Health and care of the pug dog

Allergy | Anaesthesia | Anal sacs | Canine cough | Ears | Encephalitis | Exercise | Eyes | Food | Heartworm | Heat | Hips | Pigmentary keratitis | Nose | Genetic Predispositions | Pulmonary Disease | Respiratory problems | Skin | Wrinkles

Section reviewed by

Last update : 27 November 2004


A care sheet reproduced with permission from the

Allergies are an abnormal immune reaction by the body to everyday substances. These substances, called allergens, can be pollen molds, housedust, hair, feathers, insects (fleas), food and chemicals. Approximately 30-40% of all pet skin irritations are due to allergy. Allergic skin reactions can be confused with other type of dermatitis. Special skin tests may be required to determine the type of dermatitis present. Proper diagnosis is important for proper treatment.

Allergies can occur at any age, but the most common age when allergies begin is between 2 and 5 years. Allergic problems tend to be inherited. The common signs of allergy are foot licking and chewing, face rubbing, ear rubbing, ear inflammation, watery eyes and generalized chewing.

Many allergic pets have combined allergic diseases which generally worsen aging. The four major categories of allergy are flea allergy, airborne allergy (atopy), food allergy and contact allergy. Each allergic category can require special diagnostic procedures and the treatment is slightly different for each.

See also Skin

General anaesthesia in Pugs

General anaesthesia in Pugs is best given under intubation :

This method permits a surgery as long as necessary, with a mortal risk of 3 pro mille, this in opposite to classic intravenous barbiturate anaesthesia where the mortal risk is much higher (up to 25 % !).

The current trend in veterinary medicine is to replace halothane by isoflurane, as explained in the following note sent on October 9th, 1995, by

Ron Mandsager, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists
Asst. Professor, Anesthesiology
Dept. of Medicine & Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK, USA

"Fluothane (a trade name for halothane) is still widely used for anaesthesia in veterinary medicine in the United States. However, many veterinarians are making a transition to using isoflurane instead of halothane or methoxyflurane - although all three inhalant anaesthetics are available.

Advantages of isoflurane over halothane include:

  • Slightly faster inductions and recoveries,
  • Lowered incidence of cardiac arrhythmias,
  • Better maintenance of cardiac output,
  • No metabolism, with less potential for toxicity (such as halothane hepatitis).

Disadvantages of isoflurane over halothane:

  • Much more expensive,
  • More respiratory depression.

    By D.V.M. Jan Mylemans Belgium

Anal sacs

The anal sacs are located on each side of the anus, just under the skin. They open to the outside by tiny passageways or ducts. Glands within the anal sacs produce a dark, foul smelling substance. The sacs normally empty as the animal has bowel movement. Their purpose is unknown and your pet can do well without them. Diseases of the anal sacs fall into 3 categories:

  1. Impaction : the fluid is abnormally thick and cannot escape;
  2. Infection : bacteria produce a yellow or bloody pus;
  3. Abscessation : as a result of infection, a hot, tender swelling near the anus may rupture and discharge pus and blood.

Signs of anal sacs disease include scooting (dragging the anus on the floor), excessive licking under the tail, tenderness near tail and anus, and/or bloody or sticky drainage from the anal area. Scooting may also be caused by allergic itchiness, tapeworms or diarrhea.

Important points in treatment

  1. Treatment for anal sac disease may include the following:
    • manual expression (squeezing) of the sac contents,
    • flushing the sacs and instilling antibiotics into them,
    • surgical draining or removal of the sacs.
  2. Notify the doctor if any of the following occur:
    • your pet is reluctant to eat,
    • your pet is depressed or listless,
    • there is a sudden swelling or drainage near the anus,
    • your pet constantly licks its anus,
    • your pet vomits.

Canine Cough

Canine cough is medically known as infectious tracheobronchitis. It is a condition confined to dogs, highly contagious, caused by microorganisms; and it affects the airways of the respiratory system.

It is really a complex of infections not just a single disease. It can be caused by a number of viruses and bacteria. Some are the cause and some attack as secondary infections after the dog's immune system is compromised. The two most common causative agents are canine parainfluenza virus and the bacteria Bordetella bronchispetica. They are believed to spread from dog to dog through the air. There is a 5 to 10 day incubation period after exposure before signs occur. Drafty or damp environmental conditions aggravate the condition. So can activity and excitement.

Apart from the cough the dog usually does not seem ill. The cough can persist as long as three weeks. The most serious potential complication of the cough is pneumonia. That is why it is a good idea to see your veterinarian if you think your dog may have it. They will prescribe proper medications.

Responsible pet owners quarantine their pets with the cough. Preventive vaccines are available and provide temporary resistance. These vaccines are not fail safe. Check with your veterinarian.

