Medically Reviewed Evidence Based

Pug Eye Problems – Common Issues And Treatments

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Margarita Boyd
Reviewed by: Dr. Margarita Boyd, BVSc MRCVS
Every breed is prone to certain health problems. Pugs have a predisposition for eye problems. Read this article and find out more.

The first thing many people think of when Pugs come up in the conversation are their big, cute eyes.

Unfortunately, these eyes are prone to a number of health problems.

So, what are the most common issues and can they be treated?

Every dog breed is different when it comes to personality, character, activity level, friendliness etc.

And this is a great thing – imagine if every dog was the same! However, every breed has certain genetic predispositions that make them prone to some health issues. (1)

When it comes to pugs, one of their “soft spots” are their eyes.

Every future owner of this breed should be aware of these problems in order to have realistic expectations. Read on and find out what they are.

Common Eye Problems In Pugs

We’ll take a look at the most common eye problems that affect this breed and explore a bit more about each problem in particular.

1. Cherry Eye

The condition got its name because it can turn one of the glands in the eye really red or pink – like a cherry.

What leads up to it is an infected and inflamed tear duct gland.

The third eyelid then slips out of position and starts sticking out of the eye corner. Apart from being pink or red, a cherry eye leads to increased production of tears and often pain. (2)

This is a common problem that can affect one or both eyes, but it’s quite rare that it affects both eyes at the same time. However, when one eye gets affected, it’s common for the other eye to become affected after a couple of months.

Sometimes medical treatment will be trialed, with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory eye drops. Most often, surgery is required to remove the tear duct or put it back in the correct place.

SUMMARY: Cherry Eye is a condition of an infected and inflamed tear duct gland that can often be painful to dogs.

2. Corneal Ulcers

The cornea is the transparent membrane that covers the outer surface of the eye.

An ulcer is a damaged area of the cornea and its causes include eye trauma, chemical burn or some kind of infection. (3)

This is often a very painful condition for your dog. A dog with corneal ulcers will often squint, or keep the eye closed and rub it frequently.(4)

In order to treat this condition, the vet will often prescribe antibiotic drops, pain-relieving medication and even surgery in some cases.

SUMMARY: Corneal Ulcer is a painful condition of a infected or damaged membrane of the eye.

3. Distichiasis

This occurs when one or more eyelashes grow out of parts of the eyelid where they shouldn’t. If this happens, these eyelashes start irritating the eye and cause significant discomfort to your dog. (5)

Signs indicating distichiasis are redness of the eye, discharge and an itchy eye. If you don’t treat this in time, it can lead to the development of corneal ulcers.

The treatment usually consists of removing the extra hairs and using topical ointments in order to lubricate the eye. In some cases, surgery may need to be performed.

SUMMARY: Distichiasis is when eyelashes grow from parts of the eyelid where they irritate the eye.

4. Entropion

This is a condition whereby the eyelid folds in on itself and starts to rub the surface of the eye.

This often occurs due to the fact that pugs have large eyes and eyelids. (6, 7) When this happens, the eyelashes are pushed into the eye, leading to irritation, infections and sometimes corneal ulcers.

This condition usually affects pugs that are about 6 months old. You will probably be able to tell that your pug has these problems if it’s constantly scratching the eye.

The eye will also appear red and irritated. This condition can be treated by surgically reducing the size of the eyelid so it doesn’t happen again.

SUMMARY: Entropion happens when the eyelid folds in on itself and irritates the surface of the eye.

5. Dry Eye

This condition is one of the most common eye problems this breed deals with. It occurs when the tear duct isn’t producing enough liquid and the eye, as the name says, becomes very dry.

When the eye isn’t lubricated enough, debris builds up and irritates the eye. (8)

If you notice that your pug is blinking more often and that the eye is red, it could be dry eye your dog is dealing with. This condition is most commonly treated using lubricating eye drops to keep the eyes moist.

SUMMARY: Dry Eye develops in dogs whose tear ducts don’t produce enough liquid making the eye very dry.

6. Cataracts

Dogs, just like people, can develop cataracts. They can be inherited, as well as caused by trauma, inflammation or diabetes. (9)

A cataract forms in the lens of the eye and it can lead to complete loss of vision in the worst-case scenario. (10)

It’s even possible for the cataract to fall out of place in some cases, which is very painful. If this were to happen, surgical correction is necessary. Cataracts can be removed and corrected surgically.

SUMMARY: Cataract is a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision.

7. Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy will gradually make your dog blind.

It usually starts with the dog losing its ability to see at night and in dim lighting, and bumping into things. (11)

On the bright side, it’s not a painful condition and it usually affects senior dogs and commonly loss of vision occurs over a period of 1-2 years.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for it. However, your vet may recommend some supplements to help slow down the progression.

