A pug is a young-at-heart dog, and the breed generally enjoys a long life. But as a pug gets older, he starts to show symptoms of aging. Some issues are generic to dogs, but the pug has some specific problems that owners need to be aware of.
Screen your pug from age 7 for signs of aging. Although your pug probably doesn't behave like a senior at this age, this is judged as the point when aging begins. Pug expert Dan Rice calculates that your pug actually enters his senior years around age 12.
Get the vet to give your pug a physical check for stiffness, heart murmurs, organ function, anemia and other signs of aging. Prevention is better than treatment, and an annual screening can identify problems before they develop too far. Even in old age, pugs are known to behave like youngsters, so it's not always easy to spot when your pug has entered his senior years. Talk to your vet if you notice him sleeping more, or if his vision and sense of smell aren't as sharp as they used to be. These could just be normal symptoms of aging, but the vet will check for any possible underlying health problems.
Keep a close eye on all those pug-specific traits that are manageable in kid pugs but can cause significant problems for older ones. Weight is always a pug issue, particularly excess pounds. An older pug needs his diet adjusted for his age to prevent weight gain from a decrease in the amount of exercise he's able to do.
A pug's eyes are one of his weak spots. Apart from cataracts, pug-specific eye problems include keratoconjunctivitis sicca, progressive retinal atrophy and pigmentary keratitis. The last two can lead to blindness. Pug breeders are encouraged to have all their breeding dogs checked annually for eye problems by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Because pug eye problems are so common, pug puppy buyers should ask to see certificates.
Watch out for nerve degeneration, which pugs can develop in later years. Nobody seems to know why pugs get it, according to the Pug Dog Club of America. Signs of this condition are dragging the back feet, staggering, and an inability to jump up or down. A pug with this condition might also become incontinent.
You can get a small cart or doggie wheelchair to support his rear end, so that he can get about by himself using his front legs for propulsion. Or, you can carry him about with you, something your pug would undoubtedly love.
- Take extra care of your senior pug's teeth. He has more teeth than many breeds do, and this causes him problems throughout his life.
- Arthritis is a major problem for elderly pugs, so keep an eye out for joint stiffness.
- Trim your older pug's nails more frequently because he isn't walking outdoors as much.
- Make sure he's comfy and never exposed to extremes of heat or cold.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.