Pink pugs are indeed all the rage right now, and for good reason. They have everything a ‘standard’ pug brings to the table – cute little faces, adorable personalities and that carry-on size – in addition to a lovely cream coloured coat and an adorable pink nose. In fact, if you’re looking at a genuine ‘pink pug’, all of its skin will be a very pale pink – not forgetting those delightful paws which are also a pale but rosy pink!
Well, this is not without some controversy. Arguably, there are 6 main colouration patterns for pugs, though not all kennel clubs recognise all of them.
The Kennel Club recognises and will register four colours for pugs – black, fawn, apricot and silver.
All of these patterns have black masks and ears (though it doesn’t really stand out on the black pugs!)
Next are the more controversial brindle and ‘pink’ pugs.
That depends on which kennel club you work with. The KC, for example, allows you to register a pure bred pink (or brindle) pug, but you must register it as a “colour not recognised” on the KC paperwork. This will almost certainly mean it will not be eligible for dog shows and could negatively affect its status for future breeding. Any colour not on their list is by definition “highly undesirable”.
Simply put, every true pink pug has a rare genetic disorder called albinism. Some members of many species have a gene mutation which causes a complete lack of melanin. Humans, gorillas, dogs, cats, rats, deer, dolphins, bison, lizards, fish and many other animals can be born with albinism, and will therefore lack the ability to produce melanin. Melanin is the chief pigment in animal hair, skin and other tissues. By the same virtue, human pigmentation will define your skin colour and what race you are born into.
That is difficult to say with any certainty. Albinism is a common mutation in many species of animals, not just dogs, and selective breeding is known to make congenital defects more common. Pugs date back to ancient China, and many individuals are likely to have been born with albinism over the centuries, in different times and places.
The difference is that this genetic trait has only just become ‘marketable’, so few breeders before now would have bred ‘pink’ pugs with the intention of getting more. It was usually seen as a defect and discounted by breeders. Serious breeders will have acknowledged these as ‘runts of the litter’ and would have remained unsold.
Well, like with most fads, both novelty and celebrity could be to blame. One celebrity in the UK, Kerry Katona (star of Skint and ex-member of Atomic Kitten pop band) showed off her new albino pug, said to have been purchased for £15,000.
This is part of a larger trend that has been going on for years. Celebrities, often but not always women, seek to be seen with their ‘rare and costly’ dogs. Often these are ‘teacup’ varieties or unusual breeds which all too frequently are rare because so few truly healthy individuals are born to each litter.
Keep in mind, this is in no way new. Highly specialised, unusual dogs have been displayed as status symbols for hundreds if not thousands of years. Toy poodles, French bulldogs, and even larger breeds like Afghan hounds with their long, luxurious and highly impractical coats have been prized possessions for the very wealthy, or at least for those who wish to be seen as very wealthy. In some ways, the more impractical, delicate or even incapacitated the animal is, the more it serves to demonstrate the owner’s wealth and power.
Now, that isn’t to say that every person in the small but growing ‘pink pug club’ is completely cynical. It is hard to own a pug without coming to love it, and I would like to believe that most of these people form a loving relationship and a true bond with their pets. The sad truth, though, is that some will tire of them once the animals’ perceived ‘wow’ factor fades.
That all depends on how you take your media. Some pieces are crafted solely to appeal to the short-term fad, hyping the animals’ relative rarity, attractive features and association with celebrities.
Others (like this one, also from the Sun) seek to explain what pink pugs are more than they do to cash in in the novelty if the animals. They even note a few of the dangers albino animals face.
Technically, yes. Though there is a similar condition where a dog or other animal can lack pigment everywhere except their eyes. Such animals are ‘leucistic’ and are not true albinos. If a dog is all white (or pale cream, in the case of naturally darker animals) but has blue eyes, they are leucistic, not albino. It is unclear at this time whether leucistic pugs are being commercially bred on a wide scale, or if they are being marketed as ‘pink’ pugs.
Another issue is that many unscrupulous breeders are selling very pale, non-albino silver fawn pugs as ‘pink pugs’ at the inflated price which has become standard for the rare creatures. On one level, these pet owners are being cheated, and should not have to pay so much for a breed which isn’t technically all that rare. On the other hand, if the pug does not suffer from albinism, it will be much, much easier to care for, and much more likely to get through its life without ocular disorders, blindness or skin cancer. There is an argument that a non-albino pug which looks sufficiently like a pink pug might be the better buy.
