Pug Health Problems: What’s Wrong With Pugs & Care Tips

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Pugs are downright gorgeous. But behind the utterly charming exterior are delicate creatures. Pugs are brachycephalic, and susceptible to a plethora of health issues.

Before taking one in, it’s important to understand the common pug health issues and their symptoms.

In this guide, I’ll discuss typical pug health problems and how to keep your precious pooch healthy and well.

Let’s dive in.


What Are Some Common Pug Health Problems?

Pugs are more prone than other dog breeds to certain health problems. But do not be disheartened.

If you’ve always dreamed of having a pug of your own, don’t let this put you off. Pugs are a generally healthy breed and can live between twelve and fifteen years.

In order to ensure that your pet lives a healthy life, there are some common pug health problems to be aware of.

By visiting your vet regularly, undergoing appropriate medical testing, and looking out for warning signs, you’ll be sure to keep your pooch fighting fit.

Some very common pug health issues to be aware of, include:

1. Dental problems

Many dogs develop chronic dental disease. Not just pugs. In fact, 80% of dogs will be affected by the dental disease by the age of two. But pugs are slightly more susceptible than other breeds.

Dental disease is the result of tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth. This gradually spreads; reaching the gums and then progressing to the root canal. Treating dental problems early is so important.

Failing to provide adequate treatments in time could result in your pet losing their teeth and/or suffering further damage spreading to the vital organs. In the worst-case scenario what starts as a dental disease could end up taking years off your pet’s life.

But don’t worry. It doesn’t have to end like that. By keeping your pug’s teeth clean with regular brushing at home or from your vet, you’ll ensure great dental hygiene and high quality of life for your pooch.

2. Infections

Pugs are also susceptible to infections. Just like other dog breeds bacterial and viral infections can multiply if not treated effectively. Types of infection to be aware of include the following:

  • Parvo – a highly contagious virus that causes gastrointestinal illnesses.
  • Rabies – a viral disease caused by inflammation to the brain
  • Canine Distemper – a viral disease affecting the respiratory, GI, and central nervous system.

Talk to your vet about infection risks. Many infections can be prevented with the appropriate vaccinations.

Your vet will take into account your pug’s individual medical history, age, and other necessary factors in order to best protect them against future infections.

3. Parasites

Parasites are very common pug health problems amongst pets – pugs included. Parasites are usually worms or bugs.

These tiny creatures can invade the body internally or externally (ingesting contaminated food or water / walking on contaminated soil) or infection (being bitten by an infected mosquito).

Common parasites include:

  • Fleas and ticks
  • Ear mites
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Heartworms
  • Whipworms

At best, parasites can cause pain and discomfort. In the worst case scenario, parasites can be lethal.

And looking out for parasites isn’t only important for the health of your pug. Some parasites can be transmitted to humans too.

Ask your vet about testing for parasites and information about preventative medications.

4. Obesity

If you know anything about pug diet and exercise, you probably already know that these cute little bundles of joy have a habit of becoming obese quite easily.

Though this might not sound as scary as parasites, diseases, and infections, obesity poses a serious health risk to pugs.

Obesity heightens the impact of other pug health problems. Extra weight can debilitate and existing joint pain further and worsen the impact of digestive distress, metabolic disorders, and heart disease.

Be careful when treating your pug with kibbles and tasty rewards. Keep treats of the munchable variety to a minimum.

Try to reward your precious pug in different ways. Take them for a walk, play with them, or offer them their favorite chew toy.

5. Reproductive health

Pet owners often feel torn when it comes to spaying, or neutering, their pets. In actual fact, this might end up being the best thing you ever did for them. By removing their reproductive organs, your pet is less likely to develop certain types of cancer.

Another more obvious benefit is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the litter of puppies that result.

If you choose to have your pet spayed, ask your vet if they can perform some health tests whilst your pet is under anesthesia.

For pugs, it can be extremely useful to conduct hip X-rays to help identify if your pet is predisposed to hip dysplasia – a very common problem in all pugs.

Unfortunately, pugs are also genetically predisposed to a number of health conditions and diseases. Some conditions, in particular, are high-occurring in the breed, making them more at risk than other dogs.

This should not be seen as a deal-breaker or a  death sentence, however. Most pugs can live a healthy and happy life. It’s just important to be aware of certain warning signs and sensitivities.


Is My Pug Genetically Predisposed With Health Issues?

Some health conditions associated with the pug breed have a genetic foundation. Check out the list below of these conditions and the most pressing information about each.

Remember, if you have any concerns, it’s always best to ask a veterinary professional.

1. Liver problems

Condition: Prone to portosystemic shunt (PSS) in which blood supply that should go to the liver bypasses it, preventing full functionality. The liver cannot remove toxins from the bloodstream effectively.

Warning signs: Look out for stunted growth or seizures.

First action: Ask your vet for a livery function test and ultrasound.

Treatment: Diet, medication, and sometimes surgery.

