Few Breeds have more prominent, soulful and bulgy eyes as Pugs do. As Pugs were bread, dating to ancient China, to be companion dogs, this distinctive trait which enhances the breeds cuteness is not to be taken lightly. Sadly, those large loving eyes come at a price. The Pugs eyes are prone to more dangers and health issues than most breeds.
Do Pugs Actually Go Blind?
The answer would have to be NO. Other than complications from other eye-related problems, or mechanical injuries (which they are more susceptible to), Pugs are not at larger risk of blindness than most other breeds. In fact, Pugs are not even one of the breeds most affected by a genetic condition called Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).
Pugs are somewhat notorious for eye related problems and have there share of health-related issues, however as sad as it is when a dog loses its sight, it is hardly a breed trait. Considering PRA is a genetic disease, there is little or nothing one can do to prevent it. Let’s take a look and better understand how we can prevent other eye-related problems from permanently affecting your Pugs vision.
Anatomy of a Pugs eye
Due to their eyes’ anatomical structure, Pugs are more prone to a variety of eye conditions. Pugs belong to the ‘short-faced’ group of dogs -Brachycephalic along with Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Shih-Tzus. The bulgy eye creates more friction between the eyeball- the cornea and the eyelid. That means short nose and bulgy eyes make them susceptible to:
- Plain trauma or scratches
- Irritation to the eyeball from the eyelid itself due to dryness or any foreign object
- Any form of irritation which can escalate to inflammation
Although there is no statistical reason for Pugs to develop blindness due to PRA more than any other dogs, there are other conditions which may deteriorate to blindness if left untreated. In fact, around 16% of pugs need treatment to some form of eye-related health issue during their lifetime.
Cornea Related problems
Eye Trauma – Corneal Abrasions or Ulcerations
Dogs may unwittingly scratch their own eye and injure it with their nails or a dirty paw, or by just hitting anything face on while playing.
We had our Preston injure his eye from just running through the bush while camping. It was just a scratch and with some ointment and eye drops he was soon back to himself was no permanent damage. Needless to say, that left untreated, such minor injuries can get infected and deteriorate to something much worse.
The Cornea is the shiny, transparent surface of the eye. The Cornea has four layers, and the deeper the abrasion or ulceration is the more damage there will be to the eye.
Symptoms: In all cases, the dog will display discomfort, the eye will be red and irritated and he may try to rub his eye, which could only make things worse.
Treatment: Minor cuts can be treated with antibiotic ointment and eye drops, and deeper cuts may even require surgery, at which point scarring may occur and there may be some permanent damage to eyesight.
This happens when an eyelash grows in a position or direction that causes irritation to the eye and can lead to infection and if untreated to ulcers as well.
Symptoms: The dog will display discomfort, have excessive tearing, the eye will be red and irritated and he may try to rub his eye
Treatment: This can be treated by simply plucking the unwilling hair/s, although if it re-occurs, minor surgery may be required to remove the follicle itself and avoid regrowth.
This condition, more common with Pugs under a year old, happens when an eyelid, top or bottom, flips on itself and folds inwards. This will, of course, cause irritation to the eye and can lead to infection and ultimately ulcers.
Symptoms: Irritation and redness will be visible. The dog will also show discomfort and may try to rub it.
Treatment: Will often require minor surgical adjustment to reposition the eyelid and maybe cut it a bit for a better fit.
Dry Eye – Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca
One of the more common conditions to plague Pugs. When the eye lacks it’s natural lubrication, tears, the eye dries and the eyelid itself starts to irritate and scratch the cornea. The cause may be a problem with the tear duct but often can be caused by dehydration, poor nutrition or very dry weather.
Symptoms: Redness will be visible, excessive thicker yellowish discharge, irritation and inflammation of the eyelid
Treatment: Will usually include eye drops for lubrication, antibiotic ointment if any abrasions or inflammation occur
This is a condition caused by the brown pigment of the Iris, called Melanin, spreads to the sclera, which is the white area. In minor cases (which apparently plagues about 50% of Pugs) there is no effect on vision. More severe cases may result in partial loss of vision if left untreated and may deteriorate to blindness.
