Pug Breathing Problems: Signs, Causes and What to Do

Pug breathing problems

Pugs are known for their squishy faces. But behind the cute exterior, the Pug’s facial structure causes some serious problems. Like all brachycephalic breeds, Pug breathing problems are very common.

But why do pugs have breathing problems?

The Pug’s short nose and compacted skull can cause respiratory distress.

If you’re in the market for a Pug, it’s important to keep this in mind.

We’re going to share our know-how so you’ll be well equipped to care for your Pug.


Do Pugs Have Breathing Problems?

The short answer to this is, yes.

Pugs are prone to developing breathing problems. This is due to their flattened faces, but let’s delve in a little bit deeper. Let’s take a step back.

First, we need to understand how a dog’s respiratory system works.

The respiratory system consists of:

  • Nares (or nostrils)
  • Nasal cavity
  • Sinuses
  • Pharynx (connects the nose to mouth and esophagus)
  • Larynx (or voice box)
  • Trachea (or windpipe)
  • Bronchi (branches of trachea connecting to the lungs)
  • Lungs

Unfortunately, Pugs are prone to respiratory abnormalities. In other words, there is an abnormality to one, or more, of these respiratory components that arise in many Pugs.

The small skull and short muzzle of Brachycephalic dogs like pugs mean the upper respiratory system has to fit into an unsuitably small area. Breathing issues arise as a result of this.

But don’t worry. Many Pugs can live a full, healthy, and happy life despite these issues. When you know what to look for, you’ll be able to help your precious Pug stay healthy.

We’re going to discuss everything you need to know about your Pug’s breathing.


3 Signs That Your Pug Isn’t Breathing Properly

It’s important to know when your Pug is having difficulty breathing so that you can help them. Minor breathing issues are generally considered to be normal for Pugs. In these cases, there’s no need for further action. Just keep caring for your pug according to best-practices.

If you think your Pug is having more difficulty breathing than usual, you might want to visit your local veterinarian. They will be able to give you the best treatment advice.

Signs to look out for that indicate moderate to severe respiratory distress in your Pug could include:

1. Increased panting

If your Pug shows difficulty breathing, especially when exercising, this could be cause for concern. It is relatively normal for Pugs to display some panting after spells of intense exercise. Especially in very hot, humid, or cold weather.

However, it’s important to be vigilant as an owner. If your Pug is panting heavily, more than usual, or showing difficulty catching his or her breath, let them rest and contact your vet.

2. Loud breathing

Excessively noisy breathing is also a sign of breathing issues.

If your Pug is constantly grunting, wheezing, snorting, or gasping for air, this is cause for concern. Especially if they are making these excessive noises when at rest.

3. Excessive snoring

Pugs snore. That’s nothing to worry about. But knowing when your Pug’s snoring has gone too far is an important part of monitoring their respiratory health.

Though minor snoring is not a problem, severe snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea. This is far more serious as it means your Pug is experiencing short durations without breathing.

Causes of Breathing Issues in Pugs

As we’ve discussed, Pugs are a brachycephalic breed with shortened heads, noses, and flat faces. This is the major component resulting in their breathing difficulties. But, other factors can exacerbate a Pug’s respiratory distress.

Pugs are not in discomfort all of the time and some of these contributing factors can be mitigated with proper care.

Since Pugs are likely to experience some respiratory-related problems in their lifetime, owners should secure a good pet insurance plan.

This will give you the peace of mind that veterinary help is always available, without any sky-high, or unexpected costs.

So let’s delve into all the risk factors that impact a Pug’s breathing so that you can keep them fighting fit.

1. They are overweight

Pugs have a voracious appetite. But they are also genetically prone to obesity. As a Pug owner, you absolutely must not give in to those pleading eyes all the time. It might be tempting, but treating your Pug too often could be doing them more harm than good.

If your Pug is carrying too much bodyweight around with them every day, they will feel uncomfortable and lethargic. This is because of the excess pressure on their joints. More importantly, they might experience difficulty breathing even more than normal.

Keeping track of your Pugs weight, and maintaining a balanced nutrition and exercise regime is one of the simplest and easiest ways to look after their respiratory health and overall happiness.

