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Pug Dog Health

General Pug Health Overview

The average life span of a Pug is 12 to 15 years and offering a good plan of health care can help a Pug live to his full life expectancy.

The Pug is actually a rather healthy breed and many of the issues that the Pug is prone to is due to his body structure. 
When owners are aware of the health problems that this breed is prone to, preventative measures can keep conditions at bay or at least allow the Pug to receive early treatment which offers the best chance of good recovery

In this section we will discuss the following aspect of Pug dog health concerns:
  • Signs of General Good Health 
  • Steps to Keep Your Pug Healthy 
  • Diseases and Conditions that this Breed is Prone to 
Pug dog with resting with eyes closed
Signs of Health Concerns | Warning Signs of Illness  

Temperature: One of the most effective methods of determining if your dog is ill is to take his or her temperature.
The normal temperature of any breed of dog is between 101 and 102 degrees (38.3 to 38.8 Celsius). For canines, temperate is taken rectally. If your Pug dog has a fever, this is concern that warrants an immediate veterinarian checkup.

Discharge: If you see unusual and excessive discharge from the ears, mouth, nose or eyes this is also a warning sign. Some discharge is normal and you will certainly see some debris of various colors when cleaning the ears, however a noticeable increase is a reason to have your dog examined by a veterinarian.

Odor: When a dog is sick he may have a strange smell that emits from the ears or mouth. Infection in wrinkles that produces a bad odor is another possible issue as well. Read more: Pug dog skin problems
Breathing: It will be normal for your Pug to pant a bit in hot weather or during exercise. With this breed, there needs to be a balance between providing enough activity to promote good health and overexertion. If your Pug is panting very heavy, making wheezing noises or seemingly struggling to breath normally, this is a sign of one of the issues below that are common to the breed.

Time spent walking, playing outside, running around, etc. should be limited to 1 hour intervals of minimal activity or 30 minutes of moderate exercise, no more than 2 times per day...And this should be avoided during very hot temperatures or the extreme cold.

Changes in Behavior: If a Pug is experiencing pain or is ill, there is often decreased appetite, reluctance to exercise, restlessness and/or changes in sleep patterns.
Pug dog running with ball
Common Pug Dog Health Problems
 
Each dog breed is prone to certain canine diseases and health issues. 

The Pug is among a group of breeds that are brachycephalic. This refers to a head shape in which the skull bones are short in length giving the dog a 'pushed in' appearance in the facial region. The skull is compacted to enough of a degree that it affects structural elements and soft tissue in such a way as to cause respiratory and other problems.

The following are conditions that are very common with the Pug dog; however this does not mean that your Pug will be affected by any of them. 
Conscientious owners should be aware of what can develop with this breed in order to spot problems early. This gives the Pug better chance at successful treatment and recovery.
Elongated Soft Palate

The soft palate is the soft part in the back of the dog's mouth and when it grows further back than normal and extends into a Pug's larynx this is referred to as elongated soft palate. The misplaced palate blocks the entrance to the dog's windpipe. It is one of the common reasons that a Pug may have breathing problems.

Symptoms

One or more of the following are clinical signs:
  • Loud snoring - These sorts of noised both when awake and when asleep
  • Stertor - A low pitched respiratory noise that sounds like gasping. A veterinarian can detect where exactly this sound is emanating from using a stethoscope. If it is directly above the larynx, this points to a case of elongated soft palate.
  • Excessive Panting
  • Trouble breathing during exercise
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Poor oxygenation levels manifesting as blue gums and/or blue tongue
  • Collapse or fainting (in severe cases)
  • Gagging or dry heaving - Sometimes seen with young Pug puppies. This may happen when eating or drinking.
Note:

1) The above signs may be worse when the Pug is excited, stressed or being active.

2) Even minor cases should not be passed off as something that is common with the Pug and therefore acceptable. Dogs with this are susceptible to gastric irritation, food in the airway, aspiration pneumonia and secondary bacterial infections.