SUMMARY: Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition that affects senior dogs and leads to a gradual loss of vision.

8. Eye Trauma

As you know, these famous small size dogs are brachycephalic – with flat faces and big eyes that stick out.

As such, it’s much easier for them to get things stuck in their eyes when they’re exploring their surroundings. And dogs tend to do that.

Unfortunately, these energetic dogs are more likely to get injured when they’re looking around.

It doesn’t have to be anything serious, like a scratch, but it could also be something that requires treatment depending on how much damage has been done.

SUMMARY: Eye trauma is pretty common in pugs because their eyes stick out more than in other dog breeds due to their flat faces.

Symptoms Of Pug Eye Problems

Pug eye problems mentioned above are among the most common ones when it comes to this famous brachycephalic breed.

It can sometimes be a bit difficult to determine which eye problem your dog is dealing with, as many have similar symptoms.

In order to treat a condition, you first have to be able to recognize which one you are dealing with.

The vet will be able to carry out a full clinical exam of your dog, run tests if necessary and diagnose exactly what is wrong with your dog. However, it never hurts to be able to recognize the condition yourself.

So, in this segment we’re focusing on how to recognize and treat cataracts, entropion, cherry eye, dry eye and progressive retinal atrophy.

1. Pug Cataracts: Symptoms And Treatment

When a dog has cataracts, the symptoms include:

  • Milky looking eyes. The lens in the eye appears cloudy, white or grey.
  • Change in behavior due to bad vision. As a result, your dog can start bumping into things, misjudging distances and not recognize people – in general become clumsier.

If that’s the case, take your dog to the vet for examination.

If it turns out your dog has cataracts, surgery can be performed to help your dog see normally again. (12) If that’s what you choose, a surgeon will remove the lens and replace it with an artificial one or break the cataract down using a laser.

2. Entropion: Symptoms And Treatment

You will be able to recognize this condition by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Eyelid rolled up and inward
  • Swollen eye
  • Dog rubbing the eye
  • Eye appears red and irritated
  • Dog squinting or closing eye

If you notice these symptoms, take your dog to the vet and get a diagnosis. If it’s entropion you’re dealing with, surgery is usually the recommended treatment. (13)

The surgeon will remove a bit of the tissue under the eye, so that the eyelid sits correctly and no longer rubs on the surface of the eye.

3. Cherry Eye: Symptoms And Treatment

As mentioned, this is another common eye problem commonly seen in this breed. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • A pink or red swelling at the inner corner of the eye
  • The eye appears red and swollen
  • Dog rubbing or scratching eye

If you notice a “cherry” like swelling popping out of the corner of your dog’s eye, you can be pretty sure it’s cherry eye. However, take your dog to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Cherry eye isn’t always painful, but if your dog shows discomfort it’s time to do something about it. Sometimes, eye drops might be prescribed.

However, most of the time if you want to correct the problem, your dog will have to undergo surgery where the surgeon will replace the gland back into the correct place and stitch it so it doesn’t pop back out again. (14)

4. Dry Eye: Symptoms And Treatment

As the name says, a dog suffering from this condition has dry eyes. But, how can you tell if a dog’s eyes are dry?

  • Dull, irritated and red eyes
  • Thick green discharge
  • Frequent blinking
  • Keeping the eyes shut or squinting

After you’ve gotten your canine examined by a veterinarian and it’s clear it’s dry eye, your vet will determine a treatment plan. It usually consists of using regular eye drops or prescription medication.

These are used in order to lubricate the eyes.

Dry eye is unfortunately a chronic condition, so your dog will probably need lubricants and eye drops for the rest of his life.

5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Symptoms and Management

Unfortunately, this is a condition without treatment and it can progress all the way to complete blindness.

Symptoms indicating your pug is suffering from this condition are the following:

  • Night blindness. Observe how your dog behaves in the dark – if he/she bumps into things or people. This is a sign of PRA
  • Shiny eyes
  • Abnormal pupil reactions and dilation

These are the most common signs, but you definitely have to see the vet for a proper eye examination. This is an inherited disease, so it’s also important to know if your dog’s parents suffered from it.

As mentioned, there is no treatment for this condition as of yet.

What you should do is to make sure your dog continues to lead a good quality of life as possible. In some cases, changing the diet and using certain supplements can help to slow down the progression.

If your Fido has PRA, don’t breed her, as the disease can be transmitted to the next generation.

Always observe your dog and if something seems wrong, don’t ignore it!

How To Clean Pugs Eyes?

When it comes to cleaning Pug’s eye you should know that the process is pretty much straightforward.

