Best Dog Food for Pugs in 2021

Published on

pug dog

Keep reading below for our review of the best dog food for pugs!

Pugs tend to be rather unhealthy dogs — and also quite smelly! It doesn’t take long after adopting one to discover just how terrible their gas can be. 

Obesity, joint problems, hip dysplasia, and breathing problems are all common health issues pugs face. Luckily, these can be partially managed by a healthy diet. Proper feeding can go a long way to keeping your pet healthy. 

For most dogs, we recommend Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food. This dog food contains omega fatty acids to improve joint health and high-quality meats to provide proper nutrition without tons of extra calories. 

Because many pugs need a diet that is designed for their specific health challenges, we’ve included several different options below for you to choose from. 

Best Dog Food for Pugs

10 Best Dog Foods for Pugs Reviewed

You’ll find the best dog foods for pugs in this section. We’ve included a variety of different recipes so that you can choose the best option for your canine. 

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Dog Food

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey Oatmeal
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Brown Rice
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, Glucosamine, Probiotics, Taurine
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Protein, 15% Fat, 4% Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 408 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult 
  • Best for: Adult pugs

This formula by Wellness is specifically designed for small breed dogs, which means the kibble being smaller so that your pug can digest it. 

The first ingredient is deboned turkey, followed by several other animal proteins. This formula is not grain-free, as it includes oatmeal and ground brown rice

However, all of these ingredients are quite high-quality and suitable for pugs. The high amount of animal meat increases the overall protein and fat content — which is exactly what our dogs need. 

It also includes a wide variety of other ingredients that may be helpful for your canine. 

For instance, omega fatty acids are included to support your dog’s coat and skin health, both of which are common issues for this breed.

Probiotics are included, supporting your canine’s digestive health, as well as antioxidants and taurine — an important nutrient for heart health.

This recipe includes glucosamine,which studies have found to support a dog’s joint health. Many pugs have issues with their joints, especially around their knees, so this is a big plus. 

All Wellness formulas are made in the USA, but they get their ingredients from various sources, including some international ones. 


Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat, Cracked Pearled Barley
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids, Probiotics, DHA
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Protein, 22% Fat, 3.5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 419 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; High-Protein
  • Life Stage: Puppies
  • Best for: Pug Puppies

Pug puppies don’t have many specific dietary needs; theirs are similar to other breeds. This means they just need increased protein and fat, when compared to adults, as they are growing.

Chicken and chicken meal are included as the first few ingredients. These are high-quality and suitable for most pug puppies. They provide the protein and fat they need to thrive as well as a variety of different amino acids. 

This formula is not grain-free. However, they are all high-quality, and if your dog isn’t sensitive to gluten there is little reason to choose grain-free foods.

Omega fatty acids are included through natural sources, providing some extra support to your pug’s skin and coat. Probiotics are also added to encourage digestive regulation, as these are important when your dog only eats their dog food. 

DHA provides support for your developing puppy’s eyes and brain, and there is absolutely no corn, wheat, or soy in this product.


Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food

Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Senior Food
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Protein, 12% Fat, 3.5% Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 388 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free; Gluten-Free; Weight Control; Sensitive Digestion; No Corn, Wheat, or Soy 
  • Life Stage: Senior
  • Best for: Senior Pugs

As pugs age, they may need a bit of extra support, so joint protectants are extremely important. 

Not all pugs necessarily need senior dog food. Seniors don’t have specific nutritional requirements, but if yours is more prone to certain health conditions this may be a good option — as senior dog food is designed to prevent these. 

This food includes high levels of omega fatty acids that may improve your dog’s coat and skin health, which many older dogs have trouble with, similarly to people. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin are also included. These additives help with joint health, which many older dogs have issues with. Pugs aren’t particularly prone to many joint problems, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be affected at all. 

The kibble size is quite small, allowing pugs to eat it easily, and the crunchy texture may help reduce plaque build-up. However, the evidence on dry food and dental health is a bit vague.

This formula is completely grain-free, making it suitable for dogs that are sensitive to gluten. This lack of grains may also reduce the production of gases. 


Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Canned Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Chicken Dinner
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Peas, Brown Rice
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamins and Minerals 
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 10% Protein, 7.5% Fat, 1.5% Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 214 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Wet Dog Food

Canned food is often a better option for pugs for many different reasons. Some include it being easier for small dogs to eat, and preventing obesity due its higher moisture level. 

However, wet food can also cause teeth problems, and make existing ones worse. And pugs have poor dental anatomy to start with! If yours already has dental issues, you may want to choose a dry food instead. 

Regular cleanings from your veterinarian are also a must and can off-set the use of wet food. 

With that said, the ingredients in this food are quite high-quality. Chicken is the first ingredient, followed by chicken broth. Some type of moisture is necessary when making wet food — otherwise, it wouldn’t be wet. 

