You’d think they would have enough to deal with, what with the whole not being able to breathe properly due to their short faces and their continual risk of an eye falling out because their eye sockets are too shallow.
Those, it would seem, are not all the woes that the alien-looking pooches have to put up with though, as it turns out that one in three pugs can’t walk properly, either. The analysis was carried out in Sweden and published in the journal Vet Record. The findings suggest that gait abnormalities are prevalent among the breed and a much more serious problem than previously thought.
The researchers turned to all the pug owners registered with the Swedish Kennel Club that had pugs aged 1, 5, or 8 years old. They then asked them to fill out a questionnaire on whether or not their pet had any gait abnormalities such as lameness, poor coordination, weakness, or just general problems such as not being able to jump. They also asked the owners whether their dogs had any abnormal wearing of the nails or the skin on their pads. Owners were also asked to film and send in videos of the pets if possible.
Of the 550 pug owners who replied, just under 80 percent thought that their dog's gait was normal. However, after the team reviewed 59 videos sent in by the owners, they realized that owners tend to think their dog is walking fine when it isn’t. Adjusting for this self-reported bias, they found that around 31 percent of pugs likely suffer from gait abnormalities.
On average, the pugs were around 2 years old when they first started showing signs of walking problems, with the front legs often having problems before the back legs. While the breed is usually associated with easily becoming obese, they actually found no association between weight and lameness.
Interestingly, of the 47 owners who had to put their pugs down, it was the dog's abnormal gait that was the most frequently cited reason, suggesting the issue is far more serious than most people and vets assume.
“Although this study did not aim to differentiate orthopaedic from neurological causes for gait abnormalities,” write the authors, “the high prevalence of wearing of nails reported in the questionnaires, and the fact that lameness was not a common finding in the submitted videos, suggest that the majority of gait abnormalities in the pugs were indeed related to neurological rather than orthopaedic disorders.”
The authors admit that the sample size was small and could be skewed. However, they hope to raise people's awareness of an often overlooked health problem facing the breed.