Everything you need to know about: Pugs

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
26th May 2022
8 mins read
Summary
The Pug was once a cheeky canine companion of Chinese emperors that’s now a popular pet. Sadly, due to some inappropriate and irresponsible breeding in pursuit of a specific look, this breed’s distinctive brachycephalic shape has led to the majority of them succumbing to a plethora of serious health conditions.

Key Stats

Height
25 to 33cm
Weight
6 to 8kg
Size
Small (Toy)
Lifespan
10 to 15 years
Coat
Short
Exercise
40 to 60 mins
Grooming
Weekly
Temper
Mischievous, lively, loving

Breed History

Pugs are an ancient breed of dog from China, where they were bred to be lapdogs and companions for the Chinese imperial family.
During the Renaissance, the Pug became the dog of choice for aristocrats throughout Europe.
Recently, Pugs have surged in popularity again, but they look much different to how the breed was even just a century ago. Modern Pugs have much flatter faces and shorter legs.

Appearance

Pugs are a brachycephalic dog breed with very flat faces and short skulls.
Their head is proportionally large for their bodies, highly domed, with V-shaped “button” ears.
A Pug’s body is often square shaped and stout, with short sleek fur, and a double curl tail.

What colours are Pugs?

Pugs don’t come in many colours, in fact there are only four recognised within
the breed standard
. These Pug colours are:
  • Black
  • Fawn with black mask
  • Apricot with black mask
  • Silver with black mask
Other colours outside of the breed standard do exist.

Temperament

Pugs are another example of a little dog with a big personality. The typical Pug temperament is lively and playful, with a cheeky or mischievous streak.
Because they were bred to be companions, the Pug's temperament tends to be affectionate and sociable, and they get on well with people of all ages as well as other animals.
Sadly the breed has often been described as “lazy”, but this is a misconception.
A dog’s laziness, as well as noisy breathing and snoring, is usually a sign of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). BOAS makes breathing difficult and exercise intolerable, turning a cheerful and active Pug into a sad, slovenly pooch.

How much exercise do Pugs need?

Pugs should have 40 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, ideally split into two smaller walks.
Care must be taken when exercising a Pug, especially in warm or hot weather, because their brachycephalic shape can easily lead to overheating.
Pugs are much more susceptible to heat than other breeds and have been known to suddenly collapse (and even die) when exercised in warm weather or if left for a very short period in a warm car.
However, daily exercise is vital to help keep your Pug healthy and to prevent
obesity
.

How to groom a Pug

Pugs have minimal grooming needs thanks to their short, sleek coats. They only need a quick brush every now and again, maybe once a week or so, to get rid of any dust or dirt on their fur.
However Pugs are relatively heavy shedders, so you might want to brush your dog more regularly to help get rid of any loose hair.
Your Pug might need occasional baths (every 2-3 months). Having said that, Pugs tend to develop skin sensitivities and allergies, so they might need more regular baths with a medicated shampoo as directed by your vet.
You might also be advised by your vet to wipe your Pug’s wrinkles and folds of skin every few days. This is to prevent bacteria from overgrowing within their wrinkles which can lead to nasty infections called skin fold dermatitis. Their ears will need similar cleaning to help prevent infection.
Ideally, you should trim your Pug’s claws every month to prevent them from overgrowing. Pugs generally dislike having their claws trimmed, so it’s really important that you start doing this from puppyhood as part of their socialisation period to build up a happy and confident nail clipping association that’s much less stressful for you and the dog.
Like any dog, you should also take your Pug to the vet for routine dental checks and
professional teeth cleaning
, as well as brushing their teeth at home every day to prevent dental disease.

Common Pug health problems

All dogs can be prone to certain medical conditions. Unfortunately, the Pug's distinctive brachycephalic shape predisposes them to a number of health complaints.
When looking for a Pug puppy, keep an eye out for
good breeders
who have thoroughly health tested both parent dogs.
To find out more about the health problems linked to brachycephalic breeds, like the Pug, and what owners can do to ensure the future health of these breeds listen to
this episode of our podcast
.

