Rocco the Pug, he developed a classic problem for Pugs – a sore eye

The Pug is an ancient dog breed that has become one of the most popular pedigree dogs of modern Ireland. Pugs are small dogs with spherical, short-nosed heads and prominent eyes: it’s often said that part of their appeal is the fact that their appearance has some resemblance to a human baby. This may seem like a ridiculous comparison (how can a dog look like a baby?) but there is definitely something true about it. If you cradle one of these dogs in your arms and look down at them, you feel an emotional connection that’s different from the way that you’d feel about bigger, longer nosed, smaller-eyed dogs.

Pugs have huge personalities that belie their small bodies. If you ever meet a Pug, within a few minutes you’ll feel taken in by the animal’s playfulness and charm.

There’s one downside to Pugs: they are prone to certain health problems, partly due to in-breeding and partly due to their exaggerated physical features. The in-breeding that goes hand-in-hand with pedigree dogs means that every breed is prone to certain specific conditions: there is a type of hereditary meningitis that is almost unique to Pugs and they’re prone to certain spinal deformities.

Additionally, Pugs, like other short nosed breeds, are prone to breathing difficulties. Their nasal passages are narrowed and twisted compared to a “standard” dog like a Collie or Terrier. This means that they sometimes have difficulty moving air rapidly in and out of their lungs: they are more likely to pant than other breeds, and they’re prone to overheating in hot weather.

Rocco has been a healthy dog so far, but last week he was brought to see me with another classical problem of Pugs: he had a sore eye.

A typical cross-bred dog like a terrier has a long muzzle, with eyes that are set back in the skull: this means that they eyes are well protected from physical damage. Pugs, in contrast, have short, flattened muzzles and eyes that bulge prominently from the sockets. If a terrier runs through undergrowth, the long nose tends to push objects out of the way, and other features of their skull ensure that the eyes are shielded from physical contact. If a Pug does the same thing, the nose isn’t long enough to clear a space ahead of the animal. Those bulgy eyes are the first part of the dog’s anatomy to make contact with objects in the environment. As a result, Pugs are prone to getting bashes and scratches on the surface of the eye.

The first thing that Wayne noticed was that there was a dark discharge in the corner of Rocco’s right eye. Many dogs, like humans, have a minor discharge from the eyes first thing in the morning: it’s colloquially referred to as “sleep”.  At first, Wayne thought that Rocco’s problem was no more than this, and he just cleaned it away. But he noticed that the discharge kept coming back, and Rocco was starting to rub at his eye with his paw, so he brought him to see me.

I discovered that Rocco’s problem had started with a mildly itchy ear. He’d been rubbing his head along the ground to relieve the itch, and because  his eyes bulge so much, he’d damaged them while doing this. He’d managed to set up an irritating conjunctivitis. Treatment involved antibiotic ointments, for his ears as well as for his eyes.

Rocco made a rapid recovery but it’s likely that he’ll suffer from similar problems again. He’s a Pug: he’s adorable and cute, but he’s also prone to the health problems of his unique and captivating breed.


  • Pugs are adorable dogs that are increasingly popular as pets
  • Their spherical faces and bulgy eyes make them especially appealing to humans
  • Like all breeds, they’re prone to some health problems, including sore eyes

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