Brachycephalic dogs like Pugs and Pekingese are blessed with sweet faces and lovable personalities, however you would be wise to understand your short-headed dog’s list of potential health problems so you’ll be well prepared with a good strategy to handle unknown dog health medical expenses and home care needs before you’re surprised by the number of things that could go wrong with your lovable dog.
This news brief explains the health issues with dogs that have pushed-in faces like Pugs, with a personal story about a Pug named Jake, so you can take better care of your dog and love them even more.
Brachycephalic Dogs: What Makes These Dogs Different?
- Head shape – The term Brachycephalic means ‘short-headed’. Dog breeds that have short muzzles and noses include Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pekingese and Pugs. The result is that these dogs tend to have flattened throat and breathing passages which makes it difficult for your dog to breathe.
- Windpipe – Your dog with brachycephalic syndrome could also have a narrow windpipe and be at risk for larynx problems if your dog’s cartilage blocks his airway. This may make him a fussy eater because of the trouble your dog has when he swallows.
- Nostrils – Your dog’s nostrils may be narrow and prone to collapse inward when your dog inhales which makes it difficult for your dog to breathe. Be aware that brachycephalic dogs may not want to exercise in hot and humid weather or even worse, your dog could collapse.
- Soft Palate – Your dog’s soft palate may be too long and interfere with the flow of air into your dog’s lungs. Symptoms to listen for are noisy breathing and your dog may gag when he swallows. Your dog may prefer to sleep on his back which allows him to breathe easier when the soft palate tissue does not block his larynx.
Note: You may want to investigate dog health insurance when your ‘short-headed’ dog is a puppy as a dog health strategy to help you with unexpected medical expenses as your dog gets older.
Brachycephalic Dogs: 6 Common Health Issues for Pugs
- Allergies – Your Pug’s folded and wrinkled skin can trap moisture that leads to yeast and bacterial skin infections for your dog. Other skin problems are Demodectic Mange, tumors and mast cell tumors. A good strategy is to check your Pug’s body weekly and call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has lumps or infections.
- Encephalitis – Your pug could inherit this terrible disease which is inflammation of the brain. Symptoms can appear early before your dog is 1 or 2 years old and develop when your dog is older. Be aware of changes in the behavior of brachycephalic dogs and watch for a stiff neck, wandering in circles, a shaky gait and if your Pug presses his head against a door, wall or furniture.
- Hip dysplasia – Pugs have a very high rate of hip and elbow dysplasia according to the Orthopedic Foundation of America. You also want to watch for another disease called luxating patella or loose knees which is also common for Pugs.
- Eye problems – Pugs can develop problems with their eyes like corneal ulcers from scratches, dry eye, pigmentary keratitis or a dark dot on the white of your dog’s eye, eyelash problems, cataracts and possible ‘popped-out’ eye if your dog is pulled too hard on his leash or if your dog is involved in rough play.
- Heart disease – Some Pugs may be predisposed to a slow and irregular heartbeat called syncope due to their short face.
- Miscellaneous – Pugs are also prone to these diseases: Epilepsy, Dental Disease, Collapsing Trachea, Liver Shunt and Hydrocephalus in Pug puppies.
Brachycephalic Dogs: Jake’s Story Told by his Owner, Donna Warnick
Jake is a black Pug that lives in Maryland with his owners who love him dearly. One of his owners, Donna Warnick, connected with Dog Health News and mentioned 3 areas of concern she had for Jake: itchy skin, picky eater, and comfort. As you can see from the above list of health problems for Pugs, Jake may have these symptoms based on his pushed in face, wrinkled skin and narrow passages for breathing and swallowing.
Donna wants to help other people who have brachycephalic dogs like Pugs so they can take better care of their dogs too. So she created a blog to share (and brag… yes, she admits it!) what they’ve learned together about pug living & loving. You’ll find photos, little stories and events involving Jake & the family. If interested you can visit with them at Pug Chronicles. Donna and Jake welcome comments and would love to hear what others have learned during their journey loving their babies. Thank you to Jake’s owner for the love she gives to her dog and her passion for Pugs all over the world.
Here’s some personal comments directly from Jake’s owner, Donna Warnick:
- Itchy Skin is an ongoing issue we’ve been dealing with for some time now. It seems as though this is not uncommon in brachycephalic dogs like pugs. You may read about the particulars and our many attempts to solve or at the very least ease Jake’s discomfort on the blog.
