Pugs are generally very active little dogs and they love their daily exercise. Regular walks are essential to keep them fit and prevent them from getting overweight. Nevertheless walks have to be adjusted to the time of the year and the weather conditions (see more under heat).
Because of the breed’s short coat there is no need to give your pug a regular bath. In case of infestation with external parasites or unpleasant odour a medicated shampoo or a special mild shampoo for dogs should be used. Put the dog in the bath, but before you start make sure the dog stands on a non slippery surface. Put some cotton wool into both ears to prevent water from getting in. Soak the dog thoroughly with warm water and check the water temperature regularly. Shampoo the dog carefully, avoiding the face and eyes. Rinse carefully until the water is completely clear. Allow the dog to have a good shake to remove excessive water. Dry either with towel or hair dryer and brush whilst drying. Because of their dense undercoat pugs’ coats can store an amazing amount of water and can take considerable time to dry. Make sure that the dog is completely dry before you let him or her out into the cold.
Generally pugs love to travel in cars and even puppies get used to it very quickly. No dog should be kept loose in a car. The safest place is a big enough cage or airy pet carrier. Never ever leave your pug in the car! Cars heat up very quickly and can be a death trap!
Every dog should be fed a healthy balanced diet. It is a matter of personal preference whether your pug is fed on a home cooked diet or on a commercial dog food. Without any doubt it is more difficult to get the right balance of essential ingredients in your own cooking. Formulated diets contain the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and trace elements. With a complete food there is normally no need for supplements.
Pugs’ eyes are unique and are mainly responsible for the breed’s expression and irresistible appearance. Compared with other breeds, pugs’ eyes are large and slightly more prominent. Because of the short muzzle, pugs lack the natural ‘bumper’ and are therefore more vulnerable. To keep your pugs’ eyes healthy it is absolutely essential to check them regularly. Check for abnormal redness, inflammation, discharge or even signs of a half or completely closed eye. If you are not familiar with pugs’ eyes consult your vet (find more under ulcer).
Generally healthy pugs are fairly greedy (exceptions prove the rule) and are not difficult eaters. Keep meals regular. Try to feed an adult pug twice a day with a small breakfast and the main meal in the afternoon or early evening. Many pugs prefer to eat from a flat dish.
Pugs are very easy to groom. Regular brushing with a natural bristle brush keeps the coat neat and shiny and helps to keep dead hair off your carpet and clothes. Always keep your pug’s toenails short otherwise they may cause problems. Pugs are normally not keen to have their nails trimmed and it may need a bit of persuasion. If you are not happy to do it yourself ask for professional advice. Many veterinary surgeries offer nail cutting for a moderate fee.
A pug should be ‘multum in parvo’ which means a “lot in a little”, and is therefore quite heavy for its size. Because of the shortened nose and less breathing room, pugs cannot stand heat very well. This is a matter of fact and must be considered when you choose to live with a pug. In hot weather pugs should be walked in the morning and cool of the evening. When you plan a car journey try not to travel in the heat of the day and make sure there is always sufficient ventilation. Heat stroke, with consequent swelling of the soft palate and blocking of the airways is a major emergency. Obtain veterinary advice immediately! In the meantime try to extend the neck to free the airway. Open doors and windows to allow as much fresh air as possible. Try to keep calm and do not panic! Use cold wet towels to cool the dog down, frozen peas and crushed ice cubes also help to get the temperature down.
Vaccinations and regular booster injections prevent infectious diseases. Before adequate vaccinations became available some of these (e.g. Distemper and Parvovirosis) caused considerable losses in the dog population and were a permanent risk. Thanks to modern and safe vaccinations dogs can now be taken out and about and can meet other dogs without risk. A puppy should normally have its first inoculation at 8 or 9 weeks followed by a second at 12 weeks. To keep your pug protected an annual booster is necessary. Your vet will take the opportunity to give your dog a general check-up.
Like human beings and most other breeds, pugs can suffer from joint disorders. Some are simply caused by old age and rheumatism but others, like slipping stifles, hip dysplasia and certain spinal abnormalities are based on genetic defects. Symptoms are lameness, difficulties in getting up and even paralysis. Take limping or abnormal movement seriously and contact your vet.
