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Why Do Pugs Have Breathing Problems?

Pugs do have breathing issues because of their facial structure such as smaller heads, short noses, and very compact skulls that all pressurize their Windpipe (Trachea). Thus, they face breathing issues.

We all find pugs cute because they have squished faces. They look all cute when the reality is that pugs face a lot of distress because of that. A pug’s facial structure can cause serious respiratory problems. They are what we term as a brachycephalic breed. The typical characteristic we see in the breed, they have smaller heads. It in turn creates a lot of pressure on windpipes causing distress. Pug’s short nose and compacted skull is the main reason for the pressure that occurs in the windpipes. 

Photo: Dailymail.co.uk / University of Cambridge

Do Pugs Have Breathing Problems?

Pugs do have breathing problems because of their facial structure i.e. squished faces. They are very much prone to breathing issues because of this. But one has to move much deeper than that to find out the essential problem. Let’s, first of all, know what consists of a respiratory system?

  • Nostrils
  • Nasal cavity
  • Sinuses
  • Pharynx (connects the nose to mouth and esophagus)
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Windpipe
  • Bronchi
  • Lungs

Brachycephalic dogs are essentially those dogs who have a smushed face and small nose. They have a very small trachea (windpipe) which causes them to have issues with breathing air.

Pugs have respiratory abnormalities. And, these anomalies are more prominent through all the parts of the respiratory system. Your pug has a very small skull. A result of that leads to a smaller space in the interiors of the mouth area. It means that the upper respiratory system does not work efficiently. 

Brachycephalic dogs have a host of life-threatening health problems. The main problem that they face includes Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS). It means all the host of problems you can face when you have an issue such as a brachycephalic skull. These issues include:

  • Stenotic Nares (narrow nostrils, can be fixed by simple surgical procedure)
  • Soft Palate elongation (soft issues in their mouth gets pushed back when they breathe causing troublesome breathing)
  • Pharyngeal Turbinates (bones of the nasal cavity gets pushed upwards creating a blockage in air passage)
  • Tracheal Hypoplasia (narrow windpipe)
  • Laryngeal Hypoplasia (small larynx)

When Are the Symptoms of a Pug’s Breathing Problem?

The other aspect of this is to know about the symptoms that are related to the pug’s breathing problem. Minor breathing problems can occur in the pugs and frankly speaking that shouldn’t be a big problem. But in case your pug is facing more issues than what it normally faces? Make sure that you take him to a normal veterinarian. Signs that can mean some respiratory distress that a pug is facing:

  1. Increased Panting: This is more common in pugs when they exercise. There is usually a surge in breathing after they are done with their exercise. However, there is a significant difference that you can notice regarding the normalcy of it. If they are getting tired too soon and breathing heavily that’s an issue. Know the climate too. In hot and humid temperatures pugs breathe more heavily.  
  2. Breathing Loudly: Make sure your pug is not breathing loudly. If your pug is grunting, wheezing, snorting, or gasping for air after doing a minimal activity, that’s an indication of a problem. Even without doing anything they are breathing heavily, it’s a sign that you should act.
  3. Pugs snore: Pug snoring is not a big deal in general. The problem is when your pug is snoring at a heavy noise. If you think that they are struggling to gasp for air while they snore in sleep, it’s time for you to act. They might face what we know as sleep apnea. It is a condition when your pug has problems breathing while being in sleep. 

Causes that Trigger Breathing Problems in Pugs

There is no doubt arguing that pugs are brachycephalic dogs. But that does not mean that they are bound to suffer breathing problems. Many health issues can occur because of external factors and may not be biological. It is advised for you to have a good insurance plan for your pugs, as they can have respiratory issues in the future. This works well as there won’t be any stress or unwanted circumstance for you. Vet costs will be mitigated for you without any unexpected costs rising.

Risk factors for a pug’s breathing include:

Pugs are overweight

Pugs have an extreme appetite. They gobble food at their sight. They love to eat. But sometimes we need to be firm and let our loved ones sacrifice some things for their good. When your pug is carrying too much weight, it will have some breathing problems. They will also be more lethargic due to excess weight. Their joints will be pressurized due to excess weight. Hence, they might stop being that active. It is advised to help your pugs exercise to reduce weight. 

They are too hot

When pugs have to face a lot of heat their breathing suffers. You can see your pug panting or snorting. You might also see your pug putting its tongue out indicating that the heat is troubling them. The solution to this is taking your dog out for walk-in cooler temperatures. Take them out for a walk when the weather is windy or cool. If that does not do, offer them an ice pack.