Symptoms: Little dots or patches of brown or black color will be visible on the sclera.
Treatment: There will usually be another underlying condition that is the root cause and which should be treated to resolve this. Causes may be rooted in Dry Eye or Entropion and will be treated as such. With early detection, there is a good chance of clearing the eye to the point of no permanent damage to eyesight. Partial or total coverage of the pupil, however, may result in blindness.
This condition is caused by the prolapse of the third eyelid (nictitating membrane) followed by an inflammation of the tear duct it contains. Usually, the third eyelid is tucked away in the corner of the eye, but in this condition, it swells at the corner of the eye to resemble a pink Cherry. This may occur in one eye or two. If it happened in one eye, there is a good chance for the second eye to be next.
Symptoms: Other then redness, irritation, and inflammation, there will be the dominant Cherry like swelling in the corner of the eye.
Treatment: Minor corrective surgery will be necessary to reduce the size and reposition the third eyelid back to its place. Preventative stitching may be recommended by your vet to the other eye as well.
Cataracts is caused b from damage to the proteins in the lens of the eye. It may start as little dot and develop to the whole eye. The opacity of the lens itself will be reduced. Vision will slowly become like looking through milky glass. This condition may be hereditary and usually more prominent at older pugs. The deterioration is usually slow, so there will not be a sudden change in behavior, especially if the cataract is partial. The cataract by itself is not painful but inflammation may develop over time.
Symptoms: The classic symptoms are cloudy/milky eyes. No irritation or redness will be evident, but the dog will seem less oriented to it’s surrounding and may bump into things. If inflammation develops, so will pain and redness.
Treatment: Cataract can be removed in surgery and with anti-inflammatory treatment, all symptoms can be remedied. Cataract may re-occur with time, so constant monitoring and treatment may be necessary.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, PRA is a genetic disease that causes complete blindness within a year or two. There is no pain involved and the dog may live an otherwise healthy life. PRA usually starts at a young age and even ‘late onset’ will happen before the age of 5.
Symptoms: The first indication of the onset of PRA is night blindness.
Treatment: Sadly, there is no cure or treatment for PRA. The only preventative measure is (which will not help a sick dog) is selective breeding which can, over time, eliminate its existence. This is up to responsible breeders.
Pug Dog Encephalitis
This is a genetic disease that effects Pugs. It is an inflammatory disease of the brain that affects the central nervous system. It is rare and the onset tends to be before three years of age. The cause of PDE is not clear and is linked to genetics.
Symptoms: Seizures are the most prominent symptom along with depression and blindness
Treatment: Sadly this condition has no cure.
We can see that although Pugs are prone to eye problems, other than genetic disease, which is rare, all conditioned can be treated and with early detection can be resolved with no permanent damage to eyesight. We can pretty much conclude that Pug blindness will in most cases be the result of neglect or bad treatment of existing conditions. As a Pug owner, you should be attentive to this delicate aspect of your dog.
Preventative measures and care
- Be attentive to your Pugs eyes during activities such as baths, grooming and after outdoor activities.
- See if the eyes are bothering your Pug
- Look for hairs or any other foreign objects
- Check the eyes for redness or any other discoloration
Cleaning the eye:
- Use either a Sterile Canine solution to with clean gauze or dedicated Eye Wipes.
- If those are not available, lukewarm water will be better than nothing.
- Do not rub the eye with fingers, you may do more damage than good.
- Let him be for a while, natural tearing and blinking is the way the body cleans the eye.
- If your Pug is trying to rub his eye you may want to put a protective cone on his neck, chances of a dog improving the situation are slim..
In any case of doubt about what to do, HAVE NO DOUBT, call your vet and have your Pug checked.
The number one reason to Pug Blindness is neglect or mistreatment. The solution may be simple, the consequences – not so much.