Beautiful, Beguiling, Bulging Eyeballs

In this blog (and in my yet-to-be-published book), besides describing the delightful antics of pugs, I include information about the not-so-wonderful aspects of life with pugs. As a volunteer with Pug Rescue of North Carolina, I see many pugs who are surrendered because their owners don’t know how to care for them or can’t afford their medical expenses. I’d hate for that to happen to any of my readers! So, today I’ll introduce you to some facts about the pug’s eyes. (Warning: A couple of the photos may be upsetting.)

Pugs and other flat-faced (“brachycephalic”) dogs,such as the ones below, are especially likely to develop eye problems. You can blame this on the dog’s squished-in snout.

Some brachycephalic breeds. Photos from:×368.jpg

A dog’s snout is not just an empty shell; it contains important stuff, like the mouth, mucosal tissue, nasal passages, and scent receptors, to name some. The “stuff” inside that mashed-in snout takes up space, even if it’s not visible from the outside, and the pug’s eyeballs have to compete for that space.

Think of it as a matter of real estate, or parking places. With all the body parts competing for space, there’s barely enough room for those beguiling eyes to fit inside the pug’s head. With so little parking space available in the eye sockets, the pug’s eyes tend to bulge out, like a frog’s. (You’ve noticed, huh?)

Photo from

Also, the placement of the eyeballs causes some pugs to have a cross-eyed view of the world, like the one below.

15-02 crossed eyes

Photo from

Some pugs’ protuberant eyeballs look like they’ll actually fall out. Indeed, they can, but the eyeballs won’t just happen to plop out onto the sidewalk while you’re out for a walk. To cause an eye to prolapse, or pop forward out of its socket, it usually takes a hard knock on the head, such as getting banged against a wall while rough-housing with other dogs. Excessive restraint on the pug’s head and neck also can cause a prolapse. Usually the eyeball won’t fall out completely, but stays attached in the back, where the optic nerve is.

15-03 Eye prolapseA pug with the right eyeball prolapsed, from

15-04 Eye prolapse2

Another dog with a prolapsed eyeball. From

In the rare event of a prolapse, it’s a surgical emergency. According to our veterinarian, you must get the pug to a vet within 15 to 30 minutes. In the meantime, keep the eye wet with sterile saline, wetting solution, or plain water. Wet the eyeball and also wet a gauze bandage. If the eye hasn’t popped out all the way, you can try to push it back in, but rush the pug to the vet anyway. Tape or hold the wet bandage over the eye until you get to the vet. The degree of damage to the optic nerve, which attaches behind the eyeball, determines how much the pug’s vision will be affected. Unfortunately, blindness can result, and sometimes the eye must be removed.

A post-surgical eye patient. From

So – I’m glad that I got that out of the way! A prolapse is probably the scariest thing that could happen with a pug’s eyes. Next time, I’ll continue with some less gory eye issues that I’ve learned about, courtesy of our pugs. Until then, I leave you with a photo of Sarah, who has dealt with a number of eye problems, but none as awful as a prolapse.

Sarah abt2006



5 thoughts on “Beautiful, Beguiling, Bulging Eyeballs

  1. Pugs are so adorable! But I’m glad to learn all of this information about their (and other flat-nosed breeds’) eyes. I hope owners and potential owners read this so they’ll know what to expect and not run with their dogs to the nearest surrendering center. Good post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s