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Orthopedic Concerns

While Pugs tend to be sturdy little dogs, they can face some serious problems with their bones and legs.  Perhaps the most debilitating diseases currently facing the Pug are orthopedic in nature. While efforts to eradicate these diseases have been on the rise in recent years, Pug breeders still have a long way to go before these problems have been completely eliminated.




This is a condition involving deformed, misshaped vertebrae or bones of the spine. It is commonly seen in short-faced breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs. This spinal malformation isn't seen often in pugs, but it's most common in dogs with curved backs and short, twisty, or curly tails, so it's something to be aware of. Some animals will have a few odd vertebrae and be completely normal. Others will start having problems between 4 and 6 months of age. The condition is present at birth and usually becomes apparent at six to twelve months of age, when the misshapen vertebrae begin interfering with the nerves controlling the hindquarters, causing the puppy to trip frequently or even to become paralyzed. The puppy may have a staggering, uncoordinated, weak gait. Some puppies get progressively worse and some actually become paralyzed. Some specialists recommend spine surgery to stabilize the affected area but each case must be carefully evaluated. Some dogs respond well to acupuncture, but others are permanently paralyzed.


There is a study being conducted in England on this condition but right now we don't know much about why some dogs have trouble with this and others don't.


For more information on Hemivertebrae, please visit:

Should any offspring be afflicted by this, the same sire and dam should not be bred together again. 


Hip Dysplasia


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. There are many factors, including genetics, environment and nutrition that contribute to this deformity of the hip joint. Research on larger breeds has shown that switching to adult food early in a puppy's life (12 to 16 weeks), avoiding supplements and keeping the puppy thin as it is growing will minimize its chance of being affected.


Pugs are second only to Bulldogs with the amount of hip dysplasia in the breed. Even though many Pugs are affected, most are able to lead normal, healthy lives even with the problem, unlike some of the large and giant breeds, who require surgery to get around easily. 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.


OFFA Statistics

Between January 2011 & December 2013, a total of 121 Pugs were evaluated for hip dysplasia.  In this time frame 80% were dysplastic with 56% mild, 38% moderate and 6% severe hip dysplasia. 



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 non-skid footing such as area rugs if you have slick wood or tile flooring.




Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCP) is a disorder of hip joint conformation that occurs in both humans and dogs. In dogs, it is most often seen in the miniature and toy breeds and is usually first noticeable in puppies 4 to 6 months of age…they will start limping and getting muscle atrophy (a decrease in the mass of the muscle) of the leg.


LCP results when the blood supply to the femoral head (the large rear leg bone) is interrupted resulting in avascular necrosis, or the death of the bone cells. Followed by a period of revascularization, the femoral head is subject to remodeling and/or collapse creating an irregular fit in the acetabulum, or socket. This process of bone cells dying and fracturing followed by new bone growth and remodeling of the femoral head and neck, can lead to stiffness and pain.


The surgery to help the puppy involves cutting the diseased head off of the femur so it is no longer attached to the pelvis. Scar tissue comes in and forms a "false joint" and the puppy is usually pain free.


LCP is believed to be an inherited disease, although the mode of inheritance is not known. Because there is a genetic component, it is recommended that dogs affected with LCP not be used in breeding programs.


Patellar Luxation


This involves the stifle or knee joint of many of the toy breeds and even some larger ones. The patella or kneecap usually rides up and down in a groove on the front of the knee. With this condition, the knee-cap slides to the side (usually the inside) and the joint is unstable. When the kneecap is out, the dog may limp and carry the leg. The dog can often stretch his leg back and pop the patella back in himself. Some dogs are normal when young and develop this with age. Many dogs live their lives with this but some require surgery to deepen the groove and reposition the patella so it stays in place. One or both legs may be affected.


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)


The Mission of the OFA is to promote the health and welfare of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease


The OFA is guided by the following four specific objectives:


  • To collate and disseminate information concerning orthopedic and genetic diseases of animals.


  • To advise, encourage and establish control programs to lower the incidence of orthopedic and genetic diseases.


  • To encourage and finance research in orthopedic and genetic disease in animals.


  • To receive funds and make grants to carry out these objectives.


For more information on OFA, please visit their website:

or click on the following sticker:

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