Written by Helen McKee (MRCVS), PDWRA Vet Advisor:

The McKee Grumble and Associated Health Issues.

I thought I’d make my regular pug-health article a little different this time, partly in honour of both Lily and Missy whom we have lost in the last 2 months, but also to illustrate the number of (pug related/over represented) health issues of pugs.

From left to right: Lily, Missy (centre), Doug (back), Hugo, Suki (front).


To begin with, all 5 have had at least two dentals!

Doug came to us in September 2018. He had a large sub-dermal mast cell tumour, BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive airway Syndrome) and pigmentary keratitis (pigment on the cornea). He immediately had the tumour removed, along with BOAS surgery at Langford, Bristol Vet School’s Referral Hospital.

Since then, he has had surgery on both eyes to reduce exposure ( bilateral medial canthoplasty), and a further mast cell tumour removed.

Doug has also had chronic nasal infections (investigated with CT) as a result of a fistula between his mouth and and his nose.

Hugo we have had since young. In the 1st two years ,we used all of the £7,000 annual insurance premium on him, a total of £14,000! Something pug owners may be familiar with, or need to bear in mind when considering budgeting for potential medical cover and costs.

Hugo had seizures ( MRI), sudden onset wobbly back legs ( MRI- hemivertibrae revealed, along with malformations of his lumbosacral area) and a corneal graft to mention a few, all of which are pug related health issues.

He has had an overlong palate reduced ( BOAS) and unfortunately, in the last 2 years lost an eye when a foreign body penetrated his cornea.

Hugo has also recently developed a serious gut disease called PLE (protein losing enteropathy) , which is seen all too commonly in pugs. He is presently well controlled with immune suppressive medication but is unlikely to make it to the end of the year.

Missy and sister Lily only came to us in June last year, when their Mum knew she was dying and asked us to look after the pair for the rest of their days. We originally fostered Missy in 2019, who

then was adopted by the lady whom we became friends with, and who bequeathed us Missy and Lily.

Missy was almost completely blind due to pigmentary keratitis caused by (untreated) dry eye ( KCS-Keratoconjunctivitus Sicca). The thick pigment almost completely covered both her corneas but she managed very well and loved her walks despite very little vision.

In the last month her health deteriorated rapidly with swelling of her abdomen. Ultra sound revealed a tumour involving her stomach, bladder and spleen, and we put Missy to sleep at the beginning of May. This cancer was not to do with being a pug, but just very unfortunate.

Lily, however, came to us last June with significant ataxia ( wobbly back legs) and faecal incontinence due to spinal cord compression ( so called pug ‘myelopathy’) which many of you will have had the misfortune to have experienced. We knew she didn’t have too long and lasted until February this year, when Lily sadly could no longer walk and her bladder stopped working.

Finally, our dear Suki, whom we adopted in June 2018 at the age of 8 years. We thought she would have a very limited life span and here she is, still with us five years later at the grand age of 13!

When we picked up Suki, she had great difficulty breathing. She turned ‘blue’ just trying to walk.

Again, Suki was operated at Langford, and had BOAS surgery. Unfortunately, she had many secondary changes including grade 3 laryngeal collapse, which we manage with appropriate exercise.

Suki also had severe dental disease, so has had to have all her teeth removed, hence her lolling tongue, however she manages well with soft food.

In January 2022. Suki developed a non-healing eye ulcer, and because of the poor quality of her cornea, she had a conjunctival flap.

We count every day with this feisty character a blessing!

From left to right: 8 year old Doug,11 year old Hugo, 10 year old Missy ( black), 12 year old Lily and 13 year old (tongue out!) Suki.

RIP Missy (May ’23) and Lily (February ’23)


So in summary, the following are conditions that are seen in pugs due to their breeding/shape or are conditions we see over represented in pugs, and we have seen in all of our pugs:-

Dental Disease (February ’23 newsletter)

Seizures (April ’23 newsletter)

Mast Cell Tumours – over represented in pugs (December ’22 newsletter)

& for future newsletter articles:-

Eyes (exposed cornea, dry eye, corneal ulcers) and treatment

BOAS and treatment

PLE – over represented in pugs

Spinal conditions caused by malformations of the spine/compression of the spinal cord

What I wanted to highlight is the number of health issues pugs are prone to, which is worth considering before giving a forever home to a pug, as well as the importance of insurance or funds to be able to pay for, what can be, very expensive tests and treatment.

Helen (MRCVS)
PDWRA Vet Advisor.


For other pug health articles please see:
Pug Health & Wellbeing | The Pug Dog Welfare & Rescue Association (pugwelfare-rescue.org.uk)

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