Source: NZ Herald (Extract)
Posted: May 20, 2022

Pugs can no longer be considered a “typical dog” from a health perspective, a new study has found.

Potential owners are being advised against buying a pug puppy and the SPCA says Kiwis should not support a fashion for cute companions that is leading to significant compromises in their welfare.

The study, from the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, found that the health of pugs in the UK is worse than non-pugs and the breed is almost twice as likely to experience one or more disorders annually compared with other dogs.

They say that urgent action is required to reduce the high rate of health issues associated with the breed and urge potential owners to “stop and think”.

The breed has grown in popularity in the last twenty years and they have become a feature of advertising, television and viral social media content.

The serious health issues encountered by pugs stem from the breed’s flat face, bulging eyes, wrinkled skin and tendency towards obesity, all characteristics which endear them to the public.

The study compared the health of random samples of 4,308 pugs and 21,835 non-pugs and found pugs to be 1.9 times as likely to have one or more disorders recorded in a single year compared to non-pugs, indicating a poor overall health status in the breed.

Pugs had a higher risk of 23 out of the 40 most common disorders compared and a lower risk of only seven out of 40.

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) was the disorder with the highest risk in pugs, with the breed almost 54 times more likely to have the condition, which leads to pugs struggling to breathe.

Pugs were also found to be more susceptible to:

  • Narrowed nostrils (x 51.3)
  • Eye ulceration (x 13.0)
  • Skinfold infections (x 11.0)
  • 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)

SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughan told the Herald it can be easy to be overwhelmed by choice when selecting a puppy and the pug’s cute features naturally drew people in but cautioned potential buyers to do their research first because there were a number of breeds, including pugs, that could develop serious health issues that could compromise their welfare.

She stressed that the SPCA would prefer that would-be dog owners adopted a rescue dog but said those considering purchasing a puppy needed to ensure they were going through a reputable breeder, noting that even this step wouldn’t prevent purchasing a puppy that would develop health issues as it was hard to avoid with some breeds, especially pugs.

It’s not just dogs that suffer the negative repercussions of selective breeding either, with some cat breeds such as Scottish Folds and Persians being prone to ongoing health issues.

“We need to be really careful about looking beyond the cute little face and do our research and make sure that we know what we’re getting ourselves into and that we don’t support things that we know lead to welfare compromise,” Vaughan said.

She advised those who already owned a pug to stay in touch with their vet and be aware of potential risks to their pet’s health.

Some dogs suffering from BOAS could be treated with surgery but Vaughan said owners needed to be aware of the danger signs.

Panting, snoring and sleeping with a toy in their mouth were all tell-tale signs that the dog is struggling to get enough oxygen.

Pugs have been banned for sale on TradeMe since 2018, after Trade Me bosses ruled that the breed’s overwhelming likelihood to develop serious health conditions meant it shouldn’t be advertised on their site.

Vaughan said that advertising, entertainment and social media all played a part in the breed’s ongoing popularity, alongside other breeds with exaggerated features such as French bulldogs.

She said advertisers especially needed to be responsible when choosing which dogs to feature.

One solution to the problem is to breed some harmful traits out of the breed and return the pug to something closer to its original type.

“This is the direction to go in,” Vaughan said, adding that goal should be to “retain some of the appealing characteristics of the breed” but aim for a more “moderate pug”.