Pugs Are Problematic

Sid Hogge, Opinion writer

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Dogs have been companions to humans for nearly 18,000 years. Over these years we’ve bred these dogs to perform well at particular jobs or to fit certain aesthetics. Often in the process the genetics and well beings of these dogs are not considered. People’s desire to have a particular breed of dog ignores the lifetime suffering most of these dogs must endure.

One of these genetic disasters is the pug. People adore this very lovable, cute dog, and pug owners are committed to defending the breed. However, this stubbornness needs to be corrected so these dogs don’t continue to suffer. Pugs as a breed are centuries old, but over time have been bred to have very particular anatomical aesthetics. From working dog to couch potato, these dogs have charmed the heart of thousands, but the low quality of life for these dogs can not be ignored.

Every pug is affected by Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome. Brachycephalic means “short headed”, and this condition affects dogs with short snouts, such as pugs, bulldogs, french bulldogs, and shih tzus. These dogs have narrow airways which make it extremely hard for them to get the oxygen they need.

As a result these dogs are often confined to lives of low activity, and air conditioned living rooms. Veterinarians often suggest owners of brachycephalic dogs to get a surgery to enlarge the nasal openings, allowing the dogs to breathe better, but the surgery is expensive and sometimes not successful enough to allow them the ability to breathe as they should.

An anonymous opinion writer from The Guardian claimed that, “The only time these dogs are not in some degree of respiratory distress is when you have them incubated under anesthetic”, demonstrating their daily struggle. Due to their inability to breathe, having air conditioning in warm climates is essential to their well beings.

These dogs cannot handle overheating, and often struggle breathing in warmer weather. Bringing brachycephalic dogs into existence is selfish, and the well beings of the dogs must be considered more. Aesthetics are not worth more than their quality of life.

Among the anatomical issues that pugs deal with are eye issues. Most of these issues are due to the brachycephalic dog’s squashed faces, causing their eye sockets to be too small for their oversized eyes. One of the health conditions that arise because their eyes are too large is called exophthalmos.

Exophthalmos is when pressure on the eyelid causes the eye to ‘pop’ or bulge out of the socket. This condition is not a rare occurrence, “exophthalmos can happen during normal play or horsing around, and their eyes can pop out without much force.” says Dr. Maren Krafchik, a veterinary ophthalmologist.

If owners work quick enough and go to a vet or insert the eye themselves there is a chance that the eye can be reattached. However, according to a study done by the Journal Of The American Veterinary Medical Association there’s only a 27% chance of the dog regaining vision in that eye.  Although dogs can live with one eye, the chances of them living completely blind is likely which makes this condition not only traumatic for the dog, but the owners who experience it as well.

Another eye disease called Pigmentary keratopathy (PK) is the most prevalent disease in the breed. Pigmentary keratopathy is a condition where brown pigment clouds the cornea, preventing light from entering the eye. The cause is genetic, and could also be due to constant irritation or trauma to the eyes due to the small sockets and eyelids being unable to protect the eye as well as they should.

Dr. Labelle, who recently concluded a study on the prevalence of PK in pugs, concluded that “Pigmentary keratopathy is a disease that affects approximately 80 percent of pugs,”. If caught early enough the disease can be controlled, and its effects lessened, but as of now there are no cures.

Though dogs can survive fine blind it does not mean they are thriving. Genetically these diseases need to be bred out in order to protect future bloodlines, and so that these dogs have a higher quality of life.

Pugs have very little variation genetically making them compromised. Preventing inbreeding would potentially spare these suffering dogs. Scientists at Imperial College in London found that though there are 10,000 pugs in the UK, there is such little genetic variation that there’s only 50 distinct individuals.

Boycotting Brachycephalic breeds will not only help lessen the demand, but also save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in potential vet bills. Veterinarians and past committed pug owners are now suggesting only purchasing pugs with longer snouts, or just adopting a mutt from a local shelter and avoiding the breed completely. Modern aesthetics are not worth the suffering the dogs must endure, and acknowledging the problems the breed has instead of normalizing them will help the breed correct these fixable health concerns.