Because pugs are prone to eye disease, the best breeders have their breeding stock annually certified clear of eye problems by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). Eye diseases that are commonly seen in pugs are keratoconjunctivitis sicca, pigmentary keratitis, cataracts, entropion, progressive retinal atrophy, and trichiasis. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca and pigmentary keratitis are the main health concerns of PDCA members.
Pugs can suffer from overheating; keeping them cool is a must.
More commonly known as dry eye, this condition is common in pugs, especially older dogs. Because the dog isn't producing enough tears, the eyes become dry and irritated and may produce a thick, sticky discharge. Left untreated, dry eye can cause permanent damage, but effective medications are available to help keep it under control. These may include cyclosporin eye drops, antibiotics, steroids to control infection and inflammation, or the use of artificial tears to lubricate the eyes. Avoid using saline solution, which can make the condition worse.
This inflammation of the cornea, known as PK, is characterized by the spread of dark pigmentation (color) across the surface of the eye. The cause of pigmentary keratitis is unknown, although it's often associated with dry eye, entropion, or environmental irritants such as dust or wind. It usually develops in young to middle-aged dogs. PK is a serious condition that progresses to blindness unless it's diagnosed and treated early. It begins as a red patch, supplied with blood vessels, and sometimes mixed with darker pigment. The pigment can spread across the cornea until the dog is no longer able to see.
Fortunately, medications such as cyclosporin, an immunosuppressant drug that seems to stimulate tear production, and surgery to remove the pigmented layers of the eye, have made PK more treatable. With surgery and cyclosporin, a pug can regain almost 100 percent of his eyesight, although the success of treatment varies from pug to pug. Check your pug's eyes regularly for cloudy or dark spots that may indicate a problem. The earlier PK is caught, the more successful treatment will be.
A cataract is an opaque spot on the lens of the eye that can be a result of the aging process or inherited. Pugs are one of the breeds in which congenital, or juvenile, cataracts have been documented. Hereditary cataracts are found most often in dogs that are five years of age or younger, and they may occur in both eyes (bilateral cataracts). Cataracts can often be removed surgically with excellent results, but if this isn't possible, your pug can still lead a near-normal life. Many dogs with cataracts retain enough vision to get around without a problem, and most are fully capable of compensating for decreased vision with their sense of smell.
Entropion is the most common congenital defect of the eyelids in dogs. The eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelid hairs to rub against the eyeball. The result is irritation or injury, indicated by tearing and squinting. This condition can be corrected surgically. Pugs that have had entropion surgically corrected cannot be shown in conformation. It's unethical to show a dog that has had any kind of corrective surgery, because the dog is not a good breeding prospect.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited retinal degeneration. Dogs with PRA have trouble seeing in dim light and eventually lose their vision altogether. Early signs of PRA are reluctance to move around in dimly lit areas or to go down stairs, or staying unusually close to the owner. PRA can't be treated, although genetic research offers promise, but again, blind dogs learn to get around quite well by relying on their sense of smell. The best way to prevent PRA is to breed only pugs that are certified free of the disease.
Catch eye problems early by having your pug puppy examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for irritants such as entropion, ingrown lashes, and inadequate tear production. These conditions will almost certainly result in keratitis (dry eye) and corneal ulcers if they go untreated. Have your vet tear-test your pug's eyes annually.
The pug's prominent nasal folds are the culprit in trichiasis, a condition that arises when facial hair or eyelashes make contact with the cornea, causing excessive tearing, squinting, and corneal inflammation. Trichiasis is painful and may result in a corneal ulcer if left untreated.
Corneal ulcers result from a defect or hole in the surface of the cornea and can be caused by irritation or injury or through bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Depending on whether they are superficial or deep, ulcers may produce little or no scarring or large scars and impaired eyesight. Treatment usually involves the application of topical antibiotics, but in severe cases, surgery is the only remedy.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, occurs when the eye's normal population of bacteria and fungi gets out of control. The viruses that cause distemper and canine hepatitis can also cause conjunctivitis. Some forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious among dogs. Keratitis, or inflammation of the cornea, results from injury or infection.