Animal broth is often the best option, as it has higher amounts of protein and fat than water. We prefer broth over water in most dog foods. 

This formula appears to be mostly meat. However, it also includes carrots and peas. Brown rice is added as well, so this is not grain-free. But, as long as your dog isn’t allergic to grain, this food is a suitable option.

This food includes quite a lot of protein and fat — perfect for our canines. No by-products, corn, wheat, or soy are included, and no artificial ingredients are included in this dog food either. 


American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

American Journey Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Protein, 12% Fat, 6% Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 327 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Limited Ingredient Diet; Grain-Free; Chicken-Free; High-Protein; Sensitive Digestion; No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Best for: Allergies

Pugs are often affected by allergies, and these can be food or environmentally related. 

No dog food can help with environmental allergies. However, avoiding ingredients that your dog is allergic to can help prevent food allergies. In fact, it’s one of the only ways to prevent reactions. 

This food is designed to include very few ingredients, which helps dog owners avoid allergens. Deboned salmon and salmon meal are the only protein sources in this dog food. 

If your dog isn’t allergic to salmon, this food will likely be a solid option. 

However, it is not designed for small breeds, so the kibble is the average size you would expect in regular dog food. 

This food includes omega fatty acids, which are vital for skin and coat health. Salmon is naturally high in fish oils, and allergic reactions are often tied to skin and coat problems — making this additive particularly important for these canines.


Nulo Freestyle Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Salmon & Red Lentils Small Breed
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lamb Meal, Red Lentils
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 31% Protein, 17% Fat, 4% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 422 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, High-Protein, Low Glycemic
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Premium Option

This dog food is high in protein and fat. It includes 84% animal-based protein, so it is extremely digestible and complete. 

To make matters even better, the animal protein included in this food is incredibly varied. It includes salmon, turkey, fish, and lamb. With such a variety, you can rest assured that this food provides numerous amino acids, supporting your dog’s muscles. 

This natural dog food only includes the highest quality ingredients — most of which are meat. 

Formulated with many different vitamins and minerals, this food offers complete and balanced nutrition. It isn’t specifically designed to support a healthy weight, but the high protein may help your dog if they need to maintain it. 

Plus, the extra-small kibble size is perfect for smaller dogs. 

While the salmon and fish are already high in omega fatty acids, flaxseed is also included for a little extra oomph. This helps skin allergies, and similar coat and skin problems.


Diamond Naturals Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Food Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Ground White Rice, Grain Sorghum
  • Key Ingredients: Antioxidants, Omega Fatty Acids, Probiotics
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Protein, 16% Fat, 3% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 345 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Budget Option

For the price, this dog food is extremely high-quality. It includes chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients — two very high end options for any dog. As long as your canine isn’t allergic to chicken, this food should be more than suitable. 

Its lean protein can support lean muscle mass, and — while pugs aren’t the most active breed — supporting their muscles can never be a bad thing. 

Real fruits and veggies are provided throughout the ingredient list to improve vitamin and mineral intake as well as add extra antioxidants. 

Flaxseed and chia seeds are added to improve overall health and immunity, and probiotics are added to support healthy digestion. Many pugs are prone to digestive problems, so this additive may be essential for your canine. 

The included pumpkin could also support your dog’s digestion even further, though the evidence on this is mixed. 

Still, some dogs require a more expensive, specialized diet. We typically recommend trying a diet like this first, though, as it is much less likely to break the bank. 

This formula is crafted in a US facility using only the highest quality ingredients. However, these ingredients may come from all over the world.


Nutro Ultra Small Breed Weight Management Dry Dog Food

Nutro Ultra Small Breed Weight Management
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Rice Bran, Brewers Rice
  • Key Ingredients: Antioxidants, Omega Fatty Acids, Probiotics
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Protein, 10% Fat, 13% Fiber, 4% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 288 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Weight Control
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Weight Management

Pugs are notorious for becoming overweight. They are often not very active, and if they aren’t properly exercised and fed they may easily put on a few extra pounds.

However, their wide assortment of health problems may lead to even worse side effects from obesity.

For example, many pugs already have breathing problems due to their squished faces. Extra weight can make this even more difficult. 

If your canine is overweight, a weight management food may help you control the issue. We highly recommend this one by Nutro, as it features record-high fiber content — keeping your canine fuller for longer. 

The ingredients included are also high-quality, and chicken and chicken meal are the two main sources of meat. However, this is not a grain-free recipe, as it includes whole grain rice. 

So, as long as your canine does not have a chicken or grain allergy, this food should be a great option. 


Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Food
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Rice, Barley, Canola Meal, Fish Meal
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids, Prebiotics, Probiotics
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Protein, 17% Fat, 3% Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 478 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: High-Protein, Sensitive Digestion, Weight Control, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Sensitive Digestion

Pugs aren’t necessarily more prone to sensitive tummies than other dogs. However, that doesn’t mean that pugs don’t experience tummy issues. 

