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Pug Dog Eyes

Pug dog with big eyes
Photo courtesy of owner Srinivas


When you have a Pug dog, you need to keep a close eye on the eyes. Because of the shape of this breed's cranium, the eyes protrude from the face...This makes them vulnerable to scratches, infections and other health issues.

Since it's so important to keep the eyes clean and to recognize eye problems in the beginning stages, Let's discuss:
  • The most common eye problems 
  • How you can avoid them 
  • Proper care and cleaning 
  • Knowing when to go to the veterinarian 
  • Common Pug-specific eye diseases

Cherry Eye 

This happens when a dog's third eyelid slips out of place and bulges out. The inside corner of the eye will have a rather large pink or red bump that takes covers the normal sclera (the white part of the eye). 

It is thought that this develops due to a weakening of connective tissues.

It very rarely happens to both eyes at the same time, however once it happens to one eye, it is common for it to happen to a Pug's other eye within a few months. 

It is important to have it treated as soon as possible, since the longer the gland remains out of place, the more swelling will occur, potentially leading to other, more serious problems in the future.
This does not often resolve itself and will need to be treated with a relatively simple surgery in which a small piece of the gland is removed. 

The remaining tissue will be sutured back into its proper place. Recovery is often fast and most Pugs will not have this issue again with the eye that was treated. Since it does so frequently affect the 2nd eye in the relative future, some veterinarians will recommend performing this procedure on both eyes at the same time as a preventive measure.


The Pug dog is very prone to irritation or inflammation to the eyes because of the way in which the eyes are set to protrude from the face of the dog. Veterinarians will refer to this as Uveitis. It can happen because of:
  • Elements that go into the eye/s
  • Disease
The symptoms are:
  •     Excessive blinking/ squinting
  •     Excessive water discharge/ tearing
  •     Sensitivity to bright lights
  •     The eye color may begin to appear "dull" or even bluish in color
  •     Redness may occur
  •     The eye may become swollen, either upper, lower or both
Diagnosis and Treatment

The veterinarian will examine the Pug dog's eye with an instrument that allows him to see the interior of the eyeball.

Blood tests may need to be perform if the cause is not apparent.

Anti-inflammatory medication will be given if the eye is swollen. Antibiotics will be given is there is an infection or reason to believe an infection may develop.

Eye drops may be given to help with pain. If a disease such as Lyme disease, brucellosis or other is deemed the cause, treatment will vary according to the health issue. 
Pug dog wearing sunglasses

Dry Eye

Known officially as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye can be a common pug eye problem. There is a natural film that protects the eyes. If that clear film gets a tear or rip in it, the cornea of the dog's eye will no longer be protected. 

This film can also slowly degrade from undernourishment.  
This health issue with a casual name can actually be very painful. The eye will become so dry that it stings terribly and if not treated will interfere with eyesight.

  • This is also sometimes referred to as "Brown eye", as the eye may develop a brown tinted film 
  • Scar tissue may appear on the dog's eye 
  • Blood vessels may grow rapidly throughout the dog's eye, spiraling out and becoming so thick that you cannot see any white (the sclera).
  • An injury to the eye that tears the film
  • Not receiving enough nourishment
Other less common reasons:
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Infections
  • Side effect from medication

The treatment for dry eye is a 3 part process. The dog will be given eye drops for extra lubrication to the eye, medicine will be given for swelling and infection and medication will be given to stimulate natural tears. In rare cases, surgery must be done to fix the tear duct if damaged.

Corneal Ulcers

The cornea is the clear, shiny membrane, which makes up the surface of the eyeball. The cornea is made of 3 layers: The epithelium, the stroma, and the deepest layer is Descemet's membrane. When these layers wear down, this is called a corneal ulcer or a corneal abrasion.

A corneal ulcer is erosion through the whole epithelium and into the stroma. If the erosion goes through the epithelium and stroma to the level of Descemet's membrane (the very deepest layer), it is termed: descemetocele. If Descemet's membrane ruptures, the liquid that is normally inside of the eyeball leaks out and the eye actually collapses.


There are several causes for corneal ulcers in dogs. The most common is trauma. An ulcer may result from an injury, for example if a Pug dog rubs his eye too harshly on something or a foreign object scratches the eye.

The second most common cause is chemical burn of the dog's cornea. This may happen when irritating shampoo gets into the Pug’s eye. For this reason, it is strongly suggested to only use a gentle canine shampoo (never use human shampoo) and to be as careful as possible that any shampoo or conditioner does not enter into the Pug dog's eyes while you are bathing him.

Other, rarer, reasons are bacterial infections, viral infections, and other diseases. These may begin in the dog’s eye or develop elsewhere and then affect the eye.

Some diseases that may have a link to this include Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (a drying of the cornea that happens when there is an abnormal tear formation), and diseases of the endocrine system (diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, and hypothyroidism).

  • A corneal ulcer can cause a Pug to be in a lot of pain. In reaction to pain, most dogs rub the affected eye with their paw or will try to rub it against surfaces, just as their blanket or the carpeting in an effort to find relief.
  • A dog may try to protect his eye, by keeping his eyes closed.
  • In some cases, there will be a discharge that puddles in the corner of the dog’s eye. It may stay there for a while and then eventually run down the dog’ face.
  • To protect the eye, they keep the lids tightly closed. Occasionally, there will be a discharge that collects in the corner of the eye or runs down the face.

