Pug health risks mean it can no longer be considered ‘typical dog’

Pugs are almost twice as likely to suffer one or more disorders a year compared to other dogs – and the breed should no longer be considered a “typical dog”.

Research carried out by the RVC reveals that the health of the brachycephalic breed in the UK is substantially different and largely worse than non-pug dogs.

According to data analyzed by the college’s pioneering VetCompass program, pugs are twice as likely to experience one or more disorders annually compared to other dogs.


Random health samples from 4,308 pugs were compared with those of 21,835 non-pugs, with information extracted on all disorders recorded in each dog over a single year.

Overall, pugs were found to be 1.9 times as likely to have one or more disorder in a year than non-pug breeds, which researchers said indicated a poor overall health status.

When a list of the 40 most common disorders was compiled, pugs had a higher risk of 23 out of the 40 – or 57.5% –compared with a lower risk of 7 of the 40, or 17.5%.

As expected, brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) was the highest risk in pugs, and the breed is 54 times more likely to have it than other dogs.

Disorder risks

Pugs were at higher risk of the following compared to non-pug breeds:

  • Narrowed nostrils (x 51.3).
  • Eye ulceration (x 13).
  • Skinfold infections (x 11).
  • Ear discharge (x 9.6).
  • Allergic skin disorder (x 5.9).
  • Demodectic mange (x 5.6).
  • Retained baby teeth (x 4.3).
  • Obesity (x 3.4).

The breed did have reduced risk of some conditions, though, including heart murmur (x 0.2); lipoma (x 0.2); aggression (x 0.3); and wounds (x 0.5).


In December, The Kennel Club updated breed standards for another breed, the French bulldog, to discourage would-be owners, while another VetCompass study later in the month also called for the breed to be no longer classified as a “typical dog”. French bulldogs had a higher risk out of the 43 disorders compared in that study.

Describing the pug research, those behind the study said the breed’s body shape must shift towards a more moderate and less extreme confirmation if health and welfare issues in UK pugs were to be reduced.

‘Severe health issues’

Dan O’Neill, associate professor in companion animal epidemiology at the RVC, and lead author for the paper, said: “Although hugely popular as pets, we now know that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of pugs that many humans find so cute. It’s time now that we focus on the health of the dog rather than the whims of the owner when we are choosing what type of dog to own. ”

Co-author and RVC student Jaya Sahota said: “Demographic statistics from this pug study show that the current pug population is predominantly young with a wide variety of health disorders recorded.

“This leads to serious concerns of an impending brachycephalic ‘health crisis’ as this young population ages. W short ownership of pugs with extreme facial and body conformations should be discouraged until measures are in place to ensure stricter and more acceptable breed standards. ”

Exaggerated features

The Kennel Club, which helped fund the research, said dogs with exaggerated features and bred irresponsibly was one of its biggest concerns, and it vowed more work to educate the general public on health and other issues.

BVA president Justine Shotton said it was clear the extreme characteristics many owners found appealing were “seriously compromising pugs’ health”.

The study, “Health of Pug Dogs in the UK: disorder predispositions and protections”, is in Canine Medicine and Genetics with the full paper available now.


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