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Meet Wild Thang, the Toothless Pekingese Crowned World’s Ugliest Dog

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The typical reaction when a dog passes by on the street with their pet parent is “wow, what a cute dog.” But those not-so-adorable dogs deserve some love as well. To celebrate these pups, Petaluma, California, has been hosting a “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest for the past 50 years. Before you get too offended, know that there is a kind-hearted mission behind the event. The contest, per the organizers, “is not about making fun of ‘ugly’ dogs, but having fun with some wonderful characters and showing the world that these dogs are really beautiful!”

And on that note, the 2024 winner was one very deserving pup. Meet Wild Thang, an 8-year-old Pekingese who has competed in the contest five times! The pup, who is toothless and has a tongue that hangs adorably to the side, is also adorned with a poofy mop of hair—and a very big heart.

Wild Thang was born and raised in Los Angeles and contracted distemper as a puppy. He survived, just barely, and in addition to the teeth and tongue ordeal, was left with frog legs that paddle 24/7.

Wild Thang’s contestant bio describes him as “a healthy, happy, Glugy (glamorous/ugly) guy.” His life’s mission is to inspire pet parents to get their beloved animals vaccinated. And if that isn’t impressive enough, he also has an Instagram account where he documents his daily adventures and mission to find homes for other Pekingese pups in need. He has even raised donations through GoFundMe to help get Pekingese living in the war zone in Ukraine to safety. 

Photo credit: Will Bucquoy for the Sonoma-Marin Fair

What to know about canine distemper

Canine distemper is a highly infectious virus that can spread between dogs in the air, through direct contact between dogs, or through contaminated items. “Luckily, canine distemper is almost completely preventable with vaccination, which is nearly 100 percent effective,” says Dr. Rhiannon Koehler, a veterinarian in Overland Park, Kansas. Wild Thang’s exposure as a puppy is an example of why puppies should not be around other dogs until they’re fully vaccinated.

Most dogs who get infected with canine distemper and progress to have neurological signs do not survive. And those who do may have more severe side effects than Wild Thang. 

“Residual twitches and spasms like Wild Thang’s leg paddling are common in distemper survivors, but some survivors of canine distemper also have seizures,” Dr. Koehler says. “And yes, dogs who get infected with canine distemper before their permanent teeth develop often have permanent damage to their teeth.” 

In these pups, the adult teeth often still grow in, but it’s common for distemper to cause the enamel on adult teeth not to form correctly, so these teeth will have pits in them and appear stained. 

“I am glad Wild Thang still seems to have a good quality of life and that his family members are using the experience to educate people on the importance of vaccinating,” Dr. Koehler says. 

From the big goofy smile on this pup’s face during his victory lap around the crowd (see video here), it’s safe to say he’s thrilled to be finally taking home the title. He’s a worthy World’s Ugliest Dog champion, indeed!

Featured image photo credit: Will Bucquoy for the Sonoma-Marin Fair