Diagnosis and Treatment
  • The mouth and throat need to be examined and in some cases a Pug will be evaluated while under general anesthesia because the examination can cause too much stress.
  • Blood gases will be checked to look at blood pH and CO2 concentration
  • X-rays may be taken to detect any secondary problems with the trachea, lungs and diaphragm
  • This is almost always treated with surgery that shortens the palate, thus freeing the airway from blockage. Most dogs need to stay in the veterinary hospital for 48 hours afterward and it can take several weeks for this to heal. Prognosis is good and is more favorable with younger dogs.
Stenotic Nares 

This is also known as pinched nostrils and it describes a condition in which the nostrils of the nose are smaller than normal. This makes airflow via the passageway to the lungs more difficult. This condition is very common with the Pug.

Diagnosis and Treatment

This is very easily diagnosed with visual inspection.

This is fixed with surgery that widens the nasal passageways. With puppies, this condition may worsen during the time of teething, so in some cases surgical treatment will be postponed until the Pug has grown out of the teething phase.

Many Pug dogs with this also have the above palate issues. Often, both issues are fixed at the same time.

Collapsed Trachea

There are rings of cartilage that surround the windpipe. When these collapse inward, it is referred to as Collapsed Trachea.

Signs and Symptoms

This health issue has a very distinct honking sounding cough. It may become worse when the Pug exercises, becomes excited or if the weather is hot and humid. 

There is often labored breathing and the gums can sometimes turn blue due to lack of oxygen. A dog may also have trouble drinking or eating.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Many vets can diagnose this simply by hearing that distinct honking noise. X-rays can confirm that the tracheal rings have collapsed.
Minor to moderate cases - Some Pugs can have satisfactory improvement with treatments of anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants, bronchodilators, and/or antibiotics.

A harness must be used whenever the dog is on leash so that no pressure is put on the neck. This is always recommended for this breed and the use of a harness may prevent this health problem from developing.

Severe cases - When medicine does not help and the condition is grave, surgery can be done to try and correct this. While many types of operations have been done in the past, prosthetic polypropylene rings inserted into the exterior of the dog's trachea is the treatment of choice for most specialists. This has a success rate of 80% and is most successful when the dog is under the age of 6 years old.
Everted Laryngeal Saccules

There are membranes (saccules) on the laryx and with this health condition, they swell out, causing an obstruction to the airway.

Signs:
  • Coughing - Sometimes so severe that the dog vomits
  • Trouble breathing
This can develop very quickly. Some Pugs will appear fine and within just a few days, the membranes will swell so badly that surgery will be needed to save the dog's life.

Diagnosis and Treatment

While this may initially be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, moderate to severe cases will need corrective surgery to remove the saccules that are causing the problem. In many cases, a Pug with Everted Laryngeal Saccules also has Elongated Soft Palate and both issues can be corrected at the same time.
Healthy Pug dog
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

This is the term given when a Pug has Stenonic Nares, Collapsed Trachea and Everted Laryngeal Saccules all at the same time. It can seem overwhelming to an owner and of course, all 3 issues will put a lot of stress on the Pug. In many cases, all three conditions can be corrected during one medical procedure.


Luxating Patella

This is a condition in which the knee cap slips out of place. The weakening of knee ligaments is thought to be a genetic issue and this can also be caused by injury.

Many times a dog will only feel pain at the time of the initial slippage, often not showing signs of distress until hours or even days later when swelling develops causing much more discomfort. This happens very quickly, often when a dog is running or when jumping down from a certain height.
Signs of this are:
  • Letting out a sudden "yelp", stumbling a bit but then recovering quickly (during the moment of dislocation and before swelling develops)
  • Limping - Walking with an odd gait, favoring one leg over the other
  • Resisting exercise, walking or other activities
  • Yelping or showing signs of pain when manipulated or picked up (sometimes a dog will not feel much pain until he moves or is moved)
Diagnosis and Treatment

This is confirmed with an x-ray although some veterinarians are able to know that the patella has slipped just by examining the dog. Sometimes, the knee can be manipulated back into place and in some cases, it will have slipped back by itself, yet ligaments and surrounding tissue needs to heal in order for it to stay in place. In this instances, bed rest and anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed.

