9 of the Most Common Pug Health Problems to Watch For

By John Martin - November 17, 2023

Pug getting checked by vet

Pugs are sleepy, lazy cuddlers that make them the perfect pet for anyone who wants a little company. That’s what makes them such great lap and companion dogs.

But these little bundles of joy come with their own set of problems. And those can get pretty bad pretty soon if you’re not careful.

So, here’s a rundown.

#1 Skin Problems

These are some of the most common health problems that pugs face and there are a few to watch out for if you have a pug. Skin problems are common among pugs because of the folds or wrinkles on their skin.

These folds make it easy for bacteria and fungi to grow on the surface, which means you need to clean them regularly. This not only helps ease their discomfort but also helps keep the problem under control.

The three most common skin problems among pugs are:

  • Allergies: You will notice that your pug will be biting or scratching themselves constantly, especially in the spring season. This might even lead to diseases like eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis. If your dog is scratching their paws, you should wash their feet regularly when you take them out or if their paws have been exposed to pollen. You must also remember to give them high-quality kibble so that their immune system gets stronger.
  • Ringworm: This is caused by fungi and it leads to lesions in the shape of rings on their skin. Sometimes, it looks like your dog has patchy spots on their body. This is also a condition that is more likely in pugs with low immunity. Unfortunately, just being outside on soil is enough for your pug to be infected. Areas that are moist and warm contain fungi and the folds are a perfect place for them to breed.

This condition is also contagious which means you or other family members who come into contact with your dog could be affected. Make sure you wash your hands regularly if your dog has this infection. You must also wash things they touch regularly, like their toys and bed to keep the fungus from spreading. Treatment depends on how severe the infection is, which can easily be determined by a vet.

  • Skin Cancer: This might sound alarming but unfortunately, it is true that pugs are no strangers to skin cancer. This is because of their genetics and it is likely to develop when they reach their golden years. Among puppies, skin cancer or mast cell tumors are more likely. But if they are detected at an early stage, your pug can be cured through chemotherapy or surgery.

#2 Infections

Apart from ringworms, pugs are also prone to viral and bacterial infections. The condition gets worse if it is not treated in time.

A very contagious viral disease called parvo is a likelihood among pugs. This affects their gastrointestinal system.

Then there is another viral disease called canine distemper. This affects their central nervous system, GI and their respiratory system.

Pugs are also likely to get rabies which happens when there is an inflammation in their brain.

It is best to consult your vet about possible infections because some of them can be avoided with vaccinations. Make sure your vet looks at your dog’s age, medical history, among other things to make sure the possibility of infections is evaluated properly.

#3 Breathing Problems

Pugs are also prone to breathing problems because they have short noses. This is called brachycephalics and the condition is called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS.

This condition creates excess tissue like large tonsils, swollen larynx and a soft palate in the airway which makes it hard for the pug to breathe. They also have closed, narrow nostrils which makes the problem worse because the airflow to the lungs is disrupted.

They feel the same way we do when we have a sore throat and a heavy cold. If you talk to a breeder, they are likely to say that the resultant snoring is common while the dog breathes but in these cases, it is best to rely on the expertise of a vet.

You might notice snorting when the dog is sleeping as well as resting. They might also be panting without a break when you play with them for a short period of time.

These are all signs that your dog is in pain and will also indicate how severe the problem is. Pugs are also not very good at cooling themselves down when it is hot outside.

So, they have a lot of trouble breathing and swallowing when they also have a health problem to deal with. This makes it hard for them to eat and causes them to throw up.

And you don’t need us to tell you how unpleasant that can be.

#4 Eye Problems

These dogs have prominent eyes but that means they don’t get lubricated enough. So, dry eyes are a real problem with pugs.

This is not just about irritation but it causes them a lot of pain that leads to infections and sometimes trauma too. Their cornea is constantly irritated and it creates a pigment in the eye that obscures their vision too.

This is called pigmentary keratopathy.

These dogs have eye sockets that are quite shallow which means they are actually likely to pop out more than the other dogs. This is referred to as prolapsing and can lead to your dog losing the eye.

The irritated cornea can also cause some abnormalities in the eyelids and those are called ectropion and entropion.

