Complete Breed Guide For Pugs: Health Concerns, Food, Exercise, Grooming Needs

With a ton of personality packed into a small body, the Pug has been entertaining owners for years. This dog breed is particularly popular for all varieties of people because of its gregarious personality and adorable facial features. However, it’s not all fun and games with this little rascal and, as a veterinarian with over 20 years experience working with Pugs, I’m here to give you all the information I can to help you make the right choice in whether you

The Big Questions

  • How Long Do They Live: 12 – 15 years
  • How Much Do They Cost: From Breeders: $800-$5,000; Cost is dependent on where you live and the bloodlines of the puppies.
  • How Big Do They Get: 10″-14″ at the shoulder; Weigh 14-20 lbs usually
  • How Healthy Are They: Pugs can have quite a few health concerns. This is not a dog for someone who can’t afford at least 2-3 vet visits per year.

How Longs Do Pugs Live?

A Pug’s small size makes it one of the longer-lived dogs. This little dog will live between 13 and 15 years, with an average lifespan reaching about 13.2 years of age. The oldest Pug recorded reached a ripe old age of 18 years. With good care and a healthy dog, many owners can look forward to years of companionship.

How Healthy Are Pugs?

Unfortunately, Pugs are susceptible to many diseases that can drastically shorten their lifespan. The biggest health concerns that Pug face are:

  • Obesity
  • Brachycephalic Disease
  • Dental Disease
  • Eye Disease (Entropion, Corneal Ulcers, Dry Eye)
  • Orthopedic Issues (Hip Dysplasia, Patellar Luxation)
  • Neurological Conditions (IVDD, Pug Dog Encephalitis)
  • Allergies
  • Collapsing Trachea
  • Cancer (Mast Cell Tumors)

Note that Pugs can develop almost any disease and that there are a few diseases (such as Degenerative Myelopathy) that Pugs can get but I don’t tend to see that in my practice. My information is based upon my own experience of over 20 years as a veterinarian.

For a for more in-depth breakdown of Pug health conditions, check out the article here in which I go into each condition in greater detail. I also give tips on how to get your Pug to live longer and healthier.

Pugs in my practice are seen, on average, 3-6 times per year with a myriad of health issues. This is not a dog that I expect to see for years on end totally healthy.

How Big Do Pugs Get?

The Pug packs loads of personality into a relatively small frame. Female Pugs tend to be smaller than males. A female Pug will be around 14 pounds and reach 10 inches to the shoulder. Male pugs are usually heavier, tipping the scales at 18 pounds, and will get about 14 inches to the shoulder.  

Despite its relatively small frame, the Pug has a sturdy, robust, and muscular body. The Pug has short, stocky legs that make it a rather durable and hardy little dog. The Pug also has an adorable, short nose and loads of wrinkles around his face.  

What Is The Best Food For A Pug?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Pug. Because of their small mouths, smaller kibble will be a better idea than one that may be larger and harder to chew.

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your Pug a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

What Are The Grooming Needs Of A Pug?

The Pug has short, thick, and dense fur. The Pug comes in three different coat colors, including silver, fawn, and all black. Despite the short coat, Pugs shed a great deal. Usually, shedding is seasonal, with the biggest shedding season in the summer when the Pug will shed some fur layers to stay cool.

Owners can reduce the amount of shedding with regular brushing and bathing. Pugs should be brushed regularly, about once per week, to help eliminate excess fur floating around the house. About once a month is perfect for a bath, but some owners will bathe their Pug every three weeks to help control odor and shedding.

This dog also requires regular nail trimming to keep nails short and manageable. The nails must be clipped to keep them short since this relatively low-energy dog is not running outdoors to wear down the nails naturally. If you can’t keep the nails short enough at home, have a groomer or your veterinarian trim the nails every month or so to keep them as short as possible.

Special care should be taken to keep this dog’s adorable and trademark wrinkles healthy. Although the wrinkles are an unmistakable feature with the Pug, they can also be a perfect infection site. Trapped water and moisture in the wrinkles can be a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause dangerous infections. After a bath, be sure to thoroughly clean the wrinkles around the face to ensure that all the water is removed.

Periodically, about once per week, be sure to clean inside the Pug’s wrinkles. Many owners will use a simple cotton ball to wipe away any dirt and debris. You may also use commercial, unscented baby wipes to clean the wrinkles. Baby wipes are gentle, safe, and will remove any bacteria growing in the skin flaps.  

Another trademark of the Pug is the big, bulging eyes. While these eyes can certainly bore a hole straight into your heart, they also must be well taken care of. The eyes on a Pug are extended and bulging, making them prime for irritation from caustic soaps and cleansers. Be sure to take special care to keep cleaning products out of your Pug’s eyes when bathing your Pug or cleaning your Pug’s wrinkly face.  

How Much Exercise Does A Pug Need?

One aspect of the Pug that makes this breed of dog attractive to many owners is that this dog is a relatively low-energy dog. The Pug was bred to be a companion dog, and he is happy to sit with his owner. Whether you are reading a book or binge-watching some Netflix, the Pug is delighted to sit on your lap and enjoy your company.

With that being said, this dog will still need to get some exercise and some Pugs will want more exercise than others. A short walk outdoors or some active playtime each day is enough to keep this dog happy and engaged. Owners that do not regularly exercise their Pug notice their limited energy can come bubbling out.

Dogs that are not exercised can get into shenanigans and will often have silly, goofy, and funny antics and behaviors to get their owner’s attention. Always the clown, the Pug will do anything to get a rise out of his or her owners.  

Be careful when exercising your Pug outdoors. This dog is best suited for a moderate climate and cannot handle high heat or humidity. This breed of dog can easily overheat, which can lead to severe and complicated health concerns. Monitor your pet when walking and exercising outdoors, especially if you live in high humidity or a hot climate.  

Pro tip: Pugs should wear harnesses when on a leash – not a collar!

Too much pressure on the neck can make them prone to issues such as collapsing trachea or cervical disc disease.

Where Can I Find a Pug?

Pugs are available from local breeders or specific Pug rescue groups. Before purchasing a Pug from a breeder, be sure to check the credentials of the breeder. You want a breeder to be reputable and never shop at a puppy mill or pet store. 

Start Here Pug Dog Club of America

If you’re looking for some more reputable breeders, you can also check out the AKC puppy finder page for Pugs.

Pugs are subject to several severe health conditions which can be detected at an early age. Be sure that your breeder can screen and test for specific genetic diseases such as:

  • Hip Dysplasia (OFA)
  • Pug Dog Encephalitis

When choosing a puppy, try to meet the parents if possible. Much of the puppy’s personality will come from the mother. Be sure to pick a puppy with a good character. You will want a Pug puppy that is reflective of the typical Pug personality. Find a puppy that is happy to be pet and sit on your lap and isn’t bullying his or her brothers and sisters.  

Special Considerations Of Owning A Pug

  • They are fantastic family dogs
  • They can be difficult to house train as they are quite stubborn. It’s not that they are unintelligent; they usually just don’t focus on being that obedient to the needs of humans.
  • Have your veterinarian evaluate the breathing capabilities of your Pug to see if there’s improvement that can be made with a few simple surgical procedures

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