Affordable Pug 5 Star Health Scheme

The Pug breed has increased in popularity rapidly over the last few years and this has led to an increase in people breeding litters who have little or no knowledge of the breed, apart from the value, coupled with a rise in imports from countries where often ancestry is unverified and health testing unheard of, in order to supply this demand.

In the past people who wanted a Pug were usually on a waiting list for a puppy from a show breeder who only bred a litter in the quest for a dog that mirrored the Breed Standard and occasionally had pups available. Now, there are endless litters bred commercially, advertised on websites, selling pages and Facebook and with such a massive increase in numbers so the number of unhealthy Pugs seen by vets has increased.

Sadly for the breed some of the veterinary profession are using the media to say that all Pugs are unhealthy. We know that this is not true, but we accept that there has been a lack of information and education for Pug owners and breeders and our aim is to address this.

In February 2017 a new Pug Breed Council Health Sub-Committee was formed with the aims of promoting the ethical breeding of health tested Pugs and educating puppy buyers by providing guidance to help them identify breeders who prioritise health.

We have been working very closely with the Kennel Club, Breed Clubs, veterinary research teams and our own Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue charity to identify health problems that can impact on the quality of life our Pugs should enjoy and to conserve the breed we all know and love.

The 5 Star Health Scheme has been developed to include known health issues within the breed, as well as addressing concerns highlighted by the Kennel Club Breed Watch and included in the Breed Health and Conservation Plan. As well as addressing the main issues, it also highlights the Body Condition Score, as obesity is a big problem within the breed and is a contributing factor to Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BOAS).

The 5 Star Health Scheme aims to;

  • Educate owners and breeders.
  • Promote and encourage ethical breeding practices to produce healthy pups from health tested parents.
  • Acknowledge, reward, and publicise health tested Pugs.
  • Enable data collection to monitor the health of the breed and to assist with research for continual improvement.

The 5 Star Health Scheme is made up as follows, with each test having a simple brief explanation:

  1. Visual Health Assessment – a non invasive assessment by your own vet addressing the general health and wellbeing of your Pug. A Pug needs to be over 12 months of age.
  2. Patella – this is a joint in the hind legs. A normal patella has a mild degree of laxity but does not move outside the trochlea. The Putnam classification scheme is used for grading, and testing is by manipulation. It is not seen as a problem in the Pug breed at the present time but it is a problem in many toy breeds and a condition that we need to be aware of and monitor. A Pug needs to be over 12 months of age.
  3. BOAS – this is a well publicised condition of brachycephalic breeds. In severely affected Pugs it is debilitating and prevents the dog from having an active life. It is tested by the dog undertaking a 3 minute exercise tolerance test under veterinary supervision and having its breathing listened to both before and after. A grading is then given. It is important to stress that weight and body condition score can affect this grading and therefore is indicative of how the quality of life of the Pug is affected if overweight. At the present time this grading is only undertaken by a team from Cambridge University and they hold testing days that are publicised on our Facebook page and on this website. A Pug needs to be over 12 months of age.
  4. IMPORTANT – Although Pugs can be tested from 12 months of age and we do recommend this for dogs to be used for breeding, to be awarded a Five Star Certificate the BOAS Functional Grading test must be repeated/carried out when the Pug has reached 2 years old.
  5. PDE – this is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that is progressive and fatal. There is no definitive test for Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE), only a probability test that is done by the owner by using swabs to gather DNA from within the mouth (cheek). The swabs are then submitted to a laboratory for testing. There are three results possible N/N, N/S and S/S. The reason for including it is that it is not advisable to mate a Pug with the highest probability result S/S to one with the same result. N/N and N/S are the same lower risk of probability. We recommend that when breeding one parent should ALWAYS be N/N. We also have a preferred laboratory to work with and that is UC Davis in California.
  6. HV – this is a deformity of vertebrae that can lead to secondary spinal cord compression and associated neurological problems. Hemivertebrae HV is a devastating condition. Testing is done only by X ray and the Pug needs to be anaesthetised or sedated in order to be placed in the correct position for a clear view of the spine. This can be done by your own vet. A Pug needs to be over 12 months of age.

This is a very brief overview of the conditions we believe are the causes of concern for the breed at the present time, and have therefore included them in the 5 Star Health Scheme. You can find much more detailed descriptions of these issues and their effects on the Pug on their dedicated pages on the website.

The Pug Breed Council Health Sub-Committee reserve the right to amend the 5 Star Health Scheme if and when research provides new information that needs addressing for the future wellbeing and conservation of the breed.