Pugs are a unique dog breed with interesting physical features. These dogs make adorable pets. However, there is a stigma of getting a Pug in the pet world. It is an idea that Pugs are unhealthy. Of course, not everybody has this idea but you must be wondering whether that is true. Can Pugs make great pets or are they really an unhealthy dog breed?
Yes, it is true that Pugs are unhealthy. Despite their charming appearance, the health state of these dogs is really poor due to being genetically modified. You see, if it wasn’t for the forceful Inbreeding, Pugs would never have existed. So, with such an unnatural reproduction, Pugs have many health issues such as gene mutation and respiratory issues.
Originally, the parent-breeds of Pugs are known as “the Chinese: the Lion dog, the Pekingese, and the Lo-sze”.
Nonetheless, people get Pugs all the time as breeders keep on conducting their work and if you also want to get a Pug, it is not impossible or the worse thing. In fact, it is quite normal to own a Pug.
But still, it is better that you learn more about the breed and its nature before you actually get one. Therefore, In this post, I am going to explain why Pugs are considered unhealthy and whether it is the best to get one yourself.
Here is why Pugs are considered unhealthy:
01 – Gene mutation
The gene mutation In pugs is called Brachycephaly.
Pugs belong to a dog group called “brachycephalic dogs”. Dogs with brachycephaly are known to be short-muzzled with a flattened-face. Ring a bell? Yeah, that is Pugs.
French bulldog, English bulldog, Boston terrier and Pekingese are other dog breeds that belong to Brachycephaly.
In other words, these are dogs with skulls that are severely ill-formed and short.
You see, there is a gene called SMOC2 in animals. It is the gene that is responsible for forming a healthy and suitable skull shape for an animal. Scientists believe that in Pugs, this gene has been suppressed. So due to that, their skull shape grows incorrectly with an overly-flattened and squashed face.
With such an incorrect formation of the skull, Pugs are susceptible to many respiratory issues such as difficulties in breathing.
Here is what the gene mutation is responsible for:
- The reparatory system is developed incorrectly: narrowed windpipes, narrowed nostrils and too much of soft tissues inside the throat and nose
- Imperfect eyelid anatomy
- Excessive skin folds
- Insufficient space to fit all the 42 teeth which leads to overcrowded teeth, growing in at odd angles
What all these mean is that Pugs are genetically defective.
Here are the health issues associated with Pugs being brachycephalic:
- Severe or mild breathing problems, also known as Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).
- Sleep apnea
- Vomiting and Regurgitation
- Eye disease – Progressive scarring, painful ulcers (wounds on the cornea) and brown pigment forming up on the cornea
- Likely, become unable or have difficulties to breed or give birth naturally
- Skin Infections such as lip-fold pyoderma – due to the folds of excessive skin
- Dental problems – begins with tarter being built up. Then, progresses to infections of the roots of the teeth and gums
Frankly, it is only a matter of time when a Pug starts sufferings from one of these diseases but with vet care and corrective surgeries and medications, you/vets can certainly do a lot to reduce the risk of harm and ensure the dog stays healthy for an average lifespan of 12 – 15 years.
However, most vets say that many pet-parents that own brachycephalic dogs do not even know when their dog is having health issues related to this gene mutation.
Therefore, it is a must that you take your Pug to the vet’s office for regular vet-care and check-ups to make sure the dog is not having these health problems.
Beside the gene mutation and the diseases associated with it, there are more health issues that Pugs experience and almost, all of them are due to the genes inherited from the parent-breeds of the Pugs. So, let me continue and explain about them too.
02 – Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE)
The proper name of this condition is called “Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis” (NME). This is a really serious and incurable disease which causes inflammation and death of the brain tissues.
Usually, young-adult Pugs are the ones that are mostly prone to this disease. If a Pug were to suffer from this health issue, it will likely get diagnosed before the age of seven.
Can anything be done to treat Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE)?
Sadly, nothing can be done to cure the condition permanently since this is an inherited autoimmune disorder.
However, with genetic markers, vets can foresee whether a Pug will surely face this health condition in the future or not and also, how risky the health state of the dog will get.
But luckily, with the use of medications, there is one option left to help the dog. It is done by reducing the immune responses, minimizing seizures and alleviating inflammation.
To do that: treatments include the use of steroids and antiepileptic drugs along with other immunosuppressive medicines.
Nonetheless, these medicines are only used to manage the health condition and by managing the disease, a Pug can live with it for life. However, the only issue is that a dog has to be on medications for life as well.
Moreover, some Pugs unfortunately experience quite a bit of side effects from these drugs. So, depending on the dog, a vet will prescribe the most suitable type of medicine.
03 – Bone and Joint issues
Canine hip and elbow dysplasia
This is also an inherited health issue that makes the joints of a Pug develop incorrectly. With abnormally-formed joints, Pugs develop arthritis which is an excruciatingly painful condition.
