Pugs' Health Found to Be Worse Than Most Other Dogs, Study Shows

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A recent study in the UK says that pugs can no longer be considered average dogs.

The overall health of pugs is now significantly different and worse than other dogs, according to a recent study from the Royal Veterinary College.

The study compared the health of 4,308 pugs and 21,835 non-pugs. Pugs from the United Kingdom are almost twice as likely to experience one or more disorders annually compared to other dogs, according to the research. 

Brachycephalic dogs like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers are bred for their flat faces and stature, but have multiple morbidities that include breathing problems, according to the Human Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Pugs were found to be around 1.9 times as likely to have one or more disorders recorded in a single year compared to other dogs, according to the study.

Dr. Myfanwy Hill, a veterinary surgeon who works at the University of Cambridge told BBC that the findings were unsurprising.

"The issue you've got is a dog with a smaller skull, but nothing else about the dog has gotten equivalently smaller,” Hill said to the outlet.

“…Their brains are squished into a box that is too small," and other soft tissues are "squished into a smaller space".

She told the outlet that the "common image we have of pugs" where they're smiling and have their tongue sticking out, looking like they're panting, is not the "joyful" image we may think.

"Really, they're having to breathe through their mouths, because they cannot breathe efficiently through their noses,” Hill said. 

While pugs have less instances of some issues like heart murmurs and fighting wounds, they are at increased risk for other conditions.

Dr. Dan O'Neill, associate professor in companion animal epidemiology and lead author of the paper, told BBC, "We now know that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of pugs that many humans find so cute… and that it's important to focus on the health of the dog rather than the whims of the owner when we are choosing what type of dog to own."

Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, added, "While these extreme, unhealthy characteristics remain, we will continue to strongly recommend potential owners do not buy brachycephalic breeds such as pugs," 

The researchers encouraged people not to blame the dog owners for these issues, as Hill told the outlet that people who buy dogs do so "in good faith" and it's important "not to attribute blame."

Hill did suggest looking out for symptoms of breathing difficulties, such as excessive panting or lots of noise during breathing, especially during the summer months because pugs are more at risk of heat-related problems due to their restricted airways.

Hill adds that while the "barrel-shaped bodies are really cute,” weight management is important because "an overweight short-face dog like a pug is at even greater risk."

"Animals have thoughts and feelings of their own. And we need to make sure that they live long, happy and healthy lives," Hill said.

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