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How Common Are Eye Problems for Pugs? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Brooke Bundy

By Brooke Bundy


Vet approved

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Wrinkled and rotund, the compact Pug has been a favorite breed internationally for hundreds of years but has soared in popularity in recent decades. Their round, bulging eyes are one of their appeals, along with their cute snub noses. However, new studies reveal that the very features humans find attractive actually cause a lot of health issues for these little guys. For example the Pug is about 13 times as likely to have painful eye ulceration than other common dog breeds.1 Unfortunately, having eye issues is more common than not.

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Are Pugs a Healthy Breed?

Pugs seem about twice as likely overall to develop health issues than other breeds. Brachycephalic breeds like the Pug have squished faces that negatively impact their breathing. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a combination of the following problems:2 narrow nostrils,a crowded nose and throat, an overlong soft palate and a narrow windpipe. All of these issues can unfortunately result in breathing problems for our loveable pugs. The Royal Veterinary College in the UK says that Pugs are predisposed to so many health problems that they can’t be considered “normal” dogs.

Cute pug dog lying down on couch at home
Image Credit: Diana Grytsku, Freepik

The 3 Common Eye Problems for Pugs

Pugs are prone to numerous eye issues. Part of Pugs’ appeal are their prominent eyes, but this unfortunately means they are more likely to get scratched or traumatized. The eyelids are too long for the size of the eye meaning that most Pugs can’t blink or shut their eyes properly. The surface of their eyes then becomes exposed and damaged. In addition the lower eyelids often roll inwards and this can mean the eyelashes rub onto the surface of the eye causing more damage.   Here are a few ailments that commonly affect this breed:

1. Pigmentary Keratitis

Pigmentary keratitis is a common problem, affecting as many as 50% of Pugs. Pigment and blood vessels grow across the cornea to varying degrees. Some dogs can have dark brown pigment covering a large part of the surface of the eye and this severely affects their vision. Of course, not all Pugs will develop this disease, and even fewer acquire it to such a severe degree.

Cross-section of a dog's eye
Image Credit: Hepper.com

2. Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers impair Pugs to a greater degree than other breeds. An eye ulcer is damage to the surface of the eye for example from a cat scratch or a stick. The cornea is the thin clear layer at the front of the eye and ulcers can vary from being very shallow to much deeper and more serious.All corneal ulcers require immediate veterinary attention as they are very painful and can quickly get worse if left untreated.

3. Proptosis

We know it’s gross, but Pugs are also prone to proptosis, which is where their eyeballs pop out of their sockets. Usually this happens as a result of trauma. Unfortunately for brachycephalic dogs, it might not take as much to dislodge the eye since the socket is so shallow and the eyes bulge out. Proptosis requires urgent medical care. Your vet may be able to save their eye if treated quickly but it is not always possible.

Cute and funny pug wearing googly eyes glasses
Image Credit: Lori Beneteau, Shutterstock

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How to Keep Your Pug Healthy

Although this brachycephalic breed has many known health risks, many of them can be mediated with proper care. For example, Pugs are the most obese breed in the world. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, approximately 64% of Pugs are diagnosed as obese. Genetic factors such as body shape and low energy levels certainly contribute to this issue. However, pet parents can lower their risks by making sure they receive ample exercise and a well-balanced diet with a conservative number of treats.

Since Pugs also have trouble breathing, it’s recommended to limit their exercise time during the summer to the early morning and late evening hours, as opposed to the middle of the day when they can easily overheat. A harness rather than a collar is recommended to walk them. Roughhousing with other dogs is also discouraged. Their eyes are easily damaged since they bulge out from their face, which can result in corneal ulcers or other eye injuries.

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While Pugs are adorable, they’re not the healthiest breed. Unfortunately, eye problems are only one issue that this brachycephalic breed is at increased risk of. If you decide to adopt a Pug, you might consider enrolling them in a pet insurance policy to make sure they’re covered in the event of eye injuries or any other health crisis which they’re predisposed to.

Featured Image Credit: Toberoon, Pixabay

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