Leading Causes Of Death In Pugs [Understanding The Risks]

Pugs are a popular dog breed known for their adorable wrinkly faces and playful personalities. However, like all living creatures, they are prone to health issues and have a limited lifespan. Many Pug owners often wonder what causes death in pugs and how they can prevent them. 

Pugs are a brachycephalic breed with a flat face and short snout. Unfortunately, this endearing trait makes them susceptible to heart problems, cancer, genetic conditions, neurological disorders, breathing disorders, overheating, and other health problems which can shorten their lifespan. 

Whether you have a Pug or are considering one, knowing the cause of death and how to recognize the symptoms is essential. Understanding the breed will help you care for your pup so you can take preventative measures to help them live a long, happy life.  

leading causes of death in Pugs

So, let’s take a closer look at the issues that affect this breed. 

The Main Causes of Death In Pugs

Overall, Pugs are likely to have more illnesses than other breeds. Below are some of the genetic issues that can decrease their lifespan. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS) is a condition that affects dogs with short snouts, including Pekingese, Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, etc. 

BAS causes breathing problems, especially in the heat. Symptoms include snoring, excessive panting, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. 

Surgery may be necessary to correct this disorder, but it can be expensive and risky. 

Without treatment, it can lead to respiratory distress and even death. 

Pug Dog Encephalitis

Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is a fatal inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system. 

It is an inherited autoimmune disorder with genetic markers. 

Symptoms of PDE include seizures, loss of muscle coordination, disorientation or confusion, behavioral changes, etc. 

 Unfortunately, there is no cure for PDE. However, veterinarians may prescribe steroids or immunosuppressive drugs to manage the condition. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition that affects all breeds, including Pugs. Unfortunately, any dog can be affected. 

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint does not fit perfectly into its socket. This causes wear and tear on the cartilage and bone, leading to pain, stiffness, and lameness. 

Symptoms include limping instead of running or walking, whimpering when climbing stairs, staying in bed instead of playing, etc.  

Treatment for hip dysplasia may include medication, weight loss, padding bedding, physical therapy, and surgery. 

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease is a condition that affects the “ball” in the ball and socket joint in the hips. Unfortunately, the known cause is unknown but likely due to clots in the blood vessels. 

Over time, the disorder causes the bones to become weak and deteriorate and eventually causes minor fractures. Affected dogs will experience discomfort, lameness, and arthritis.

Treatment for Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease may include femoral head and neck osteotomy (FHO) surgery or a total hip replacement surgery. 

Infectious Diseases

Pugs are prone to infectious diseases that can be fatal if left untreated. 

Here are some of the most common infectious diseases that can affect Pugs:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease affecting dogs of all ages, including Pugs. 

It is caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses. It is spread through direct contact with infected dogs or contaminated surfaces. 

Symptoms of kennel cough include a dry, hacking cough, sneezing, and runny nose or eyes. 

Older Pugs and puppies are at a greater risk of death. Fortunately, kennel cough can be prevented with vaccination and by avoiding contact with infected dogs.


Canine parvovirus (CPV), or parvo, affects Pugs of all ages, including puppies. 

The most common way dogs contract the virus is by ingesting an already-infected dog’s feces. However, it can also be transmitted through the hair and paws of an infected dog, a contaminated surface, or a person’s clothing. 

Unfortunately, it is highly contagious, and there is no cure. However, it is preventable by ensuring your dog is up to date on its vaccinations. 

Symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, it will suppress the immune system, resulting in a fatality. 


Distemper (CDV) is a highly contagious disease in dogs caused by a paramyxovirus. Unfortunately, it can affect Pugs of all ages but is more common in puppies. 

It is an airborne disease. Pugs can become infected from exposure through the bodily fluids of infected dogs or wild animals carrying the disease.  

Symptoms of distemper include fever, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and neurological signs such as seizures and paralysis. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia and death. 

Treatment for distemper is supportive care, including fluids and, medications, electrolytes to control symptoms. 

