More About Pugs’ Eyes

You may recall that the original breeders of the pug wanted a dog with large, front-facing eyes, like a human infant’s (see How Did Pugs Lose Their Snouts? Posted October 27, 2015). In the same tradition, today’s dog show judges and pug breeders put a high value on eyes that are “very large, bold, and prominent.” Without a doubt, without a snout to detract from them, our own pugs’ eyes look very large and prominent, indeed.

Here’s Sarah (below), her “very large” and “prominent” eyes bulging a bit more than usual, as she waits for a treat.

0-Xylitol Oct 4


Pugs’ eyes also appear to be “bold.” Pugs are helped along in this by the fact that their eyes are encircled by dark pigment that has the appearance of eyeliner. Like eyeliner make-up for humans, this pigment emphasizes the eyes. This natural eyeliner is worn by all pugs, but it’s more visible on fawn pugs like Sarah (below).

Sarah cuddle bed crop


On a black pug, black eyeliner just isn’t very noticeable.  Below, even though Duchess has gotten very gray, you can still see the “eyeliner” on her lower eyelid.

Ch1-03 Duchess

Those big, bold bug eyes may be just what pug breeders and dog show judges look for, but a pug’s eyes are sitting targets for all kinds of loose fluff and stuff blowing in the wind, such as pollen, dirt, or other debris, as well as any pug-level swishing weed or vine. The assault by such foreign matter irritates the outer covering of the eye, and then the irritated area provides a great place for germs to enter and multiply.

Because of such assaults on their eyes, our pugs have learned that daily applications of various medicinal eye drops and ointments area normal part of life. In fact, Sarah even voluntarily tilts her head from one side to the other, making it easier for me to apply the drops to each eye.

Sarah eye drops crop

Sarah does this so blithely and automatically that you’d almost think that this, too, is a trait that pugs are born with – but she’s the only pug who helps me out this way.


Cleaning a Pug’s Nasal Fold (or “Nose Roll”)

Today, I’ll give step-by-step instructions on how to clean a pug’s nasal fold, or as it’s sometimes called, a nose roll. This area must be cleaned regularly, all the way down to the bottom, where it’s dark and damp – just what bacteria and yeast look for when they peruse the real estate ads for a place to raise their families. If those nasty bugs move in, they do not make good tenants: They can do a lot of damage to their living quarters, and can cause nasty skin infections.

In last week’s post (Feb. 1, 2016) I wrote about Sarah’s having most of her nasal fold surgically removed, along with her errant eyelashes, because of damage to her eyes. Although her nasal fold is nearly gone – along with a large chunk of change for her surgery – I still must clean the valleys from which her mountainous fold was excavated; these valleys remain a haven for germs. Because Sarah doesn’t have a real nasal fold to show you, Charlie (below), a former foster dog from Pug Rescue of North Carolina, will model how the cleaning is done.

17-1 Charlie model

Before you start, choose the item you’ll use for cleaning, and have it handy. A number of things can be used, e.g., cotton balls, cotton-tipped swabs, a thin washcloth (laundered daily), or unscented baby wipes (perfumes may irritate the dog). Dog eye wipes also work; they’re safe for the skin, and handy if you’re cleaning the dog’s eyes at the same time, but they’re the most expensive option. I often use white cotton gloves because I wear these at night, so old (laundered) ones are always available. Some suitable items are shown here:

17-2 cleaning supplies

The process for cleaning the nasal fold (or, in our pug Sarah’s case, the valleys left after its surgical excavation) has three steps:

  1. Examine the nasal fold, all the way down to the bottom.
  2. Clean the area with wet material until the material comes back clean after wiping.
  3. Finally, dry the area.

Let’s look at each step:

To examine the nasal fold, spread it apart with your fingers so you can see the bottom. Look at it and sniff it. If the skin is red, raw, or swollen, or if it smells bad, it may be infected; call your veterinarian if you’re unsure. If it gets worse or is not getting better in a day or so, a call to the vet definitely is in order; sometimes an antibiotic is needed.

