Pug love: Owners face challenges to address popular breed’s health issues

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Emily Liebau

With their cute wrinkles and curly tails, pugs have captured the hearts of dog owners across the globe.

The pug is the fourth most popular dog in England, according to The Kennel Club of England, and was the 31st most popular dog in the United States out of the 194 recognized breeds, according to the American Kennel Club. And pugs are the most searched breed on Google in 14 countries, according to research published on on Finder.com.

But with all that cuteness and popularity comes potential health problems.

Larry Nathan, who co-founded the Michigan Pug Rescue with his wife in April 2000, said pugs have some unique health concerns that even veterinarians who are unfamiliar with the breed can miss.

Nathan said all of the rescue’s pugs are housed in foster homes, including his home.

“Many people refer to them as a velcro dog,” Nathan said, referring to a pug’s desire to be close to its humans. “They are generally laid back and can be comical.”

He said regular annual vet visits are important for the pugs’ health. Pugs may need artificial tears to help protect their vision, and their ears and folds need to be kept clean to avoid infection, he said.

Nathan said Pugs also do not tolerate heat or high humidity, so they generally can’t be left outside for long periods of time.

Pugs are known as a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a flat face and short nose. Only 7-15 percent of pugs breath like a typical brachycephalic dog, according to The Kennel Club.

Libby Jean, president of the Mid-Michigan Pug Club, owns five pugs: Blue, Booker, Brucie, Hank and Sophie. Four of the pugs are adopted, while the other one she’s had since it was a puppy. One is blind and deaf, another has a seizure disorder, and the two others require doggie wheelchairs. In addition, the one she’s had since she was a puppy has had cancer twice.

“They are constantly at your side, under your feet, in your lap, and wrapped around your heart,” Jean said. “You could not ask for a more loving and devoted friend than a pug.”

Jean said it’s important to make sure pugs maintain a healthy weight and are given regular time for play.

“Pugs love and need people, they are social and loyal to their humans,” Jean said. “Make time every day to walk, play and cuddle. They will stay happier and healthier, and they will love you for it.”

One way to meet other pug owners and encourage physical activity for a pug is participating in a meetup group like Southeast Michigan Pug-N-Play. Ten to 30 dogs often attend the group’s monthly meetings.

“The best benefits are seeing your dog being so happy playing with other dogs and experiencing their ‘dogness,’” said Bob Vincent, a Pug-N-Play member.

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