Pugs are all over the media at the moment and for good reason. Vets are worried about their health. I think they’re right and I’m glad they are bringing Pug (and other short-nosed dogs) health problems to people’s attention. I want to share my experience of having a Pug with you because I believe education is vital if the health of Pugs and other dogs is to improve.
Why do I have a Pug? Well, if you go back 9 years I was in a partnership with someone who was ‘obsessed’ with Pugs; I’d be shown Pug videos on the internet a LOT. I was very confused by all of this because I didn’t know what Pugs were really and why one would be so keen on them. The only Pug I knew was Willy off Eastenders and he just used to sit around doing nothing. ‘What do we want a dog like that for?!’ I would ask. I wanted a ‘real’ dog, like a Collie.
Well, needless to say, we got a Pug puppy and I didn’t really put up much of a fight once I met Boo. She was just the sweetest blob: she was a stinky little thing, SO naughty and demanding, but I just couldn’t stop cuddling her and watching her scamper around. It was love at first sight! We got her via the internet, from a puppy selling site (I won’t mention which one) and we visited Boo at this lady’s house twice before picking her up on the third time of going. The lady seemed very nice, everything was clean, the pups seemed very well taken care of and we met the mother every time who seemed perfectly healthy and happy. So I didn’t really think much more of it. I mean, back then I literally knew nothing about the dangers of buying through the internet and I ashamed to say I also knew nothing about the health of Pugs. I was very ignorant and it simply didn’t occur to me pedigree dogs could have health issues: I thought pedigree dog meant healthy dog. Pedigree was the best of the best. But, as I am well aware of now, it certainly does not.
At age 3 Boo started limping and it turned out to be a torn cruciate ligament, which resulted because her knee cap was loose and going in and out of its’ socket. This is called a luxating Patella and it’s very common in Pugs. Very painful too, I should imagine. When my knee pops it really hurts! To cut a long story short Boo had to have an operation to fix it (£2000), then had four months of recovery, three massages a day, being pushed around in a pram, carried in a bag, a few minutes walk here and there, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and, finally, after four months she was able to go off the lead and run around again. Thankfully I was self-employed and worked from home – how could she have had the care she needed otherwise? I remember it well, the very day she could go off-lead I said to her “let’s take a walk to the park to celebrate” and we were just heading out of the door and she started to limp on her other leg. It was the cruciate ligament in her other hind leg that had torn, with the same problem. I lay on the couch all evening, too depressed to go anywhere because I knew what lay ahead: another operation and four months of recovery, not to mention all the cost and stress to her. I hated her being put under anesthetic, I just couldn’t bear it.
Well, Boo recovered well, thankfully the surgeon knew what he was doing and she has never had issues with her hind legs since, but she has had arthritis in her knees since she was three. This patella problem is very common in Pugs, so I’m told. What else is common? Breathing, eye and spine problems. Luckily, Boo seems to cope quite well with her breathing but I have heard other Pugs who are clearly struggling, especially some who are overweight. I used to look after a Pug sometimes who you could hear way before you could see her. I’ve had plenty of clients with Pugs who have had a great many problems. There’s another consequence to the operations: Boo’s insurance now costs me over £60 a month! But of course you have to pay it, there’s no question about that.
What has struck me since having a Pug is how obsessed people are with them. It’s like having a celebrity on the end of the lead! I must have had literally a thousand people say to me they are desperate to have a Pug. I ask all of them if they know about health problems in Pugs and nearly all don’t. This is what I find most worrying. There’s so much on social media and in the news about this sort of thing now, I don’t understand how you can not be aware. Well, I always tell them about Boo and recommend they do lots and lots of research into it.
I also ask people to be very, very careful about where they buy a Pug from and, better still, adopt one through a charity such as the Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue Association. They are such a fantastic charity, who help so many Pugs. When you get one from them you know you have not lined the pocket of some greedy puppy farmer or backyard breeder who is only in it for the money. Sadly, because of the popularity of the breed, there are loads of people exploiting them for profit. Save a Pug through a charity and not a penny goes to these odious scumbags who couldn’t give a toss about the health nor welfare of these sweet dogs. They really are so needy, cuddly and focussed on humans: the thought of them in these horrendous places makes me feel sick. Whatever you do, please don’t be a part of that.
I’m not suggesting all breeders are bad. I expect there must be some who are trying to breed healthier Pugs and if you want to go down that route then that’s better for the breed, but I wonder how you find these people? How do you filter through all the bad breeders?
I also think the Kennel Club has influenced the poor health of Pugs (and many other breeds), with their breed standards. That’s a blog post in itself, but needless to say these days I don’t feel comfortable being associated with the KC and so I no longer enter their photographic competition. Maybe if they change things I’d reconsider, but, for now, I’m not really into the way they do things. Not saying they are all bad, but I don’t see why any breed should suffer, just change the standards and do it now.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say. I just want people to be more aware than I was when I got Boo. Don’t get me wrong, Boo is my world and I love her more than life itself: I think that’s pretty obvious if you follow my facebook page! She’s funny, naughty, lovable and cute and she changed my life. But I wouldn’t do it the same way again. All the information you need is at your fingertips so please read as much as you can and if you are prepared to have a dog that will probably have an issue or two, then rescue one through PDWRA.