistening eyes, but rather have dull and rough-looking eyes. It is caused by the lack of tear production in the eye - either the nerves have failed to stimulate the tear glands, or the tear glands are no longer working, or the ducts that carry the tears to the eyes are blocked. Treatment may help depending on the cause of the problem.

Pigmentary Keratitis

Pigmentary Keratitis is a build up of dark scar tissue on the surface of the eye. It appears as a brown pigment that may gradually cover the eye over time, typically starting in the inner corners of the eye. PK can be caused by numerous things, and can sometimes be caused by nothing. Most often, this is a symptom of some other problem, either dry eye, entropion, or ulcers. It can also be caused by overexposure to the elements. Treatment is the use of Cyclosporine or Tacrolimus eyedrops given once to three times daily to try to remove the pigment. Surgery on the eye can help if the scar tissue is being cause by entropion.
There is a new eye ointment that many ophthalmologists and vets are now prescribing for severe cases of pigmentary keratitis with good results! The new eye ointment is 0.03% Tacrolimus. It is similar to Cyclosporine, but has had better results with actually reducing the pigment on the eye.

Elongated Soft Palate

The soft palate is part of the structure of the nose and mouth. If it gets too long, it can block some of the airway into your Pug's lungs. The only way to determine if your Pug has an elongated palette is to put it under anesthesia and have the vet examine it. Trimming the palate to correct this problem is a major surgery in the Pug.


Technically, encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. It can cause seizures (the most common symptom) in your dog. There is currently a study being done on "Pug Dog Encephalitis" (PDE) because of a form of encephalitis that is only seen in Pugs.

Generalized Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is a general degeneration of the cells of the retina, so that the dog goes blind in mid-life - about five, six or seven years of age. As the problem begins small and gradually gets worse, many owners don't realize their dog is going blind before it does. There is no cure for this genetically inherited disease.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is not exclusively a disease in large breeds. The structure of the hip joint can be malformed in both large and small dogs. In hip dysplasia the head of the femur joint does not sit firmly into the cup of the hip socket, causing the joint to be loose and painful when the dog walks or runs. With small dogs, the onset of problems may not occur until the dog is older, and may never require surgical correction. X-rays can show you the structure of your Pug's hips.

Portosystemic Liver Shunt

Liver shunts typically affect younger dogs, but we have seen it show up in 5 year old pugs as well. Some of the outward symptoms are lethargy, smallness in size, seizures, excessive drooling, head pressing, walking in circles. There are two types of shunts. One is internal and can most often not be corrected with surgery. Internal shunts can sometimes be monitored and controlled through medication and diet. External shunts can usually be fixed through surgery by a certified professional internist. Surgeons no longer just tie off the shunt as this causes too much shock to the dog's system and can result in death. Rather, they use an ameroid constrictor ring to slowly close off the blood vessel and help the dog adjust at a more acceptable rate..

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease

The destruction of the femoral head (ball head) in the hip joint due to an improper blood supply. Normally seen between the ages of six months to one year of age. Treatment calls for the surgical removal of the head of the femur.

Nose Rolls

From time to time you can put a little Vaseline on the edge of the nose of your pug in order to avoid it to get dry. It is VERY important to keep the nose fold clean and dry. Pugs tend to “store” dirt and debris in this area. If left unclean it will cause infection. The fold should be cleaned every few days.

Patellar Luxation in Small Breed Dogs

Luxated patellas or "slipped stifles" are a common orthopedic problem in small dogs. A study of 542 affected individuals revealed that dogs classified as small (adult weight 9 kg (20 lbs) or less) were twelve times as likely to be affected as medium, large or giant breed dogs. In addition, females were 1.5 times as likely to be affected.

Luxated patellas are a congenital (present at birth) condition. The actual luxation may not be present at birth, but the structural changes which lead to luxation are present. Most researchers believe luxated patellas to be heritable (inherited) as well, though the exact mode of inheritance is not known.

The stifle is a complicated joint which is the anatomical equivalent of the human knee. The three major components involved in luxating patellas are the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf or second thigh). In a normal stifle, the femur and tibia are lined up so that the patella rests in a groove (trochlea) on the femur, and its attachment (the patellar tendon) is on the tibia directly below the trochlea.

The function of the patella is to protect the large tendon of the quadriceps (thigh) muscle as it rides over the front of the femur while the quadriceps is used to extend (straighten) the stifle joint. Placing your hand on your patella (knee cap) while flexing and extending your stifle (knee) will allow you to feel the normal movement of the patella as it glides up and down in the trochlea.

Luxation (dislocation) of the patella occurs when these structures are not in proper alignment. Luxation in toy breeds most frequently occurs medially (to the inside of the leg). The tibia is rotated medially (inward) which allows the patella to luxate (slip out of its groove) and ride on the inner surface of the femur.

While the patella is luxated, the quadriceps is unable to properly extend the stifle, resulting in an abnormal gait or lameness. In addition, the smooth surface of the patella is damaged by contact with the femur, rather than the smooth articular (joint) cartilage present in the trochlea. With time this rubbing will result in degenerative joint disease (arthritis). Furthermore, while the patella is luxated, the quadriceps puts a rotational force on the tibia, which over time will increase the rotation of the tibia, thereby increasing the severity of the problem. The additional strain caused by the malformation of the bones may also lead to later ligament ruptures. Many individuals are affected bilaterally (both legs).

Signs of luxation may appear as early as weaning or may go undetected until later in life. Signs include intermittent rear leg lameness, often shifting from one leg to the other, and an inability to fully extend the stifle. The leg may be carried for variable periods of time. Early in the course of the disease, or in mildly affected animals, a hopping or skipping action occurs. This is due to the patella luxating while the dog is moving and by giving an extra hop or skip the dog extends its stifle and is often able to replace the patella until the next luxation, when the cycle repeats. Several grades of luxation have been defined. In simple terms they are:

• Grade I. Patella can be luxated manually (by the examiner) but returns to the trochlea when released. Occasional luxation occurs causing the animal to temporarily carry the limb. Tibial rotation is minimal
• Grade II. Patella can be easily luxated manually and remains luxated until replaced. Luxation occurs frequently for longer periods of time, causing the leg to be carried or used without full extension. Tibial rotation is present.
• Grade III. The patella is permanently luxated, but can be replaced manually. The dog often uses the leg, but without full extension. Tibial rotation is marked.
• Grade IV. The patella cannot be replaced manually, and the leg is carried or used in a crouching position. Extension of the stifle is virtually impossible. Tibial rotation is quite severe, resulting in a "bow legged" appearance.

Diagnosis is relatively simple for a veterinarian familiar with orthopedics. It involves palpation of the joint and manual luxation of the patella. X-rays may also be used to determine the degree of rotation. Motivated owners may be trained by veterinarians to palpate the stifles, but care must be exercised in order to avoid injuring the joint, or making an incorrect diagnosis. Treatment involves surgical correction of the deformities. Many techniques are available depending on the severity of the condition. Satisfactory results are usually obtained if the joint degeneration has not progressed too far. Once the condition is repaired, most affected individuals make satisfactory pets.


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