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Why Pugs Are NOT Your Average Dog
A new study determined that pugs cannot be seen as “typical dogs” from a health perspective.
It’s no secret that pugs are adorable. Pugs are known for being sociable and gentle companion dogs with even tempers and charming personalities. However, pug owners may need to be prepared for larger than average vet bills. Because of their flat faces, pugs are unfortunately prone to serious health issues, namely breathing problems.
In fact, a recent study conducted by the United Kingdom’s Royal Veterinary College found that pugs can’t be considered typical dogs from a health perspective at all. The researchers analyzed the clinical veterinary records of about 4,000 pugs and 22,000 non-pug dogs to determine the comparative odds of various canine health issues, and found that pugs were significantly more likely to develop more than 20 medical problems. To clarify the odds, pugs were nearly 2 times more likely to develop one of these medical conditions in a single year.
Most notably, pugs are prone to breathing difficulties that can potentially become life-threatening. For example, the study found that pugs are 54 times more likely to develop brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, which is a series of problems that affect brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs. The syndrome describes the airway abnormalities that can occur in flat-faced dogs and their symptoms and subsequent consequences. While sometimes it can be treated with lifestyle changes or surgery, brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome can become fatal. Because of their predisposition to breathing difficulties, some airlines won’t even allow pugs to fly with them. There is too much of a risk that the changes in cabin pressure could trigger respiratory failure in snub-nosed dogs.
In addition to breathing disorders, the study also found that pugs had higher risks of developing conditions like skin fold infections, skin allergies, heart murmurs, malformed vertebrae in their backs, and obesity. Pugs are also more prone to bacterial and viral infections like parvo and distemper, but these can be effectively prevented with vaccines.
While these designer dogs are quite cute, the researchers wanted to spread awareness of the severe health issues and difficulties pugs face because of how they were bred. However, it’s not necessarily all bad news. Pugs still have an average lifespan of 12-15 years, which is on par with the average life span of other little dogs. For dog owners who stay on top of their pugs’ health and take steps to ensure their comfort, we see hope for these flat-faced dogs to live long and happy lives.
That said, the study authors do want to discourage dog lovers from supporting the overbreeding of flat-faced dogs who have been “designed” to have features that compromise their health and quality of life. In April 2022, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the U.K. issued a plea to prospective dog owners to avoid buying puppies of flat-faced breeds. If there is lowered demand for these designer puppies, breeders will be more inclined to stop breeding health-compromised dogs and focus on breeding healthier puppies. Some countries, like Norway, have even begun to ban the breeding of some flat-faced dogs, hoping to prevent the overbreeding of dogs who are likely to be born with ongoing health challenges.
Finally, we wanted to reiterate that if you own or like pugs, you are not a bad person. No one who opens up their home and their hearts to a dog in need should be attacked or feel bad because the dog in question happens to be a pug. However, it’s important to be aware of the health challenges these dogs face and advocate for ethical dog breeding practices in the future.
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