Some dogs just have more sensitive stomachs than others. If your canine falls into this category, you may want to consider this dog food by Purina. It is designed for small breeds and sensitive digestion. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine if a pug has stomach problems or not. Sometimes, they simply eat too much and then vomit — because they’re pugs!

The first ingredient in this recipe is salmon, which is packed full of omega 3s and omega 6s. Both of these ingredients can be paramount for supporting dry and itchy skin, and pugs often have these problems, so additives may help. 

This small breed dog food also contains smaller kibble — making it easier for your canine to chew. 

Both probiotics and prebiotics are included, and these may help calm your pet’s stomach over time. It’s important to note, however, that probiotics can lead to an increase in stomach issues for a short period of time. 

The formula is completely free from corn, wheat, and by-products. Many of the ingredients are high-quality, though there is a bit too much grain in it to be perfect.


Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
  • Key Ingredients: Omega Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, Probiotics
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Protein, 18% Fat, 4% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 370 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: High-Protein, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free
  • Life Stage: Adults
  • Best for: Grain-free

Pugs can be prone to food allergies. Often, chicken, beef, and grain are at the top. And that means the only way to relieve symptoms is to avoid the allergen. 

If your pug is sensitive to grain, we recommend this grain-free dog food. It includes high-quality proteins as the first few ingredients and relies on veggies, like sweet potatoes, instead of grain. 

It is extremely high in protein and fat. This ratio is what pugs (and nearly all dogs) need to thrive. 

Omega fatty acids are added to improve skin and coat problems — which often come hand-in-hand with grain sensitivities. 

Probiotics are also included, which may help support your dog’s immune system and digestion. To make this even better, species-specific strains are used for the best possible results. 

This formula is made in the USA and from local ingredients. However, some may be from international suppliers. 

There are also no artificial colors or flavors. 


pug smiling

Guide to Buying Dog Food for Pugs

Pugs are more prone to health problems than other dogs. Therefore, you need to put plenty of thought into their dog food. After all, dogs are what they eat. 

We’ll take a look at some of the most vital things to keep in mind below. 

Nutritional Requirements for Pugs

All dogs have similar macronutrient requirements. In fact, studies have found that protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs are remarkably similar across breeds.

Most dogs need a high amount of protein and fat, with only minor amounts of carbohydrates. Pugs need this same ratio — for the most part. 

Quality Protein

Dogs were built to thrive on high amounts of quality protein. 

Because pugs aren’t exactly “working dogs,” many people mistakenly think that they don’t need this. However, if you want your canine to stay healthy, it’s exactly what they need. 

Protein is generally more nutrient-dense than carbohydrates. When you’re trying to prevent health problems, you want your canine to consume as many vitamins and minerals as they can. 

Of course, the quality of the protein matters. You should choose whole meat or meat meal when choosing dog food — both of these are high-quality options. In fact, meat meal is the most nutrient-dense option, as it is basically concentrated whole meat. 

You should also avoid by-product meals. Studies have found that these sorts of meats are less digestible than whole meat or meat meal, as they can include things like feathers. 

We also recommend not buying food with unnamed meat products. If it just says “meat,” it could literally be anything, and you don’t want to feed your dog mystery ingredients. 

Healthy Fats

Fats are often looked at in a negative light. However, they are essential for our dog’s wellbeing. In fact, your pug should be getting most of its calories from fat. 

Of course, some fats are better than others. We highly recommend choosing omega fatty acids and similar, animal-based fats when choosing a dog food. 

As pugs are often prone to dry coats and skin, likely due to their higher chance of allergies, omega fatty acids are essential. These can also support the joints and have some anti-inflammatory properties, making them even more desirable. 

Carbs

Many pugs do just fine with a diet higher in carbohydrates. While whole-grain carbs do offer some nutrition, refined grains do not. In many cases, refined grains are hardly better than sugar. 

Therefore, we recommend choosing dog foods that include veggies and fruits as their main carbohydrate sources. Though, whole grains can be suitable as long as your dog isn’t sensitive to them. 

Whether your dog is sensitive to grains or not, don’t select a food that is mostly carbohydrates. Your dog’s primary needs are protein and fat — not carbs. 

Fiber

Fiber often isn’t considered a major component in a dog’s nutrition. However, if you want your dog’s digestion to be in tip-top shape, they need an appropriate amount of it. 

Pugs, in particular, may be best on a higher amount of fiber. They are prone to gaining excess weight, and the fiber can help them feel a bit fuller without eating as much. This may help prevent obesity. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Most dog foods are fortified with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. While fruits and veggies do contain a high amount of nutrients, these usually aren’t enough. 

