The Pug

A complete breed guide

Last Updated THURS 14 NOV 2019

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons)

'Multum in parvo' or 'a lot in a little' is often used to describe the Pug Dog's exuberantly loving nature. These little guys can be both the life of the party and a (not so softly) snoring lap companion. The Pug's distinctive features and winning personality have made it a longstanding popular breed worldwide.

Contents:

1. At a glance

2. History

3. Personality and Characteristics

4. Common Health Problems

5. Nutritional Requirements

6. Grooming

Further reading

At a glance

Breed size: Place of origin: Other names:
Toy China Pug Dog
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Toy Group, Companion Dog High 6.4 to 8.2kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
13 to 15 years Moderate 25.4 to 33.0cm at shoulder
Drool factor: Social needs: Coat colours:
Low High Fawn with black muzzle or mask and ears or black all over
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Coat length:
High Low Short, fine and smooth

History

The Pug originated in China and is one of the oldest known companion dog breeds, dating back to since before 400BC. In the 1500s Dutch traders brought home Pugs from China and the breed became the mascot of Holland's House of Orange after a pet pug saved the Prince of Orange's life by barking to alert him to approaching Spanish Troops. William and Mary of Orange brought their Pugs with them to England when they assumed the throne, beginning a craze for the pug in Britain. Later, Queen Victoria became a Pug enthusiast, keeping and breeding many of her own.

Today the Pug remains popular around the world and due to their distinctive appearance is often seen in movies, books and advertising. Through years of selective breeding, certain physical charactistics of the breed, such as their short nose, have become more and more exaggerated which has resulted in increased prevalence and severity of some health concerns, the welfare impacts of which should not be ignored. Take a look at the photos below of two pugs from the early 1900s compared with more recent photos to see the changes.


Image credits: Bonfoto

Personality and characteristics

Not your average lap dog, what the Pug lacks in size he or she makes up for in attitude! Thanks to their distinctive crinkled brow, the Pug is able to display a range of almost human like facial expressions which serve to make them extremely entertaining companions for young and old alike.

Provided there is one or many humans on hand to love, Pugs are fairly easy going as far as their home life goes. They are predominantly indoor dogs and are well suited to apartment living. Most pugs are good with children and happy to be either the sole fur child or live with canine companions. Due to their predisposition to heat stress Pugs are not suited to very warm or tropical climates.

Top toy recommendations for Pugs

Yours Droolly Muff Pup

The perfect cuddle and play pal, this plush dog has squeakers in each paw plus the nose and belly to keep your Pug interested in playtime.

Chuckit Ultra Squeaker Ball

The small sized Chuckit Ultra Squeaker Ball is perfect for little Pug mouths and features a super fun squeaker too.

Fuzzyard Oz the Emu

With attention grabbing squeakers and long flappy legs, Oz the Emu makes a fun play toy or cuddly sleep companion.

KONG Dental Stick

Made from durable rubber, the KONG dental stick features textured ridges which massage your dog's gums while they chew.

Pug Health concerns

As far as pure breeds go, unfortunately Pugs are one of the breeds most commonly affected by health problems, many of which they are predisposed to due to breeding for specfic traits such as their flat face and curly tail. This list is by no means exhaustive but details some of the more common health problems which may affect Pugs more than other dog breeds.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

Brachycephalic means 'short nosed', and Pugs are the poster children for brachycephalic airway syndrome, a combination of one or more upper airway defects which ultimately get in the way of normal breathing and panting behaviour. These conditions are seen in as a consequence of selective breeding, particularly for the Pug's flat face.

Their likelihood to have some degree of brachycephalic airway syndrome means that Pugs in particular are highly prone to heat stress. This comes about because dogs are unable to sweat except on the footpads and nose, instead using panting as their main means of cooling down. When the airways are compromised and dogs are unable to breathe properly, panting becomes much less effective, increasing their risk of overheating which can be fatal.

Eye problems

That 'bulgy eyed' pug look sure it adorable, but it does leave their eyes more exposed to sustaining traumatic injury, including proptosis (popped out eyeball). As a breed, Pugs also have a predisposition to some other eye conditions which may be inherited including keratoconjunctivitis sicca ('dry eye'), distichiasis (extra eyelashes in abnormal places) and entropion (inwardly rolled eyelid). Signs to watch for include red eyes, increased tears or discharge, holding the eye shut and sensitivity to light. Eye condtitions can head south quickly so if you notice any of these signs it's important to seek veterinary attention immediately.

Skin problems

Pugs can develop bacterial or fungal skin fold infections, particularly in the folds around the face or tail. To help prevent infections, clean out the folds in problem areas daily with a damp cloth and dry well afterwards. Pay attention to these areas when drying your Pug after bathing or swimming too.

