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Senior Pug Dogs

Older, Senior Pug Dogs

If you have an older Pug, it just seems like yesterday when he or she was a hyper little puppy, right? Or perhaps you just adopted an older Pug who needed a loving home. Our Pugs grow up so very fast, and of course you want to give them the very best of care.

Many elements of proper Pug care change when your Pug becomes a “senior”.

Toy breed dogs become seniors sooner than larger dogs. When will your dog be considered a senior Pug?

While veterinarians may vary their opinions by a year or so in either direction; it's safe to say a Pug is considered a “senior” by the age of 9 years old.
So, what can you do to make sure that the correct care is being given? What changes do you have to make to keep your Pug healthy and happy? You may be surprised. Let’s take a look at:
  • What a Geriatric screening is all about 
  • Changes in your Pug that you must keep an eye out for 
  • Why Anesthesia needs change for an older Pug 
  • Dental Care
  • Exercise Changes 
  • Grooming the older Pug
  • Mobility Issues
  • Food & Water 
  • Supplements for a senior Pug
  • Vaccination information
What you Must Know About Geriatric Screenings 

When your Pug is about 9 years old, he or she will have new experiences at the veterinarian. The vet will begin to do Geriatric Screenings. This means that additional tests will be added to regular checkups to look for any issues that may affect an older Pug.
Senior Pug dog with serious face
In general, a geriatric screening of your dog will include: (1) a thorough, hands-on physical exam; (2) blood tests; (3) possibly an electrocardiogram; (4) specialized tests depending on your dog's health history.

Some vets advise semi-annual visits once your dog becomes a senior. An annual visit is an absolute minimum. In between visits to the vet and annual geriatric screenings, you can stay alert to behavioral changes and other signs of aging.
Physical and Clinical Signs to Watch Out for With an Older Pug

• Sudden weight loss can be extremely serious. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

• Serious  loss of appetite to the point that your Pug is eating almost nothing. See your vet right away.

• Increase in appetite without increase in weight may mean diabetes. Get to the vet as soon as possible.

• Chronic constipation or diarrhea and vomiting, if it lasts more than a day can be a sign of many problems. Don't wait to see the vet.

• Increased thirst, without a change in activity level, and increased urination are other signs of diabetes. Your dog should be tested as soon as possible.

• Tiring more quickly than when younger is normal as a dog ages, but may also be a sign of disease affecting the heart or lungs. Be alert to your dog's becoming excessively out of breath after minimal exercise. Have your vet check for cardio-pulmonary problems as soon as possible, if you notice such symptoms. If the vet determines all is normal, you can continue an exercise program, but modify it in order not to overtax your dog.

• While this breed is known for having some breathing issues, coughing and excessive panting may indicate heart disease. If these symptoms persist even after you've modified your dog's exercise program, visit the vet.

• Difficulty in getting up from a lying position, or other problems with moving may indicate arthritis. Your vet will be able to advise you on ways you can relieve your dog's discomfort and lack of mobility.

• Problems with vision and hearing are natural as a dog ages. Accommodate these changes as best you can -- by not changing the location of furniture, for example, or clapping instead of calling your dog's name if he appears to have trouble hearing you. 

• Graying hair and drying skin are sure signs of aging. More attention to grooming and the introduction of massage will help the condition of the skin and coat. Moderate to severe hair loss and peeling, red or irritated skin problems are not normal and should be treated asap.
Senior Pug dog outside in forest
Behavioral Changes in an Older Pug May Include:
  • Separation Anxiety- You may note that when you leave your older dog alone, he become destructive or barks or whines or loses control of elimination
  • Sensitivity to noise- Thunderstorms that never bothered him before may now make your older dog tremble
  • Vocalizing - This may be due to loss of hearing or to separation anxiety
  • Uncharacteristic aggression.- This may be due to painful joints, a drug reaction, or intolerance for new people and new circumstances; your older dog likes things to remain the same
  • Confusion, lack of attentiveness, disorientation.
  • Roaming in circles, barking at nothing, being withdrawn....
  • Elimination accidents
If your dog is acting abnormally in any of the above ways, consult your vet right away.
Anesthesia for Older Dogs