Charlie cooperates when I examine his nasal fold (below), but you may need to use two fingers, or have someone available to hold the pug’s head the first time you do this.

17-3 Charlie nasal fold light


To clean the area: If using a cloth, wet it with warm water and wrap part of it over your finger. Do not use alcohol; it may sting the dog’s sensitive nose, and it dries out the area too much.

Below, I wrap a thin, wet washcloth around my finger.

17-4 finger in cloth


Then I wipe the bottom of Charlie’s nasal fold from one side to the other (below). Charlie seems to enjoy this.

17-5 Charlie cleaning


If the cleaning item comes up dirty  (and it may be even dirtier than the cloth below), repeat the process with a clean section of the wet cloth.

17-6 Dirty washcloth crop


Continue the process until the cloth comes back clean (below).

17-7 clean washcloth crop


Then, gently wipe the area dry, e.g., with a dry part of the washcloth (as I do below) or a fresh cotton ball. Leaving the area damp invites germs or yeast to move in and multiply.

17-8 dry Charlie

I clean our pugs’ nasal folds daily, usually after breakfast, when their faces are messy anyway. It’s amazing how much gunk can gather in 24 hours!

If a pug rubs his face against walls, carpeting, or anything else, he may be signalling that his nasal fold needs cleaning. When we first brought Sarah home, she alerted us to this need: She smeared brown goop from her nasal fold onto the corners of the walls – and then she happily licked off the offensive substance. (Food hog that she is, she probably was disappointed when I started cleaning the stuff off her nasal fold before she could rub it onto the walls and snack on it.)

Nasal fold cleaning also is part of the care for our foster pugs. Two foster pugs and two Harrington pugs are shown below.

17-9 Maija & 4 pugs

The Pug’s Hallowed Nasal Fold

I learned first hand – or second, if you count our pug Sarah as being first – that the “beautiful, beguiling, bulging eyeballs” (see my January 25, 2016 blog) are at the mercy of a pug’s nasal fold (also called a nose roll). This is a section of skin that wraps around the top and sides of a pug’s nose, just below the eyes. The nasal fold originates from the skin that once covered the long-ago, long-gone long snout that was bred out of the pug breed.

16-1 Pug nasal fold

This adult pug has a normal-sized nasal fold.

Photo from

A large nasal fold is prized by dog show judges. Our Sarah, a dog-show dropout, was born with a nasal fold of wondrous proportions. Unfortunately, a large nasal fold is not such a prize from a pug’s point of view. In fact, it can have a devastating impact on a pug’s ability to see. It’s not that the pug can’t see over the nasal fold – although I suppose that might be possible with some pugs.


This young pug has a large nasal fold.

photo from


16-3 adult large nasal fold

This adult pug has a very large nasal fold.

Photo from

What a big nasal fold definitely may do, because of its size and weight, is to exert pressure on the lower eyelids. This can worsen an existing enropion, a genetic condition where the bottom lids roll inward, toward the eyes.


This is the right eye of a pug. The entropion, a lower lid that folds in toward the eye, is at the bottom of the eyeball, toward the pug’s nose. This particular entropion comprises about 1/4 of the bottom eyelid.  (This text is mine. Maija)

Entropion of the lower lid that has caused a corneal ulcer (as shown with fluorescein dye staining)  Photo and this caption are from:

An entropion can be especially serious when some of the bottom eyelashes already assert their individuality, as Sarah’s did, by growing toward the eye instead of away from it. These errant eyelashes, called distichiae, grow from the inner aspect of the eyelid, behind the normal eyelashes.

16-5 distichia

This photo shows several distichiae, growing toward the eyeball.

Photo from

 In Sarah’s case, the pressure from her impressive nasal fold caused those pesky lower eyelashes to scratch the cornea, the clear covering that protects the iris and the pupil. As a result, by 16 months of age, her corneas already were scarred; unchecked, the scarring could have progressed to blindness. Fortunately, a veterinary ophthalmologist, or animal eye doctor, stopped the progression in its tracks by removing those prickly bottom lashes – along with most of that hallowed nasal fold.

