One of the things everyone should know about when deciding on getting a dog are the health issues specific to the breed of dog they’re considering buying. Pugs, like most other breeds, have their share of breed specific health issues, and this article, though not complete, should serve as a primer to understanding what those more common issues are.
Luxating Patella: Commonly referred to as “trick knees”, Luxating Patella is fairly common in Pugs, and other breeds of small dogs. In simple terms, it is the dislocation of the small movable bone in the knee called the Patella, from the femur where it is normally held in place by ligaments.
Mild and severe cases are differentiated by the Patella falling back into place on it’s own in mild cases. Whereas in severe cases, the Patella will fall out of place frequently, even after being popped back in by a veterinarian. Severe cases cases normally require surgery, not only to correct the problem and relieve pain, but also to prevent the onset of arthritic conditions associated with Luxating Patella. The surgery is delicate and expensive, though frequently successful.
General symptoms of Luxating Patella can be seen in the dog favoring the affected leg when he runs or walks, placing it down only after several steps. In addition, Pugs affected by it may also have difficulty sitting down and getting up, and run in a bunny hop style, lifting both legs up at the same time, and jetting them outward.
It is important to note that while Luxating Patella is a genetic issue found often in Pugs, it can also be brought to the forefront by excess weight. As Pugs often battle weight problems, it’s also common to see Luxating Patella aggravated in overweight Pugs. Keep in mind as well that a Pug diagnosed with Luxating Patella may or may never have a problem requiring surgery. Some Pugs can and do live their entire lives with Luxating Patella trouble free, others require surgery. Only time can tell.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Essentially, PRA is the degeneration of the vessels around the retina. It usually begins with night blindness in younger dogs, and their vision deteriorates progressively leading to blindness.
Pigmentary Keratitis: The deposit of pigment on the white surface of the eyes, PK is the result of many factors that either irritate or inflame the cornea. If the factor causing the inflammation or irritation can be identified, PK can be corrected with surgery.
Elongated Soft Palate: Common in short muzzled breeds, ESP is the obstruction of the dogs’ airways. The standard snoring of a Pug is a degree of ESP in action, though more severe cases can be heard through sounds such as honking, gasping for air and the blocking of the dogs’ vocal box. ESP can be corrected through surgery.
Stenotic Nares: Is a birth defect found in breeds with short noses including the Pug and is essentially overly soft nasal tissue. When a dog with overly soft nasal tissues breathes, their nostrils collapse, leaving them to breathe through their mouths to get the necessary oxygen. You can identify a dog with SN by noting a foamy discharge when they breathe or excessive breathing through their mouths when they get excited. SN can be corrected through surgery.
Pug Dog Encephalitis: Commonly called PDE, Pug Dog Encephalitis is as the name implies, unique to Pugs. Little, if anything is known of the causes of PDE, which is essentially an inflammation of the brain. PDE tends to affect young to middle aged Pugs and feature seizure as it’s primary symptom. Lethargy or listlessness and loss of muscle coordination can precede the seizures. Accompanying seizures are several symptoms ranging from aggression to pacing in circles to pressing their heads against objects such as walls and people.
PDE appears to come in two varieties: Slow Progressive and Rapidly Progressing. The Slow Progressive form features seizures that recur in a matter of days, or weeks, where the Pug will, after the seizures, return to normal. Rapidly Progressing PDE features seizures, often more frequently, and disorientation in between seizures. While Phenobarbital can be used to control the seizures, and Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation, there is no cure for PDE and the result is generally the same as PDE progresses. It is important to note however that seizures are not necessarily a sign that your Pug has PDE. Pugs can, like many dogs, have epileptic seizures that can be treated with Phenobarbital and have absolutely nothing to do with PDE.
Photo of Liberty submitted by pug forum member Denika.