There's always a risk when your dog must undergo a procedure that involves anesthesia. If your vet says your Pug needs anesthesia, be certain the office is fully equipped with anesthetic monitors:
  • A pulse oximeter
  • Blood pressure monitor
  • ECG
A "pulse oximeter" is particularly important because it alerts the vet if a dog’s blood oxygen level falls below the safe limit. One type of anesthesia that is recommended for older dogs is "isoflurane," an inhalation-type anesthesia that is quickly eliminated from the dog's body once inhalation stops.

However, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine reports that a new injectable anesthetic, "propofol" (brand name "Rapinovet," marketed by Mallinckrodt Veterinary, Inc.) has been shown to be less risky because it is eliminated even more quickly from the dog's body. We quote: " . . . dogs show less residual grogginess and irritability when recovering from propofol . . ." Older dogs are generally at greater risk than younger dogs when anesthesia is administered, so this new anesthetic may be the best for an older dog.
Dental Care for the Older Pug

Dental care needs to be continuous from the time a dog is young. By the time a dog is "geriatric," the effects of dental neglect will be evident and potentially life-shortening. Rotting teeth can cause gum and mouth infections, and these infections can migrate to the vital organs and cause serious damage. 

Gum (periodontal) disease is extremely common in older Pugs, and one of the more serious health problems that can occur. Basically it is the overwhelming presence of bacteria in the plaque that adheres to a dog's teeth.

Ideally, from a young age, a Pug will have access to chew toys and crunchy foods. In addition, your dog's teeth should be cleaned on a regular basis by your vet. But the most important element in keeping your Pug’s teeth and gums healthy is your brushing your dog's teeth regularly -- every other day or a minimum of three times a week.

By brushing regularly, you can also lengthen the time between professional cleanings by the vet. Dental care should consist of using a quality canine toothpaste and properly sized canine toothbrush.

Here's one technique for brushing your dog's teeth: Hold the mouth closed gently. Slide the brush in under the lips and along the teeth, toward the molars. Spend most of the brushing time on the molars, and do what you can with the other teeth. It's not necessary to open your Pug’s mouth to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth.

Don't give up if it doesn't work so smoothly the first time. And try different techniques if the suggested one doesn't suit your Pug. By experimenting, you and your Pug will learn how to cooperate to get the job done.

As a Pug ages, he gets lazier about chewing his food and playing with chew toys. He may develop a preference for softer food.
He may give only a few half-hearted nudges to the toys and treats he once gnawed on happily for hours. A gradually diminishing interest in chewing is normal as a dog ages; but if your Pug stops chewing suddenly or looks like he is eating in a "careful" way, it may be a sign that his teeth and gums are hurting and need professional attention.

Have your vet check your older Pug’s teeth regularly; but do it immediately if you notice a sudden change in his chewing or eating behavior. If your vet recommends that your dog's teeth be cleaned under anesthesia, you should be informed about the risks.

Alternatively, some vets will clean an older (mellower) dog's teeth using an ultrasound scaler, a mild sedative, and a "sack" type of restraint. But this may not be possible, even with a mellow dog, if there is serious gum disease.

Encourage chewing behavior as best you can: a new crunchy biscuit might work, or a new chew toy. Some of the rope "flossing" toys on the market are also often recommended by veterinarians. Most vets agree, however, that brushing is the most effective means of keeping your dog's teeth and gums healthy in between professional cleanings.
Older Pug dog on bridge
Exercise Changes for Older Pugs

Exercise is as essential to dogs as it is to humans. It is profoundly tied to a dog's physical, mental, and emotional health. A sedentary dog is a bored dog, often an overweight dog, and, in general, a less-than-optimally-healthy dog. In older Pugs, obesity is the most common condition that vets see, and lack of exercise is a critical component of it.

