Nearly one in three pugs have issues moving around and in some cases it’s costing them their lives, new research has revealed.
The study by Swedish researchers looked at gait abnormalities (movement of the limbs) in pugs, which also included issues such as lameness, poor coordination, weakness, inability to jump, and abnormal wearing of the nails and the skin on their paws.
It found almost one third of pugs have problems. The issues get worse with age and are also associated with breathing problems and excessive scratching around the neck, ears and head.
Abnormal gait is the single most frequently cited cause for pugs being put to sleep.
Researchers said the findings, published in Vet Record, suggest gait abnormalities are “a more significant health problem than what previous published scientific literature has suggested”.
On average, pugs were two years old when the abnormalities first started, with front leg problems tending to show up earlier than problems with the back legs.
In the majority of cases, abnormal gait was related to neurological disorders rather than orthopaedic disorders.
According to Sean Wensley, PDSA senior vet, pugs are prone to breathing difficulties due to the shape of their face and eye ulcers caused by their protruding eyes. They’re also more likely to experience spinal problems because they’ve been bred to have a corkscrew-shaped tail.
The vet said it’s important for existing pug owners to know their dog might be prone to difficulty walking and abnormal gait, as well as other health issues.
“Go and get your pug health-checked by your vet, especially if you have any concerns,” he warned. “It’s good practice for flat-faced dogs to have health checks every year.”
Wensley believes the findings will be helpful in shaping future health-testing schemes, particularly for pugs. He said the knowledge of gait issues can inform more detailed health-testing and screening of parents, which can lead to healthier pug puppies being born in the future.
The vet also warned anyone considering buying a pug puppy to “think twice” and, instead, advised to “choose a healthier breed”. If you do want to buy one, he advises downloading a Puppy Contract which acts as a contract of sale which the breeder can sign.
“If breeders are reluctant to sign, it should ring alarm bells,” he added. “The puppy information pack that comes with it walks you through all the important questions you should ask.”