Pug

Emily A. Fassbaugh, DVM
Written by:
Published: June 28, 2022
Pug

The Pug is an ancient dog breed that originated in China around 2,000 years ago. The Pug became a favorite of royals around the world, and today they are a very popular dog breed. They are easily identifiable due to their flat, wrinkly face, curly tail, and snorty, loud breathing.

A Pug is typically 10 to 13 inches tall and weighs 14 to 18 pounds. They have short coats that are typically fawn (tan) or black.

Caring for a Pug

Pugs are a very friendly dog breed that thrive on attention from their owners. They are people pleasers and like to feel included in the day-to-day happenings in their home.

Pugs are a brachycephalic breed. This means they have short muzzles, flat faces, narrow nostrils, and narrow airways—and often have an elongated soft palate. The elongated soft palate can cause a blockage to the windpipe entrance, creating the typically loud snoring and breathing noises they produce.

Due to their flat faces, Pugs breathe with more effort than dogs with a normal-size muzzle. This creates swallowed air, which leads to Pugs being gassier than most dogs. It also means that Pugs do not do very well in overly hot climates or with extreme exercise.

As a result, Pugs do best as primarily indoor dogs, with controlled excursions outside.

While their coat is short, they do shed quite a bit. Regular grooming can help to manage their shedding.

Pug Health Issues

Pugs are prone to many health issues. Most are related to their brachycephalic conformation. Fortunately, many of their potential health problems can be managed with the assistance of your veterinarian.

Overheating

Because they are a brachycephalic breed, Pugs’ upper respiratory tract is much smaller than other dogs, so they often have to breathe through their mouths.

Since dogs use their airways to cool themselves, this increased effort for Pugs leaves them more predisposed to overheating.

To keep your Pug safe, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid taking your Pug outside during the hottest parts of the day

  • Avoid strenuous exercise for your Pug during hot weather

  • Provide consistent access to cool, clean water

Excess weight can increase breathing difficulties and make it easier for a Pug to overheat. Keeping your Pug at a healthy weight or on a weight-control diet to prevent obesity—when prescribed by a veterinarian—will help minimize  risk.

Respiratory Distress

The narrow airway of a Pug also means that they are more prone to respiratory distress.

If your Pug becomes stressed or distressed, they breathe even harder. This harsh breathing causes their already narrow airways to collapse further, which makes it even harder for them to breathe.

Without intervention, this can progress to the point of low oxygen levels and collapse.

Avoiding stress and keeping your Pug calm can help to avoid true respiratory distress. If you are noticing heavy or distressed breathing, contact your veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic immediately.

To help your Pug breathe more easily, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to widen the Pug’s narrow nostrils airway early in life. This is a simple procedure that can be done at the same time as spay or neuter surgery.

Your veterinarian may also recommend surgery to correct an elongated soft palate if they have severe respiratory problems.

Allergies and Ear Infections

Pugs are especially prone to skin allergies and ear infections. These problems can start to show up as early as one year of age.

Since Pugs have narrow ear canals and deep folds in the skin around their face, they can collect debris and bacteria more easily. It’s important to clean and dry the skin folds around the face daily, and clean the ears at least weekly, to help prevent inflammation from forming. Regular cleaning also allows you to check the ears and skin to identify inflammation and seek care early.

Skin allergies are not curable, but seeking medications from a veterinarian and doing preventive bathing and ear cleaning to prevent infections caused by allergies will help to keep your Pug comfortable and happy.

Dental Disease

Pugs have small jaws, but they have the same number of teeth as other dog breeds. As a result, many of their teeth are crooked and crowded.

Just like in people, crowded and crooked teeth can lead to increased buildup of food between their teeth. The result is increased risk for gingivitis, infection, and dental disease. Over time, this can lead to tooth loss and pain.

Daily tooth brushing is key to control and prevent inflammation. In addition, annual dental cleanings under anesthesia by your veterinarian starting at 1–2 years of age will help to identify infection and periodontal disease early. Ultimately, diseased teeth should be removed as early as possible to avoid pain, but diligent dental care can help prevent tooth loss.

Eye Injuries

A problem that is unique to Pugs is the risk of eye injury. The shape of the Pug’s skull makes their eye sockets very shallow, which means their eyelids are often not big enough to completely close. As a result, it’s easy for their eyes to get scratched, punctured, or even pop out.

All of these constitute an emergency, and your pet should be taken to the vet immediately. Without rapid treatment, these injuries can result in permanent damage or even loss of an eye.

Legg-Calvé-Perthe Disease

Pugs are also affected by a condition called Legg-Calvé-Perthe disease. This condition affects the hips of a dog and happens when blood flow to the top of the femur is restricted, leading to a very painful condition that will eventually lead to arthritis.

Signs of Legg-Calvé-Perthe disease typically include:

  • Lameness (limping with gradual onset over a few months)

  • Carrying or reduced use of the affected leg

  • Pain when moving hip joint

Surgery is usually required to remove the dead portion of bone.

What to Feed a Pug

Diet is an important part of maintaining the health of a Pug, especially since obesity is common for the breed. Obesity increases the risk of heat stroke and breathing problems.

To help keep your Pug at a healthy weight, talk with your veterinarian about a weight management or calorie-restricted diet to help prevent obesity. They will be able to provide you with an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)-approved dog food that meets your dog’s nutritional needs and supports their overall health. Make sure that you are feeding your Pug a dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, or senior). These age-specific diets ensure that your Pug is getting the nutrients they need to thrive at every age.