This is not a secret that pugs can suffer from allergies. There can be allergens that your pug can be allergic to. Let’s look at some things that your pug can be allergic to:

  • Food
  • Airborne
  • Allergens
  • Objects, Toys, etc

To know more about the allergic reaction, you need to go to a local veterinarian and find the reason which has led to it. The typical symptoms for an allergic reaction include- sneezing, wheezing, coughing, or trouble breathing. The medications will involve giving some amount of relief to the breathing issues. One thing you can do to mitigate this is to wash your pug’s paws after coming from an outside area.

Clean pug’s nose and wrinkles

This is an important thing to consider, that you should clean your pug’s nose and wrinkles. If there is a bacteria build-up in your pug’s nose that can certainly cause breathing issues in your pug.

Long soft palate

Well as far as the physicality of pugs is concerned, they have an elongated soft palate. The palate which is the roof of their mouths is so long that it can cause blockage of air in the trachea. I don’t think it should be a problem for you to hear snoring, wheezing, sneezing, or coughing sounds of your pugs when they are very excited.

Make sure to change your bed as well. The wrong kind of bed can also cause breathing issues in a pug. Make sure your pug does not face brachycephalic airway syndrome due to a wrong sleeping position which can cause a lot of strain in their heart.

Breathing attacks

It’s not a big issue, sometimes you think you have done everything correctly, but still, pugs suffer. This can be such a scenario. Some dogs can stop breathing for 1-2 minutes. The breathing problems may happen as the mucus might get stored in their lungs. Your pug will be snorting, reverse sneezing, and have an asthma attack due to it. The recommendation for you is to keep calm as the situation will improve with time. The intensity of the attack decreases.

Senior Pugs Face More Breathing Issues

Pug’s breathing issues can intensify when they reach old age. Your pugs should be fed good nutritious food at a young age. If that’s not the case then most probably your pug will be obese in their adult life. Your pugs can face many health issues. This can be life-threatening as well as can obstruct breathing in your pug.

And also during senior years, pugs do not perform the regular activity. They simply do not burn as many calories. If we feed them plenty of food, it is more likely that they will turn obese. There are senior dog food products that you can choose from the market. These are low-calorie nutrient-dense foods that are filled with wholesome nutrients.

How to Help Your Pug Breathe Better?

Pug’s breathing issues will exist regardless. Efforts should be made to limit the suffering of your pug. If you want you can go to a vet and ask them for surgery for your pug. But it’s still risky. Let’s look at other ways that might help your pug to breathe better-

Make the temperature of your home comfortable

It is inevitable for you to maintain a good stable temperature in your room. Pugs cannot tolerate either of the extreme temperatures whether hot or cold. In summers make sure that the AC is on and makes the environment cool. Or else your pug can start panting. You can use fans, blinders, curtains to protect your pug from all the heat. You can also use the fan to cool down the room.

Too much cold can make your pug shiver in cold temperatures. They can have a breathing problem due to it. Cold air can generally exacerbate the warm air and make it pass through the lungs and thus causing a breathing problem. During cold days, it is advised to stay at home.

Keep your pug indoors during humid weather

Pugs are not an outdoor breed and hence, should not be kept outside. They should not be kept indoors when the weather is humid. Pugs will do best when the humidity level is between 30 to 45%. Anything above that level can cause a lot of breathing distress in pugs. Remember in dry and moist weather, there is a chance for your pug to have a breathing problem. Humidifiers will work amazingly to make your pug breathe easier. Humidity control is very important in case you have a brachycephalic dog.

Take exercise precautions

We all want our dogs to have a great summer walk with us. But make sure the walk session is during the mornings. As in the mornings, the temperature is far more comfortable for your pug. Do not exercise your pug during hotter parts of the day. Make sure you mark a tree shade and also take your pug there. They can take a water break in the shade. Do not over-exercise your pug, 40 minutes of a workout should be enough. 

Avoid using collars for exercise

Please make sure that you do not use a collar during exercise. Collars can choke your pug. It’s far more beneficial to invest in a harness. Collars can easily obstruct airway passage and cause breathing problems. Brachycephalic dogs, in general, should not be given collars rather they should be tied with a leash. Leashes tend to spread out the force in the entire body of the dog rather than forcing any specific area.

Good bed

Make sure your pug is sleeping in a good bed. Remember, the best position for your pug to sleep is when its head is slightly elevated than the base of the bed. This position allows your pug to have open airways and hence they do not have to struggle to breathe during the night. 

