top of page
Image by Raychan

Common pug illnesses

The answers you need

Most pugs are healthy and active and will live, on average, between 12 and 15 years. Your pug is a brachycephalic breed (flat faced) and because of this some pugs will have health problems. As a responsible pug owner it is up to you to keep your pug active, well fed and regularly health checked to make sure he stays fit and well.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

This is basically upper airway breathing problems and is something that brachycepahic {flat faced) breeds, like pugs, are prone to suffering from.
Signs that your pug may be suffering from BOAS are breathing difficulties when exercising, noisy breathing {although this alone is not necessarily of concern as pugs usually make all manner of snuffling, snorting and snoring noises most of the time), struggling to regulate their temperature in hot weather and regurgitation.
Noisy and/or struggling breathing would usually worsen when your dog get excited or during exercise.
.,, . If you pug's abdominal muscles are being used to breathe or his neck/chest moves when he breathes then that is another sign that there is a problem.
Statistically, female pugs are more likely to suffer from BOAS and being overweight and having closed nostrils are also risk factors.
Grading of nostril stenosis in pugs is another worthwhile check to carry out. Corrective surgery is available and is likely to be recommended if your pug has Grade Ill or Grade IV stenosis and is considered relatively routine (although like any surgery, not without risk).
If you have any concerns whatsoever that your pug is suffering from BOAS then you should seek the immediate advice of your vet who will assess your pug using the BOAS Function Grading in pugs.

Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE)

This is a serious brain inflammation condition suffered exclusively by pugs and causes about 1.2% of pug deaths. It is more likely to affect pugs between the ages of 9 and 19 months although it can start as early as 6 months and as late as 7 years.
Its cause is not known but pugs that are closely related are more susceptible and more female pugs will suffer from the disease.
Most cases will progress quickly (over a matter of days or weeks) and result in sudden death. If you spot the symptoms and get veterinarian advice and a diagnosis very quickly it is possible to control the disease for a while with medication.
The primary symptoms are seizures (although there are other reasons why your pug might have a seizure); pacing in circles is a common symptom; and lethargy and loss of muscle coordination.
Other symptoms are confusion, pressing their head against a wall or furniture, staring into space, weakness, behavioural problems and trouble walking.

Luxating Patella (kneecap)

This is a defect of the knee and is a common orthopaedic problem for pugs.

It is basically a defect in the alignment of the leg which ca'n·cause your pug's knee to pop out of place. This will obviously cause mobility problems and will be painful.

If you notice your pug having difficulties walking, is favouring one leg above another or seems to have difficulty weight bearing then you should have him checked by your vet.

The luxation will be graded. At Grade II long term problems are likely, untreated, your pug is likely to develop arthritis. At Grade Ill and IV your pug is unlikely to be able to weight bear at all and will normally require corrective surgery.

The surgery is relatively routine but recovery for your pug is long due to him needing plenty of rest and a gradual return to exercise. The surgery is expensive and if you don't have a good level of cover then you may find yourself out of pocket.


These are spots that can appear anywhere on your pug's body and usually develop when your pug's skin has become irritated and so they lick it excessively for relief. A hotspot will be red and moist and can scab over and is likely to cause a patch of hair loss.
You should wash the area carefully with an antibacterial soap or diluted Hibiscrub and then dry thoroughly.
It should resolve quite quickly but if it does not or if hotspots reoccur then you should speak to your vet to rule out any medical reason for them.

lnterdigital cysts

lnterdigital cysts form on your pug's paws inbetween their 'toes'.
They present as red lump and will be very sore. Your pug will try to relieve the discomfort by licking and chewing at his foot but this is likely to make the problem worse.
It can be caused by dermatitis, a foreign body or an ingrown hair or it could be related to a bacterial infection.
Treatment is usually a short course of antibiotics and/or antibiotic cream and a warm compress should relieve the discomfort if your pug will sit still for long enough.
Once again, a trip to the vets is almost always necessary especially if there is a recurrence when your vet will need to establish if there is an underlying cause.

This is not an exhaustive list of ailments but probably the most common.


If you ever have any concerns about your pug please do not delay in seeing your vet. Your pug is far too precious to take any risks.


* Disclaimer

No advice or information given on this website is or should be considered as a substitute for veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any information or advice provided is for information only and offered by experienced pug owners. Such advice is not meant as a substitute for professional advice from a veterinarian.

Never avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from a veterinarian because of something you have read on this site. If you suspect that your dog has a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified veterinarian healthcare professional immediately.

bottom of page