2. Eye problems

Condition: Pugs are prone to a number of different eye conditions that can result in pain and/ or blindness if not treated. These include:

  • Eye injuries- such as punctured corneas, that can become infected.
  • Entropion– a condition in which the eyelid rolls inward and the eyelashes rub against the cornea. Entropion causes painful irritation and eventual blindness.
  • Dry eye or KCS– a reduction in the amount of fluid produced by the tear glands. Eyes can no longer be kept moist, resulting in sore, itchy eye infections.

Warning signs: Look out for discharge from the eyes and visual displays of discomfort such as squinting or pawing.

First action: Visit your vet immediately at the first sign of eye injury or disease.

Treatment: Seek immediate treatment. Eye problems will require medication and sometimes surgery.

3. Diabetes

Condition: Pugs display an above-average rate of diabetes cases. Diabetes leaves pugs unable to regulate their metabolism of sugars.

Warning signs: Increased eating, drinking, urination, and possible weight loss.

First action: Visit your vet and test for diabetes. It’s important to diagnose early for best results.

Treatment: Long-term commitment in which your pet will require daily insulin injections.

4. Allergies

Condition: Allergies commonly affect the belly, skin folds, ears, and feet of pugs.

Warning signs: Your pug won’t sneeze but they will itch their skin excessively, lick their paws, rub their face, and experience ear infections.

First action: Visit your vet

Treatment: Multiple treatment options

5. Mange

Condition: Also called Demodex, mange is a microscopic mite. It lives in hair follicles and can cause skin infections if overabundant.

Warning signs: Dry, irritated lesions and patches of hair loss on face and feet, that may, or may not, be itchy.

First action: Visit your vet

Treatment: Some pets outgrow the problem, but others may experience manage chronically throughout their lifetime. Visit your vet to get it under control.

6. Skin infection

Condition: The most common pug skin infection is lip-fold pyoderma. This occurs as a result of moisture buildup in folds of skin along the lower jaw.

Yeast and bacteria thrive in the warm area, which can become very irritating and uncomfortable for your pet.

Warning signs: Reddened smelly area along the lower jaw.

First action: Visit your vet first and explore some natural preventative remedies.

Treatment: antibiotics, and surgical removal of excess skin folds in severe cases.

7. Granulomatous  Meningoencephalitis (GME)

Condition: GME is a progressive inflammatory disease. It affects the central nervous system and can cause irreversible brain damage if left untreated.

Warning signs: GME can come on acutely or gradually, making it hard to recognize. Look out for pug health problems around the eyes as sometimes this is the only area affected.

If in any doubt, consult a professional veterinarian as this is a serious, and life-threatening, condition.

First action: It is vital that you visit your vet immediately if you suspect GME.

Treatment: This is a serious condition and treatment is not always effective. The best treatment option is a course of therapeutic corticosteroids.

8. Bone and Joint problems

Conditions: Pugs are prone to many musculoskeletal problems, including:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – causes joints to develop with deformity and ends in arthritis, stiffness, and lameness.
  • Degenerative Legg-Calve-Perthes disease – Occurs in young dogs between six and nine months and caused by the reduced blood supply to the hip. The top of the thigh bone can become brittle and fracture.
  • Slipped patella (kneecap) – Also called patellar luxation.

Warning signs: lameness, difficulty getting up from a lying down position, hopping, skipping, or picking up a back leg.

First action: Visit your vet for tests.

Treatment: Realignment surgery and/ or arthritis medication.

9. Spinal deformity

Condition: Hemivertebrae is a condition that leads to spinal cord damage. Instability and permanent disability can occur as a result.

Warning signs: Instability, back problems.

First action: Visit your vet for testing.

Treatment: medication, acupuncture, or physical therapy rehabilitation.

10. Mast cell tumor

Condition: A vicious type of skin cancer very common in pugs.

Warning signs: look like other, non-cancerous, skin lumps and lesions, so air on the side of caution.

First action: Visit your vet if you notice any suspicious lumps. Early detection makes a huge difference.

Treatment: Surgical removal of tumors

11. Degenerative Myelopathy

Condition: A neurologic condition that causes weakness and poor nerve function in the hind legs.

Warning signs: Your pug will become increasingly weak and suffer disability, and possibly paralysis, in the hind legs. Incontinence may also follow.

First action: Visit your vet for treatments. It is also worth carrying out genetic testing for this condition early on.

Treatment: There is no cure for Degenerative Myelopathy but physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and dietary supplements can mitigate symptoms and improve your pug’s quality of life.

12. Bladder and/or kidney stones

Condition: Pugs are susceptible to a variety of different bladder and kidney stones.

Warning signs: Blood in urine, difficulty urinating, or straining to urinate.

First action: Call your vet immediately.

Treatment: Kidney or bladder stone removal.

13. Respiratory problems

Condition: Brachycephalic dogs, like pugs, are prone to respiratory distress syndrome. This impacts many dogs with short noses and flat faces.

