Common Pug skin conditions

Originally appeared as Ask the Vet by Dr. Shawn Ashley in Pug Talk Magazine (Pug Talk May/June/92 May/June/93)

Pugs are known to be susceptible to many skin disorders. The most common problems can be placed under the broad categories of allergic dermatitis, seborrhea complex, and parasite related conditions.

Allergic dermatitis in its uncomplicated form is simply an inflammatory response of the skin to an allergen which leads to dry, flakiness and itching. Allergies are caused by an overactive immune response to a certain stimulus.

This response releases histamine throughout the body which results in runny eyes, nose, sneezing, coughing, and/or skin rash irritation. As with people, there are many causes for allergies in Pugs; fleas, ticks, poison ivy, grasses, poliens, tobacco smoke, food, and the list goes on.

It can be difficult to distinguish between true allergies and local irritants that can cause itching. Sometimes it can be lengthy and costly to rule out the cause — familial history, individual history, physical exam, bloodwork, bacteria/fungal skin cultures, fecal exams, dietary restrictions, skin scrapings, skin biopsies, allergy testing. When a true cause or practical avoidance of the allergen can not be arrived upon the symptoms of allergic dermatitis must be controlled. The treatments of choice are avoidance of the causative agent and/or antigen desensitization therapy (allergy testing and shots).

If these can not be done symptomatic therapy includes hypoallergenic shampoos, soothing creme rinses, fatty acid supplements (topical or oral), hypoallergenic diets, antihistamines, and occasionally corticosteroids. Corticosteroids can be helpful in short term control of an allergic response. They can be used locally in topical sprays or localized areas of superficial acute moist dermatitis (Hot Spots) or they can be given by injection or orally along with shampoos, antihistamines and fatty acid supplements to relieve itching and hasten recovery. However, corticosteroids should not be dosed indiscriminately as they are immunosuppressivc and actually can predispose to chronic skin infections.

Seborrhea complex is usually the sequela of chronic uncontrolled skin infections. It is also a syndrome seen in many older dogs. Symptoms include itching, pustules, lesions, swelling, odor. The odor is due to excessive sebum (skin oil) production, decreased exfoliation of dead skin cells, and concurrent bacterial infections. Pugs are often affected in the nasal and tail fold regions. Dogs will usually exhibit a severe external car infection, as well.

Treatment consists of skin culture and sensitivities with appropriate oral antibiotics, shampoos that have antibacterial, antipyretic, and kerolytic (promotes softening and exfoliation of dead skin cell layers), Keroplastic (promotes healthy skin growth)activities. In severe deeper causes (pyodermas), benzoyl peroxide shampoos are helpful as they are antibacterial and the peroxide component flushes out hair follicles. These shampoos must be in contact with skin for a designated amount of time and rinsed thoroughly. Corticosteroids should not be used in these cases as they will hinder the skin’s ability to fight the infection.

In Pugs, next to atopy (inhaled pollen-related allergies), external parasitism is the most common cause of chronic skin problems. Flea and tick infestation if not controlled can lead to not only life threatening diseases, but also severe allergic dermatitis and skin pyoderynas. As dogs become sensitized to flea/tick saliva; the number of bugs does not matter, one bite can set the allergic reaction off. The treatment of choice is avoidance (in some parts of the nation many are now laughing!). Spray yards, kennels, fog houses, bath/dip pets. Pet sprays, collars, powders, or dermal spotons (Exspot) can be utilized between baths; however, no flealtick control program is complete without treating the immediate environment – – fleas can jump up to five feet and can spend only a small amount of time on the host.

There is a new generation of fleas every 21 days; therefore; repeat applications every 2-3 weeks until the problem is under control. It is advised to use only veterinarian approved products, as many have a low threshold of safety and cannot be mixed (ex. when using an organic phosphate dip a dursban collar should not be placed on the dog for 5 -7 days).

Also, consider the rest of the surrounding environment when choosing yard treatments — creek run offs, etc. If using a professional exterrninatorforenvironmentaltreatmentdonotforgettotreatyour dog at the same time. This is a good time to examine your pet’s skin for signs of concurrent allergic dermatitis or skin infections and contact your veterinarian to alter your treatment plan to address all problems.

There are other parasites that can cause skin disorders – – demodectic mange mites, sarcoptic mange mites, lice, ringworm and other skin fungi. These infestations, as with fleas and ticks, are often complicated with secondary bacterial infections. Each is treated differently; therefore, it is imperative that a definitive diagnosis be achieved by your veterinarian.

Finally, each time a skin infection arises does not mean it will respond to last year’s remedies, it may not even be caused by the same agent — so it is recommended to seek dermatological consultation before the skin condition is out of control.


Fleas and ticks can be year round nuisance in many parts of the United States. No matter if the battle against them is a three month or twelve month war they can not just be ignored. These pests carry diseases that can prove fatal to man as well as dogs.

In the west fleas of wild rodents are bringing back the bubonic plague. It has been documented to have moved as far east as north central Texas. In the cast ticks carrying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are on the rise with documented cases throughout the continental United States. In the south Lyme’s Disease carried by ticks is branching out, affecting man and dogs at an alarming rate. Diagnosis of these disease is complicated by the commoness of the signs. All show varying degrees of lameness and flu-like symptoms. If diagnosed in the early stages by blood titers all are treatable with modern day antibiotics, but the best treatment is preventative therapy. There are many new generation flea and tick fighting products on the market. It is recommended to discuss a complete flea and tick control program with your veterinarian prior to treating your pet and its environment.

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