A Complete Diet & Nutrition Guide For Pugs (And Foods To Avoid)


Nothing motivates a pug more than food does. A well-fed pug makes for a very happy dog. However, it can be a slippery slope with food as they are prone to packing on the pounds if not careful. Along with exercise, understanding their nutritional needs is vital to maintaining their health and longevity.

A pug’s diet will vary based on their age and lifestyle. The quality, quantity, and frequency of their meals need to be considered carefully at each stage of their life. An adult pug should ideally weigh between 14-18 pounds, and be fed 2-3 times per day.

Establishing good eating habits doesn’t just mean feeding your pug high quality ingredients. You also need to be aware of foods that they must avoid, as these can be very harmful to their health. Diet and nutrition is part of their overall care, and there are many more factors to consider.

Quantity: Serving Size by Age

Pug puppies need to be fed one ounce of food per one pound of their body weight. It’s normal for a pug to have a big appetite during their first 10 months. They need to be on a specialized diet to ensure that they grow at a healthy rate, and during this time, they may gain between 13% to 17% of their body weight. If they’re not gaining at this rate, speak to your vet to rule out potential health issues like worms and other parasites. They may even prescribe your pup with a prozyme supplement to aid their digestive track to enable nutrients to be absorbed better.

As adults (from two years old), the amount is halved. This will however vary based on their lifestyle, for example, more calories will be burnt if a pug is more active. This means more calories and nutrients are needed to sustain a healthy pug. The general rule of thumb is to feed an adult pug about 1 cup of food each serving. For best practice, it’s advised that you follow the packaging instructions that’s listed on the label. Each brand will vary in serving size, as they’ll have different quality of ingredients.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of your dog’s weight, especially after every vet checkup. This will help you determine portion sizes when feeding, as they’ll likely be based on their weight. These packaging instructions will generally assume that your pug is getting their daily required exercise and are given snacks throughout the day. If your pug is more sedentary, then you might want to consider a smaller portion to reduce their calorie intake. Lastly, depending on the brand, suggested feeding portions may be for the day rather than per serving. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to split it based on how frequently you feed your pug.

Once a pug ages into their golden years, they’ll require a lot less food (typically 40 calories per pound of body weight). This is due to their metabolism slowing down, and lower activity levels; thus making it very easy for seniors to put on weight. Reducing their portion sizes can help you maintain a healthy weight range, but they’ll also need to ensure that their nutritional requirements are met.

Frequency: How Often Should I Feed My Pug?

When it comes to the frequency of your pug’s meals, owners have the options of free feeding and scheduled feeding. Free feeding is when a dog is given all of its food for the day in one bowl, so they can access it as they please. Scheduled feeding is when owners provide a dog’s meal to them in portions, usually split 2-3 times per day.

While some pets may be able to ration their meal portions out throughout the day, most dogs are likely to eat the whole day’s worth of food in one sitting. The pug is no different, and considering how much they love food, I would only recommend the scheduled feeding method. Not only will this prevent health issues like indigestion, but it’s much easier to keep their weight in check by being able to consistently adjust accordingly.

Pug puppies should be fed three times a day with several healthy snacks given between meals. Adult pugs can also be fed three times a day, but this can be adjusted to twice a day if necessary. Especially for those at work all day, you may only have time to feed them once in the morning, and then again in the evening. This is what I do, and my pug is completely fine with it. It should be noted that their total daily intake should remain the same to ensure they get the energy required. And of course, snacks and long lasting treats can be given to them in between meals as well.

Quality: Ingredients Matter

Puppy food needs to be nutritionally balanced with the right amount of calories, minerals, and vitamins. This is necessary for them to grow at a healthy rate through to adolescents and then adulthood. Ideally, it should contain high quality animal protein, and free from grains and soy, so that it’s easily digestible. The label should also state that it’s exclusive of chemical flavorings, colorings and preservatives.

Much like puppy food, not all adult dog foods are created equally, whether dry, wet or frozen. Cheaper dog foods (1-3 star rating) will usually contain some form of filler that holds no nutritional value. This means less vitamins, protein, benefits, and even calories, while containing unhealthy fats that’s bad for digestion. Fillers help plump up dog food so that it appears to be bigger and more than what it really is. Truthfully, your pug may only be ingesting 25%-75% of their required daily intake per serving. You also want to avoid ingredients such as cereals, grains, preservatives, artificial chemicals, and other by-products (coloring and artificial flavoring). They’re things that can cause flatulence and indigestion which may lead to other health problems down the line.