Pugs are a breed that also seem to be more susceptible than others to demodectic mange. Demodectic mange is a condition where the mite Demodex canis, which can be a normal inhabitant of the canine skin in low numbers, overgrows causing hairloss and secondary skin infection. It is easily diagnosed by a veterinarian using a skin scrape in house; if the mites are present your vet will be able to see them wriggling around under a microscope! Treatment involves medication to kill the mites, alongside treatment of any concurrent bacterial or yeast skin infections with medicated shampoos or antibiotics. Simparica and Bravecto are both effective against Demodex mites so are a great choice for flea and tick prevention for Pugs from 8 weeks of age and up provided they meet the recommended weight guidelines.

Hemi vertebrae

This is a condition which affects some Pugs and is thought to be related to the selection of Pugs with curly 'screw tails'. Essentially a hemi vertebrae is a wedge shaped 'half vertebrae', which causes a twist when it occurs in the lowest, tail part of the spine. Unfortunately sometimes these hemi vertebrae can turn up further up the spinal cord in the lumbar or thoracic area causing compression of the spinal cord which worsens as the dog grows, resulting in symptoms including chronic pain, weakness in the hind limbs, wobbliness and incontinence.

Nutrition

When choosing a dry food for your Pug, look for a high quality, highly digestible formula designed for small and toy breed dogs. Aside from containing tailored nutrition to suit the needs of small and toy breeds, these foods may also have kibble which is smaller and easier for Pugs to chew.

Feeding regular wet food meals is a great way to increase water intake for improved hydration and urinary tract health in small breed dogs, so it is also worth considering teaming a high quality canned formula with your Pug's daily dry food.

Top dry foods for adult Pugs

Advance Adult Toy and Small Breed

This Australian made formula tailored for adult small and toy breeds is designed to support dental health and promote better digestive function for smaller, firmer stools.

Royal Canin Adult Pug

With kibble specially designed to be easy for Pugs to pick up and chew, this premium quality food contains nutrition tailored the the specific requirements of Pugs from 10 months and up.

Hill's Science Diet Adult Small and Toy Breed

This premium quality, highly digestible formula is designed with your adult Pug's health and wellbeing in mind including a clinically proven blend of natural antioxidants to support immune system health.

Billy + Margot Salmon Single Protein Superfood Blend

Made in Australia with fresh salmon as the sole protein source, this formula is naturally high in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Top wet foods for adult Pugs

Royal Canin Mini Adult Beauty

With added nutrition to support healthy skin and a shiny coat, this premium quality canned formula is tailored specifically to the needs of small and toy breeds.

Ziwi Canned Varieties

Rich in free range New Zealand meats, sustainably sourced fish and green lipped mussel, Ziwi canned foods are packed with natural, wholesome nutrition to suit all breeds.

Holistic Select Canned Varieties

These all natural canned recipes are designed to support digestive health and overall wellbeing, plus the smooth pate texture makes them easy for Pugs to eat.

K9 Natural Canned Varieties

Made in New Zealand from premium meats, seafood, fruits and vegies, K9 Natural's canned varieties are rich in beneficial nutrients to keep your dog healthy inside and out.

5. Grooming

The Pug has short fur which can shed heavily depending on the season. We recommend brushing regularly with a hair-catching brush or mitt.

More important than fur care, however, are the grooming requirements of the eyes, nose, and ears.

Eye care: Due to the skin folds around the face, your pug may develop moist tear staining which can lead to yeast overgrowth. This can become smelly and irritated, especially in hot weather. To combat this, wiping your pug's face daily with a gentle wet wipe such as Absorb Plus Dog Face Wipes.

Ear care: Pug ears almost seem to be designed for infections. Their ear canal is narrow and heavily folded with cartilage, and the opening is blocked by tightly folded ear flaps. Combined with the pug's inability to regulate heat (due to that Brachycephalic airway of theirs), as well as their predisposition to inflammatory skin conditions, the ear canal routinely becomes a hot, inflamed, moist environment with poor airflow. Yeast and bacteria flourish in this environment, which leads to irritation, smell, and infections. This means, regular ear cleaning is especially important for pugs.

Try to get your pug used to ear cleaning while they are young, and teach them to associate it with a positive experience such as treats or play. To learn how to clean your pug's ears, we recommend asking your vet for a quick demonstration. It's important to ensure you are able to get the ear cleaning solution all the way down the ear canal.

If your pug's ears are itchy, smelly, or contain brown or yellow discharge, seek veterinary attention. These signs may indicate an ear infection is present, which requires medicated drops rather than over-the-counter ear cleaners.

Virbac Epi Otic

Recommended by vets and gentle on the ears, Epiotic is a must-have ear cleaner for every pug owner.

PAW Blackmores Gentle Ear Cleaner

This gentle ear cleaning solution is complete with a soft tip, making it easy and pain-free to administer.

Absorb Plus Antibacterial Wipes

Designed specifically for brachycephalic faces, these gentle antibacterial wipes are safe to use daily.

Kazoo Grooming Glove

This innovative 'glove brush' is the perfect tool for encouraging bonding while grooming your kitty.