#5 Seizures

When you notice that your pug is having a seizure, you must take them to the vet as soon as you can so that you can figure out the cause. This is usually the case when the dog has epilepsy and pugs are known to have this condition.

However, the good news is that it can be treated with regular check-ups and medication. This can also be caused due to a neurological problem that leads to a condition called PDE or pug dog encephalitis.

PDE can turn into a fatal one within weeks and is noticeable when the dog is two to three years old. But it can be developed in dogs that are six months to six years old.

It is a condition caused by inflammation in the brain that attacks their immune system through their brain tissue. It leads to changes in their behavior, neck and head pain.

PDE can also stem from depression but also cause physical problems like blindness. Crossbreeds with a pug parent can also inherit PDE.

You might also notice your dog getting lazier and losing coordination in their muscles. Medication can help with seizures and inflammation. So, consult your vet as soon as possible.

#6 Tail Problems

Pugs have a short and curly tail which looks cute but it can cause a few health problems if you are not careful. And when any of these issues crop up, you will notice certain changes in their body language.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Screw Tail: If the vertebrae in your dog’s tail are not formed properly, it might develop screw tail. It is also referred to as corkscrew tail, ingrown tail or tail fold dermatitis.

    Though, you might be glad to know that this is more prevalent among bulldogs. This is a rather painful condition and infects the folds on the skin. It also blocks the anal passage partially which leads to other infections and trouble going to the bathroom.

Take them to the vet as soon as you can. They might ask you to clean the area to prevent the infection from getting worse. But if the situation is really bad, your dog might need surgery. Be prepared for that.

  • Limp Tail: This is a condition where the tail is down or straight and it is actually quite common in pugs. A lot of pug parents get really worried when this happens and that is valid if it is happening frequently because it could mean that the tail is broken.

    It will also look like the tail is just about hanging in there and might have happened if they were roughhousing with other dogs during playtime. It is a very painful condition and messes with their coordination too. So, get it fixed as soon as you possibly can.

#7 Bone Problems

You might have noticed that these dogs have small legs but they have a heavy body because of all the muscle weight. This gives them a unique body structure but also leaves them vulnerable to joint and bone problems.

Pugs are likely to get their knees dislocated and the condition that causes it is called luxating patella. If your pug has this, you will notice that they are having trouble jumping or hopping.

They might also be trying to get all the movement done with one leg because it is painful when they try to use the others. This usually happens because of obesity and in extreme cases, the dog might need surgery.

Obesity can be taken care of through regular exercise for 40-60 minutes every day, preferably in two 20-minute sessions so that your pug does not get exhausted. You must also give the dog high-quality food that is nutritionally well balanced.

Pugs are also known to have problems with their spine which cause them a lot of pain and they will have trouble using their rear leg. If your pug has this problem, you will notice that they are avoiding playing games with the family which these dogs otherwise love.

#8 Stomach Problems

Small pugs, especially the male ones, might experience the sliding of their intestines. This is not uncommon and leads to swelling.

Pugs are also known to have digestive problems especially if they are eating table scraps or garbage. They might even get into trouble if they have food allergies or accidentally ingest bacteria like salmonella or parasites by nibbling the wrong foods.

#9 Obesity

You probably know that these dogs don’t like to exercise much and sleep for more than half a day. And that’s their healthy routine.

That might keep them out of your way for the most part but it also means that they are very prone to obesity if you don’t keep an eye on their diet and exercise routines. They are also capable of snuggling up next to you and watching TV endlessly which only makes the problem more likely.

Obesity is not just about gaining weight. It increases the likelihood of joint problems, causes digestive problems, heart problems and also metabolic disorders.

So, while you might like giving them tasty rewards, keep an eye on the amount of food they are eating. Treats are great when they do a good job but make sure you take their current weight into account and ration it out.

Also Read: Are Pugs Good Apartment Dogs?

Parting Thoughts

Skin, bones, weight and intestines, you name it. Pugs have the ability to develop health problems everywhere.

But if you don’t take good care of your dog, that is a possibility regardless of the breed. These dogs are easy to take care of, so it is actually relatively easier for you as a pet parent to do right by them.