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Pug Dog Hip Dysplasia


This is a genetic condition that affects the dog's hip joint and socket. Some Pugs are born with very mild cases that will not cause problems until the dog jumps from a certain height or runs just a certain way. With others, clinical signs gradually develop at the dog matures.

There is some evidence that suggests that if a dog is genetically prone to this, a healthy life style and proper care may prevent this from actually developing.

What This Is

The dog's hip joint forms the attachment from the hind leg to the body. It consists of a ball and a socket joint. There is connective tissue and ligaments that surround this to create secure, strong protection of the area. For cushioning, there is a layer of cartilage. Finally, the body keeps this all lubricated with natural fluids.

When there is no problem, the ball sits nicely in the socket. The lubrication, ligaments and cushioning via the cartilage all work together to allow the dog to be very mobile. The hip joint rotates as needed for the dog to walk, run and otherwise have normal movement.

Hip Dysplasia is the term used for when this entire system malfunctions. This can include:
  • Abnormal joint structure - The ball does not sit properly into the socket, there are bone spurs that prevent it from fitting correctly or it is the wrong size.
  • Weakened support - The connective tissues, muscles and surrounding ligaments may weaken causing instability. 
  • Subluxation - The two bones within the hip joint become separated.
  • This may affect just one side or both. With most Pug dogs that only shows problems with one hip, the other will be affected however to a lesser degree. 

Age of Onset

Pugs with hip dysplasia are born with this; however it may not always show at a very young age. In many cases, there is a gradual wearing down or in some cases, it is triggered by a certain movement or by injury to the area (such as impact).

Most Pugs will begin to show symptoms between the ages of 4 months and 1 year old.

It may appear to come on suddenly or you may notice subtle clues that worsen over time. 

In rare cases, a Pug may live with hip problems for years and only when it transitions from minor to moderate will the dog show signs of decreased mobility and pain.


It is clear when there is a case of hip dysplasia; you will notice a change in how your Pug dog walks and moves. He will have one or more of the following signs:
  • Signs of having pain when walking, running or exercising 
  • Limping and favoring one leg over the other - This is often referred to as a 'bunny hop' type gait 
  • Signs of stiffness in the hind leg 
  • Trouble climbing stairs 
  • Hesitation to play, jump, walk, run or exercise as normal 
  • Trouble rising from a down position - often seen after the condition progresses 
  • Inability to walk - Seen in late stages if the dog has not been treated

How this is Diagnosed

Hip dysplasia in Pug dogs is diagnosed with x-rays and a physical examination. The leg will be manipulated to see which positions may cause pain. It is considered to be relatively easy to diagnose.


The main goal is to avoid surgery unless absolutely necessary as it is a long and costly procedure with a long recovery period. There are many non-invasive treatments for Pugs with hip dysplasia that all work together to help the dog recover:

1) Weight Management - This breed is prone to carrying too much weight and excess pounds puts a lot of pressure on a weakened hip. The Pug will be evaluated to see he should lose weight and be put on a diet. For some those that are overweight, even 5 pounds (2.26 kg) can make a huge difference.

This is done with a gradual reduction of calories while still feeding good quantities since Pugs have a hearty appetite. Adding fresh vegetables to meals such as peas and carrots can bulk up meals with low calorie ingredients is one way to help. 

You may want to home cook using skinless white chicken meat, rice and plenty of vegetables and fruit or you may wish to opt for a quality low calorie manufactured dog food. Do be careful on which brand you choose, since some that are labeled 'lite' contain too many carbohydrate fillers that will leave a Pug hungry an hour later. For treats, offer low calorie healthy snacks so that a Pug can still enjoy the extra attention that comes with rewards in between meals. 

2) Walking - The tricky part about exercise being part of the treatment plan for hip dysplasia in Pug dogs is that the condition causes pain and trouble with mobility which makes it hard for a Pug to move enough to be able to call it 'exercise'. Owners wonder why they should walk a Pug that has trouble walking. However, this will strengthen the muscles that surround the hip joint and increase range of motion.

If a Pug is not exercised just about each day, this condition often worsens and the body becomes even weaker.

Once the veterinarian has determined that taking the dog for walks should be part of the treatment plan, a daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes is often best. It is a low impact exercise that many times will eventually bring about improvement.