As dogs age, they still need their exercise to benefit their heart, lungs, circulation, digestive system, and joints -- as well as to fight obesity. Compared with younger dogs, however, older dogs need to adjust the type and duration of the exercise they do.

Every dog is different in the way he or she ages and the exercise he or she can handle. You really need to be very observant in assessing your particular Pug’s abilities, natural inclinations, and current state of health. Keep alert to your dog's being excessively out of breath, or to a drooping head and tail. If your Pug coughs or does not get her breath back after five minutes of rest following exercise, have the vet check her heart.
In fact, if your dog is over 7 and has not had a check-up including a geriatric screening for more than six months and she has not been exercising regularly, get the check-up before beginning an exercise program.

Keep in mind that in general small dogs - even younger ones - aren't meant for distance running (therefore, it's not a good idea to take your Pug jogging with you).
Other basics to keep in mind: It's best to exercise your dog before he eats and to wait about half an hour after the exercise session before giving a meal. Keep your older Pug out of the sun, and, on a hot day, it's probably best not to exercise outdoors at all. Very cold, wet days are also times when indoor exercise is more appropriate.

If your Pug has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, usually walking and swimming are the best activities. For walking, use a harness so that you can control the duration and strenuousness of the exercise.

Two shorter walks will be less stressful on aging joints than one long walk. The walks can be quite brisk, provided the vet has given approval. A brisk walk should have four components:

• a warm-up of about 5 minutes, gradually increasing the pace
• brisk walking of about 20 minutes
• a cool-down of about 5 minutes, during which you gradually decrease the pace
• a drink of water.

If you play fetch with your older Pug, throw the ball or toy a little closer than you did when your dog was younger, and repeat the toss fewer times. After a point, it is probably advisable to stop playing fetch and to concentrate on walking or swimming.

When being given baths remember that an older Pug will tend to become chilled much more quickly than a young dog. Take big towels along, and use them to dry off your dog as soon as he gets out of the water -- and preferably before he begins shivering.

Keep in mind that your Pug will do anything to please you. That will mean he may tend to become over-exerted in running or playing simply because he thinks that's what you expect. You will need to judge carefully and to adjust the strenuousness and duration of the exercise accordingly.
At-home exercise is also a good alternative for older dogs. Use a carpeted area for the session, and one of your dog's favorite toys. You can play a modified game of "fetch" in a relatively small area. You might also want to play a game that involves your dog doing "roll-overs" or lying on her back to "kick the air."

"Wrestling" and "keep away" are two other good games to play with your dog. The idea is to keep her active and moving in a physically non-stressful way. Use your imagination to invent other at-home games.
It's never too late to start an exercise program for your Pug. Just as with a human, though, you should check your dog's general health with your vet, and then begin the exercise program gradually. 

If your dog has been inactive over a long period, frisby-chasing in the first exercise session is definitely not one of the choices! Easy, low-pace walks of about ten or fifteen minutes a couple of times a day will make a good beginning.
Pug dog with big eyes and ears
Grooming an Older Pug

The coat and skin are the dog's first line of defense against environmental attack - from such enemies as fleas, wetness, and cold. When the coat and skin are in poor condition, your dog becomes susceptible to disease or illness.

An older coat and older skin just can't take care of themselves like they used to - because circulation and muscle tone aren't as good as they were when a Pug was younger. You can make up for the decrease in these functions with a grooming routine.


A daily grooming session with the proper tools is the first step. Brush and flea comb are two of the basics.

Fifteen minutes is usually all it will take each day, but those fifteen minutes will save you time in the long run. You'll keep your Pug’s overall health at a high level, helping to eliminate visits to the vet other than for regular check-ups.