With this disease, hip and elbows of a Pug get really stiff which is surely a huge problem for the dog to freely move with full range of motion. Later, the dog will show lameness in the legs and difficulty in getting up or down.
To lessen the damage of this condition, detecting it sooner is the most helpful. Then, with X-rays, vets find the exact issues of the bones as early as possible to provide treatments.
If this health problem is worsened by the time it is detected, it can become life-threatening to the dog. So, in that case, surgery is the most suitable option.
However, the worse part of this disease is the pain that a Pug has to experience. It can be quite extreme.
Mostly, young Pugs between the age of six and nine months, are susceptible to this painful degenerative hip condition. Scientists have not found the exact cause of this condition but it is believed that a low blood supply to the hip can be causing the problem.
Due to this low blood supply, the top part of the thigh bone is quite fragile and brittle. So, it can fracture easily. Plus, lameness in both or one rear legs can surely be expected and surgery is required to treat it.
This is a condition where a Pug’s patella (kneecap) shifts out of place as the leg straightens or bends.
If the condition is mild and only one leg is experiencing it, then, advanced treatments are not required but if that is not the case and the dog is having severe symptoms such as not being able to walk or move, surgery should be done to realign the kneecap. So that it will not keep luxating further.
04 – Obesity
Obesity/overweight is a major health problem in Pugs. These dogs are more prone to weight gain than other dog breeds due to their infamous appetite. You see, Pugs are not picky-eaters, they would eat basically as much as you would feed them.
On top of that, Pugs are also super lazy, they sleep all day and lack physical activity.
So, with excessive feeding and insufficient physical activity, a Pug can easily gain weight.
The worse part of obesity is the other health issues it causes such as heart diseases, back pain, metabolic and digestive disorders and joint problems. Plus, most health issues that a Pug already has, can get much worse by obesity/having more fat cells in the body.
That is all the more reasons to not make a dog obese/overweight.
What can be done to avoid a Pug from being obese?
There is plenty of things you as the pet-parent, can do to help your Pug not become overweight/obese.
Namely, they are:
- A proper and balanced diet with micro-nutrients such as high protein, moderate carbs and low fats along with micro-nutrients such as minerals, vitamins and omega-3.
- When feeding, determine the amount of foods and treats your Pug should eat. Use calories or number of potions to find the proper food amount for the dog.
- Usually, the food amount can be determined by the age and activity level of a Pug. Consult the vet to get a proper food intake if you are not sure.
- Enough exercise everyday.
Listen. I know, it is tempting to feed your doggo every time it asks for foods and treats with those demanding, yet adorable eyes but if you really love your Pug, you should not overfeed it.
Instead shower the dog with love and cuddles when it asks for extra-foods and only feed when it is the right time for the dog to eat. That is the only way to manage a Pug’s weight.
05 – Diabetes mellitus
Most dog breeds have diabetes mellitus but in Pugs, it is much more common. The condition affects the amount of sugar or rather glucose in a Pug’s blood.
This happens when a Pug stops or decreases producing insulin. So, without an efficient production of insulin, a Pug can not regulate the metabolism of glucose.
And to treat the condition, insulin must be injected to the dog on daily basis.
When a Pug has this disease, it will show symptoms such as weight loss, excessive drinking and excessive urinating but since these signs can be too subtle, you might not notice them right away.
And it is crucial to diagnose and treat the condition as soon as possible too. So, the most optimal option is regular visits to the vet office and check-ups. This way, health issues like diabetes mellitus can quickly be detected.
Nevertheless, Treatments might take quite a bit of time and money but if they are properly provided to a Pug, it can live an usual and long life as any other dog despite the seriousness of the disease.
06 – Liver problems (portosystemic shunt)
Pugs have a higher chance of getting a liver disorder called “Portosystemic Shunt” than other dog breeds. Due to this disorder, the liver of a Pug does not get supplied with enough blood and instead the blood flow goes around the liver without pumping into it.
So, the liver does not function or grow properly. You see, without a liver that does not function well, all the toxins in the bloodstream of a Pug can not be removed. That is the main issue.
But with diagnosis, vets can confirm whether a Pug shows symptoms of this disease such as seizures and stunted growth.
Then, they usually carry out an ultrasound scan of the dog’s liver and depending on the severity of the condition, either surgery or medications and a specific diet are used to treat the dog.
07 – Allergy (atopy)
Pugs experience an allergy called “Atopy”. Belly, ears, feet and folds of the skin get impacted by this condition the most. Pugs normally get this allergy when they are between one and three years old. Then, it can worsen as the dog ages more.
When a Pug has this allergy, it often would show signs such as face rubbing, paw licking and excessive itching. Fortunately, the condition can be treated with many available options and is not life-threatening.
Is it cruel that Pugs are bred despite all the health conditions?
Unfortunately yes, it is cruel that breeders intentionally breed these amazing dogs to be genetically modified just to have flat faces and it is all for cosmetic purposes. You see, Pugs including all other Brachycephalic breeds experience a tremendous amount of suffering due to having more health issues than they should have.
