Abnormal Gaits in Pugs

This common problem is associated with other health issues
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2018

A recent study of Pugs reveals that nearly 1 in 3 members of this breed have some sort of abnormality in their gait, and that such gait irregularities are linked to other health problems. The authors of the study, “High prevalence of gait abnormalities in pugs”, conclude that gait abnormalities in Pugs may be a more serious issue than previously thought.

The data come from a survey of Pug guardians in Sweden whose dogs were aged 1, 5, or 8 years old in 2015-2016. People were asked if their dogs had any gait issues and if so, how long ago they began. Gait abnormalities include limping or other signs of lameness, poor coordination and weakness. Indirect evidence of gait abnormalities such as not being able to jump and abnormal wear on the skin and nails of their paws were also considered.

The survey included questions related to a wide variety of additional health issues, and people were asked to send in a video of their Pug walking slowly on a leash. There were 550 responses by Pug guardians to the survey and 59 videos that were of a high enough quality to be analyzed.

Though almost 80 percent of guardians thought their dogs had normal gaits, the research suggests that this was only the case for 69 percent of the dogs. The majority of people who reported a dog with worn down nails or paw skin on the top of the foot (signs of abnormalities) said their dog had a normal gait. In addition, approximately 10 percent of the people who described their dog’s gait as normal and sent in a video actually had a dog with an abnormal gait.

It is no surprise that gait abnormalities were more common in older dogs. The average age that the trouble started was two years old, with front leg problems generally appearing at an earlier age than back leg problems. Somewhat surprisingly, there was no association between the weight of dogs and the likelihood of gait abnormalities.

Various health issues were associated with the abnormal gaits, including breathing problems. Other issues that occurred more frequently in dogs with gait issues were excessive scratching around the neck, ears and head as well as incontinence. Preliminary evidence from this study suggests that neurological issues are more common than orthopedic ones in the Pugs with abnormal gaits. This conclusion is based on the prevalence of wearing down of skin and tails on the top of the foot combined with the low frequency of lameness described in the study. Gait abnormalities across dog breeds are generally more frequently orthopedic than neurological in nature, indicating the possibility that the cause of problems is different in Pugs.

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

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