Itching and Licking in Pugs

Keep him dry, clean and on a diet for good skin health.
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A pug is not only susceptible to allergies, he also has a tendency to develop a number of skin conditions that keep him constantly itching and licking. A pug's facial skin folds provide a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria that can develop into a nasty infection. He's also prone to food allergies that cause skin rashes and flea bites, and environmental allergens can have him scratching like mad.


Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection caused by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus that appears in the pug's skinfolds. In terms of appearance, it looks like pimples that ooze a smelly, white pus. Your pug's skinfolds may also look reddish and moist and your pug will typically lick and scratch the affected area, making it worse. It can appear anywhere on him, but primarily it affects the face, lips and toes. Keeping skinfolds clean and dry is an essential preventative measure. Also, keeping your pug from becoming overweight, reduces the development of skin folds, therefore reducing the potential of an infection developing. If he does develop pyoderma, your veterinarian will treat him with antibiotics and corticosteroids.

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis is caused by sensitivity to an allergen. This could be a flea bite, something your pug inhales such as plant spores, or a food allergy. According to Belinda Belmonte, author of "The Pug Handbook," an allergic pug is extremely itchy, so he's likely to do a lot of licking and scratching. She warns that a pug may make his skin so red raw that a bacterial infection also develops, adding to his discomfort. He may also lose patches of hair around the rash area. Watch out for your pug suddenly jumping and biting his tail: this is typical behavior of a pug allergic to fleas. Pugs with an environmental allergy may show symptoms only at certain times, just like humans with seasonal allergies.

Food Allergies

Pugs are gourmands and unlikely to refuse anything edible. Unfortunately, some pugs have an allergy to the carbohydrates and proteins normally found in dog food. Symptoms of a food allergy are widespread redness over the face, chest and abdomen. You will need to consult your vet, who may try to isolate the allergens by putting your pug on an elimination diet. Your vet will also advise a course of treatment and ways to control it throughout your pug's life. A raw food diet and essential fatty acid supplements is recommended by some pug breeders to reduce skin inflammation.

Breeding and Inheritance

Most of the pug's skin problems stem from a weakened immune system, according to Belmonte; who also points out that poor breeding often results in pugs having more than their fair share of skin complaints. Pug parents with a history of allergic dermatitis, for example, are more likely to produce pups with the same problem, although as "Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion" states, the way in which an allergy is passed on genetically is not well understood. You may wish to check if there is a history of allergies when buying a pug pup

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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