16-6 S&H on couch

Note the nearly absent nasal fold on Sarah (left) vs. the intact nasal fold on Harley (right). Only the areas affecting Sarah’s eyes were removed; what remains is on top of her nose.

Although we joke that our female pug had to have a facelift before she was 18 months old, the surgery did produce the desired result; over 12 years later, Sarah can still see.

But that’s not all: More about the nasal fold next week….

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


Lost and Found

At our former home in the country, grass refused to grow in a large shady patch in the back yard. Seeing that we could not win the battle to grow a green lawn there, my husband Bill and I decided to cover the area with mulch, plant a few flowers, and declare victory. A landscaper built an enclosure around the shady section and dumped a mountain of mulch in it. Bill conveniently (for him, not me) managed to be unavailable, so I recruited our pugs Harley and Sarah to help spread the mulch in the boxed-in area.

14-01 S&H on leaves 2004

The pug landscapers dug in energetically and gleefully. They were, perhaps, more industrious than accurate in their shoveling, but they did work at it – and with their bare feet, no less. In fact, they made more progress than I did; it was clear that I’d need to hire a human landscaper to finish the job. But the pugs didn’t know that, and they toiled away enthusiastically all morning.

After all that exertion, my pugs joined me for a nap.

14-02 S&H on bed crop

I fell asleep without washing up, so when I awoke, I was ready for a bath. As I arose, Sarah briefly opened her eyes; seeing that I wasn’t going anywhere of interest to her (that is, to the kitchen), she went back to sleep. Harley, who was losing his hearing and, therefore, sleeping through most normal sounds, didn’t wake at all.

I was reluctant to leave Harley on the bed because he got anxious whenever he woke up and didn’t see me. But, looking forward to taking a bath unaccompanied by canine critters, I convinced myself that he’d be fine. The bathtub was less than six feet from the bed, and I always leave the bathroom door open; so if Harley woke up while I was still in the tub, he should be able to find me easily, right? With our doggy “handicap ramp” alongside our bed, he could get on and off without injuring his arthritic back and legs. So I got up to take a bath.

However, a minute or so after I lowered myself into the luxury of a hot tub, I saw Harley scrambling down the doggy ramp. But instead of checking for me in the bathroom, he raced out the bedroom door. I could hear the familiar clack-clack, clack-clack of his footsteps as he frantically ran through the house, searching for me. With his increasing deafness, he couldn’t hear my efforts to call him. His vision was poor, too: He knew his way around the house, but his eye for detail, well, wasn’t.

As I started to get out of the tub to go find him, Harley charged into the bathroom. I expected him to greet me joyously. Instead, without a glance in my direction, he flew past me and the bathtub, straight toward the toilet. Evidently he’d caught sight (or scent) of my jeans, which were hanging off the toilet seat where I’d tossed them.

14-03 Jeans on toilet crop

Harley began prancing excitedly around the dangling legs of those jeans, sensuously rubbing his body against them while he happily wagged his coiled-up tail and wiggled his whole body in absolute ecstasy. It took me a moment to comprehend that he was doing this in the mistaken but definite belief that the empty legs of my jeans contained the actual legs of my body.

There I was, less than three feet away from him, but unseen and unheard by my beloved Harley. Smiling, with tears in my eyes, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be honored or insulted, as I saw the love and joy radiating from the clouded eyes of this dear, sweet old dog, my Velcro pug, as he looked up adoringly at what he was certain was his recently re-found mommy’s face: the bottle of toilet bowl cleaner on top of the tank….

14-04 Toilet cleaner crop.

The Banshee Shrieks

One day shortly after we adopted our pug Sarah, I was straightening the master bedroom, placing little knick-knacks on the bed so our once-a-month cleaning lady, Louise, could dust the dresser tops. Suddenly, the quiet was interrupted by the most ungodly screech I’ve ever heard: an incessant, continuous, guttural-sounding “Grgrgrgrgrrraaaauuuurrrrrghghghghghghghghchchchchchch!”