A good indicator to gauge whether the food given to them is nutrient dense enough for your pug to be at a healthy level is by monitoring their weight. If you’re feeding them their recommended serving but they’re seemingly losing weight or not gaining the necessary amount of weight, then perhaps you need to check the ingredients on the label. Filler components will pass right through the body, leading to constant hunger. There are resources available that can be used to research the best brand for your pug.

Look at changing your pug’s diet by feeding them higher quality foods that are rated 4-5 stars. Avoid anything that has “whole meat” listed as a primary ingredient as that’s mostly made up with water (up to 70% while only containing a maximum of 18% protein). Rather, you want to ensure they’re being fed “meat meal”, which will contain approximately 65% protein and only 10% water. Hot tip: Gradually introduce new foods by mixing it in with the old feed, and increase the ratio every time until their meals only consist of the new kibble mix. Pugs have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts, so that a drastic diet change may upset their stomach.

Finally, senior dog food is made specifically so that it’s easily digestible and with reduced calories. Because they tend to be less active and thus overweight, a higher proportion of ingredients should include vegetables and fibre content. Since an older dog’s sense of smell and taste isn’t as strong as they once were, it’s got to taste good to give them more incentive to eat it.

Wet Canned Food vs Dry Kibble

Pugs love food so much that both dry and wet foods are suitable for this breed. However, there are some pros and cons to both types of foods worth mentioning. For example, wet foods are more suitable for pugs that are more sedentary and overweight. It will usually contain less calories than dry foods. Also, if your pug has dental issues or is missing teeth, then it’ll be easier for them to eat the wet canned food.

Dry kibble is usually cheaper than wet food, easier to store, and is more practical on the go. You can even use them as treats for training. Dry dog food is also great for their teeth, as it can help remove plaque as they chew. It is a great option if your pug is more active since it contains a higher energy content and more nutrients to meet their caloric needs. Both can be great options depending on your dog’s situation, and you can even provide a mixture of both if that makes sense too.

Treats & Snacks

Treats should be strategically given for the purpose of training and providing some sustenance in between each meal. You need to be mindful of the snack that you give your pug due to how easily they can gain weight without the appropriate amount of exercise. If your pooch is on the heavier side and could do with a few less pounds, perhaps think about some healthier alternatives (we’ll discuss some options in a later section).

Avoiding table scraps that’s usually high in fats and processed carbohydrates is crucial to maintaining their weight. As responsible dog owners, we need to create a sense of separation between the foods that we eat, and what is given to them. If not, it increases their drive for more food as they’re not distinguishing what they can and cannot eat. Scheduling the time they’re fed a snack can help prevent begging behavior. This will usually come in the form of pawing, whinging and barking for food. While you may feel guilty, ignoring them is the best practice so that you don’t enable this behavior.

Using treats as a way to satisfy their hunger in between meals is a great idea. Think about how you can create a win-win situation when it comes to snack time. For example, your dog may have smelly breath, so use this opportunity to feed them a dental stick. Not only will it provide them with enough food to get by until the next meal, but it will also help improve their dental hygiene. Supplementation is important for their health, so if you can free two birds with one key, then that’s a great result.

Whether you’re in the process of potty training or teaching them a new command, aim to make your pug work for each treat. Using them as rewards to instill good behavior will make for a more obedient pug. Daily training is also a great form of mental stimulation. Eventually, you’ll be able to replace these treats with praises once they’ve learned whatever you’ve intended to teach them.

Home Cooking

Preparing and cooking meals for your pug can be an alternative to buying packaged pet food. There are benefits to this, but you must consult with your veterinarian to ensure the diet plan is optimal before implementing it. There could be ingredients that your pug is allergic to, so it’s important you don’t skip this step in order to avoid potential consequences. Ideally, this should only be an option if you’re more of an experienced dog owner. New dog owners have enough things to worry about, and it’s very easy to feed them something they shouldn’t be eating.

This is advantageous because you have much more flexibility in what you feed your dog. While most pugs won’t be picky eaters, it becomes a great option if they are. It’s also less costly if you’re using ingredients that’s already being bought for your own meals; though it does depend on what you’re buying. If your dog is suffering from an intolerance to something, it’ll be much easier to pinpoint with home cooking. You can implement an elimination diet, and remove ingredients from their meals one-by-one to see what is causing the reaction.

