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Misery of poor pugs

Owner: Wayne Colgan, of Bray, Co Wicklow

If you ever meet a pug, within a few minutes you'll feel taken in by the animal's playfulness and charm.

There's one downside to pugs -- they are prone to certain health problems, partly due to in-breeding and partly due to their exaggerated physical features. The in-breeding that goes hand-in-hand with pedigree dogs means that every breed is prone to certain specific conditions. There is a type of hereditary meningitis that is almost unique to pugs and they're prone to certain spinal deformities.


Additionally pugs, like other short-nosed breeds, are prone to breathing difficulties. Their nasal passages are narrowed and twisted compared to a "standard" dog like a collie or terrier. This means that they sometimes have difficulty moving air rapidly in and out of their lungs; they are more likely to pant than other breeds and they're prone to overheating in hot weather.

Rocco has been a healthy dog, but last week he was brought to see me with another classic pug problem -- a sore eye.

A typical cross-bred dog, such as a terrier, has a long muzzle, with eyes that are set back in the skull. This means that the eyes are well protected. Pugs, in contrast, have short, flattened muzzles and eyes that bulge prominently from the sockets.

If a terrier runs through undergrowth, the long nose tends to push objects out of the way and other features of their skull ensure that the eyes are shielded from physical contact.


If a pug does the same thing, the nose isn't long enough to clear a space ahead of the animal. Those bulgy eyes are the first part of the dog's anatomy to make contact with objects in the environment. As a result, pugs are prone to getting bashes and scratches on the surface of the eye.

I discovered Rocco's problem had started with a mildly itchy ear. He'd been rubbing his head along the ground to relieve the itch and because his eyes bulge so much, he'd damaged them while doing this. He'd managed to set up an irritating conjunctivitis. Treatment involved antibiotic ointments, for his ears and eyes.

Rocco made a rapid recovery but it's likely that he'll suffer from similar problems again.

He's a pug; he's adorable and cute, but he's also prone to the health problems of his unique and captivating breed.

Visit Pete's website at www.petethevet.com