In an ideal world we would have pugs around us 24 hours a day. Realistically, though, there might be situations when you need somebody to look after your pug. Commercial boarding kennels offer their services. Many offer excellent facilities but cannot replace the benefits and cosy atmosphere of your own home. Check the kennel of your choice in advance and do not be afraid to ask questions. An alternative is a ‘pugsitter’ who takes over your pug for the time you are on holiday. Contact the Pug Dog Club for details.
Pugs are a long lived breed and normally reach a good age. 15 or 16 year old pugs are no rarity. Nevertheless the day will come when you have to make a decision and to decide whether your dog still enjoys a certain quality of life or if it would be kinder to put him/her to sleep. Consider the dignity of your pug and listen to your vet. He can advise you, but the final decision has to come from you. Modern drugs ensure the procedure is painless and as kind and calm as possible.
Pugs shed their coats all through the year with a peak period in spring and autumn. The battle cannot be won and it is better to adjust to the situation in time and try to select your clothes according to your pug’s colour. Regular brushing and extensive hoovering help to keep the situation in hand!
If you do not want to breed from your pug, sooner or later the question of castration (for males) or spaying (for bitches) will arise. There is no strict medical indication for castration. Tumours, problems with the prostate and behaviour problems are acceptable reasons for the operation. Spaying your bitch prevents her from coming into season and consequently from developing an infection of the womb (eg pyometra which can be a life threatening condition). Before a bitch is spayed she should have had at least one proper season and should be fully grown. Ideally the operation is performed in between two seasons (normally three months after she has finished her last season).
There is no excuse for an overweight pug! A balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding titbits will help to keep every pug slim, fit and healthy!
Various external and internal parasites can bother your pug. The most common ones are fleas and worms. There are now various safe and effective products on the market which can be purchased from your vet. Adult pugs should be wormed at least once a year.
The Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue Association is a nationwide registered charity which is run by voluntary helpers. Pugs all over the country, young and old, get prompt help if in need. A wide network of volunteers help to rescue and re-home pugs in need. You might be the proud owner of a welfare pug. The PDWRA is always interested in the well-being of re-homed pugs. Do not hesitate to keep in touch and attend their social events. To fulfil its work PDWRA is entirely dependant on donations which are gratefully accepted. If you wish to pledge a legacy, see our Leaving a Legacy to PDWRA page, or discuss it with the Secretary.
Pugs have very fine skin which needs regular checking, especially the wrinkles over the nose and on the forehead which require special attention. Make sure that these are always kept dry, clean and free of inflammation. If you find sore spots consult your vet for adequate treatment.
Pugs are undershot (i.e. the bottom jaw is slightly longer that the top jaw) causing the teeth to be differently positioned compared with other breeds. Consequently pugs are not blessed with the best of teeth. Bad breath, tartar and gingivitis are common symptoms and can occur from a fairly young age. Suitable chews and the use of a toothbrush can help to prevent the problem. Nevertheless this is quite often not enough and a professional dental service under general anaesthetic has to be performed by your vet. Modern anaesthetics make surgical procedures very safe but, as with humans, still carry a minimal risk. Ensure that your vet is familiar with appropriate anaesthetics for short-nosed breeds and has modern equipment etc.
The nightmare for every pug owner is an eye ulcer. These are injuries of the cornea. Symptoms are a closed eye, abnormal discharge and the eye showing a mark normally surrounded by cloudiness. Ulcers can be the result of an injury (bumping against furniture, playing with another dog, thorns etc) or can occur spontaneously. Immediate veterinary treatment is required. Your vet will decide how severe the injury is and will prescribe suitable treatment, normally in the form of eye ointment or drops. In severe but rare cases surgical treatment has to be performed. Follow any instructions carefully because after-care is critically important.
Choose a vet who understands the breed. You must not expect that every vet is besotted with pugs like you are, but at least he/she should be understanding and familiar with possible breed related conditions. If your vet is showing prejudice against pugs the charm of the breed should help to change the opinion. If not, change the vet!
Ensure that your pug always has access to fresh water. Excessive drinking can be a symptom of renal dysfunction or other internal disease. Normally pugs are not keen swimmers and should not be encouraged to swim. Splashing in a bathtub or baby-basin can be fun and helps to keep your pug cool in the heat of the summer. Proper swimming pools are extremely dangerous. Never leave your pug unattended near a swimming pool!
Enjoy life with your pug!
by Dr Andreas Schemel MRCVS