Preparing meals for your dog guarantees that there is absolutely no preservatives, additives, and other by-products. You’ll know exactly what is going into their meals. Below is a helpful table breaking down some popular ingredients you can use to create nutritious meals for your pug.

MeatVegetablesFruits
ChickenCarrotsBlueberries
TurkeyBroccoliRaspberries
BeefBeansStrawberries
FishZucchiniBanana
LambCauliflowerMango
PorkGreen BeansApples
GizzardsPeasStone Fruits

This ingredients list is by no means all a dog is able to eat. They’re simply some popular options that will be accessible for most people, regardless of where you live. A few things to note here: all meats should be de-boned and cuts should be on the leaner side; beans must be fully cooked; broccoli can cause flatulence so feed moderately; stone fruits need to be pitted; and apples need to have their cores (seeds included) removed.

Water Intake

Dogs should be drinking approximately 1 ounce of water (1/8 cup) per pound of body weight each day (PetMD, 2020). For a healthy pug, weighing between 14-18 pounds, they should be drinking about 1.5 to 2 cups of water (or about half a liter) everyday.

Not drinking enough water can lead to Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). You’ll notice blood mixed in with your dog’s urine and it can be very painful for them. To avoid this, you must ensure they have multiple water stations around the house and yard. Keeping their bowls clean and refilled with nice cold water will give them more incentive to drink it. If possible, try and use filtered water rather than tap water to avoid contaminants. When spending time outside, make sure you bring water along, especially if it’s hot.

Foods to Avoid: What Not to Feed your Pug

Not all foods are suitable for dogs, and for this reason, I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid giving your pug table scraps. While you may think you’re just spoiling them with the occasional treat, there is the possibility of feeding them something that can be toxic for them. Some foods will be obvious, but others won’t be. I’ve compiled a list of foods to avoid below:

  • Fruits – grapes, raisins, avocados, stone fruit pits, apple core and seeds.
  • Meat – chicken bones (can cause choking and even puncture their digestive tract), raw meat.
  • Vegetables – mushrooms, (raw) potatoes, onions, garlic, chives.
  • Nuts – macadamia.
  • Dairy milk, cheese and other dairy products (dogs are lactose intolerant).
  • Others – coffee, chocolates, tea, xylitol, alcohol.

Preventing Obesity Related Diseases

Pugs are prone to obesity related health problem if not cared for correctly. The combination of diet and exercise is very important when it comes to managing their weight. At the end of the day, it’s simply about calories in versus calories out. Although, I’m not saying you should be counting calories for your dog, as that will take a lot of unnecessary time and effort. Rather, you can judge whether they’re within a healthy weight range (14-18 pounds) by looking at their physique. They should have a muscular and sturdy frame. Their ribs should be covered by some fat and only detectable when touched. Their waist should be visible and not prominent.

An overweight pug can suffer from issues to their hip, back, and joint issues. The extra weight puts a lot of stress on these body parts, and can result in a luxating patella and hip dysplasia. A luxating patella is the dislocation of the patella from the femur, and is often referred to as “trick knees”. One leg will be visibly favored over another when moving around. Pugs affected will also have difficulty running, sitting, and getting up. Unless their weight is properly managed, a veterinarian will need to perform corrective surgery to fix the problem.

Hip Dysplasia is a skeletal condition and occurs when a hip joint ball and socket do not adequately fit. Separation of the bones within the joint will cause dogs to walk with a sway or “bunny-hopping” gait. The pain will make everyday tasks and activities harder to do, if not impossible. Obesity can increase the severity of this disease as the extra weight will intensify the degeneration of a pug’s hips and joints. Hip dysplasia can be treated with weight management, exercise limitations, physical therapy, joint supplements, and anti-inflammatory medications.