Some Pugs have food allergies that contribute to skin problems; your veterinarian will discuss feeding trials and special protein ingredients to test for and treat food allergies.

How to Feed a Pug

Pugs do best when fed 2 or 3 small meals a day.

The shape of a Pug’s mouth limits how well they can pick up and chew food. So when feeding dry food, the shape and size of the kibble is important to prevent choking. Some companies make foods specific to Pugs, designed to be easier to eat and help manage Pug-specific medical problems.

Talk with your veterinarian to learn more about breed-specific dog food and the best kibble size for your dog.

How Much to Feed a Pug

Pugs should be fed based on their body size to avoid overfeeding. Typically, this is 1 to 1.5 cups of food daily.

The exact amount of food will be decided by the dog food brand recommendations and your veterinarian’s opinion on what suits your Pug’s health needs and lifestyle.

Nutritional Tips for Pugs

Any nutritional supplements given to your Pug should be used to address their individual health problems.

A fatty acid supplement such as fish oil can be beneficial in managing skin allergies.

A joint supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial if your Pug has arthritis or other joint problems.

Behavior and Training Tips for Pugs

Pug Personality and Temperament

Pugs are generally very friendly, though they can be stubborn. They are easily excited and can have periods of high energy.

Pugs are eager to please and love spending a lot of time with their owners. They are a very loving breed and enjoy cuddling and being close to their people.

Pet parents must remember that their brachycephalic characteristics make them snore, so light sleepers be warned.

Pug Behavior

Pugs are generally happy, friendly dogs. While they do have moments of high energy, they are generally calm couch potatoes. However, this does not mean they don’t need regular exercise.

Without mental stimulation, Pugs can become mischievous and develop problematic behaviors or find destructive activities to keep them busy. Be sure to schedule your outdoor playtime around peak sun hours to avoid risk of your Pug overheating.

Aggression is rare—especially if your Pug has been well socialized during their puppy years and has a solid training foundation.

Pug Training

Pugs are typically very food-motivated, which makes them relatively easily to train. They are not physically good candidates for high-energy exercise, such as running and agility, but low-key activities like casual walks or a quick game of fetch are fun for them.

Fun Activities for Pugs

  • Obedience training

  • Dog trick training

  • Leash walks

  • Doggy playdates

Pug Grooming Guide

Pugs do require regular grooming to help them stay happy and healthy.

Coat Care

While Pugs have a short coat, they are consistent shedders. This means that you need to be prepared for regular shedding. Brush their coat weekly to help manage and control the amount of shedding.

Skin Care

Due to their wrinkly skin, Pugs need a more consistent skincare routine. If your Pug has skin allergies or infections, you veterinarian may recommend weekly baths with specialized shampoos.

Aside from bathing, be diligent about cleaning your Pug’s wrinkles—especially on their face. You can use a wet towel or commercial dog face wipes to regularly clean the wrinkles. Your veterinarian can recommend the best option for your Pug’s needs.

Make sure to dry the wrinkles after cleaning, as leaving moisture will enable bacteria to breed and infections to develop.

Eye Care

Since Pugs are prone to eye issues, make sure their eyes look healthy and normal. Any signs of injury or abnormalities should be immediately reported to your vet.

For day-to-day eye buildup, use a warm, wet washcloth to wipe the area clean. Again, be sure to dry afterward to prevent moisture allowing bacteria to grow.

Ear Care

Pugs are also prone to ear infections, so this is another area to regularly monitor. Talk with your veterinarian about the best cleaning routine for your Pug’s ears, but generally you can use a liquid ear wash.

Talk with your veterinarian about frequency of ear cleaning, because too much can lead to trapped moisture and ear infections.

Considerations for Pet Parents

While Pugs make great family dogs or a nice breed choice for someone who prefers a low-key cuddle buddy over a running partner, they do require quite a bit of work.

The flat face of a Pug creates a lot of predispositions for eye, ear, and skins issues, as well as breathing and dental problems. This means that grooming upkeep and regular veterinary visits are essential to their overall health.

Also, due to their sensitivity to hot and humid temperatures, Pugs are best in homes where they will be primarily indoors. If you live in a warm climate, be aware of the temperature and time of day when you take your Pug out for a walk.

Prospective pet owners should consider pet insurance if they want a Pug. It can help to make veterinary costs more manageable.

Pug FAQs

Is a Pug a good family dog?

Yes. Pugs are very friendly and easygoing dogs, and they make excellent family dogs.

Are Pugs smart dogs?

Pugs are relatively smart and easily trainable for basic tasks. They are not well-suited to doing dog tasks.

What are the drawbacks of a Pug?

Pugs are prone to many health problems, including eye, ear, and skin infections and breathing problems. This requires consistent and frequent bathing and ear cleaning, as well as frequent and sometimes expensive trips to the veterinarian.

Health insurance is a great investment for pet owners that want a Pug.

Are Pugs a good indoor dog?

Yes. Pugs should ideally be primarily indoor dogs to reduce the risk of overheating.

Are Pugs good watch dogs?

Pugs are very friendly and not generally territorial. They do not make good watch dogs beyond barking to alert you to someone at the door.

Featured Image: iStock.com/nimis69


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