See also Respiratory problems

Ear cleaning

Pet's ear canals are longer than ours and typically produce more wax. Thus they tend to get infected more often, particularly in breeds with floppy and/or hairy ears.

To reduce the chance of ear infection beginning or reoccurring in your pet's ear please clean them on a regular basis with the cleansing agent prescribed by the doctor, as follows:

  1. Fill the entire ear canal with cleansing solution, and massage the base of the ear gently for 1-2 minutes to loosen the wax and debris;
  2. Use Kleenex to wipe out the debris;
  3. Repeat the process 2-3 times or until the drainage solution is clear. If extreme redness occurs discontinue this cleaning episode;
  4. Hairy eared pets benefit by having the hair clipped or plucked from the inside of the ear to improve air circulation and dry out the canal;
  5. Warning: Do not use Q-Tips in the canal as you may pack debris into the canal and damage the ear drum. Q-Tips may be used to clean the folds of the ear flap.

A bit of prevention goes a long way towards keeping your pet's ears clean and healthy. Please be diligent with your ear cleaning program, and incorporate it into a regular grooming process suach as bathing.


PDE is an inflammation of the brain. In many cases of encephalitis, a definitive infection cause can not be identified. Some such cases are believed to be immune mediated, which is to say that the animal or human being's immune system can be involved in cases of encephalitis by either failing to react to infectious agents or by attacking the brain inappropriately.

Several potentially severe forms of Encephalitis that involve specific breeds of dogs have been reported. Pugs with a characteristic type of encephalitis were noted in California in the 1960's and have since been described elsewhere in the U.S. and other countries. Most dogs are less than 2 years of age. Littermates, or closely related dogs, often are affected, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

Pug encephalitis is a syndrome different from other forms of encephalitis, including those due to infectious agents. No infectious agent or other underlying pathogenetic mechanism has yet been defined. It is necessary to study dog lymphocyte antigen or DLA in affected dogs. The DLA is the canine major histocompatibility complex and determines how different dogs respond to foreign antigens, including infectious agents. It is possible that dogs with PDE have certain DLA subtypes that prevent them from responding to infectious agents appropriately.

In order to "sort out" the meaning of the DLA's, there is a need for an extensive pedigree study of dogs from various pug lines that have been affected. As such, the pedigree study will go "hand in hand" with the studies of DLA. Without pedigree information, the researching studies can not be run meaningfully.

This study is planned by Prof. Dr Joe N. Kornegay, DVM, PhD of the University of Missouri-Columbia, College of Veterinary Medicine. He plans to direct a postdoctoral fellowship for one year of research with an initial fund of $20.000,

Clinical signs almost always reflect involvement of the cerebrum of the brain, with generalized seizures consistently occurring, together with features such as circling, head pressing, and assymetric weakness and visual deficits. Neck pain (cervical hyperesthesia) and assymetric visual and postural reaction deficits also may occur. Peripheral blood hematological and chemical parameters are generally normal. As is typical of almost all cases of encephalitis, regardless of cause, white corpuscles are generally increased in spinal fluid samples from affected dogs. Signs occur and progress acutely. Transient improvement may occur spontaneously or subsequent to administration of drugs such as prednisone (a form of cortisone). However, long term recovery or cure has not been described, as far as is known. Grey and white matter equally affected in the principal pathologic study of this condition. Based on fewer cases white matter has been preferentially affected (Prof. Kornegay' experience). Causative organisms have not been identified, although persistent herpesvirus infection was proposed as a potential cause in the original study. Marked neuronal necrosis and leucoencephalitis are noted, with cavation occurring in more chronically affected dogs.

Other forms of encephalitis, including those due to infectious agents, can also affect Pugs. Pug encephalitis is a distinct syndrome, for which no infectious agent or other underlying pathogenic mechanisms has yet been defined.

This article is based on the publications of Prof. Dr. Kornegay, DVM, PhD, of the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia.


Young growing pugs need room for movement, that has to be seen as a certain training of the whole body and a kind of involvement of all the bodyparts to develop in harmony, and particularly the hips and their articulations.

To avoid, in young age, are forced jumping exercises, and high stairs, because the vertical movements give increased pressure on the surfaces of the cartilage of the articulations and consecutively hypersecretion of articular fluid and damage of the intra-articular cartilage. Swollen and painful articulations will follow, with deformation of the position of the legs. Pugs may be considered as young, till maximum 18 months, then they are full grown, and intensive exercise may gradually be increased, but with levels of horizontal progression. This is a part of the art of training champions: the eye and feeling of mastership.

