Breathing Problems in Pugs
by Dr. Max E. Ficken

One of the characteristics of pugs that make them so loveable is the short nose and protruding eyes. As we have selected for these breed traits we have created pets with significant breathing problems. These include snoring, collapsed nares, elongated soft palate, prolapsed laryngeal saccules, and collapsed tracheal rings. The narrowed and abbreviated upper respiratory tract makes it difficult for our pugs to pant efficiently. Panting is the dog’s primary means of cooling their body, and this makes them much more susceptible to over heating or heat stroke. We must take special precautions to prevent pugs and other short nosed dogs from exposure to heat. Any animal can suffer heat stroke, but short nosed dogs are especially prone to problems and must have access to cool areas and if at all possible remain inside the house during times of heat over 90 degrees and times of high humidity. Never leave a pet in a car.

Snoring when asleep that does not interfere with sleep is not of concern.  However, if your pet awakes as soon as snoring occurs or is constantly moving and changing position while sleeping, then an exam of the soft palate under anesthesia is indicated.

Elongated soft palates contribute to snoring, and in more severe cases, result in choking and inability to inhale. This results in collapsing spells during which the gums and mucous membranes turn blue. This can become severe enough to result in death. Surgical shorting of the soft palate is the treatment for this condition.

Collapsed nares are characterized by a very narrow slit like opening of the nasal opening that prevents the normal inhalation of air. Pugs with this problem will be observed to open their mouths to take in air and breathe with difficulty when the mouth is closed. A relatively simple surgical procedure will remedy this condition.

Prolapsed laryngeal saccules result from prolonged problems with collapsed nares, snoring or elongated soft palates. Pets with this condition have severe breathing difficulties on inspiration and expiration. This is an emergency condition that requires immediate surgery and carries significant risk for survival.

Collapsed tracheal rings result from upper airway obstruction or chronic cough as well are the result of genetic defects. The tracheal shape is maintained by C shaped rings. If these cartilage’s do not maintain the shape of the trachea, air cannot travel in and out properly resulting in significant dyspnea or difficulty breathing. Many of these cases can be treated with medication and the more severe cases can sometimes be treated surgically.