This condition is primarily thought of as affecting large breeds, but it can occur in smaller dogs as well and is quite common in pugs. Hip dysplasia, or HD, occurs when the head of the femur (thigh bone) doesn't fit properly in the cup (acetabulum) of the hip joint. When the cup is too shallow, the joint is lax, meaning that the bone slips around inside it instead of fitting securely. Despite the frequency of hip dysplasia in pugs, many breeders don't test their dogs for it because few pugs that develop HD suffer serious lameness or pain from it. That said, pugs with HD shouldn't be bred, and pugs that produce puppies with HD should be removed from a breeding program.
Hip dysplasia is diagnosed through x-rays. It can range from mild to severe, with some dogs never showing signs and others developing lameness at an early age. The good news is that it usually doesn't affect a pug's mobility as severely as it does in larger breeds. Take your pug to the veterinarian if you see him limping after exercise, walking with a waddling gait, having trouble getting up or lying down, or showing reluctance to move.
Mild cases of hip dysplasia can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and nutraceuticals, plus moderate exercise to encourage muscle mass and tone. In severe cases, however, surgery — ranging from making minor changes in the shape of the femur to total hip replacement — is the only way to relieve the dog's pain.
The development of hip dysplasia depends on multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. If both parents are free of hip dysplasia, there's a much greater chance that their offspring won't have hip problems. Keeping your pug on a proper diet and minimizing weight gain can help reduce the risk of hip problems as well. Rapid growth hastens the development of orthopedic problems. It can also make problems more severe than they might have been otherwise, so don't let your pug puppy get fat. To prevent injury, provide nonskid footing such as area rugs if you have slick wood or tile flooring.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) made for humans — Tylenol, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, for instance — can be fatal to dogs. Never give these pain relievers to your dog. Your veterinarian can prescribe an NSAID formulated for dogs.