This is a guest post from Sara Dumboski- pug enthusiast and manager at Tomlinson's New Braunfels. Sara is both a pet nutrition and customer service expert.
Do you have a Pug, Shih Tzu, Frenchie, Boston Terrier, or any of the equally wonderful snub-nosed dog breeds? If so, then lucky you! These little guys make up for in attitude what they lack in size. As a pug owner, I know what unique issues these short nosed dogs tend to face, and would like to share a few tricks of the trade I've learned both with my own short-stacks and with what I've gleaned from being immersed in the pet industry for nearly a decade. These little pooches have a few major issues: weight, eyes, allergies, and breathing. All the other ailments common to these breeds stem from these umbrella issues. Let's discuss what we can do to help our brachycephalic friends steer clear of some of these avoidable issues.
Remember- you can treat your pup without going overboard!
CHUBBY PUG SYNDROME
There are LOTS of chunky pugs, shih tzus, and others out there...and we don't even notice! I get asked all the time if my pug is sick, because she's shaped like a normal dog and not a sausage. There is something about those short-snouted charmers that looks even cuter when they're a bit pudgey—but we can't give in. These breeds are very prone to back, knee, anal gland, and breathing issues. The good news is we can prevent some of these problems by never letting our babies get fat. It might sound a bit strange, but if you cannot see your dog's ribs, he could stand to lose a pound or two. French Bulldogs and Pugs in particular get away with being chronically overweight simply because everyone is so used to seeing it. Even these little barrel dogs need to have a nipped in waistline, both from above and the side. These breeds need to be on a low-carb, high protein diet. They look so little like their wolfish ancestors that we tend to forget that even a Pekinese has DNA that is 99% the same as a wolf, and he needs to be treated like a carnivore. Don't be afraid to go grain-free, high protein, or even raw with these guys. You will see the pounds melt away, muscle will form, and your little couch potato will be able to handle a nice, brisk walk. Keeping the weight off these dogs will also alleviate some of the strain of breathing, since there won't be all that extra weight to overheat them. Additionally, weight loss will take strain off the back, help anal glands excrete more naturally, and take a lot of the load of their kneecaps. As a side note, I also recommend a healthy dose of glucosamine for these guys, even at a young age. They have such funny shaped bodies that they are prone to early onset arthritis. More information about pet obesity here
EYE ISSUES IN BRACHYCEPHALIC BREEDS
Due to the fact that we've bred their faces so round and short that their eyeballs just don't sit right in their eye sockets, all short faced dogs have eye problems.
Sadly, there isn't much you an do to prevent some of the eye issues these breeds have (cherry eye, eye-popping, etc). But, you can reduce the tearing and goopey eye problems with a low-carb diet- sound familiar? You can also give your dogs probiotics; I like the Herbsmith
Micro-Flora for my dogs to help keep away yeast and gunk. Other eye issues these breeds face include cataracts and dry eye. Cataracts are linked to diabetes and can be avoided (though there's no guarantee) with a healthy diet. Dry eye can be prevented by keeping some doggy eye lubricant handy and applying it right before bed. While we are talking about the face, just a reminder that these guys also need to have their eyes and wrinkles routinely cleaned, to keep them from getting bacterial infections.
ALLERGIES IN BRACHYCEPHALIC BREEDS
I hear about tons of allergy issues with these little dudes. Whether the issue is shedding, yeast, flaky skin, or hot spots, these kinds of icky stuff are normally associated with doggy food intolerances or allergies.
Most of these pups are low to the ground, so they can be affected by outside allergies more than other dogs. The best natural way to take care of this is to give them a kelp supplement, which will help balance out the trace minerals and keep Frenchie hay fever at bay. As for the skin issues and the hot spots, I come again to the food issue. These are little carnivores, with bodies that are not equipped for the huge carbohydrate burden that most dog foods put on them. Everything is fast in a little dog's system, and carbohydrates don't tend to move quickly. Wheat, corn, rice, and other grains can gum up the works in a small dog, and their bodies are easily overloaded. When there are too many indigestible ingredients in the stomach, some of them can break through the stomach lining and float through the body, causing hot spots, itchy paws, etc. I have found that a raw diet has worked best for my pug and pug-like dogs, and have seen great results with Shih Tzus, as well. When it comes to shampoos to relieve dry, flaky skin, stick to soap and sulfate free brands with as little pomp and circumstance as you can find. Do not bathe your dog more than twice a month, as this will strip is coat of essential oils and can make his skin drier or itchier. Neem oil diluted with water and mixed in a spray bottle is a great way to relieve itchy skin and fight bacterial infections.
EXERCISE FOR BRACHYCEPHALIC BREEDS
Short-face doggies famously have breathing issues. Everyone whose heard a snorting, panting, wheezing Boston Terrier knows this! It can be endearing, but it can also scare us to death. Despite this, these little dogs DO need exercise. They need to get out and play, or else they can become grumpy, fat and antisocial. That being said, it's our job as pet parents to make sure that we prepare for outings with our snorty little guys and gals.
My pug loves to romp. She will run and jump and chase a ball until she can't stand it anymore. I always keep water handy- even if we go for a ride with the top down, she can get overheated! A water bottle and a collapsible bowl are all you really need to keep them happy and safe. If you want to go a step further, a cooling vest helps too. My short-faced little lovebug really enriches my life, and I try my best not to let breed-related fear and preconceptions limit our fun. Even though these short-faced sweeties have some physical limitations, never forget that inside is the spirit of a tiny wolf!