Breathing problems

Being a brachycephalic breed, Pugs are prone to a number of breathing problems, including an increased risk of respiratory tract infections, increased risk of pneumonia, collapse, and death in some cases.
These breathing problems manifest as noisy breathing, excessive panting, snoring and snorting, and laziness. These signs aren't typical or normal for healthy Pugs (or any dog in fact,) they are actually a sign of BOAS.

BOAS

The most serious of these breathing problems is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).
This is a collection of physical abnormalities including a short nose, elongated tongue and soft palate, and stenotic nares (tight nostrils) which make breathing difficult and reduce a dog’s lifespan by
an average of 3 years
.
A Pug suffering from BOAS is sadly almost guaranteed, as 93% of the breed have some grade of BOAS.
Dogs with BOAS often require surgery to try and alleviate their symptoms and help them to be able to live and breathe more comfortably.

Eye issues

Due to their conformation and brachycephalic nature, Pugs suffer from a number of eye conditions.
This is simply because Pugs have bulging eyes that are not fully covered and protected by the eyelids and they have shallow eye sockets, meaning their eyes are exposed and at risk of trauma.
Pugs can suffer from a horrific condition called proptosis where their eye pops out of their socket with the slightest of trauma.

Dry eye

Pugs are predisposed to a condition called dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) where their eyes do not make enough tears.
This is worsened by the fact their bulging eyes do not allow the eyelids to fully close so the remaining tears cannot be dispersed across the eye correctly. (It’s like a faulty windscreen wiper that can’t spread screenwash.)

Corneal ulcers

They are extremely prone to corneal ulcers, particularly in the centre of the eye.
These ulcers can rapidly progress and worsen within 24 hours, so if your Pug develops a corneal ulcer this should be treated as an emergency.

Entropian

Their wrinkled faces and brachycephaly also make them vulnerable to entropion, a painful condition where their eyelid rolls inwards and the eyelashes irritate the eye.
This causes scarring to the eye which can limit vision (pigmentary keratitis) and cause corneal ulcers.

Trichiasis

A Pug's excessive nasal fold can lead to a condition called trichiasis where the hairs from the wrinkled skin grow towards the eye. Again, this irritates the surface of the eye and can cause corneal ulcers.

Skin problems

Like other brachycephalic breeds, Pugs are predisposed to a number of skin disorders and allergies. This can manifest as itchy skin, ongoing ear infections, and recurring skin infections.
They commonly suffer from skin fold dermatitis in their nasal and tail folds due to the skin on skin contact causing an overgrowth of bacteria.
Other common skin problems affecting Pugs include interdigital cysts or interdigital furunculosis.

Ear infections

Because Pugs are prone to allergies, this often causes recurring or chronic ear infections called “otitis externa” which will cause your dog a lot of pain until treated.

Spinal disorders

Because of their shape, Pugs are often
born with spinal malformations
, partly because of their double-curl tail. Pugs are also predisposed to neurological problems and seizures.

Hip dysplasia

Whilst we commonly see hip dysplasia in larger breeds, little Pugs are in fact one of the most common breeds to suffer from it.
Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial problem but it is linked to genetics.
It can lead to osteoarthritis and painful, limited mobility and may require medication, physiotherapy, or surgery to treat.

Dental disease

Due to their brachycephaly, Pugs are prone to dental problems because there isn’t enough space in a Pug’s short jaws to accommodate all of their 42 teeth.
This causes severe dental overcrowding causing food and bacteria to trap and overgrow.
It also makes them prone to
periodontal disease
, which results in smelly breath, infected gums, and tooth loss.

Obesity

Pugs are prone to obesity, partly because of their greedy nature, and partly due to the misconception that they are meant to look chunky.
60.8% of Pugs
are obese and it's the
most common preventable disease
affecting the breed.
It’s a serious problem that
shortens your dog’s lifespan
and makes health conditions like BOAS significantly worse. You can find out more about obeseity in pets in our podcast.

Frequently asked questions

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