The best way to protect your Pug is to ensure they get a series of vaccination shots during the first 8,12, and 16 weeks of age. 


Cancer is among the most common causes of death in pugs, especially in their golden years. 

There are several types of cancer that pugs are prone to, including mast cell tumors, hemangiosarcoma, and lymphoma. 

Early detection and treatment are crucial to increasing the chances of survival.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors are the most common type of skin cancer in pugs. They can appear as lumps or bumps on the skin and can be itchy or painful. 

While some mast cell tumors are benign, others can be malignant and spread to other body parts. 

Treatment for mast cell tumors may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.


Hemangiosarcoma is a mast cell tumor that develops in dogs as young as four to six months. That said, Boston Terriers and Boxers are the breeds with the highest rates. 

It is a very aggressive cancer that spreads quickly to other body parts. 

Hemangiosarcoma can be challenging to detect, as there may not be any noticeable symptoms until the cancer has already spread. 

Treatment for hemangiosarcoma may involve invasive surgery to remove the tumor combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 


Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. It can affect multiple organs and tissues in the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and bone marrow. 

Unfortunately, it is common cancer among canines, including Pugs. It is most common in middle-aged and senior Pugs. The breeds more predisposed to lymphoma include:

  • Poodles
  • Chow Chow
  • German Shepherds
  • English Bulldog
  • Basset Hounds

Symptoms of lymphoma in Pugs may include enlarged lymph nodes in the armpits, neck, groin, chest, and behind the knees. Not all dogs experience enlarged nodes, so taking your dog to their regular check-ups is essential. 

Treatment for lymphoma may include weekly injections or chemotherapy. 

Old Age

Like all dogs, old age is this breed’s most common cause of death. However, as with all living beings, Pugs will eventually reach the end of their lifespan. 

The average lifespan of a Pug is around 12-15 years. However, some can live up to 18 years or more with proper care and attention. 

As they age, Pugs become more susceptible to various health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, and respiratory issues. 

These conditions can become severe and even life-threatening if left untreated. Therefore, Pug owners must provide proper care and regular check-ups to prevent these issues from becoming fatal.

Older Pugs may also experience a decline in their cognitive function, leading to confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. 

Senior Pugs are less active and have difficulty climbing stairs, jumping on the bed, and doing other activities they did when they were younger. 

It’s vital for owners to be patient and understanding with their aging Pugs, and provide them with a comfortable and safe environment.


Accidents can happen to any dog, and pugs are no exception. They may be small dogs but are incredibly active and playful, which can sometimes lead to injuries. 

Accidents can range from minor scrapes and bruises to serious injuries requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Some of the most common accidents that pugs may experience include car accidents falls from heights, and getting into fights with other dogs.

The best way to prevent accidents is to closely monitor your dog. That said, no matter how much you watch your dog, accidents are bound to happen. 

If your Pug does experience an accident, it is crucial to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Even minor injuries can become infected; serious injuries may require surgery or other medical interventions.

Here are some tips for preventing accidents in pugs:

  • Keep your Pug on a leash or in a secure area when outside
  • Use baby gates to block off stairs or other areas where your Pug could fall
  • Keep hazardous items, such as cleaning supplies or sharp objects, out of reach
  • Supervise your Pug when playing with other dogs

Final Word

It is always heartbreaking to lose a beloved pet, and understanding the common causes of death in Pugs can help you take better care of your furry friend. While Pugs have a relatively short lifespan compared to other breeds, proper care and regular check-ups can help prolong their life.

Heart problems, cancer, and neurological disorders are some of the most common causes of death in Pugs. Therefore, it is vital to be aware of the symptoms of these conditions and seek veterinary care promptly if you notice any concerning signs.

Additionally, providing your Pug with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of love and attention can help prevent some health issues and improve their overall quality of life.

Remember that each Pug is unique, and their lifespan and health can vary depending on genetics and environment. By staying informed and proactive about your Pug’s health, you can help ensure they live a happy and healthy life for as long as possible.

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