Pugs can no longer be considered ‘typical dogs’, vets warn

With their little squashed noses and wrinkled faces, pugs have become favorites of dog lovers and celebrities alike.

But a new study has warned that the breed is now suffering from such serious health problems that it can no longer be considered a “typical dog”.

Pugs are much more likely to suffer from respiratory, eye and skin disorders than other breeds, according to vets from the Royal Veterinary College.

“The very different health profiles between pugs and other dogs in the UK suggest that the pug has diverged so much from traditional dog breeds that the pug breed can no longer be considered a typical dog,” the researchers wrote in their study, Published in Canine medicine and genetics.

According to veterinarians from the Royal Veterinary College, Pugs are much more likely to suffer from respiratory, eye and skin disorders than other breeds.

What conditions are pugs at high risk for?

  • 54x more likely to have brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome
  • 51x more likely to have narrow nostrils
  • 13x more likely to have corneal ulceration
  • 11x more likely to have skinfold dermatitis
  • 2.5 times more likely to be obese
  • 2x more likely to have overgrown nails

The short-faced “brachycephalic” characteristics of pugs did not evolve naturally and are instead the result of selective breeding.

This facial structure puts them at high risk for health problems, including respiratory, eye and skin disorders.

‘Pugs have become incredibly popular in the UK over the last few decades,’ explained the research team led by Dr Dan O’Neill.

“The breed has a flat face that many humans find very attractive and ‘cute’, but this flat face is also linked to several serious health issues.

“As a result, there is growing concern about the welfare issues associated with the popularity and health issues of pugs.”

In the study, researchers compared the risks of 40 common conditions in Pugs with other dog breeds.

The team analyzed records from 16,218 Pugs and 889,326 non-Pug breeds, taken from the VetCompass database.

Their analysis found that pugs had an increased risk of 23 of 40 common disorders.

Pugs were 54 times more likely to have brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome – a condition affecting the upper airways – and 51 times more likely to have narrow nostrils.

The breed was also 13 times more likely to suffer from corneal ulceration and almost 11 times more likely to have skinfold dermatitis.

Additionally, pugs were 2.5 times more likely to be obese and twice as likely to have overgrown nails.

Pugs were 54 times more likely to have brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome - a condition affecting the upper airways - and 51 times more likely to have narrow nostrils (stock image)

Pugs were 54 times more likely to have brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome – a condition affecting the upper airways – and 51 times more likely to have narrow nostrils (stock image)

What is brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome?

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is the term given to the effects that the shortened head of these animals has on the passage of air through the upper airways.

Signs can range from mild snoring to serious breathing problems.

Animals suffering from BOAS may have difficulty breathing during exercise and even collapse due to lack of air.

Dogs’ reliance on panting for cooling also makes pets with BOAS highly susceptible to overheating and developing potentially serious breathing difficulties in hot conditions.

However, it wasn’t all catastrophic – pugs were found to be less at risk of developing several other conditions, including heart murmurs, lipomas and aggression.

“The study provides a broad evidence base on the positive and negative aspects of Pug health,” the researchers concluded.

“Disease predispositions were more common than disease protections, supporting the hypothesis that there are many critical health-related welfare issues for Pugs to overcome.”

The study comes shortly after researchers revealed that pugs are among the dog breeds with the shortest lifespans.

Vets from the Royal Veterinary College assessed 30,563 dogs from 18 breeds to see how life expectancy varies between pooches.

Their findings reveal that while the average life expectancy for dogs in the UK is 11.2 years, it varies hugely between breeds.

Jack Russell Terriers had the highest life expectancy from 0 years old to 12.7 years old, followed by Border Collies (12.1 years old) and Springer Spaniels (11.92 years old).

At the other end of the scale, four flat-faced breeds were found to have the shortest life expectancies.

French Bulldogs were only expected to live 4.5 years from age 0, followed by English Bulldogs at 7.4, Pugs at 7.7, and American Bulldogs at 7.8.

Dr Kendy Tzu-yun Teng, who led the study, said: “Dog life tables offer new insights and new ways to look at the life expectancy of companion dogs.

“They are also strong evidence of compromised health and well-being in short, flat-faced breeds, such as the French Bulldog and Bulldog.”

Dog breeds with the longest and shortest life expectancies

Longest life expectancy:

Jack Russell Terrier – 12.72

Yorkshire Terrier – 12.54

Border Collie – 12.10

Springer Spaniel – 11.92

Crusader – 11.82

Labrador Retrievers – 11.77

Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 11.33

Cocker Spaniel – 11.31

Shih Tzu – 11.05

Shortest life expectancy:

French Bulldog – 4.53

English Bulldog – 7.39

Pug – 7.65

American Bulldog – 7.79

Chihuahua – 7.91

Husky – 9.53

Beagle – 9.85

Boxer – 10.04

German Shepherd – 10.16

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – 10.45