The AAFCO has released all guidelines for vitamin and mineral content in pet food. The majority of foods follow these guidelines, ensuring that they contain the correct nutrients for your dog. 

Be sure any food you choose has the AAFCO seal, though — just in case. 

Pugs do not have any specific nutrient needs beyond your average dog. However, if your dog has a health problem, they may benefit from specific vitamins and minerals. 

black pug puppy

Common Health Issues and Diet

Pugs are prone to a variety of health problems. Diet may play a role in some of these issues, though many of them are genetic. 

When you adopt a pug, you have to accept that some health issues will come with them. They’re just part of the package.

Eye Problems

Pugs are well-known for their “bug eyes.” They’re part of what makes a pug a pug. 

However, their eye shape is not healthy. They stick out due to a malformation in their skull — which can lead to all sorts of eye problems. 

Many of these cannot be avoided through diet alone. Most are due to trauma, which is going to occur no matter what your pet is eating. 

However, eye-enriching nutrients can help the pug’s eye heal when injury does occur. They may also help prevent particular eye conditions. 

For instance, galactose may encourage the formation of cataracts in certain dogs. This substance is also known as “milk sugar” and is present in some dog foods.

Skin Allergies 

Pugs are quite prone to skin allergies, andthese come in many different forms. 

They may be caused due to a food allergy, as most food allergies appear as skin issues and itchiness. Or even environmental allergies may be the culprit. 

Ear and perianal sack inflammation can also occur as early signs of allergies. 

At the same time, some dogs just have dry skin! 

Many different ingredients may help your dog’s skin condition. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly suggested for these dogs, but there is some mixed evidence on whether or not they work for dogs with clinical skin problems.

However, they can’t hurt to try.

Obesity

Sadly, most dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.

Pugs are especially prone to this problem due to their tendency to not be active. Their shortened snouts make it difficult for them to breathe properly, which can get in the way of proper exercise. 

Because these dogs seem rather laidback, many owners assume that they don’t need  a lot of physical activity. But this isn’t the case. 

If your dog begins to become overweight, we recommend choosing a weight management dog food. These often contain more fiber and other ingredients that may help your dog maintain a healthy weight. 

Exercise is vital as well, though. You can’t fight obesity based on diet alone. 

Joint Problems

Pugs are prone to various joint problems. They have significant gait abnormalities, which may either cause the problem or be a symptom of the issue.

Luckily, pugs are not as prone to hip dysplasia as some other breeds. Still, they will likely benefit from foods high in joint-supporting materials like glucosamine.

FAQ

How Much Should I Feed My Pug?

You should always follow the feeding guidelines on the back of your dog’s food. These recommendations assume that you’re only feeding that food and show the daily amount for each dog, not for each feeding. 

All dog foods have different caloric contents, depending on how they are made. Therefore, they will all have different feeding guidelines. 

Keep up with your pet’s weight and feed them the appropriate amount of food according to the bag or can. 

You may find different charts online, but these are largely inaccurate because they do not take the specific food into account. 

How Often Should I Feed My Pug?

If you have a pug puppy, they’ll be quite small, so you will need to feed them more than adults. This is because their smaller stomach may put them at risk of hypoglycemia if you do not feed them often enough. 

Puppies should be fed about three times a day. 

As your pug grows, they’ll eventually be able to eat twice a day instead. When you switch them to adult dog food, you can likely start lengthening the time between meals as well. 

Most pugs will benefit from eating at least twice a day. Some do fine with one time a day, but this is generally not recommended. 

What’s the Recommended Caloric Count for Pugs?

Pugs need about 40 calories per pound of body weight. Puppies will need slightly more — usually around 50 calories per pound. 

However, there are a lot of factors that go into this. More active dogs will need more calories, for instance. 

Using this general guideline as a starting point is fine, but feel free to change your pug’s caloric intake as needed. If they start gaining weight, decrease the amount they eat. 

Our Verdict

Pugs often thrive on foods that are specifically designed for smaller breeds. Their mouths are quite small, so smaller kibble is usually the best option. 

Many pugs will benefit from Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Adult Dry Dog Food. It includes glucosamine to support their joints, and probiotics for a healthy gut. 

Of course, you should also adjust your dog’s food to meet their needs. Overweight dogs likely need weight management food, and pug puppies need a small breed puppy food. 

We included many different options above to help you choose the perfect one for your canine. We hope our reviews helped you discover which food is most suitable for your furry friend! 

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Kristin has been writing about dogs and their nutrition for the last four years. She enjoys educating pet parents on the best things to feed their beloved furry friends using the latest scientific research.

Save 30% on your next dog food order!

We have partnered with Chewy.com to offer the best deal on high-quality dog food to our readers. If you click on the button below, we will take you to their exclusive discount page.