With their mournful eyes and wrinkly faces, pugs have become the must-have pet for celebrities such as Lady Gaga and David Beckham.
But new research shows that one in three of the flat-faced dogs suffer from lameness and other walking problems.
It has long been known the breed’s flat faces can mean they have difficulty breathing – factors which can lead to huge veterinary bills.
The latest research highlights that a third of all pugs have an ‘abnormal gait’ – despite many pug owners thinking their pet’s awkwardness at walking is quite normal.
This includes problems in walking, jumping co-ordination and abnormal wearing of the nails and skin on their paws.
As well as prominent celebrity fans, the dogs have become fashionable among advertisers who use images of pugs to sell products.
Researchers in Sweden quizzed the current and former owners of 2,374 pugs who had registered with the Swedish Kennel Club, aged 1, 5, and 8 years old in 2015/16.
Around 26 per cent responded – 550 owners.
The survey found that 31 per cent of pug owners’ dogs had gait abnormalities based on their responses to questions and analysis of videos sent in of the dogs.
In four percent of the pugs, the problem had lasted less than a month -in 16 percent, it had gone on for longer.
Many owners who thought their dogs had normal gait, were judged to have problems walking when examined by experts.
Some 59 of the pug owners sent in videos of their dogs walking.
Some 78 per cent of those sending the video said they thought their dog’s walk was normal.
But analysis by experts led by Dr Cecilia Rohdin, of the Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences suggests many owners were underestimating the problem.
Only 68 per cent of the videos (40 pugs) showed a healthy, normal gait, the experts said.
Many other owners believed their dogs had a normal gait – despite their pet having worn down nails and paw skin, a sign of gait problems.
Among 128 respondents who said their pets had worn down nails and/ or paw skin 57 owners said they felt their dogs had a normal gait.
On average, pugs were aged two years old when the gait abnormality started, with front leg problems tending to show up earlier than problems with the back legs.
Gait abnormalities were strongly associated with older age.
They were also associated with breathing problems and excessive scratching around the neck/ears and head.
Pugs with abnormal gait were more likely to have incontinence issues.
Being overweight has been known to cause breathing problems in short nosed, flat faced dogs such as pugs.
But being overweight was not associated with lameness and bad gait.
Some 47 pug owners said they had to have their pug put down – with 29 per cent citing abnormal gait as the cause. The researchers said it means gait problems are a ‘more significant health problem than what previous published scientific literature has suggested.’
The researchers said that issues with the bones and muscles – orthopaedic reasons – could cause the problems, but so could neurological problems – ie difficulties with the nervous system.
The researchers writing in Vet Record said: ‘Although this study did not aim to differentiate orthopaedic from neurological causes for gait abnormalities, the high prevalence of wearing of nails reported in the questionnaires, and the fact that lameness was not a common finding in the submitted videos, suggest that the majority of gait abnormalities in the pugs were indeed related to neurological rather than orthopaedic disorders.’
The researchers conclude the prevalence of gait abnormalities was ‘high,’ which indicates that these may be more of a health problem than previously thought.