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Part 2 in our series on pugs and food.

This is a very hot topic generally and it’s one that I take very seriously. Hands down, the biggest health challenge we see in the rescue is obesity in the dogs who come to us. Many rescues get dogs that are too thin, but we tend to get dogs who need to lose weight, often significant amounts of weight.

The breed standard for pugs says they should be 14 to 18 lbs. However, it is more common for us to see dogs who are heavier than that in their ideal weight. The point of this blog won’t be “your dog should be 14 to 18 lbs”, but your dog should be whatever their ideal weight is. My pug is within the breed standard at 15 lbs and is, admittedly, leaner than many, but I also do sports with her, hike with her and adjust her food intake pretty regularly.

One of the things that I think confuses people is that pugs in the show ring often are very heavy. Judging notes for pugs say “no waist, no tuck up”. In my not so humble opinion, that makes for a fat dog. So if all you’ve ever seen are pugs in the show ring, then it makes sense that you think that fat is how they should look. There are lots of words used to dodge the “fat” moniker…cobby, heavily muscled, square shaped. But it all essentially ends up being fat if the dog has no waist and no tuck up.

When we get in an obese pug, it also means there are a number of veterinary care items we cannot do until the dog loses some weight. Anaesthesia is significantly riskier with a fat dog of any breed, but especially a brachycephalic breed. As a result, vet care is slowed way down while we get the weight off.

Much as we’d like to believe that pugs are just adorable couch potatoes, we do them a massive disservice, shorten their lives and create joint issues when we let them get fat. And yes, as anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, it is way easier to pack it on than it is to take it off. But the basics are the same…..control intake and exercise.

And exercise doesn’t mean you have be out there doing Parkour, but your dogs does need to get regular exercise. Hiking in the many green spaces around Ontario is one way. Classes in agility are another. Fetch and tug and doing regular little work outs in the house all help. I am also going to say that I am a big fan of having dogs that are not only not fat, but are also fit. I like to see muscle on my dogs, not just an absence of fat. There are so many options for keeping dogs fit and trim these days.

Do be aware of what you feed and how much and what the fat content is in the food you feed. You CAN use treats with your pug and not have them get fat. I do a lot of training with my dogs and it always involves a food reward. What I do is make sure they are getting small treats (about half the size of my baby finger nail) and I tend to use single ingredient treats - organ meat, fresh fruit and vegetables (do check that whatever you are using is safe for dogs) and if I’m in a heavy training rotation, I reduce food portions for their meals. I do think feeding twice a day is a better option than once a day. Waiting to eat for a 24 hours is a long wait.

I take my dogs to the vet five or six times a year just to weigh them. I know that because I see them every day, I can fail to notice if they are getting chunky. So if this an option for you (and I know with the pandemic this option is not available all the time), please do it. It also gives your dog a nice visit to the vet where nothing dramatic or scary happens and can help to turn your dog’s attitude around about going to vet (if they are worried about it).

Take a good look at the Body Condition Scale posted below and it will give you an idea of where your dog should be. Bottom line, you SHOULD be able to feel your pug’s ribs without the use of sonar.


This is part one of a two part series….the next blog will be on weight in pugs.

Things you need to know about my perspective on feeding dogs:

* There is no one perfect food for every dog. What works for my dogs may not work for yours.

* Dog food is a HOT topic. I’ve seen more civil discussions about the death penalty and abortion.

* Approach resources on dog food with skepticism. Not all research is the same or as rooted in solid principles.

* Vet diets are not the work of Satan.

* Unless you are a credentialed animal nutritionist, then you should not be designing your dog’s food

What to Look For

I will be talking about feeding healthy dogs and only barely scratching the surface of specific medical issues.

While I do not feel vet diets are all necessarily bad, I don’t generally use them for my healthy dogs. I have fed a wide range of foods over the last 40 years….kibble, raw, home cooked, etc. What I want to see in a dog food is a recognizable protein (assuming the dog is NOT on a low protein diet due to health issues). I want to see more specificity than “animal by-products”. I prefer for a meat protein to be in the first 3 listed ingredients. I prefer not to feed foods that are pea/legume heavy or corn/wheat/soy heavy.

I have active dogs….we do sports and hikes so I prefer a higher protein and am not opposed to a somewhat higher fat content, because my dogs ARE active. I will say that I have tended to feed my seniors a fairly high protein diet (assuming no kidney issues) because I have found that it did help with geriatric wasting. Most diets specifically for seniors have tended to have a lower protein than I like…but again, my dogs are active throughout their lives.

I like a food that has a variety of formulas. Many of my older dogs, that I adopted as older dogs, had food allergies/sensitivities which seriously limited what I could feed them so when I do find foods they can eat, I strive to find more than one protein they can consume and I rotate them. My current two (one pug aged 9 and one mutt aged 4) have had their foods rotated since coming to me…both came to me as puppies. They get a rotation of kibble, dehydrated/freeze dried raw and “true” raw.

I also am not stingy with treats and tend to focus on single ingredient treats, most of which I make myself. But there are very good commercial treats out there. I want to see that the food I’m feeding has met standards…..this is easier with kibble and harder with raw food.

Amount to Feed and How Often

I generally ignore whatever amounts are written on the bag. It is often more than my dogs need. Appropriate amounts can also vary based on age, activity of the dog, fat/carb/protein content of the food.

As a general rule, with my two dog who are both between 6.8 and 7 kgs, I feed no more than 1/3 cup twice a day….and most often feed ¼ cup. I vary between 1/3 and ¼ based on their activity, how much training we are doing (cause they get a lot of treats during training) and weather. In the heat of the summer, we are not as active….so smaller amounts.

I have fed some of my seniors 3 or 4 meals a day as I have found a few of them needed to have more frequent meals and one small meal in the evening to avoid morning nausea….again, I didn’t give them MORE, I just divided up what would have been in two meals into 3 or 4.

Medical Issues

I am not going to wade into these waters too deeply except to say that there are any number of medical issues that may require a veterinary diet. We have seen this many times in the rescue with diabetes, protein losing enteropathy, liver disease, kidney disease and certain kind of uroliths (urinary crystals and stones) to name just a few. Dogs with medical issues like the ones mentioned DO need specific diets and generally the BEST diets are the veterinary ones. You might be able to find alternative diets, but that would require a consultation with an animal nutritionist/veterinary nutritionist. This is not something you can freelance.

Calculating Food Amounts

There are a variety of food calculations. This is the one I prefer because I’m mathematically challenged and this one does most of the hard work for me:



Evaluation of Canadian raw diets:


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