2. They are too hot

When Pugs get too hot their breathing suffers. You might notice an increased level of panting or snorting. Your Pug might even hand their tongue out of their mouth to try and cool down. Remember, pugs have a shortened nose.

This is them attempting to take in more, much-needed air and cool themselves down. The best way to avoid this happening is to take your dog out during the cooler times of the day.

A short walk in the morning and another in the evening is the way to go. If that’s not possible, offer your Pug an ice-pack to cool down.

3. Allergies

Pugs sometimes develop allergic reactions to things. Common examples include pollen, different foods, allergens, and physical contact with certain fabrics. This contributes to respiratory distress in your pup.

Common signs of Pug breathing problems caused by an allergic reaction include sneezing episodes, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Visit your local vet, who will prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

4. Bacterial buildup

Another factor that contributes to breathing difficulties in Pugs is bacteria. This is harder to spot, but there are simple steps you can take to avoid bacterial overgrowth in your Pug.

Remember those folds and wrinkles are a breeding ground for invisible bacteria.

If you’re not cleaning your Pug’s face, folds, and wrinkles regularly they can easily develop an infected nose, resulting in further breathing issues that could have easily been avoided.

Try using a cotton swab to wipe around your Pugs nose and apply some petroleum jelly to dry areas.

If you suspect your Pug has developed an infection, it’s time to visit the vet.

5. Their respiratory system

This one is the biggie. There’s no denying that a Pugs physiology is responsible for some of their breathing troubles.

Pugs have small, narrow nostrils and an abnormally long soft palate. As a result, the amount of airflow is restricted and access to the trachea obstructed.

Pugs often struggle most at night, so invest in a quality dog bed that helps them get a good night’s sleep.

By understanding the Pug’s unique respiratory system in more detail, we can better understand some of the reasons why breathing can be hard for them. Let’s take a look.

(1) Stenotic nares

This just means that Pugs have pinched nostrils. 50% of Pugs have these stenotic nares. It causes noisy inhalation, flared nostrils, snoring, and exercise aversion.

(2) Elongated soft palate

Pugs have an elongated soft palace at the back of their throat. Unfortunately, this blocks the entrance to the trachea and inhibits breathing as a result.

Because of this deformity, newborn Pugs can sometimes be seen dribbling milk from the nose. Signs in adult Pugs include:

  • heavy panting
  • gagging
  • regurgitation
  • noisy breathing
  • snoring
  • exercise aversion
  • excessive drooling

(3) Abnormal Trachea

Pugs have a hypoplastic trachea. This means that the rings of cartilage around the windpipe are abnormal.

It is also common for Pugs to experience degeneration of the trachea as the cartilage rings weaken, leading to eventual collapse.

Look out for a honking cough, loud breathing, gagging and regurgitation, shortness of breath, and exercise aversion.

(4) Everted Laryngeal Saccules

Laryngeal Saccules are located above your Pug’s vocal cords. When they become everted, they turn inside out.

This partially blocks the entrance to the trachea and makes breathing difficult. If you suspect this, go straight to your vet. It is the first stage of laryngeal collapse which could be fatal if not treated early.

Top-tip: If you notice a blue discoloration to your Pug’s gums or your Pug has fainted, visit your vet immediately. This is a sign of cyanosis and could require surgery.

6. Their age

Age is a major contributing factor when it comes to Pug breathing problems. As they age, breathing gets harder.

Even if your Pug did not experience respiratory distress in early life, as they get older you might notice an onset of breathing issues.

As a result, you might notice that your elderly Pug becomes more intolerant to things such as temperature and activity.

7. Look out for breathing attacks

Finally, we advise Pug owners to watch out for breathing attacks. These are episodes of respiratory distress that come on out of the blue and can last for up to 2 minutes.

Let the episode pass, but if they occur frequently visit your local veterinarian as soon as possible.

When a Pug experiences one of these respiratory attacks they will display:

  • Snorting
  • Reverse sneezing
  • Asthma
  • Mucus in their throat


How Can I Get My Pug to Breathe Better?

Luckily, there are steps you can take as the owner of a Pug to help get their breathing back on the straight and narrow.

Nobody wants to watch their precious companion suffer. That’s why it’s so important to be ready to help them in any way you can.