See If your pug is sleeping in a very awkward position. If their neck is a bit scrunched, that means they can have issues with breathing. The problem can ultimately cause a lot of issues, as pugs can face a problem called sleep apnea. In this problem, a pug can stop breathing in certain intervals and its snoring sound is loud. 

If your pug by any means sleeps on the floor or any mattress, try elevating the surface with a blanket and pillow. That way it won’t have any breathing distress.

Watching your pug’s weight

You have to watch your pug’s weight. Make sure they are not gaining excess weight. Excess weight can make them large. They will not breathe easily.

Don’t get your pug too excited

This is one thing that you have to look out for. Do not make your pug too excited. They can get too excited seeing a peer dog or a toy. Getting excited can lead them to have some issues with breathing. Pugs can get so caught up at that moment it strains their breathing process. 

In this case, ignore your pug’s momentary happiness and take away the toy. If they are playing with a friend then take them away for a while. Just calmly wait till their breathing becomes normal again and then allow them to play. 

Do Pugs Need Nose Surgery?

Yes, your pug may require surgery if they have some serious issues that many byracyphelaic dog breeds face. Most surgery is required when your dog has a condition called stenotic nares. Under this condition, there will be some malformations happening in the alar folds of a nose that leads to nostrils being too small. This can affect the breathing pattern of your pug. 

A pug will also need surgery when its palate is too long and thick. The palate’s enhanced form obstructs breathing for the pug and thus further causing distress.

How Much Will Surgery for Pugs Cost?

Since we have discussed both palate and nares parts that can cause breathing issues. Both resections cost money. But it ensures that your pug will have less breathing obstruction once that is done.  

  • Soft palate resection costs you anywhere around $500 to $1,500
  • Stenotic nares resection costs you anywhere around $200 to $1,000

Common Misconception Around Pug’s Breathing Issues

As we know pugs have been demonized in dog communities as being very ill. Due to their brachycephalic skull, there is a more chance for them to have more health issues. First thing first you need to accept that pugs will have some breathing distress. Now, you have to find solutions to treat the problem. Remember all dogs have some health problems or the other.

Some symptoms as we see and speak like snoring, breathing loudly, and reverse sneezing are not that fatal. You can stop worrying as this is normal for the pugs. They can have some trouble breathing once in a blue moon, do not be upset. Only in the following situations, you are allowed to react abruptly:

  • Pug passed out.
  • Pug snores intensify creating a loud noise. It can mean they are suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Pug gums turn blue. It would mean they are suffocating. Take them to the vet asap.
  • Pug overheats for no reason.

All these issues occur when there is a dangerous problem. However, with proper action, you can mitigate them. Make sure you run to your vet if any such health emergency happens.

FAQs on Why Do Pugs Have Breathing Problems

When should I be concerned about my pug’s breathing?

The only answer to this is to pay attention to your pug. Make sure your pug is breathing fine. If you see any change in your pug’s normal breathing course, it’s time to act. Listen to how your pug’s breathing. Is it normal or is your pug wheezing, panting, or struggling. This might be a concern for you. If any of this problem occurs, run to your vet immediately.

Can you clear a pug’s lungs?

Yes, there is a way to clean your pug’s lungs. But remember the task is mainly performed by experts. There is a technique called coupage in which veterinary staff and pug sellers strike the chest gently with cupped hands and that lets the mucus go down in the stomach. It is mainly done to remove the lungs secretions of your pug.

Can your pugs die from breathing issues?

Well, the truth is pugs rarely die from issues like this. It can only happen when the owner is irresponsible and does not care for their pug. They keep their pugs obese because they look cute. They try to exercise pugs a lot. This leads to pugs having physical strain and further finding it hard to breathe. If we do things cautiously and make sure our pooches are healthy, they won’t die. 

Can your pug live a happy life with breathing issues?

Has anyone known about a pug named ‘Snookie’? Do you know he has survived 27 years of his life? If he can do that, why can’t any other pug? Remember your pug is special. He/She needs love, warmth, care and support. If you shower your pugs with all the good things, you have nothing to worry about. Make sure that your pug does not have to suffer due to issues. Just follow all the steps mentioned above, and your pug will live a happy life.

Final Words

Well, brachycephalic dogs find a lot of problems in breathing due to their shorter heads. But, this does not mean they are sick every time. Make sure you take care of minute details that trigger their breathing problems. Do not take them out in extreme suffering. Do not let them suffer in too much humidity. In case you find your pug is having a lot of distress, you can even go for surgery. But you have to know that snares and elongated palate treatment will be done. Love your pug regardless. Loving can cure any breathing issue that they might have.