Are pugs a healthy breed? This is a question often asked by people considering a pug as a pet. Most pugs are exceptionally healthy, and are long-lived. Many pugs live 15 or 16 years, and rarely need to see a vet. But, as with all breeds, there are certain health issues which may occur, and there are some considerations and issues about the breed that people should know.
Firstly, pugs are a heavy, short-faced (brachycephalic) breed. As such, they are not designed for hard exercise and cannot cool down as easily as long faced breeds. Pugs should never be exercised in a heatwave or left in a car. Brachycephalic breeds may also suffer from Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome. Such pugs may have excessively noisy breathing, especially during exercise. In severe cases, the pug may need surgery. This is a condition that all breeders need to be aware of, as it is genetic in origin.
Pugs have large eyes. It is part of their charm. However, large eyes are prone to injury. Anecdotally, most pug owners will cite eye damage as being the commonest cause of a trip to the vet. There is a whole range of eye disorders, including those caused by an over-nose wrinkle that is too large and rubbing on the eye, or by eyelashes or whiskers that rub off the eye. Responsible breeders aim to breed pugs with slightly smaller eyes and over-nose wrinkles.
The commonest pug health issue, according to vets, is obesity. Too many pugs are allowed to get too fat. As with humans, obesity will have a negative effect on many other health issues, such as Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome, arthritis and joint issues, hearth issues, etc. Reducing the calorie intake and increasing the amount of exercise is advisable.
Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE), also called Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis (NME) because it does also occur in other breeds, is an uncommon, but horrible genetic disease. PDE affects the central nervous system, resulting in seizures, blindness and death. A genetic test for susceptibility to PDE exists, and many breeders test dog and bitch before breeding.
Both luxating patellas (slipping knee caps) and hip dysplasia occur within the breed. Both are genetic, and breeders should avoid breeding from badly affected pugs. Epilepsy does occur in some pugs, and likewise, affected pugs should not be bred from. As can be seen, many of the issues that can possibly affect pugs, are the result of poor breeding. It is very important that buyers only go to a responsible breeder. There are, of course, many other conditions that may affect pugs (or indeed any breed), but by and large pugs are healthy, tough little dogs.
If you are planning to breed a litter, or you wish to inform yourself before buying a puppy, please read our Pre-Breeding Health Tests page.