It typically occurs because of a pug’s long soft palette, small nostrils, and narrow trachea that can end up blocking their airways.

Warning signs: Intolerance to exercise, loud breathing, coughing, blue gums, fainting, flatulence from the excessive air intake, pneumonia, and heatstroke.

First action: Visit your vet.

Treatment: Surgical correction may be required, in serious cases, in order to open up the airway.


How Can I Keep My Pug Puppy Healthy?

The pug breed’s susceptibility to such a long list of health concerns can be terrifying for new pug owners.

Remember these guides are just a cautionary tale. Your precious pooch is not destined to suffer from ill-health and terrible illness.

The best thing you can do to help your pug puppy grow up healthy and strong, is to ensure that you, as an owner, provide the best care you possibly can.

So let’s dive in with some tips and tricks for keeping your cute little pup fit as a fiddle.

1. Before you bring your pup home

The first step to making sure your puppy is fit and healthy is to buy from a reputable breeder.

It is never a good idea to get your pup from a pet store or internet site with limited information and checks. These pups are more likely to be unsocialized, unhealthy, and bred out of inhumane puppy mills.

The best way to bring an end to these unethical practices is not to support them financially by purchasing a puppy.

You can check our pug breeders guide to understand the best place to get your puppy.

When you do buy your puppy, make sure the breeder gives you all the necessary documentation.

This should include details about the pup’s parents, any medical tests the puppy, and any medical tests he or she has undergone to clear them of dysplasia and eye problems.

2. When you bring your pup home

As soon as possible after bringing home your puppy, book an appointment with your local vet.

A professional veterinarian will know what to look for and spot any underlying health conditions that could cause more pug health problems in the future.

3. Insuring your new family member

It’s worth investing in pet insurance for your new puppy. Be aware that the price of pet insurance for pugs can be higher than mixed breeds due to their long list of hereditary conditions.

The price might feel like an added expense but it’s worth it in the long run, to guarantee your pet’s access to quality medical treatment in the future.

Remember that the best time to source pet insurance for your pug is when they are a healthy puppy so don’t leave it too late.


Tips to Keep Your Pug Healthy

To give your pooch the best chance of living a long, happy, and healthy life, there are some provisions and daily routines you can make as an owner to keep them fighting fit from infancy into adulthood.

We are going to discuss the best routine care habits for your pug, as well as warning signs to look out for as they grow and develop.

1. Routine care best practices for your pug

As well as fun and games, staying on top of your dog’s day-to-day care is an essential responsibility of every owner. Throughout their life, your precious little pug will need:

  • Regular but gentle exercise – avoid the hottest hours of the day
  • A high-quality, consistent, and nutritious diet
  • A comfortable place to live and rest, out of temperature extremes
  • Regular cleaning – especially between those deep wrinkles and ears
  • Regular dental brushing – about three times per week
  • Regular grooming as required
  • A safe environment free of choking hazards

2.  Warning signs to look out for as your care for your pug

With pugs being so prone to medical complications, it’s important to be on top of all the warning signs.

You don’t need to be in a constant state of alarm. Being confident about what to look out for will help you enjoy quality time with your pug without any added anxiety.

When you know these warning signs like the back of your hand, you’ll be able to call up your Vet at the first sign of concern. So, what should you be looking out for?

  • Changes in appetite or water consumption
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Lumps and bumps of any size
  • Hairless patches of skin that are dry, scaly, or causing irritation
  • Slower, or stunted growth
  • Behavioral changes – aggression or fear
  • Increased itching, scratching, chewing, or licking of the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Tartar build-up around the teeth or broken teeth
  • Bad breath or red gums
  • Scratching or shaking of the head and/or ear discharge – emergency
  • Urinary difficulties – emergency
  • Cloudy, red, or excessive itching of the eyes – emergency
  • Dragging, hopping, or restricted movement in hind legs – emergency
  • Loud breathing and intolerance to exercise – emergency



1. Do Pugs Have a Lot of Health Problems?

Pugs, in general, are quite healthy dogs but they do have a propensity towards a number of common pug health issues.

This is largely due to their being a brachycephalic (or flat-faced) breed. As a result, they are susceptible to breathing problems from restricted air passages, skin problems, and joint deformity.

Most pugs can live a healthy, happy life. It’s just important to be aware of the risk factors associated with the breed, have your pet registered with a veterinary professional, and look out for the warning signs so you can catch them early.

2. Do pugs have more problems than other breeds?

Pug health problems tend to be specific to their breed, just as other dog breeds are prone to their own set of common ailments.

If you’re thinking of getting a pug of your own, it’s important to do your research. Know the ins and outs of brachycephalic dog health.


Stay On Top of Your Pug’s Health 

By being aware of pug health problems, you’ll get the most out of this precious relationship. 

Despite their delicate physiology, pugs are wonderful, docile, and affectionate pets. 

When cared for properly, they are more than able to live long, healthy, fulfilling lives. 

Now, you’re all set to be the best pug owner there ever was.