Louise, running to the bedroom from the other end of the house, breathlessly called, “Maija, are you all right? Should I call 911?” After I assured her that I was fine, she exclaimed, “Lord, I thought you were being murdered! What was that awful sound? It scared me half to death!”

That awful sound was just Sarah, being enthusiastically vocal about guarding our home. She was emitting what we’ve come to call her “banshee shriek.” Without consulting my husband Bill or me, Sarah decided early on that her most important job is to keep the home front safe from the menacing monsters that populate our neighborhood.

Ch8-01 Sarah on guard

Neither Bill nor I had known that monsters lurk in the guises of everyday mechanical conveyances, such as motor vehicles and lawn mowers. We learned that Sarah has a remarkable hatred of white vehicles, especially FedEx trucks; but she protects us from brown UPS trucks as well. She also despises yellow school buses. probably because she’s observed them swallowing children, whom she considers to be her best friends (even if she hasn’t met them yet).

These monsters apparently are dangerous only when they’re in motion or have just come to a stop. Parked vehicles don’t trouble her a bit, unless she observed them in motion before they stopped. Furthermore, she happily rides inside moving cars.

Nonetheless, Sarah does an excellent job of guarding us. She rushes to the window as soon as she suspects that a monster is in the area. She promptly sets about dispatching it out of the neighborhood before it can do any damage.

Indeed, we have not had a monster invade the house since Sarah joined our household.

Ch7-01 Sarah sit cropped no snout


Tracheal Collapse

Pugs and other small dogs such as the Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, Lhasa apso, chihuahua, and miniature poodle are especially likely to experience a collapse of the trachea. The trachea, or wind pipe, is a flexible tube surrounded by rings of cartilage that help keep the trachea open so the dog can breathe. Dr. Karen Becker, in “Tracheal Collapse: If Your Dog is Coughing or Gagging, This Could Be Why” (May 2012), compares the trachea to a vacuum cleaner hose, with rings that hold the hose open. The term “tracheal collapse” refers to the chronic and progressive disease that eventually causes the “hose” to close off.

12 trachea

Diagram from

Dogs may be born with tracheal cartilage that is weak or especially likely to become weak. As the dog ages, or if pressure is put on the trachea, the trachea my close off, “leaving the dog trying to pull air through what is essentially a closed straw,” as Dr. Becker says.

When taken on a walk with a leash attached to his collar, a pug is at risk of having too much pressure put on his throat, especially if he doesn’t want to go where his human wants to go. If the human pulls on the collar (with the leash), this may increase the possibility of a complete tracheal collapse.

12 collar 1Because complete tracheal collapse is a life-or-death emergency, veterinarians often recommend using a harness instead of a collar for pugs and other small dogs. For our pug Sarah, I’ve tried using just about every type of harness on the market.
12-03 harness12-05 harness12-04 harness

However, especially during her early years, Sarah viewed all harnesses as overly restrictive articles of clothing. Wearing a harness, our perky, happy-go-lucky little pug would turn into a fearful, nervous-looking mutt. She’d stand stock-still, convinced that movement was impossible with the constraints being placed on her body.

12-01 Sarah harness, tail down

(Here’s Sarah in her harness. Notice how she loses the curl in her tail – a visible sign that she’s upset.)

When I gave Sarah a little nudge to show her that movement really was possible with a harness on, she’d hesitantly take a few steps sideways, crab-like, toward the door. Once outside, instead of trotting along gaily in her usual carefree fashion, she’d slink along with her tummy nearly to the ground and her tail held tightly between her legs, looking like a victim of intolerable cruelty. Worse, with a harness on, she usually wouldn’t relax enough to do her “business” – making the whole exercise of putting on a harness to go out rather pointless. Fortunately, for most of this time, we had a doggie door to a large fenced back yard, so we didn’t always have to go on leashed walks.

Now that we’ve retired to an apartment with no yard, Sarah wears her harness each time she goes out. She’s even found that she really can do her business with a harness on, as we continue to try to keep tracheal collapse at bay.

For more about tracheal collapse, click on this link: