club pug

Solving Pugs

First, encourage your friend to do the straw thing again, but for longer. If she’s coping while doing nothing ask her to do mild physical activity like walk around, wash the dishes, get the mail. If she can breath through only a straw, whilst doing mild activity, for an hour, with no discomfort, then give her a medal and send her off to a medical science lab.

Second, let’s define ‘the pug crises’. If we’re going to talk about health problems in the pug related to breeding or anatomy, we should include, but not limit ourselves to:

  • Brachycephalic syndrome, causing air hunger, overheating, exercise intolerance, collapse, chronic vomiting and increased risk of respiratory obstruction
  • Hemivertebrae and increased risk of intervertebral disc disease
  • Eye problems including: overexposure predisposing to keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) and eye ulcers, proptosis of the globe (eyeball popping out), laterally deviated vision, entropion
  • Excessive facial skin folds, leading to yeast dermatitis and chronic ear infections.
  • Hip dysplasia. Even though they’re little, they still get it surprisingly commonly.
  • Propensity towards obesity. This may be linked to the breed’s general difficulty exercising.

I think that’s enough problems to address to begin with. There’s too much flesh and not enough bone in the head. The breeding towards a curved tail, and a ‘double curled tail’ is still considered highly desirable in the show ring, has resulted in unstable backs and hemivertebrae. The desire for large, round eyes instead of more oval, typical eyes has resulted in bulging globes that easily pop out. And the ‘well defined wrinkles’ of the breed standard go too far, resulting in skin and ear infections and encouraging the breed to retain the excessive soft tissues of its head.

The purebred pug scene, and the desire to achieve a perfect ‘look’ has resulted in the suffering of this breed. The greatest opposition to change is the purebred pug clubs, because changing the breed standard would result in dogs ‘not looking like a pug’ anymore. They are also firmly against crossbreeding, even though we know that after 5 generations of crossing back, the offspring are indistinguishable from a purebred. Nevertheless, if I could change the world I would:

  • Change the breed standard to include a minimum nose length of 2 inches.
  • Allow a curled tail, but more than 360 degrees is too much.
  • Have all show dogs hip scored to compete. Spinal Xrays would be great while we’re at it.
  • Limit maximum size allowed for eyes, encourage more oval than round eyes.
  • Outcross to other breeds.

Personally, I think the Jack Russel Terrier, particularly the straighter legged ones, are excellent candidates to cross pugs to. The head is just lovely, they still have lots of energy, and most of their genetic problems don’t overlap. It means that instead of this:

You end up with something a bit more like this:

Really, the breed clubs need to ask themselves whether they really like the dogs or the look of the dogs. The breed deserves better.

Can you honestly say that this isn’t ‘pug’ enough to you? ‘Cause it ooks very puggy to me, but with much less suffering.

But what would I know? I’m just a lowly veterinarian.