Bed rest will be important for the Pug to recover and it can be quite taxing for the owner help a Pug that is restless from being confined. It can help to set up a small enclosed area in a room that allows a Pug to see and hear his human family. Offering lots of toys and having family members take turns talking to the Pug can help offset loneliness and frustration that develops when movement is restricted.

With moderate to severe cases, surgery may need to be performed. Each case is different and with some Pugs surgery is recommended sooner than later if it is thought that arthritic problems may set in.
Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic health condition hat involves a degenerate of the hip joint and socket. Though Pugs are born with this, signs may not appear for several months and up to one year. With his barrel shaped body and so much compacted weight putting pressure on the hip area, this condition can worsen quickly.

Symptoms

Two of the most common signs are:
  • Limping - There may be some difficulty walking, trouble rising from a down position and/or intolerance for activity as the dog struggles with his gait. 
  • Clicking - The hip may make a clicking noise when the dog moves (mostly when he walks) and this is most common with puppies that are born with this condition. 
Diagnosis and Treatment

This is diagnosed via x-ray and the extent of the dislocation can be determined. There are many non-invasive treatment options that can help a Pug recover enough to be mobility and free of pain. Read more: Pug Hip Dysplasia
Eye Problems 

Due to his large, bulging eyes, this breed is vulnerable to debris irritating the eye or causing scratches.

There are some eye conditions that can affect Pug dogs including PRA and PK (Pigmentary Keratitis). Read more:Pug Eye Problems

Gas Issues

Due to a combination of being a fast eater and having a sensitive stomach, this breed is known for having problem with flatulence. 
Pug puppy with big eyes
Aside from the obvious element of produces bad odors, this can cause a Pug to have real issues with bloating, cramps and discomfort that are associated with extra air bubbles in his stomach and intestines. Read More:Pug Gas Problems
A Rare but Serious Pug Dog Disease - Encephalitis 

Encephalitis is the medical term for a swelling of the brain. This, in turn, causes seizures, lethargy and loss of muscle control. This is a neurological disorder, which is the leading cause of death for the Pug breed. (See: Life Span) 

This most often strikes Pugs that are between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. 

This disease presents itself in 1 of 2 forms: Slow progressive and rapid progressive.

When a Pug dog is having a seizure, he may look into space, circle around and around, stumble, breath very hard, seem confused, be very weak and in some cases, fall to the ground.

If you suspect that your dog is having a seizure, this should be diagnosed by your dog’s vet right away. Anti-seizure mediation may be used and surgery may need to be performed to control possible swelling of the brain.
Keeping Your Pug Healthy

Here are some tips that owners can follow to keep a Pug healthy:
  • Keeping the Pug at healthy weight- This breed is prone to being overweight. With a short stocky and barrel shaped body, excess fat puts a lot of stress on the body. This can put wear and tear on the knees and hips that can lead to serious conditions. Even small changes can make a big difference. Add 5 minutes to the daily walk and switch out manufactured treats for raw baby carrots. 
  • A daily check - Schedule 5 minutes per day to do a full body check. Check the eyes, ears, mouth, and paws for any issues. Go over the coat, checking for any signs of redness or hot spots. Take note of your Pug's gait to check for any limping (or favoring of one leg over the other). 
  • A healthy diet - If there is one element that will keep a Pug healthy, it is a balance diet. Manufactured food can cause issues ranging from stomach distress to allergic reactions. Home cooking is an option that gives an owner complete control over what (and what not) a dog is ingesting. Read more: Best foods for Pugs.
  • Grooming - Proper grooming techniques can keep so many problems away including skin infection, ear infection and diseased teeth. Daily dental care and cleaning of the wrinkles and weekly ear care can help prevent issues.
You may also be interested in:

Pug Dog Bad Breath - Reasons why a Pug's breath can get stinky and at-home remedies to fix this. 
Pug Dog Bloat - While this breed is not among the top 12 breeds most at risk, this is a serious and sometimes fatal bloating and/or twisting of the stomach. 
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