Mild, superficial corneal abrasions are usually not visible to the human eye. However, a veterinarian will be able to spot this using a luorescein stain.

The vet usually numbs the dog's eye first and then puts a drop of this stain on the dog's cornea.

The dye will stick to an area of ulceration and then it is easily seen using a special black light called a Wood's light.

This is the most basic test performed and may be the only test needed if the ulcer is mild and is acute (meaning it will heal on its own).

If the ulcerated area is severe or chronic (meaning it is continual and does not heal on its own), a biopsy is usually taken before applying the stain or any other medication.
Treatment depends on whether there is a corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer, or descemetocele. 

Corneal abrasions generally heal on their own in 3-5 days. Medication is used to prevent bacterial infections. This medication will be antibiotic ophthalmic drops or ointment. To help a dog with the pain, a pain reliving medication such as atropine ophthalmic drops or ointment will be given.

Antibiotic drops must be applied 5 to 6 times per day. The ointment requires application every few hours. Atropine, the mediation for the pain, is usually given 2 times per day. This medication can make a dog very sensitive to bright lights. It is suggested to keep lights dim and to not go outside into the bright sunlight while being treated.

If a Pug has a corneal ulcer or descemetocele, steps are taken to protect the eye and to help with the healing. In these severe cases, surgery is performed to close the eyelids and cover the ulcer or descemetocele. 
Pug dog looking up
Lil Louie 
Photo courtesy of owner Sandra Elias
This ensures that the eye will be properly protected. If both eyes are affected, one eye may be closed in this way for several days, and then the other eye will be done, so that the dog may see from at least 1 eye at a time.

When an ulcers is not healing as it should, there can be a buildup of dead cells on the rim of the ulcer. These dead cells stop normal cells from the corneal surface from moving over the ulcer's edge and filling in the tear.

If this happens, the dead cells are removed from the edges of the ulcer before the eyelids are surgically closed. In some cases, removing the dead cells may be all that is needed to start the healing process, so surgical closing of the eyelids may not need to be done.

A checkup should be done about 7 days after this treatment, with the stain test, to see if the dog’s corneal ulcer has healed.
Abrasion Vs Ulcer - Sometimes, a dog will be diagnosed with a simple abrasion that is in fact, an ulcer.

After 2-3 days of treatment, your dog should be reexamined to be sure that healing is progressing as it should. If not, this may mean that the dog has a more serious ulcer and treatment should begin for that.

Care and Proper Cleaning

With such big gorgeous eyes that protrude out from the face, a huge part of taking care of your Pug will be to guard the eyes against irritants and to keep them clean.

Removing Something from the Eye

While you can't do much about sand and other particles getting into the eyes, you can check them each time you enter back into the house. If you see a piece of debris in your Pug's eye, you'll want to remove it. Here's how:
female Pug looking up with big eyes
Photo courtesy of The Proffitt Family
1) Use a sterile canine eye cleaning solution.

2) Use your fingers to open the eye, gently pushing both upper and lower lids open wider.

3) Squeeze 4 to 5 drops into the cup of the lower lid.

4) Let go of your Pug and allow him to blink. As he does, a combination of the solution and tears will spill out from his eye. Be sure to swipe this up with a clean piece of gauze.

Daily Wiping

Here are some tips to provide daily care for your Pug's eyes:

1) It is during grooming that debris can often inadvertently end up in a Pug's eye. When cleaning the ears, take care so that ear cleaning solution does not splash in your Pug's eyes. 

When brushing, take care that hairs do not float into the eyes; a shedding Pug can create hundreds if not thousands of dead hairs per day and the brush can make these airborne.  Use a stroke of down and out. Take breaks often to free the brush of hairs.
2) Several times per day the entire area should be wiped. You can use baby wipes or canine eye wipes. You'll want to do this in the morning if your Pug tends to accumulate 'eye gook'. After feeding meals, wipe the area to remove any small food particles. (The wrinkles should be wiped as well). Use one wipe per eye, throwing away a sullied piece and using a new, clean one for each eye. 

3) Take note of any excessive discharge, irritation or other signs of problems and have the veterinarian have a look since most problems can be more easily treated during the beginning stages before swelling and other secondary problems develop.

Reader Q&A

Can a Pug dog's eyes pop out? It is a popular myth that this is a common occurrence. However, there is no medical reason why a Pug's eye would pop or fall out unless a very serious injury occurred to make this happen. 

This breed does have large, protruding eyes, however they are held into place by ligaments just as any other dog, or human for that matter. The ligaments are just as strong as with any other canine.
My Pug was just stung in the eye by a bee! It's unbelievably swollen. What should I do?

A bee sting, to any part of the body, is enough of a problem already. Canines can be allergic to the venom just as humans can. Hives and trouble breathing are just two concerns and while Benadryl can be given for minor reactions, the risk of anaphylactic shock is a concern that should be in the mind of all owners.

With a sting right to the eye, this presents a whole new set of concerns.

If the bee stung the Pug directly in the eyeball, the stinger could have caused a laceration or perforating injury to the cornea or sclera; something that needs immediate treatment at the vet's. Even if the stinger entered into the eye area (lid, surrounding skin), severe swelling is a sign of allergic reaction. For these reasons, we'd suggest immediately contacting the veterinarian. 
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