Pug Health and Caring for Your Pug

Wales & West of England Pug Dog Club

Care of your Pug


The following is only offered as a guide by other Pug owners


J Collier


Pugs like any other breed require ongoing care and attention. At first glance it might seem like a lot but can actually be a rewarding, bonding, experience for both Pug and owner and only takes a few minutes each day.


Facial Wrinkles

The wrinkles on a Pugs face are called folds, These folds serve as a great place to gather all sorts of unwanted stuff as your Pug pushes his face everywhere it should and should not be. Along with tears and mucous you end up with a pug who’s face smells like a damp umbrella. It is the owners responsibility to keep these wrinkles clean. Although quite easy, getting the Pug used to it at an early age is a good idea as cooperation will make the task much easier.


Use a flannel with its corner dipped in cooled, previously boiled water and run the corner of the flannel through the folds. It is recommended to do this daily as you will find even done this regularly that there is loose hair and dirt embedded inside. Using an ear bud or Q-Tip is not recommended as they could potentially cause eye damage if your Pug was to struggle.



Great care must be taken with a Pugs eyes. They should be cleaned once daily preferably in the morning to remove sleep, you can use an eye wash or previously boiled water. Clean around the eyes only. Do not put anything into the eye. Always use a different cloth to prevent cross contamination. If you notice your dog squinting or any discharge at all, bathe with cooled, previously boiled water with a pinch of salt. IF IN DOUBT SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. It is recommended you carry with you a tube of Golden Eye cream ointment for emergency use.



Some Pugs will require their ears cleaned more often than others, every Pug is different, you can use ear cleaner dispensed by your vet or use previously boiled water and a flannel. You should clean as far into the ear as possible but not past the point of entering the cavity within the head. If you are unsure you can ask your vet or veterinarian nurse to show you how it is done. As with the eyes, use a new cloth for each ear, to prevent potential cross infection.


J Collier



This is one of the most overlooked and undervalued area of Pug care (indeed other breeds also). A high quality dry food diet can assist with cleaning their teeth but it is still necessary to clean them using an appropriate paste. Again it is best to get your pug used to this during puppyhood but you may find that you can’t find a small enough brush, if this is a case use a little past on you little finger to apply the past and get your Pug used to being handled in this way. You should use toothpaste designed for dogs and is available in many flavours such as chicken, beef or turkey to help encourage your Pug. NEVER USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE as it is not designed to be swallowed. Regardless of how well you pug is trained, it's unlikely you'll get him/her to rinse and spit!

Plaque on your Pugs teeth can release harmful toxins into their digestive tract and bloodstream. This can be potentially life threatening. Also, regular cleaning will help prevent your pug from requiring a general anaesthetic to have their teeth cleaned.



Pugs nails grow fast and will need attending to. Regular exercise on hard surfaces should keep them wear them down naturally. If not, they will need to be trimmed manually. You can to do this yourself, or if you are not confident then take your Pug to have it done by your Vet or groomers. If you accidentally cause a nail to bleed you can put some Potassium Permanganate Powder on it to seal the vein and stop the blood flow. You should only cut the very tip (curved part) cutting off just a small amount more often is probably the best way (about every two weeks).



It is recommended you brush your Pug twice a week or as needed, this will help keep fur around the house to a minimum but more importantly keep your Pug looking good. This once again can also be enjoyable for both Pug and Parent. A soft stainless steel brush or a grooming mitt should be used. You should groom in the direction of the coat. Being lapdogs a little of a high quality doggy deodorant can also be used. There are a few good ones on the market that contain Aloe Vera and/or Tea Tree Oil.


Either use a table to put your Pug on for brushing, making sure you hold your Pug securely, or get down to their level and brush them on the floor or your lap.


Bath Time

Whilst a puppy your Pug should be bathed as necessary to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy. Once they are able to clean themselves you need not bathe them as often. Only bathe as required. Using a good quality shampoo that will not strip the coat of important oils needed to stay healthy and look good. Keep your dog indoors until dry, especially in cold weather.


Hemivertebrae in Pugs


The Health Sub-Committee of The Pug Breed Council have agreed to the following basic recommendations to manage hemivertebrae in the breed:


  • Before screening, all dogs have to be microchipped.
  • The minimum age for X-rays should be six months.
  • X-rays should be taken either with sedation or general anaesthetic, depending on the preference of the Veterinary Surgeon.
  • The X-rays should clearly show the whole length of the spine in lateral recumbency and ideally also in dorso-ventral view. The plate must clearly show the microchip number and the date.
  • It should be stated which (if any) vertebrae are affected, and to what degree (mild, moderate or badly).
  • It has to be accepted that with today's scientific knowledge the term 'clear of HV (hemivertebrae)' has to be used with extreme caution, as even dogs with radiologically clear spines could still be carriers and pass on the condition.
  • On the other hand experience has shown that many Pugs with mild radiological signs of HV are completely asymptomatic and stay healthy for the rest of their lives.
  • The current aim has to be to breed from stock which is as clear as possible. The knowledge of the radiological status of the parents and pedigree analysis of as many ancestors as possible, along with their HV status, are at the moment the only tools available to avoid breeding from affected stock.
  • Once these recommendations have been in place for a while the number of affected dogs should be dramatically reduced. Obviously it should be the intention to collect as many X-rays as possible, to educate both vets and owners/breeders about this condition.

You can clearly see the difference between the healthy spine on the left and the HV affected one on the right.