- Picky eater is another ongoing issue but I believe the answer to this conundrum lies with the fact that Jake’s Daddy has always and always will give him people food, thus ruining Jake’s appetite. Daddy lacks the capacity to understand the difference between giving Jake what is best for him (dog food specifically created to meet a dog’s needs) and what Jake wants (human food which may be harmful to dogs). Also Daddy believes Jake is the cutest, best, most adorable pug on the face of the earth and saying no to that little face is impossible for him.
At this point let me stress Daddy does pay attention when told specific foods are particularly harmful and/or poisonous to Jake. His intention in giving Jake human foods is not to harm Jake. It’s Daddy’s way of expressing his love for Jake by doing anything to make him happy. Daddy was the same with our human children but for the most part left the Mommy decide what was best. Actually he expresses his love in the same manner for the humans he loves, i.e. myself, our now grown sons, granddaughters, etc. At any rate, though I believe I have the answer, this is one issue that will never be solved… at least not at our house. But you might keep that in mind if you have a picky eater or when you bring a new baby into your life. One of my many philosophies: If you don’t start it, you don’t have to stop it.
- Comfort is more an ongoing concern for brachycephalic dogs rather than an issue. As I’ve stated many times, Jake is my baby. I want to ensure my baby is comfortable. An important factor for consideration of Jake’s wellbeing is the weather. Pugs are not good candidates to be outside for extended periods of time.
While the effects of brief exposure to cold temperatures are not as deadly as those of warm ones, there are still dangers and consequences that come along with the cooler weather. Just like our hands and feet, a dog’s paw pads and nails can become dry and cracked. Heating our homes removes much of the moisture from the air. Less humidity in the air, coupled with mandatory trips outdoors, tends to dry out a pup’s skin. Our human bodies react in a similar manner during winter months. But treatment of dry skin is much easier for humans then dogs.
I can tell when Jake is too cold by the way he acts.
- Jake visibly shivers,
- Jake seeks to get physically closer to me,
- Jake asks (in his way) to be allowed under the covers.
With the challenge of Jake’s ongoing skin sensitivities, I want to avoid adding dry skin to his list of skin irritations. Yes, I do recognize that these are minor irritations. But even the most minor irritations can lead to bigger issues.
Too warm temperatures can pose an even more serious threat. Allowing brachycephalic dogs like Jake to overheat can result in serious health related emergencies or even loss of life. The briefest contact with hot pavement can burn a pup’s feet. Black dogs, like Jake absorb more of the sun’s rays making body temperature rise faster than lighter colored dogs. Most of us know that dogs don’t perspire as we humans do. They cool down by panting. A pug with his smooshed face, has a shorter nose and smaller air passages in both his nose & throat making it difficult to pass air through their airways. This means when panting to cool his body, Jake is laboring just to breathe. It’s not much of a leap to realize difficulty breathing hinders the cool down process. An overheated pug can suffer from cardiac arrest or organ failure, which of course can lead to death.
I’m constantly aware of Jake and how his surroundings affect him. I guess you could say I monitor him based on the weather and temperature.
Cooler temperatures… If I suspect he is too cold inside the house or out, I dress… yes you heard me… I dress him accordingly. I practice much the same ideology with Jake as I did with my children: If I need a sweatshirt to go outside to be comfortable, so does Jake.
Warmer temperatures… I pay attention to Jake to see if he’s panting more than usual. If I notice Jake having any breathing difficulty I take the following steps to ease his discomfort:
- Activity is stopped.
- We find a place that’s cooler for Jake.
- Fans are directed at him and air conditioners are turned to cooler level.
- Water is offered to Jake.
Jake, like all brachycephalic dogs is especially sensitive to environmental temperatures. He simply is not suited to extreme cold or heat. As his caretaker and pet parent, it is my responsibility to ensure that Jake is comfortable at all times. But it goes beyond just loving him and wanting him comfortable. By choosing to share my life with our pug Jake, I made a commitment to do all I could to ensure his safety, health and happiness. In short his total wellbeing. In exchange for my commitment Jake has given me a new perspective, a more active lifestyle and a direction to focus my love and attention.
Oh yeah, and I don’t think a day goes by that the little fellow doesn’t give me something to smile about.
This news brief, personal story and original photos from Donna Warnick about a lovable pug named Jake gives you a full picture of health issues and solutions for Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs so you can watch for symptoms and find strategies to take better care of your dog.
Share this article with your friends and family so they will have the information they need to know about their Pug or any short-headed dog. You can always depend on the best dog health strategies from Dog Health News.
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