To do this effectively and fast (let’s be honest, dogs do not like being handled) you will need the following:

  • Hypoallergenic toilet paper
  • Unscented baby wipes, or specially designed wipes for dogs
  • Warm washcloth
  • Eye cleaning pads

Pro tip: Avoid using toilet paper as it may crumble easily and eventually get caught in the dog’s eyes and create an additional mess.

Quick steps on how to clean a dog’s eyes:

  • Be confident as dogs may feel fear, or if you are not being comfortable with what you are doing
  • Get your Fido next to you
  • Take a washcloth and start at the corner of the first eye and work outward
  • Try not to push any dirt into the dog’s eyes
  • Always use a different part of the cloth for each eye

While you are close to your dog’s eyes, inspect the dog’s eyes carefully.

Check them for the following signs:

  • Eye cloudiness
  • Eye color
  • Any sign of discharge
  • Any sort of debris caught in the dog’s eyes
  • Sign of any abnormalities

If you notice anything unusual, make sure that you contact your veterinarian. Once you are done cleaning your Fido’s eyes do not forget to reward him with a nice treat.

Are Pugs Prone To Eye Problems?

As mentioned earlier in this guide, Pugs and other ‘flat-faced’ dog breeds, such as French Bulldogs, are unfortunately prone to getting eye problems.

The reason for this may vary from internal to external factors, with some conditions being extremely painful.

Those who decide to get this breed must be ready to deal with many eye-related issues sometimes along the way.

This is why thinking about getting pet insurance is something that should be on your list when it comes to responsible dog ownership.

Do Pugs have eye problems? They do, and up to 50% of Pugs are affected with some sort of eye problems up to some degree.

When eye problems in this breed are severe, the pooch may experience blindness.

Why Do Pugs Have Eye Problems?

Eye problems in this breed are tightly linked to their faces. Sounds unusual?

Falt-faced dog breeds have a certain skull conformation which actually results in very shallow orbits.

Orbits are areas or sockets in which eyes sit, which actually lead to very bulgy eyes that look like they are set outside, or that they may fall out if a dog bumps his head into something.

Quick tip: To keep Pug’s eyes safe and clean learn how to clean them and provide the right overall care for this small size breed

Can Pugs Eyes Really Fall Out?

Are you familiar with eye proptosis? Some owners of flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Shih Tzu, or even Lhasa Apso know that these small size dogs are prone to eye proptosis due to their shallow orbits.

In other terms dog’s eyes may be injected due to certain factors. In most cases, this may happen as a result of an injury.

Pug Eye Injury

Dogs are individual creatures just like humans are and they do experience a different types of accidents.

This is something that may more often be seen in small size dogs as they are more sensitive to a certain degree, compared to larger size dogs.

Moreover, this is especially the case in breeds of flat faces such as Pugs, who have naturally ‘outwards set eyes’.

As such they are at higher risk of injuries. Pugs may be more prone to this sort of injury, but it doesn’t mean that they do experience it often in practice.

A blow in the head or blow near the eye socket can easily cause the eyeball to pop out of its socket.

A fight with another dog or even a car impact might lead to proptosis.

Pug Eye Infection

Eye infections in pugs are commonly seen. Compared to non-flat-faced breeds these small size dogs have more sensitive eyes, and as such are more prone to eye infections.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, know that your dog might be exposed to an eye infection:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Smelly discharge
  • Strong sensitivity to light
  • Rubbing at the eye
  • Holding eye closed

If you notice any of these symptoms make sure that you contact your veterinarian. Another symptom that you should be mindful of is a clouded eye. Let’s elaborate on that further.

Pug Cloudy Eye

When it comes to checking your dog’s eye health you should focus on the lend of your dog.

In general, healthy lean should have clear look, while a cloudy and bluish-gray lens is a sign to worry. In a case of a cloudy eye, a dog’s immune system is usually something to be dealt with eventually. If a dog has a chronic case of dry eye, the surface will have also a cloudy appearance, and duller.

Good to know: Pigmentary keratitis is something that appears in Pugs often when it comes to eye problems.

This disease is often an overreaction of a dog’s immune system and can be treated with topical steroids and other sorts of medications that actually work by suppressing the immune system.

The air with this treatment is to apply the right kind of medications that can actually reduce the corneal pigmentation so that dog can see again.

Like other heavy diseases, this condition is usually best treated over a period of six months.

The Bottom Line

Pug eye problems are something that many owners of this breed want to learn more about.

The best way to keep your Pug healthy is to learn as much as possible about the breed before you welcome your Pug home.

If you are a first time dog owner you will learn mostly along the way, but it won’t harm to learn as much as possible on the breed up front.

This way you will cut general expenses, learn how often you should take your Fido for veterinarian check-ups, master dog nutrition, and overall help your dog to reach senior years without major health-related issues.