Statement of the health of the Breed


The Pug is small in size, enormous in personality, intelligent, affectionate and loves to be the centre of attention. A Pug will soon find the weakest link amongst its humans and manipulate them, whether it is for food, games or for the most comfortable seat in the house. They are generally very active little dogs and enjoy the daily exercise essential to keep them fit and prevent them from getting overweight. While it is not well known, many pugs take part in agility, not an activity for an unhealthy dog!


The breed is long lived, normally reaching a good age - 15 or 16 year old pugs are not a rarity.


The Breed Council, and dedicated pug breeders are committed to ensuring the health of their breed through an active programme which includes monitoring the breed health, putting in place health programmes, supporting research and in providing education for breeders, owners and others involved with the breed.



While of general good health, the pug has been identified as susceptible to certain health issues involving respiration, eye shape and general soundness. The breed is working hard to ensure that wherever possible issues are recognised and addressed.


The Pug Clubs and The Breed Council have also liaised closely with The Kennel Club to update the breed standard to make its requirements very clear. For example: ‘the nose should be fairly large with wide open nostrils; eyes or nose never adversely affected or obscured by over-nose wrinkle; eyes relatively large, never protruding, exaggerated or showing white when looking straight ahead, and free from obvious eye problems.’ Breeders should be avoiding excess in all areas.


Hemivertebrae: The Pug Breed Council's Health Subcommittee is currently in discussion with Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, Cambridge, to work out a programme for DNA testing for hemivertebrae in pugs.


To this end the Health Sub-Committee have agreed that The Pug Clubs encourage all breeders, to take X-rays of dams and sires' spines to test for hemivertebrae. The current aim has to be to breed from stock which is as clear as possible. The knowledge of the radiological status of the parents and pedigree analysis of as many ancestors as possible, along with their HV status, are at the moment the only tools available to avoid breeding from affected stock.


Responsible breeding:

The five Pug Clubs are strong supporters of The Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme and have added a clause to their Code of Ethics to which new members have to agree to abide, which states that if breeding pugs, they should adopt as a minimum standard the principles, requirements and recommendations as embodied in the scheme. It is also strongly recommended that members who breed should apply to join it.


While the Pug Clubs are pleased to see the continued popularity of this charming dog, a major concern is that of the breed being used by those who do not have its interests at heart and are breeding pugs and pug crosses purely to supply a ‘market demand’ and having no stake in maintaining and improving the long term health of the breed.


The A-Z of a Healthy and Happy Pug


A Activity: 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).


B Bathing: 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 watertemperature 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 hairdryer 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.


C Cars: 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!


D Diet: 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


E Eyes: 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).


F Feeding: Generally healthy pugs are fairly greedy (exceptions prove the rule) and are not difficult eaters. Keep mealsregular. 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.


G Grooming: 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.


H Heat: 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.


I Inoculations: Vaccinations and regular booster injections prevent infectious diseases. Before adequate vaccinations became available some of these (eg Distemper and Parvovirosis) caused considerablelosses 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 and annual booster is necessary. Your vet will take the opportunity to give your dog a general check-up.


J Joints: Like human beings and most other breeds, pugs can suffer from joint disorders. Some are simply caused by old age and rheumatismbut 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.


K Kennels: 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.


L Life span: 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.


M Moulting: 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!


N Neutering: 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).


O Obesity: 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!


P Parasites: 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.


R Rescue: 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 is work the welfare organisation is entirely dependant on donations which are gratefully accepted. If you wish to pledge a legacy, discuss it with the Secretary.


S Skin: 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.


T Teeth: Pugs are undershot (ie 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.


U Ulcer: 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 aftercare is critically important.


V Vets: 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!


W Water: 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!

Z Enjoy life with your pug!


Dr Andreas Schemel MRCVS

Written for The Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue Association (www.pugwelfare-rescue.org.uk) and reproduced with their kind permission.

Copyright of The Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue Association.


Pug Rescue





The Wales & West Of England Pug Dog Club Rescue was formed soon after the club was established. It plays an integral part in the rescuing and re-homing of Pugs for whatever reasons, mainly from Wales and the West Of England but in reality knows no boundaries when there is a Pug in need. We do not actively look for Pugs to rescue-it would be nice if there were none, but we do actively try and raise much needed funds through events such as a Christmas party and Summer garden party each year organised by Mrs Maureen Lee and members from the West of England. The other main source of funds is from the merchandise stall present at both our shows and from donations which are also very much appreciated.


If you feel that you can help in anyway then please get in touch with one of the Rescue Committee.


If you feel that you could offer a Pug a good home and would like to adopt, please fill in the attached Adoption Form and return it to the address on top of the form.



Secretary/co-ordinator JEAN JOHN‪ 01656 842292‬‬

Pembrokeshire MARGARET LORD‪ 01646 687174‬‬


Carmarthenshire ANNE PHILLIPS ‪01554 890810‬‬


West Wales SUE BIRKETT ‪01570 470152‬‬


South Wales DEBORAH BEECHAM‪ 01495 228177‬‬


South Glamorgan CERI ARMSTRONG‪ 01656 773758‬‬


Mid & N Wales JOHN & LINDA DOVER ‪‪01938 554056‬‬‬‬


Somerset / Dorset CHRIS PORCH ‪01749 672625‬‬


S. Devon MAUREEN LEE ‪01822 855337‬‬


N. Devon ELAINE PASSMORE ‪‪01278 773986‬‬‬‬


Cornwall TINA GROSE ‪‪01726 832786‬‬‬‬

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