Pug Breathing Problems What Causes It And How to Deal With It

People are attracted to Pugs because of their smushed face and they get along with everyone. However, this brachycephalic breed struggles with several Pug health problems. Today, we’re going to look at 5 things that cause Pug breathing problems and what you can do to protect your pet.

Why Do Pugs Have Breathing Problems?

Brachycephalic means “shortened head” which refers to the short nose and flat face of the Pugs and some other breeds. Breathing difficulties occur because they have an abnormally small windpipe (or trachea), unlike other breeds.

Related: What To Do When Your Pug Can’t Breathe

pug breathing problems

After living with a black Pug for 16 years, I can tell you that they don’t always struggle to breathe properly. Yes, some pugs may have more attacks than others. For instance, if you have an older dog, they will have more issues than a puppy.

Pro Tip: Every Pug dog owner should have good pet insurance to avoid any unexpected veterinary costs. Get your free quote to see how much it can save you if any unexpected veterinary trips for your four-legged friend.

Now that you know about their “shortened head,” let’s take a look at what can trigger their episodes.

5 Things That Can Trigger Pug Breathing Problems

If you’ve never had a Pug before, there are some things that can trigger these issues. My hope is that you’ll learn how to spot these symptoms in advance, so you can deal with the issue to stop them from any distress or discomfort.

#1 Overweight or Too Hot

Your Pug may have trouble breathing if they are carrying too much weight or if they become too hot. Their body will react differently to these situations, but both of them can cause Fido to become uncomfortable.

Too Hot

When a Pug overheats, they start to make loud snorting noises with their tongues hanging out of their mouth. This is due to the fact that they are trying to get more cool air.

Because of their condensed nose, it makes it hard for them to get extra air into their body. They use the panting noises to help cool themselves.

If your dog becomes too hot, you may want to consider getting an ice pack to help them cool down faster. We had a Green Pet Shop Dog Cooling Mat to help Mindy when she got too hot.


If your dog is overweight, the excess pressure on their joints and issues with respiratory problems. I’ve written an article to help you understand how much a Pug should weigh.

If your Furbaby is overweight and having trouble breathing, the best thing you can do is start taking action to help them shed those excess pounds.

#2 Allergies

Believe it or not, a Pug can have allergic reactions to certain things just like humans. Mindy my black Pug used to be allergic to pollen and would have trouble breathing when she was in the grass, we also noticed that she was always licking her feet.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that a Pug can be allergic to:

  • Food
  • Airborne
  • Allergens
  • Physical contact (plastic bowls, toys, or certain fabrics)

If a Pug suffers from allergies, you may notice them having episodes of sneezing, wheezing, coughing, or trouble breathing. The best thing you can do is schedule a visit to your local veterinarian to find out what is causing the allergic reaction.

They will most likely prescribe something to help alleviate the breathing attacks. When Mindy had her allergy reactions, we always made sure that we washed her feet after spending time outdoors.

This seemed to help alleviate her loud breathing issues.

#3 Build Up Of Bacteria Around Their Nose

Keeping your pets wrinkles and nose clean can help stop bacteria from building up and leading to infections. If you don’t clean their face, it can lead to an infected nose, which can lead to respiratory conditions that cause breathing issues.

We used to use a cotton swab to wipe her nose on a regular basis. For some reason, Mindy usually had cracks around her nose and we would put some petroleum jelly on the cracks. Fortunately, we never had to deal with her getting an infection.

If your dog does get an infection, you will want to schedule a veterinary appointment immediately. They will be able to treat the problem which will help their breathing return to normal.

#4 Their Elongated Soft Palate

Pugs have abnormally small or narrow nostrils that restrict the amount of air that can flow into the nostrils. Their soft palate (the soft part of the roof of the mouth) is too long for the length of their mouth.

The excess length can partially block the entrance of the trachea which leads to trouble breathing. You’ll usually notice this when your Pug gets excited or is sleeping. They’ll make more sounds such as snoring, wheezing, sneezing, or coughing.

One of the best things you can do is invest in a pet bed that helps them breathe easier at night. If your dog struggles with breathing on a regular basis, you may want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Your Pug could be suffering from brachycephalic airway syndrome, which could put an increased strain on the heart over time.

#5 An Older Pug

As your Pug gets older, they will usually struggle with breathing problems. Mindy didn’t have a lot of breathing problems as a puppy, but as she got older, she became intolerable to a lot more things.

We had to make sure that she stayed indoors as much as possible during the summer because she just couldn’t tolerate the heat anymore.

Here’s a video of an 11-year-old Pug who has trouble breathing.

This will give you an idea of how an older Pug can struggle to breathe, and why it’s important to take the necessary steps to help them live better.

#6 Pug Breathing Attacks

Sometimes you can do everything correctly and your Pug can’t breathe for no apparent reason. It’s not unusual for these dogs to have breathing attacks that last 1-2 minutes.

These “breathing attacks: will usually consist of snorting, reverse sneezing, or even asthma. These attacks usually involve having mucus in their throat, which is no different when a human gets something stuck in their throat.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do but let the episode pass on its own. Here are some more signs and symptoms Pugs and breathing problems.

How to Help Your Pug Breathe Better

Regardless of whether your Pug is dealing with breathing related disorders (elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, brachycephalic airway syndrome, tracheal abnormalities, and etc), at one point or another, your Pug will deal with some breathing issues.

It may not require you to take them to the vet for surgery. But it will scare you and have yourself asking you what you can do to help them breathe easier so you don’t have to hear them dealing with this problem.