Another reason for daily grooming has to do with an aging Pug’s need for physical contact and attention. While puppies and young dogs are busy running around and tearing up the place, an older Pug doesn't have energy for such things.  A grooming session can be an energizer as well as provide an interesting diversion for the dog. It is also an opportunity for you and your Pug to experience the kind of closeness and physical contact that is reassuring and satisfying and that contributes to your Pug’s overall sense of well-being - which, in turn, stimulates good health.


Regular brushing can lengthen the time between baths. Usually dogs don't need a bath more than once a month. A Pug with a thick undercoat can go for 3 months without a bath.

Always bathe your older Pug with warm water in a warm room. Cold will dry the skin and might cause chilling. Always use a very mild shampoo with an older Pug, since older skin has a tendency toward allergy and dryness. Shampoos not especially formulated for use with a dog -- even "baby" shampoos -- should NEVER be used on any Pug of any age. Don't use a blow-dryer with an older Pug, which is too hard on the coat and skin. Instead, use thick, absorbent towels.

Use grooming sessions as a means of checking for tumors, growths, or changes in skin condition. Run your hands over all parts of your Pug’s body -- from stem to stern, along the abdomen, legs, ears and tail. Early detection of a malignancy can extend your dog's life by years. The skin, as the largest organ of the body, also can indicate internal health problems that may not be otherwise visible. Watch for dryness or roughness of the skin texture, and for any unusual symptoms.
Old Pug dog on log
Nail Changes with an Older Pug

Trimming is usually done about every 3-4 weeks on a younger Pug, but an older Pug’s nails should be trimmed every three weeks. You can also do it weekly, if your preferred method is to trim just a tiny sliver from the nails each time you do it. 

Younger dogs can wear down their nails a little with the running around they do, making it less necessary to be strict about the time between trimmings. But an older Pug tends to do less walking and running, so it's critical to keep to a regular nail trimming schedule. Nails that are too long can affect the dog's gait and cause imbalance and muscle strain.

The older your dog is, the more critical it is to keep the nails at the proper length, primarily so that the dog can maintain some semblance of a regular exercise program without compromising skeletal alignment and muscle function. A general guideline for proper length is that the dog's nails should not touch the ground when she is standing (i.e., not walking, but just standing still).

How do you keep an older Pug with hip problems, arthritis, spinal nerve damage, weakness, or other ailments? Here are some tips and resources:


Keep the fur on your Pug’s pads trimmed close. This will give your dog more traction on slick floors. Put down skid-free carpeting in places where your dog normally lies down to make getting up and getting started easier.

You may wish to put coverings on your dog's paws, such as "slipper" type socks that have non-skid material on the bottoms.

Steps and Ramps

Of course, you can carry you Pug…but to allow your dog to keep their independence, it is strongly suggested to have steps or ramps that allow your senior Pug to go up onto your bed, the sofa or any other safe area that his younger self normally jumped onto, by letting him walk up steps or ramps.
Neuter/Spay Surgery for an Older Dog

Is it appropriate or beneficial to perform neuter or spay surgery on an older dog.? Studies point to it being beneficial unless a dog is extremely old or medically unstable.  Females will endure heat cycles indefinitely, which can put stress on an aging dog.  And while the health benefits including decreased risk of cancer are most notable when this is done with young puppies,  it may be a good idea even with 'young' seniors in the 7, 8 or even 9 year old phase. 

Spaying or neutering a senior Pug is a decision that always depends on a careful exam by a veterinarian, including bloodwork and other tests. If the exam shows a Pug to be healthy and in condition to successfully undergo the surgery, the pro's may outweigh the con's.

Loss of Appetite and Loss of Weight

A gradual loss of appetite is not uncommon in older Pugs. As a dog ages, his senses of smell and taste may decrease, making food generally less appealing. A sudden loss of appetite may mean the onset of a serious illness, so be sure to check with your vet if your dog refuses to eat for more than a day. Appetite that gradually diminishes to a dangerously low level also may be a sign of a serious problem. Again, check with your vet if you are in the least concerned about your Pug not eating as much.