The issue is mostly caused by the forceful inbreeding. This situation is usually common in commercial breeding. Breeders make puppies look more appealing in the eyes of a potential owner/buyer.
You see, when Pugs are bred with inbreeding, they get gene problems such as the gene mutation “Brachycephaly“. The specialty of Brachycephalic dogs is that they have a unique face/the flattened face. Most people think that face is super adorable.
Should you get a Pug?
If you can spend time and resources to provide your Pug with high-quality maintenance and regular vet-care to treat and avoid all the health issues, you surely can get a Pug but frankly, you should ask yourself whether you want a Pug or not when you know that it can suffer a lot with health problems.
You see, breeders keep on breeding Pugs for cosmetic purposes because that is what most potential buyers/owners are demanding for
But if people do not ask for Pugs that are deformed for looks but just want healthy and happy puppies, then, Pugs will become a much healthier breed.
All I am saying is that it is important that breeders prioritize the health of the Pugs rather than their looks. So, that these dogs will not have to suffer with poor health.
Nonetheless, not all Pugs are bred for cosmetic purposes or will have the health issues that the breed is known to have. Plus, there are really professional breeders too who focus on the wellbeing of their puppies.
Here is another perspective to consider when getting a Pug:
The truth is that all dogs are not natural when you think about it:
You see, Dogs are the descendants of wolves. Wolves were/are made by the nature but the dogs were/are not. They are made by humans through combining different breeds. Therefore, the less a dog looks like a wolf, the more it will be unnatural and prone to having health issues.
That means, the original form of the dogs is wolves but without its pure wolf genes, dogs or rather domesticated wolves can become unnatural.
Some dog breeds are more natural and less prone to health issues than others. Why? Well, it is because that is how dog breeds are different and unique from one another. To make them look and perform different, they are bred different.
For example, Siberian Husky is a dog that is bred for a certain purpose (for sled pulling and companionship) but they turned out being healthy and beautiful despite not being bred mainly for the looks. It is probably because Siberian Huskies still have a close relation to wolves in appearance and genetics.
But when it comes to Pugs, they look nothing like a wolf. I mean they are severely focused on the looks to appear a certain way which means immensely unnatural. In other words, It is just the nature of the breed when it is bred for looks.
Therefore, whether you should get a Pug is a decision that you have to make. If you ask me, I personally would not get a Pug unless I know it is born naturally with purebred parents because I like to see dogs being bred to be healthy.
How to get a healthy Pug?
A healthy Pug that is not made for cosmetic purposes should have a number of qualities that you should check first before getting it.
Here they are:
- The breeder must be certified and can offer documents to verify the proofs that parent-breeds are registered as purebred via the American Kennel Club or other registering authority.
- When parent-breeds are registered as purebred, that means:
- They are not directly related to each other and therefore, no gene defects will be caused. In other words, the pug that you are going to get is not born via inbreeding.
- The parent-breeds are in great physical shape which means there will be only good qualities in the bloodlines of their puppies.
- Puppies will not have inherited genetic issues.
- Parent-breeds should be up to date on the required vaccinations, especially for the female parent.
- Parent-breeds should be within a healthy weight-range when breeding.
- The female parent must be of the right age to breed. She should be around 18 months old. That means the dog already has experienced about three heat cycles. This helps her to be mature enough to give birth.
If a breeder can guarantee these factors about the Pug that you are going to get, that means the puppy/dog is healthy like other healthy dog breeds.
So, you should research quite well before getting a Pug from a breeder.
Can you get a Pug and still keep it healthy and happy?
Yes, you surely can get and raise a Pug to keep it healthy and happy. To do that, you have to put more effort into making sure the dog does not get a health issue and stays healthy. Even if your Pug did get a health issue, you should be willing to spend money and time to provide good treatments.
In fact, Pugs are happy dogs and they feel all the emotions that every other dog also does. You see, when a Pug has a sickness, it gets distressed and sad. Until it feels well again, it will not feel happy and healthy which is why I emphasize that vet-care and maintenance should be efficient and of great quality.
Not only that, for a Pug to feel happy and healthy, only good physical health is not enough. The dog should also have sound mental health. To ensure that, you have to spend quality time with the dog and give it your affection and attention.
So, as long as you can make that commitment, it is certain that you can keep a Pug happy and healthy.
It is safe to say that Pugs are prone to many health problems due to their genes. Most common health conditions include breathing problems, eye disease, heatstroke, Pug dog encephalitis and joint issues but there are many more.
Depending on the individual, they can decide whether they want to get a Pug or not, after considering the fact that these dogs could suffer with health issues.
However, if you already got a Pug or considered getting one, that is fine. Just make sure to get the dog from a good certified breeder. Plus, when raising the dog, most importantly, provide it with proper care and a lot of love.