My Pug Is Always Hungry

Outside of factors that’s already been covered, like the quality, quantity, and frequency of your pug’s meals, there can be other reasons why your pug is always hungry. These health problems should be addressed immediately. Otherwise, it will make it very difficult to manager their weight. The table below is a breakdown of potential issues that may negatively impact and change their appetite:

Hyperadrenocorticism
(Cushing’s Disease)
Exposure to high levels of the cortisol hormon over a long period of time may increase hunger and thirst. While it does help dogs keep blood sugar level in check, fight infections, and respond to stress, but too much or too little of it can cause problems. Symptoms include panting, tiredness, hair loss, and skin infections (Fetch by WebMD, 2019).
Diabetes MellitusInsulin deficiency is more common for middle-aged dogs, which will affect a dog’s appetite as the cells in their body will continue to signal your dog that it’s still hungry (Bruyette, 2019).
Parasitism (Intestinal)This include hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. These parasites can lead a dog to eating while never fully feeling satisfied. These infections may bloat a dog, giving the appearance that it’s gained weight when it actually hasn’t. Malnourishment and an unhealthy rate of weight loss can also be a factor (American Kennel Club, 2015).
Pancreatic InsufficiencyIssues with the pancreas may result in your dog having the inability to produce enzymes to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. This leads to poor absorption of nutrients which may cause weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite (Williams, n.d.).
Intestinal IssuesInflammation of a dog’s gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) can lead to bacterial infections including viruses and parasites. A dog experience such issues can eat a lot while not feeling full as it may not have the ability to ingest enough nutrients. On the flip side, weight loss and a decreased appetite can also occur depending on the exact root cause. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (Hunter, n.d.).

Flatulence: Why Your Pug Farts So Much

Similarly to humans, food is broken down for nutrients in a dog’s intestinal tract. Any excess air that’s trapped here or in the colon will need to be expelled by farting. Pugs are known as speed eaters, mainly due to their genetic makeup. Their flat-faces allows them to inhale food much faster than other breeds of dogs. Farting in pugs is expected as a result of this.

There are “slow feeder” bowls that can slow down the pace of their eating. These bowls are constructed with obstacles that will forcefully stop your pug from inhaling large amounts of food. This helps reduce the amount of excess air from entering into their system, thus resulting in fewer farts from your dog. You can also try changing up their meal portions by feeding them less but more often to help control the amount of excess air that’s inhale.

As mentioned, avoiding fillers in their food and sticking to high quality ingredients is crucial for their diet. Fillers are made up of moisture and unhealthy fats, making it terrible for a pug’s digestion. Regular farting may also be an indication that they are intolerant to a particular food. When this happens, their gastrointestinal tract may get upset, causing bloating, flatulence, and even diarrhea. An elimination type of diet can help weed out the offending ingredients, but I would advise consulting with your vet beforehand. For more information, read our article on flatulence here.

Supplementation

Supplements can be really beneficial for pugs that are nutritionally deficient or in poor health. I would advise you to always speak with your vet before administering anything to ensure nothing goes wrong. They’ll also be able to prescribe the best available medicine and supplements for your specific pug.

Canine glucosamine is great for supporting a pug’s cartilage structure and joint function, especially if they suffer from arthritis. Fish oil can be great for their skin and coat, joint health, cardiovascular health, and preventing inflammation. Dental hygiene chews can help promote fresh breath by reducing the build-up of tartar and plaque. Canine probiotics and prozyme are supplements that promote good gut health and improve digestion. Most of these can be fed directly or applied/mixed into their meals.

There is also the option to supplement with natural foods if this is what you prefer. Blueberries contain important carotenoids for better eye health. Pumpkin helps reduce eye inflammation and promotes digestion. Eggs, liver, and salmon will help make your pug’s coat glow and their fur shine. Carrots and apples (seedless and core removed) do wonders for a pug’s teeth and breath.

Related Questions

What food can pugs not eat? Grapes, raisins, avocados, stone fruit pits, apple core and seeds, chicken bones, raw meat, mushrooms, (raw) potatoes, onions, garlic, chives, macadamia nuts, milk, cheese, coffee, tea, chocolates, alcohol, and xylitol.

Why do Pugs fart so much? Pugs are known as speed eaters because their flat-faces allows them to inhale food much faster than other dog breeds. The excess air that gets inhaled is expelled through farting. Try using slow feeders to reduce flatulence.

Can I feed my pug once a day? It is recommended that your pug is fed 2-3 times per day. Any forms of fasting needs to be discussed with your veterinarian before practicing. However, one meal a day is believed to help improve gut issues, the digestive system, and reduce inflammation.

References

PetMD, 2020. How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?

American Kennel Club, 2015. Dog Parasites.

Bruyette, D., 2019. Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats.

Fetch by WebMD, 2019. Cushing’s Syndrome in Dogs.

Hunter, T., n.d. Gastroenteritis in Dogs.

Williams, K., n.d. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs.

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