Silver fawn pugs have a very nearly white fur coat, and indeed are sometimes mis-sold as pink pugs. However, it is very easy to tell the difference. Silver fawn pugs are not albinos and have the normal amount of melanin pigment in their skin. That means they will have the ‘black mask’ and black ears normal to all other pug colours.
Well, they’re albinos, and that makes them especially vulnerable to UV light, which is an important part of sunlight. Any person or animal with albinism has to be extremely careful about exposure to the sun or other strong UV light sources. They sunburn extremely easily and are much more likely than non-albinos to contract skin cancer from exposure to levels of UV light, which would fail to even raise a ‘sun tan’ on most other creatures. More importantly, bright light with a significant UV content can damage their eyes, leading to eventual blindness.
This is not actually a ‘disorder’ in many animals who live far from the sun. Albinism is the norm for many deep-sea creatures or those which live in caves or under the ground, as they are never exposed to dangerous levels of UV. In fact, the fact that they don’t spend any metabolic energy protecting against this non-threat gives them a genetic advantage. Animals like dogs and humans with albinism, though, are at risk.
Humans, of course, can take care of themselves, wearing high powered sun block and wearing specially tinted glasses to protect their skin and eyes from the sun. Animals are unable to take these precautions, or indeed to understand why they are necessary. If you’ve ever tried to get a dog to wear sunglasses even for long enough to take a picture, you’ll know what we mean.
That is of course something only you can decide. A pink pug can be just as loving and lovable as any other pet and can bring great joy into your life. It will, however, be more difficult to care for, as it does have a genetic disorder.
If you can devote the time and attention to the animal that it needs to thrive, and indeed enjoy caring for animals with special needs, then there is no reason you shouldn’t buy, adopt or care for a pink pug.
That can vary dramatically from breeder to breeder. The good news is that you’d have to try very hard to spend £15,000 on one.
Scanning UK resources like Pets4Homes, you can find puppies going for between £600 and £750, but also upwards to the level of around £2000. Compare that to more ‘typical’ coat colours, which go for around £500 and you can see there is a hefty premium on the pink ones.
Pink pugs need special care in order to live long, healthy lives. And they can, indeed, live long healthy lives. Nothing in albinism specifically shortens their life spans or dooms them to chronic pain. But… you must find a way to mitigate the threat of UV light.
Simply put, you should keep any albino dog out of direct sunlight, especially in the brightest part of the day, summer or winter. Sunscreen might be an option but it is generally considered better to buy a special bodysuit for the dog which keeps the sun off its skin. If you do use sunscreen, consult your veterinarian about which type to use, and be prepared to switch if it irritates your dog’s skin. Sunscreens containing PABA are typically not advisable, as that chemical is understood to be toxic to dogs.
You’ll also need a pair of ‘doggy sunglasses’ which are designed to be both comfortable for dog and very difficult for the dog to remove. This is vital, even if the dog seems to ‘hate’ the sunglasses (most don’t mind them after a while). Without them, the dog’s vision could be permanently impaired.
The good news is that rumours of deafness being linked to albinism in dogs and cats are merely rumours. Experts agree that deafness is not linked to albinism in any way. This is a trait linked to a few specific breeds, primarily Dalmatians, which do have a tendency towards congenital deafness. Pink pugs are no more likely to be born deaf or to become deaf later in life than any other type of dog.
Not surprisingly, they generally disapprove of any major efforts to breed pink pugs. You must remember that albinism is a potentially crippling and life-shortening disorder, and these organisations have substantial ethical concerns with any attempt to breed dogs with congenital health problems in order to make these health problems more common.
The Dogs Trust advises great caution when looking for pink pugs or other albino animals, as they have been associated with unethical ‘puppy mills’ and even animal smuggling.
The UK’s Kennel Club cautions buyers about seeking unusual colours generally, and for the same reasons. They advise using only breeders who are part of the KCs Assured Breeder Scheme to avoid unethical practices.
So, what do you think? Are ‘pink pugs’ worth the extra care and risk of medical disorders, or is it unethical to breed albino dogs? As always, we welcome all respectful comments below.
Photo Credit taken from Instagram of Mister Cornelius.
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