3) Proper sleeping area - Pugs lie down a lot; if you count up the hours that this breed sleeps, naps and rests, it can be up toward 18 hours per day. During all of this time, if he is lying down on the wrong type of bed, it can put a lot of pressure on the affected hip.

A quality orthopedic bed is a must for any dog with hip dysplasia. It will provide the correct support for the body by distributing weight and reducing pressure on the hips.
4) Massage - Just like you love to have your back rubbed if it is sore, dogs can greatly benefit from massage when there are problems in the hip area. It can increase blood flow, relieve pain and relax aching muscles.

Some Pugs will not want to be touched; in cases like this you would start off very gentle and only for a short amount of time (1 or 2 minutes). As the dog learns that massage helps make him feel better, he is often then more tolerant to this treatment.

Most vets advise to use your fingertips to make small circling motions over the area, only kneading moderately deep. Carving out a certain time each day to do this can be part of a solid treatment plan.

5) Supplements - There are several supplements that can increase joint health. These include:
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel)
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (or Omega 3,6,9)
6) Medication - Along with the changes above that owners can make at home, there are medication that are normally given to Pugs with hip dysplasia.

Anti-inflammatories are often used. With this sort of hip problem, there is generally a lot of internal swelling. When those tissues swell, it often causes more pain and decreased mobility.

Non-steroid options are often tried first. These include Carprofen, etodolac, deracoxib, firocoxib tepoxalin , or meloxicam. Dogs with liver problems should not take these medications. Since these are non-steroid options, a Pug can take this at the proper dosing for a relatively long time, usually without any bad side effects.

If there is not enough relief, Corticosteroid may be prescribed by the vet. These can have undesirable side effects and for this reason they are only used on a short term basis.

Surgical Treatment

When a Pug dog does not respond to all of the combined non-invasive treatments, is in a lot of pain and mobility is greatly affected, surgery may be the last course of action.

There are several types:

1- Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis. This is usually only done on puppies under the age of 5 months old, before bones are done growing. Pelvic bones are fused together which changes the angle of the hips.

2- Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO). Done when a dog is under 12 months old, this involves surgically breaking the pelvic bone and repositioning the femoral head of the hind leg.

3- Femoral Head and Neck Excision. The head of the femur bone is removed and an artificial joint replaces the hip. Range of motion is decreased however when this is successful dogs are free of pain.

4- Total Hip Replacement: This is the most aggressive operation in which the entire hip socket and joint is replaced with a prosthesis. It is only done on adult dogs that are fully mature and will not have any more growth.


Now that we learned how terrible this condition can be and how much pain it can cause a Pug dog, let's look at steps that you can take to try and prevent this.

1) Proper breeding practices - This is a genetic disease and if all dogs were properly screened before breeding, hip dysplasia would be extremely rare. Breeders should have all Pugs in a breeding program OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and PennHIP (University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) certified. These facilities will test the dogs to ensure that they do not have the genetic markers to pass this condition to resulting litters.

2) Keep Your Pug at a Healthy Weight - Staying at a healthy weight he biggest impact on whether or not a Pug that is genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the condition.

This breed has a very healthy appetite and will eat all day if allowed. Food should be planned and smaller meals spread throughout the day are best. When a Pug is a puppy, he should be given low calorie snacks like raw baby carrots and other vegetables so that he develops a taste for them.
3) Provide the right balance of exercise - Too much exercise during the first year has been shown to be a contributing factor. With this said, it is still very important to exercise your Pug puppy so that his muscles develop properly.

The main key is to exercise your Pug every day (twice is best) with brisk walks. Total walking per day should be 45 to 60 minutes.

4) Limit jumping- Do not encourage any activity that involves jumping from too high of a distance. This includes having your dog leap off outdoor objects such as large rocks to catch things in the air or jumping off of furniture. Pugs should not jump off sofas, owner's beds, chairs or any other items that is higher than the dog's own height. If a Pug has some favorite spots that do require a leap off, it's best to place a ramp there.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, you'll love The GIANT Book of Pug Care (available in both hard copy & eBook)
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How to Control Pug Shedding - This breed does shed a lot; however, there are some effective ways to control the shed. 
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