Common health problems with Pugs

19 June 2024 - 4 min read
Pug on beige background

Pugs - we all love them. Full of a comedian's charm, a unique personality and a bucketful of affection, it's no surprise that these bundles of energy are so popular.

But like any pedigree, Pugs are prone to certain health issues. Below, we discuss the most common Pug health conditions, how vets diagnose them and how to care for one.

Most common health conditions in Pugs

Pug on beige background

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

BOAS is a condition pugs suffer from due to abnormalities of the upper airway system. It's common in small, flat-faced dogs. We call these brachycephalic breeds. The condition affects the ability to breathe normally due to narrowed nostrils, which vets call stenotic nares.

A mix of other abnormalities, like an elongated soft palate, extended nasopharyngeal saccules and a hypoplastic trachea, contribute to the condition. In basic terms, Pugs need to exert more effort to breathe. It causes breathing difficulties.

The symptoms can vary from mild cases, with noisy breathing and exercise intolerance, to severe cases, with increased respiratory effort even when sleeping and possible collapse after mild exercise.

These dogs are also prone to overheating even in mild heat, due to the inefficiency of cooling mechanisms in the airways. This means they're prone to life-threatening heatstroke, so you manage them carefully in summer. BOAS treatment needs surgery, and it's better if treated earlier in puppyhood.

Skin Fold Dermatitis (Intertrigo)

Dermatitis is a common Pug health problem due to their heavy skin wrinkles around the face and tail. We call this Skin Fold Dermatitis. This is a condition that causes inflammation and recurrent skin infections in the area between the skin surfaces.

Vets usually opt for treatments that include:

Eye conditions

Pugs are prone to a few eye conditions like entropion, corneal ulcers and dry eyes, known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). Pugs are sadly prone to damage and recurrent eye disease due to their head shape and eye protrusion.

Entropion is a genetic condition where the dog’s eyelid rolls inwards. It’s a painful problem that can lead to other health problems and, if left untreated, cause blindness and even eye loss. Surgical correction is needed to protect eye function.

KCS and corneal ulceration involve the transparent front of the eye becoming dry, ulcerated and damaged.

These conditions can progress quite quickly, and if left untreated, they can cause permanent damage or even eyesight loss. A quick intervention is recommended if you notice any problems with your dog’s eyes.

Orthopaedic problems

Genetically inherited conditions, like luxating patella and elbow and hip dysplasia, are seen commonly in this breed due to their short stature and stresses on their limbs.

Hip dysplasia is where your dog’s hip joint doesn't fit together properly, so bones rub on each other leading to inflammation (swelling), pain and arthritis.

Elbow dysplasia is the most common cause of forelimb lameness in dogs. It refers to several abnormalities that can occur during the development of the elbow joint. Some dogs are minimally affected with mild discomfort and some experience severe disability and discomfort.

Patella luxation is caused by the groove that the kneecap (patella) usually sits in not developing properly. This causes the kneecap to dislocate, preventing the knee from extending properly. Dogs with patella luxation have a characteristic ‘skipping’ lameness. In more severely affected dogs, the patella remains dislocated causing pain and inflammation.

If any of these conditions are diagnosed, your veterinary surgeon will be able to identify an appropriate treatment plan involving diet, exercise, physiotherapy, and pain relief to manage symptoms. Surgical intervention may also be recommended.


A congenital conformational condition involving deformity of the bones around the spine. It leads to pressure on the spine resulting in progressive pain, problems walking and toileting issues too.

In severe cases, animals are in considerable pain, and unable to ambulate, urinate or defecate by themselves.

It can lead to a life-threatening situation requiring complex life-saving surgical intervention by a specialist veterinary surgeon.

How to care for a Pug

Pug on beige background

Careful breeding and genetic testing

Some eye conditions, like Entropion and KCS, are hereditary so adult dogs with these conditions should not be bred to prevent passing them on to offspring.

You need to take in ethical considerations when breeding Pugs. For example, those with excessive skin folds that are likely to lead to dermatitis shouldn't be bred.Those with BOAS, orthopaedic disease and conformational abnormalities shouldn't be bred either. This is to prevent health conditions from passing down.

Elbow and hip dysplasia schemes are available in the UK via the BVA to screen for problems in adult dogs. Those with lower scores are less likely to pass on a disease to their offspring, so can be bred.

Weight management

Obesity is an issue in pugs, and it makes almost every health condition worse. It's important to have a grasp on pet nutrition, and if your pet is overweight, to put them on a weight management plan.

But make sure you ask your vet about this. They can advise if there's an underlying reason for weight gain, like hypothyroidism, and provide tips and advice.

Regular grooming

Pugs need regular bathing and grooming, mostly due to their skin fold dermatitis. It'll help lower the chances of some Pug health issues.

We recommend bathing them monthly, brushing their coats every few days and cleaning their wrinkles daily.

How dog insurance helps

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Lily qualified from Liverpool University in 2011 and spent five years as a veterinarian in mixed animal practice. As Lily’s passion for exotics and complicated small animal medical cases developed, she stepped into small animal-only practice. By 2018, Lily was leading a busy branch of a large hospital practice with a fantastic team, enjoying working on surgical and medical cases. Since falling poorly in 2021, Lily has found a new passion in medical writing, revealing a talent for sharing medical knowledge and writing with the public.