One of my first pugs, Belgian Champion A'Moppy, participated on a regular base on 12 km (7.5 miles) walkings together with a large lot of different breeds of dogs and each time he was in the three first on the finish, but each time the two others were of a different breed. Back at home, he drunk his normal bowl and took a nice rest. Some hours later he could enjoy playing with the others, without showing abnormal behaviour. (J. Mylemans)


Pugs have large, round, expressive eyes, that don't have the protection of a large nose like other breeds. Their eyes are often scratched, have it treated or it could eventually cause the dog to become blind. As their eyes are set shallowly into their heads, sometimes eyes do come out. Some pugs go through their lives without any eye problems, some have chronic problems.

If your Pug rubs its eyes, see also Pigmentary keratitis.


In Preparation

Genetic disease predisposition

Slipped stifles, some cases of hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, encephalitis.


Heartworm disease is a deadly disease caused by the parasite Dirofilaria Immitis. The immature worms migrate to the heart and lungs where they mature and can cause heart blockage. If the infection is left untreated, this disease can cause your dog to have heart failure within 1 to 2 years. The changes that occur are often irreversible and despite therapy many pets continue to have heart disease. The symptoms of heartworm disease are weakness, fatigue, chronic cough, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Heartworm infestation can be treated, but the drugs used to treat this disease can be hard on your pet. Before heartworm treatment is started, a medical workup must be done to determine the stage of infestation and the general health of your pet.

Fortunately, heartworm disease is preventable with a once a month or daily medication. This treatment kills the immature parasite before they become adults and cause heart damage.

It has come to our attention some pugs imported to San Diego from East of the Rockies are infected with heartworms. If you acquired a pug from previous owners here in San Diego from that area please have it tested for heartworm by your Vet.

Never give heartworm medication without a test. It will be fatal to your pug.


Pug dogs are very sensitive to overheating. Never leave them alone in a car. Avoid exercise during the hot summer period. If your dog shows signs of overheating, swathe him with wet, fresh towels, fan him and give him some fresh water. Squirting lemon juice can also help as it tends to cut the "slime" and your dog will be able to breath easier.


In general, most of the pugs have normal hips. Bitches, X-rayed in order to see that she whelped all her puppies, show large opening of the pelvic ring, what means that there is room enough for the pups to come out. Older bitches sometimes have problems because of their pelvic ligaments being more rigid and less relaxed than in young whelping bitches.

Perthes Disease, Calve-Perthes, Calve-Legg-Perthes, Legg-Perthes-Disease or Malum Deformans Juvenilis Coxae, can be seen in many breeds, more in the Terrier, Pekinese, Poodle, Dachshound, Shepherds and St. Bernard, and in younger than 12 months age. X-Ray shows highlightened and cavicated femur heads, later aggravated dystrophia, degeneration and necrosis of the bone and cartilage, till mushroom-disfigurement and disappearing.

Hip Dysplasia denotes an abnormal development of the hip joint(s). Dys (bad) Plassein (to form) comes from the Greek and means badly formed. Regardless the cause it means a poorly developed hip, and any hip showing abnormal development can be considered as dysplastic. Most osteo-arthritis of the hip can be traced to some form of hip dysplasia. Vascular changes in the bony structures of the hip at least, but whether the causes of these changes are pre-natal or post-natal is not clear.

In general, it is thought that hip dysplasia is hereditary in the dog, although opinions vary (due to a recessive factor or due to a dominant factor with irregular penetrance.) Comparing the spread of hip dysplasia in many breeds, the pug is doing quite well. With careful breeding and hoping that the breed will not become a fashion breed, the pug has a healthy future.

Pigmentary keratitis


From time to time you can put a little vaseline on the nose of your pug in order to avoid it to get dry.

Pulmonary disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

See also Canine cough



In dogs demodex infestation is frequent. Demodex canis is a host specific (i. e. only affecting dogs) mite, situated in the hairfolicles and sebum glands. This mite develops in 20 to 35 days from egg, over larva and nympha stadia until its adult form. Many dogs are latent carriers, without showing symptoms. Immunological deficiency can make individuals more susceptible. Altough demodex can infect dogs of all ages, it is mostly seen in dogs of 3 to 16 months old.

Diagnosis is made by a deep skin scratch under the microscope. Eggs, larvae, nymphae or adult forms prove the problem of demodicosis.

There are of two kinds:

  • local demodicosis: with lesions on the head and legs, with few prurit, and
  • generalised form: with prurit and bacterial surinfections (head, legs, and body, and often illness.)

Treatment: weekly bathing with diluted solution of Ectodex (Amitraz base) distributed in Europe by Hoechst.

Recovery depends on tenaciously bathing until disappeareance of eggs, larvae, nymphae or adult forms.

(J. Mylemans DVM)

See also Allergy


Sometimes tear stains might develop in the folds of the skin on the face. First determine if the cause of tearing is normal (see Eyes). Clean the wrinkles with hydrogen peroxyde (10 vol.) to prevent infection (be careful not to touch the eyes) and apply little baby oil to form a barrier between the tears and fur.


D.V.M.Jan Mylemans