One way to increase the smell- and taste-appeal of food is to warm it. It is, in fact, recommended that you always present food to your Pug that is at room temperature rather than directly from the refrigerator. Take it from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature quickly; that is, don't allow it to sit out for a lengthy period to warm up. Of course, it shouldn't so hot that it might burn delicate tissue in the mouth, either.

Some older Pugs like their food on the "soupy" side. Adding unsalted beef or chicken broth will make the meal easier for them to eat.
Foods to Avoid

Do you give your Pug chews made of pig ears, beef jerky or pigskin? If so, be careful to wash your hands carefully after handling the treats. A while back, about 30 people in Canada became infected with Salmonella as a result of their exposure to dog chews containing the bacteria.

In addition, these treats are super hard to digest and can cause blockage problems. 

With a tendency to gain too much weight, now more than ever is the perfect time to focus on healthy, low calorie snacks for a Pug.
Pug dog side view
Nutritional Supplements

Check with your vet before introducing nutritional supplements into your dog's diet. An excess amount of something that is normally beneficial may create an imbalance in your dog's overall nutritional status. There are so many products on the market now -- especially in the "health foods" arena -- that you may find yourself confused. You are not alone. Many of these products do no harm; many do no good and are a waste of money.

See what your vet thinks before giving supplements to your dog. Here are some to consider:

• Glucosamine/chondroitin -- for joint health
• Vitamin B-12 -- for energy and metabolism
• Vitamin E -- an antioxidant
• Vitamin C -- may play a role in immune function
• Brewer's yeast -- a good source of the B-complex vitamins
• Linoleic acid -- found i corn and sunflower oils
• Bromelain -- aids digestion and is an anti-inflammatory
• Glycerin -- for eye health
Hydration for Older Dogs

The main problem with many older dogs is that they forget to drink, or, due to arthritis or joint pain, they have trouble getting up and moving around, so they avoid going to their water bowl. Dehydration -- even mild -- is a bad state for a senior dog.

The recommendations are: (1) thoroughly wash and re-fill your dog's water bowl several times a day. (2) Set out several water bowls in locations that your dog can reach easily. (3) Deliver the water bowl to your dog if you notice he hasn't had a drink in a long time.

Be certain that the water you give your older dog is clean and free of pollutants. Because an older Pug’s kidneys may not be functioning as well as when he was younger, they won't tolerate impure water. Filtered water is always a great idea. 

A good guideline to use is that if the water is good enough for you to drink, it's good enough for your dog. Similarly, if you don't think you should drink it, your older Pug probably shouldn't drink it either.


Cold and dampness are hard on a senior Pug. As your Pug ages, his coat will get thinner and her circulation will be less efficient, making him feel the cold more. Protect him with a sweater and/or rain gear when necessary. 

Older dogs are also more susceptible to becoming overheated in hot weather. Shade your older dog from the sun and keep him in an air-conditioned room in very hot weather. Take shorter rather than longer walks in the hot weather. Be sure he has plenty of cool water to drink.

When winter is upon us, we need to focus on the special needs of senior Pugs, that can be especially susceptible to the extremes of temperature and other stressful, dangerous conditions of winter

(1) Does your older Pug need a sweater? How about a raincoat? Wet fur decreases your dog's ability to fend off the cold. Even if she's never needed these before, as she gets older, she'll be less able to keep herself warm with activity.

(2) Is your Pug’s sleeping area free from drafts? Is there a blanket and thick mattress pad for her to snuggle under/sleep on?

(3) Protect the paws from ice melt chemicals. Stepping on the pebbles can cause chemical burns, but also stepping into puddles in which ice melt has melted can cause burns as well. Waterproof boots are the way to go to provide protection and good traction. Most Pugs do well with shoes and don't mind them at all. 


An older dog tends to sleep more, but that doesn't mean he should be left alone more. His nose still tells him when he has human company, even as he naps on and off. He will still hear your voice (or sense your presence through vibrations), even though he looks like he's dreaming. 

Give your older dog the benefit of as much human companionship as he's had throughout his life - even increase it, if possible. Keep him near you and take him with you when you go places. It will increase his sense of security and his involvement with his immediate world and give him quality of life.

Home Environment

In general, dogs like routine and don't often do well with major changes. Older dogs like for things to stay the same even more. To the extent possible, keep your Pug’s home environment and routines as they always have been. For example, his water and food bowls should be in the same location and he should be fed and walked at the usual times and in the usual places.

Of course, individual dogs will vary in their ability to deal with change in their surroundings. Dogs with decreased vision will be more stressed if the furniture is changed around than dogs whose vision is still good.

Be alert to signs of stress in your dog that you may have inadvertently caused by a change in home environment. Try to help her adjust by giving attention and guidance and lots of positive reinforcement when she seems to become more relaxed about the change.

Slippery floors of hardwood or laminate may become a problem as your dog ages. You'll notice that your Pug may begin to have trouble getting up from the bare floor, or walking across the bare floor. If so, cover the problem areas of the floor with a rubber-backed/non-skid runner or area rug.

Your older Pug's sleeping areas are particularly important environmental factors. Many older dogs - particularly those with arthritis in hips and back - seem to prefer sleeping on an "egg crate" type orthopedic mattress. Not only does it seem to provide a more even surface and therefore give better skeletal alignment, it also tends to reduce pressure on the dog's bony areas. .

Training an Older Dog

Forget the saying: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." An older dog is actually easier to train than a puppy. One of the reasons is that just about any dog who has reached the age of 5 or more has learned what "No" means. 

In order to behave acceptably in human company, he has also learned generally what is expected of him. He is calmer and quieter than a puppy, and so he is able to focus better on what you are trying to teach him.

He has learned about dominance and has a firm grasp of the concept of "alpha" dog. As an older dog, he is not trying to prove his dominance over humans, and, in general, he is ready to fit himself into his human family "pack," and to do whatever is necessary to make that fit as comfortable as possible.

Every dog is an individual. Some dogs are more highly motivated than others to please their human companions. Some will be much more sensitive than others to tone of voice or to the cues you use in giving praise. Dog owners are individuals, too, so you need to be aware of your own tendencies and preferences when it comes to training.
Vaccination Changes

Annual Shots Are No Longer the Preferred Protocol

Because the rate of illness due to vaccines has increased in pets (both dogs and cats), changes to vaccine protocols are being re-thought. The current protocol from Colorado State University advises vaccinations should be given only every 3 years (with the exception of rabies, which depends on state laws).

A quote from the protocol: "We are making this change after years of concern about the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and the increasing documentation that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects"

What does this mean for your Pug?
Many vets feel that dogs over 10 or 12 years of age should not be vaccinated because their immune system can be compromised, and also, by the time they are seniors, they have received adequate protection. Some vets will not vaccinate dogs over the age of 7 or 8 years and some will alternate years. Each veterinarian will follow a schedule for seniors based on what he believes best. 

One common thread, however, is that with most vets, a rabies shot will not be given at the same time as other vaccinations. It should be noted that the vaccines themselves carry the warning that they are to be administered only to healthy animals. Thus, if your senior Pug has any ailment or disease (e.g., cancer), vaccination should not be administered.

In some sections of the country, you can have your dog exempted even from rabies vaccinations by obtaining a letter from your veterinarian stating that your dog's health does not allow it.

If you are curious if your senior Pug has built up enough anti-bodes that shots are not needed any loner, it can be tricky to find the answer. There are blood tests that may detect the presence of antibodies to diseases however the test is not 100% reliable. A low level of antibodies does not necessary mean that a dog is not protected. And the test itself can show different results with one blood specimen.
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