There are some things that you can do to help your Pug breathe better whether they are just resting or being active.

7 Pug Breathing Problems Solutions

#1 Keep Your House At A Comfortable Temperature

Mindy used to let us know when she was too hot. If our house got hotter than 72℉ in the Summer or the Winter, she would pant like crazy. If you live in an area that gets too hot or cold you’ll want to make sure that you keep your home at the proper temperature.

Check out these amazing sweaters for Pugs to keep them warm in the Winter.

This means that you’ll want to turn on your air conditioner in the Summer. You won’t be able to cool your home by opening your windows if it is hot outside. A Pug will breath better when the room temperature in your home is set a comfortable level.

On the other side, keep your home at a comfortable temperature in the winter. They don’t do very well in the cold weather. Mindy never had any breathing problems, but she would shiver if she was too cold.

#2 Keep Your Pug Indoors When It Is Hot And Humid

how to help pugs breathe

This is NOT an outdoor breed and should NEVER be kept outside. They are an indoor dog and should be kept in an air-conditioned house if it is too humid outside. Pugs will do best outdoors when the humidity levels are between 35 and 45%.

We live in the south and it can be extremely uncomfortable during the summer months. Mindy would love being outdoors with us when we were mowing the yard. However, it wouldn’t be long before she was panting like crazy.

We finally invested in a High Velocity Electric Industrial and Home Floor Fan to keep her cool when spending time outdoors. You may also have to purchase a LEVOIT Cool Mist Humidifiers to help your Pug breather easier in the wintertime.

It’s important to control the humidity in your home if you have a brachycephalic dog.

#3 Take Exercise Precautions

Most of us get a dog because we want to go on walks and take them to dog parks. If you do, just remember that you don’t over exert your pet during the hot, humid weather.

During the hot summer months, make sure that you’re taking precautionary measures to exercise your pet during the early morning and later in the evenings. Avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day.

If you do spend time with your Pug outdoors during the heat, make sure you take plenty of breaks in the shade and have plenty of water on hand.

Keep your Pug indoors as much as possible if you live in an area that gets extremely hot and humid. Trust me, they will be content to be sleeping in an air-conditioned house instead of having trouble breathing outdoors.

#4 Avoid Using Collars for Exercising

Invest in a good harness that doesn’t choke or block your Pug’s airway. Collars can cause stress or tension on your dog’s windpipe that will lead to breathing problems. These are the only collars that should ever be used with a Pug.

Brachycephalic breeds should use a harness, which hugs the entire body and distributes the pressure on across their back and shoulders and doesn’t impede their neck. I’ve written an article that will help you find the right harness for your Pug.

#5 Get Your Pet A Good Dog Bed

The best sleeping position for your Pug is one that elevates the head slightly above their head. This opens up their airway helping them sleep better without struggling for air during the night.

When they sleep in awkward positions or the neck is scrunched up, this causes their airways to be compressed. This is when they struggle to breathe at night and snore extremely loud. This can also lead to sleep apnea, which will cause them to have episodes of paused breathing.

Mindy used to snore really loud until we invested in a Memory Foam Dog Bed. She was able to position her head properly and the orthopedic mattress helped her get the support she needed.

If your Pug sleeps on the carpet or on a flat mattress, try elevating it with a pillow or blanket and see if that helps them breathe better.

#6 Watch Their Weight

One of the worst things for breathing problems is allowing your pet to gain excess weight. Make sure that you’re feeding your pet the proper food. Put your pet on a healthy food diet and make sure they get plenty of daily exercise.

If you can maintain a good weight for your Pug’s body frame, they will have less chance of struggling with breathing problems.

#7 Keep Them From Getting Overly Excited

Mindy used to have trouble breathing when she got overly excited. For instance, if we were playing with her favorite toy or she was playing with another dog, we would notice that she would have trouble breathing or panting heavy.

If your Pug gets too excited. try to calm them down by taking the toy away for a while. This can be challenging because they won’t understand why you’re taking their toy away from them.

They may even think that you are trying to discipline them.

Spend time sitting with them to calm them down. Once they are breathing better, you can give them back their toy or give them a different toy to keep them busy.

What To Do When Your Pug Can’t Breathe?

It can be scary when you see your furbaby struggling to breathe, your first thought is to rush them to the veterinary. However, most dogs will just have a quick attack that won’t require a trip to the vet.

That being said, if you believe your dog is suffering from respiratory distress, you should contact your veterinary as quickly as possible.

Final Word On Breathing Problems In Pugs

Pug having hard time breathing

Pugs make great pets and if you take the steps above, your pet should be fine. As long as you keep your Pug comfortable, they shouldn’t have any trouble breathing.

As I mentioned, they will still make loud breathing noises when they sleep or get overly excited. But this is just a common issue with this breed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Tell If Your Dog Has Breathing Problems? You’ll notice their chest wall or belly moving up and down more than normal. Their nostrils may flare when breathing, and they may be trying to breathe out of their mouth.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Breathes Heavy? Pugs tend to breathe heavily when they are trying to cool off or have been engaged in vigorous exercise.

Heavy breathing has also been linked to swallowing a toxic substance or heatstroke.

References And Further Reading

ScienceDirect – Joan C. Hendricks VMD, PhD – Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Merck Manual – Ned F. Kuehn – Rhinitis and Sinusitis In Dogs

Pets WebMD – Why Is My Dog Panting Heavily?

Black Pug Site