Why Do Pugs Have Short Snouts? What You Need to Know

If you’re a Pug owner or thinking about getting a Pug, you might have heard about short snouts. The breeding of short-snouted dogs can be a contentious issue.

But why do Pugs have short snouts in the first place?

Short-snouted dogs are known for their cute appearance. But the health implications are often scrutinized.

I’m going to cover all the essential information that you need to know about short-snouted dogs from pros and cons, to anatomy and breeding.

What is A Smashed Face/Short-Snouted Dog?

Short-snouted is the term used to describe flat-faced dogs. The majority of dog breeds have long noses.

Long noses have long been desirable for working dogs because long-nosed dogs have a heightened sense of smell (up to 300 million scent-receptors as opposed to just 5 million in us humans).

Short-snouted, dogs like Pugs have been bred with flat faces. This is principally for aesthetic reasons – there’s no denying that those big eyes are kinda cute.

Pugs have an inferior sense of smell and their flat noses have been known to cause health complications in the breed.

1. Anatomy

Brachycephalic is the scientific term for short-snouted dogs like pugs. Brachycephalic breeds are defined by a characteristically flattened muzzle and elongated bottom jaw.

That’s why you often hear people calling Pugs’ faces ‘squished’ and why their bottom teeth often appear to jut out.

These features are widely considered to be cute, but the Brachycephalic anatomy poses no physical advantages. In fact, it is the cause of many of the Pugs’ health problems.

2. Short-Snouted Breeds

Many of today’s most popular dog breeds are short-snouted – no doubt due to our love of their big eyes and baby-like features.

Other short-snouted breeds include:

  • Shih Tzu
  • Boxer
  • Boston Terrier
  • French Bulldog
  • English Bulldog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Why Do Pugs Have Short Snouts?

But why do Pugs and other flat-faced breeds have short snouts in the first place?

Well, it’s because we like them, that’s why breeders are creating them, also known as selective breeding!

Enamored with their cute appearances, more and more people want short-snouted dogs. Plus they’re ideal for our busy, urban lives.

Demand for Pugs, Shih Tzus, and the like, is skyrocketing. To meet this demand, breeders continue to promote this breeding standard.

But that’s just the short answer. The real science behind these snouts lies in genetics.

1. Selective Breeding

Selective breeding is a type of controlled breeding program. It’s sometimes also called artificial selection and is the way that humans have been breeding plants and animals with desired characteristics for thousands of years.

In other words, humans worked out a way to remove undesirable characteristics and replicate desirable traits.

For this purpose, selective breeding is highly effective. However, just like any form of inbreeding, it is also linked to increased health problems in subsequent generations.

2. Genetic Mutation

Scientists have been working hard to understand the root genetic cause of the short snout.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, recently discovered that a DNA mutation, strongly linked to skull shape, is responsible for the Pug’s unique facial appearance.

The DNA variation disrupts the gene responsible for facial length (SMOC2). As a result animals with this genetic mutation are more likely to be brachycephalic. This chance genetic abnormality is then promoted through natural selection.

Is It True That Short-Snouts Cause Health Problems?

Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs are genetically predisposed to a variety of health issues. Being short-snouted does increase your Pug’s probability of developing certain problems.

But this is not set in stone. Not every short-nosed dog will suffer from these problems.

Nevertheless, it is incredibly important for prospective owners to be aware of these potential risks before committing to care for a Pug.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common health-related issues.

1. Respiratory Problems

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (or BOAS) is caused by a narrowing of the upper respiratory tract. A Pug’s narrowed nostrils and windpipe inhibit oxygen intake.

As a result,  Pugs and other flat-faced dogs often struggle with their breathing and temperature control.

This is often a low-level, chronic issue, exacerbated by exercise or eating, but can develop into something more serious like sleep apnoea or even collapse.

It’s important to be aware of the signs. If your Pug’s skin and gums take on a bluish color, this is a sign that oxygen is not getting into the bloodstream and could lead to collapse.

2. Cardiovascular Problems

As a result of their restricted airways, Brachycephalic dogs like Pugs constantly struggle to oxygenate their blood.

This places the cardiovascular system under strain, making your Pug at risk of cardiovascular disease and other secondary heart problems.

3. Eye Problems

The Pug’s bulging eyes may be cute, but they are also highly sensitive.

A Pug’s tear film does not spread properly, making them vulnerable to ocular injuries such as corneal ulcers, and prolapse. Preventing trauma is essential for maintaining Pug eye health.

4. Neurological Problems

The compressed skull typical of Brachycephalic breeds increases their predisposition to brain abnormalities.

Pug encephalitis (PDE) is an inherited autoimmune disorder that causes a fatal inflammation of the brain and is said to affect 1.2% of Pugs.

5. Teeth, Skin & Ears

A Pug’s teeth, skin, and ears need extra care. Their elongated lower jaw and overlapping teeth increase the Pug’s risk of gum disease and the characteristic skin folds around a Pug’s eyes and ears, are drivers for infection.

6. Reproductive Issues

Mant Brachycephalic females experience dystocia (difficulty giving birth).

Many are unable to give birth naturally and will require cesarean sections. This is a side-effect of selective breeding.

The mother’s birth canal is not large enough to birth their large-headed puppies.

Unfortunately, the surgery is also risky due to the Pug’s existing breathing difficulties, but unassisted deliveries risk the death of the mother and puppies.

If you are wondering what other health problems Pugs get, read this one.

How To Fix The Problems With Flat Faced Dogs?

Should I Get A Short-Snouted Pug?

Pugs are hella cute, but all this talk of health problems can be worrying. Remember not all Pugs will be afflicted by these ailments.

Nevertheless, it is a possibility and prospective Pug owners must be aware of this before committing to the care of a Pug.

Pugs and other short-snouted dogs come with pros and cons. You’ll get those puppy dog eyes, wrinkles, and skin folds.

But you might also be lumped with pricey insurance premiums and vet bills – not to mention worrying about your pet’s quality of life.

Short-snout Pros
  • Aesthetic appeal – they’re cute
  • Tend to suit urban city life
Short-snout Cons
  • Risk of health problems
  • Insurance premiums

Top tip: if you love Pugs but don’t feel comfortable promoting their breeding, consider adoption. There are lots of rescue Pugs in need of loving homes.[/su_note]

Short-Snouts Pugs: The Lowdown

So that’s my article about why pugs have short snouts.

I am a Pug person, short-snouted dogs like Pugs have grown in popularity in recent years. And it’s hardly surprising. They’re darned cute and have wonderful personalities.