There’s something about Pugs that’s particularly adorable. Psychologists tell us that their circular faces, flattened noses and prominent eyes make them resemble human infants, which gives them a special appeal. They’re known for being charming little clowns.

Bruce was playing in the back garden when the accident happened. He’s an energetic, excitable dog, and he was dashing back and forth, chasing a leafy branch held by a friend of the family. Suddenly, he yelped and stopped playing: he’d bashed himself on the face, and he’d hurt his left eye.

At first, he seemed to get over the injury rapidly, starting to play again, and behaving normally in every way. It wasn’t till two days later that things deteriorated.  He started to rub his left eye with his paw, whining, yelping, and in obvious distress. He couldn’t open his eye properly; it was swollen, and a discharge trickled down from the corner, like a yellow tear drop. He was brought down to see me.

He wasn’t an easy dog to examine, wriggling and grumbling as I tried to get a close look at the sore eye. The surface of his eye was cloudy and after I’d applied drops of a special dye, I could see what was wrong: he’d scratched the front of the eye and it had become infected.

The surface of the eye has multiple microscopic layers, like the skins of an onion. If the surface of the eye (known as the “cornea”) is scraped or scratched, the delicate deeper layers are exposed, a problem known as a “corneal ulcer”. Aggressive bacteria can move into the injured area, producing acids and toxins, and causing even more damage. Corneal ulcers are very painful, and without treatment, they tend to progress, leading to permanent damage in some cases.

Pugs, like all dogs with bulgy eyes and flat noses, are particularly prone to damaging the surface of their eyes. If you look at the side-on profile of a pug, the surface of their eyes is at the front of the face. If a pug walks straight into something, it’s the eyes that make contact, rather than the tip of the nose. Eyes are sensitive, and they aren’t designed for this type of physical interaction with hard objects. For this reason, it’s very common for pugs to suffer repeated episodes of damaged eyes.

Bruce was treated with a combination of medication: several types of drops to be applied to his eyes, and pain relieving tablets. It wasn’t easy for Martina to put the drops in at first, because his eyes were sore, and he’s a powerful wriggler. She started to give him treats (such as morsels of ham) just after applying the drops. Once he realised that something good was coming after the drops, he soon began to relax.

Dogs with damaged eyes need to be monitored carefully; sometimes a visit to an eye specialist is needed. There are now advanced techniques for treating corneal ulcers, including special contact lenses, and complex microscopic surgical techniques to apply grafts of healing tissue over the damaged area. It can be expensive and worrying for owners, but the aim is always to restore the eye to full health. Without this specialist treatment, there’s a serious risk of complications that can result in the eye needing to be surgically removed.

Bruce was one of the lucky ones. I checked him three more times over the following two weeks, and he made a smooth, steady recovery. He’s now back to full health, but Martina’s taken this as a useful warning: from now on, Bruce will be much more careful when playing with sticks.


  • Pugs, and other bulgy-eyed-breeds of dog, are prone to damaging their eyes
  • A scratched eye – known as a corneal ulcer – can lead to permanent blindness if not treated properly
  • Most cases do respond well to simple veterinary treatment