Here are some great ways to help your Pug breathe better.

1. Moderate temperature and humidity

Excesses of temperature and humidity are not good for your Pug. Try to keep the indoor room temperature between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you live in an area that gets very hot weather, ensure you’re using an air conditioner, or open windows, use fans and block direct sunlight with curtains and blinds.

Likewise, if you use a heater in the winter months, make sure you’re not turning it up too high.

Excessively cold weather can exacerbate Pug breathing problems as cold air warms through the nasal passages, into the lungs.

Your Pug may struggle to breathe outside during the colder months so avoid the coldest times of day if possible.

Try to keep humidity levels between 35 and 45%. Both excessively dry and moist air can negatively impact your Pug’s breathing passages. It’s wise to invest in an air humidifier to moderate the humidity levels in your home all year round.

2. Exercise your Pug with caution

Exercise is important for your Pug, but be careful where you do it.

Plan your Pug’s exercise routine to avoid the hotter, or colder, times of the day. A short walk in the morning and evening is usually the best plan of action.

But make provisions according to the climate where you live. Ensure your Pug gets breaks in the shade and offer them plenty of water.

It’s also important not to over-exercise your Pug. About 40 minutes split throughout the day is ideal. Try to limit excessive overexcitement.

This is physically tiring and can worsen clinical symptoms of respiratory distress. Limit highly stressful or stimulating interactions to encourage steady, calm, breathing.

Top-tip: never take your Pug outside in a heatwave

3. Never pair leash and collar

Using a leash and collar on your Pug at the same time could hurt them, as all the pressure from the leash pushes against their windpipe.

Instead, always use a harness that distributes pressure across your Pug’s back, chest, and shoulders.

4. Watch their weight

We already discussed that excess weight is a risk factor when it comes to Pug breathing problems. Avoid excess weight gain by maintaining a healthy diet and appropriate exercise regime for your pet.

Too much body-weight could push on your Pug’s diaphragm and chest wall, applying dangerous pressure to the trachea and lungs.

Your Pug’s heart will be overworked as it tries to pump, much-needed, oxygen around the body.

5. Keep the air clear

We discussed that Pugs can develop allergies. To mitigate the impact of this try to eliminate what you can. Ensure nobody is smoking in your home and try not to use aerosol products.

If your Pug is sensitive to pollen or air allergens, try to limit their time outside on high-pollen days and keep your home clean by wet-dusting and vacuuming regularly. You could also invest in an air purifier for your home.

6. Sleeping positions

A Pug’s sleeping position can impact their breathing.

Try to prevent your pet from sleeping in awkward positions that leave the head and neck tucked. Instead, encourage your Pug to sleep in an arc shape with their neck supported

You cannot have a conversation with your Pug. The best course of action is to provide a large dog bed (round or rectangular) with raised sides. They can use the sides as a pillow to support the neck and their body will be supported.

7. Know what to look for

Finally, the most important thing you can do as an owner is to educate yourself. Good job. You’ve already started!

By knowing what to look for you’ll always have your Pug’s best interests at heart. Try to monitor your pet’s breathing regularly, seek advice if unsure, and make adjustments as needed and recommended by your vet.



1. Why is my pug breathing so hard?

There are many reasons why your Pug might be breathing harder than usual.

If your Pug starts displaying excessive wheezing, snoring or appears short of breath, consider all the risk factors that might be causing their symptoms and contact your vet for advice.

Possible risk factors include:

  • Weight
  • Heat
  • Sleeping position
  • Allergens
  • Bacteria
  • Age
  • Physiology

2. What To Do if my Pug Can’t Breathe?

All Pugs experience a mild level of breathing difficulty from time to time.

But if you suspect your Pug is struggling or experiences a respiratory attack all of a sudden, it’s important to contact your vet immediately.


Keep Your Pug Breathing Clearly

You’ve now got all the tools to keep your Pug breathing. Remember, Pug breathing problems are common.

Most Pugs experience some difficulty from time to time. But it’s important to know when too much panting, wheezing, or snoring, is too much.

By educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of Pug respiratory distress, you’ll be able to care for your precious pooch and keep them breathing clearly.