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The Best Dog Food for Pugs (Review) in 2021

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Pugs are wonder small breed dogs who bring lots of joy to their owners. However, they have very specific nutritional needs and are prone to being overweight. Choosing the right food for them is an essential part of weight management and vital to keeping them fit and well. But, with so many different options on the market, it can be hard to know what it is the food to give them. Our panel of dog lovers and pet experts has put together this list of the best dog food for Pugs to help you make the right choice for your individual dog.

Quick Overview of 5 Best Dog Food for Pugs

Editor's PickProduct NamePriceRating
Best OverallRoyal Canin Pug Carlin Adult Dry Dog FoodCheck Price on Chewy4.6
Best for PuppiesWellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy FoodCheck Price on PetSmart4.7
Best ValuePurina Beneful IncrediBites for Small DogsCheck Price on Amazon4.6
Best NaturalEagle Pack Original Adult Lamb Meal & Brown RiceCheck Price on Chewy4.7
Best HolisticHolistic Select Adult Health Lamb Meal Dry Dog FoodCheck Price on Amazon4.4
*Ratings are from Amazon, Chewy, and PetSmart at the time of publication and can change

1

The Pug Adult dry dog food by Royal Canin is specifically created to meet the nutritional needs of pugs. It is a complete and balanced food that helps maintain a healthy weight for your Pug as well as containing all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and alert. It contains omega 3 fatty acids to support skin and coat health, and the perfect amount of protein to maintain your Pug’s muscle tone. Royal Canin Pug food kibble is also specially designed to make it easier for your Pug to pick up and to encourage chewing and improve dental health. It is suitable for pure breed adult Pug’s over 10 months old.

For more information on the brand, check out our Royal Canin Dog Food Review.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 314 Kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 23%

Minimum amount of fats: 14%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 3.3%

First 5 ingredients: Brewers rice, chicken by-product, brown rice, corn, corn gluten meal

Contains chicken by-product, fish oil

Contains EPA minimum 0.18%, DHA minimum 0.08%, L-Carnitine minimum 70mg/kg, Glucosamine minimum 350mg/kg, Chondroitin Sulfate minimum 25mg/kg

Contains taurine, vitamins A, B1, B12, C, D3, E, calcium

Specification:
  • Brand: Royal Canin
  • Model: 454411
  • Weight: 10 pounds

2

The Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food by Wellness Natural Pet Food is the best food for Pug puppies. The recipe contains only natural ingredients and is free from meat by-products, corn, wheat, and soy. It also does not contain any artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors. The kibble is created with smaller size pieces to make it easier for your Pug puppy to chew. The recipe provides complete and balanced nutrition and includes DHA to support healthy eye and brain development. It also contains easy to digest carbohydrates, providing the energy your Pug needs throughout the day, and is rich in antioxidants.

Read our in-depth Wellness Core Dog Food Review.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 489 kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 28%

Minimum amount of fats: 19%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 4.25%

First 5 ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal, oatmeal, salmon meal, barley

Contains turkey, chicken, fish

Contains Calcium minimum 1.5%, phosphorus minimum 1%, DHA minimum 1.1% Omega 3 minimum 0.6%, Omega 6 minimum 4.2%, Taurine minimum 0.09%

Contains vitamins A, B12, C, D3, E, antioxidants, thiamine, biotin

Specification:
  • Brand: Wellness Natural Pet Food
  • Model: 89116
  • Weight: 4 pounds

3

If you are looking for a food that is specifically designed to meet the higher metabolic needs of small breed dogs, such as Pugs, then IncrediBites by Purina Beneful is just what you are looking for. High quality meat protein is the main ingredient in this food, which also includes a range of vegetables to provide balanced and complete nutrition for your Pug. The nutrient rich kibble is created with a mix of crunchy and tender pieces to keep your pet pooch interested in their food, while encouraging chewing and good dental health.

 

Amount of calories per serving cup: 366 Kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 27%

Minimum amount of fats: 13.5%

Maximum amount of moisture: 14%

Maximum amount of fiber: 4%

First 5 ingredients: Beef, whole grain corn, barley, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal

Contains beef, chicken, egg

Contains Selenium minimum 0.35mg/kg

Contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D3, E, biotin, folic acid, calcium

Specification:
  • Brand: Purina Beneful
  • Model: 17800136396
  • Weight: 15.5 pounds

4

Eagle Pack Natural Dry Dog Food is made from high-quality natural ingredients and contains no meat by-products, wheat, or corn. It is also free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. The food provides the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants that your Pug needs to stay fit and healthy. It contains whole grains and fiber to support healthy digestion and provide natural nutrients, while the fatty acids nourish your Pug’s skin and coat.  Antioxidants support your dog’s immune system while the quality protein ensures strong muscles. The food is suitable for dogs over the age of one.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 337Kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 23%

Minimum amount of fats: 12%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 4%

First 5 ingredients: Lamb meal, oatmeal, ground brown rice, dehulled barley, chicken fat

Contains lamb, chicken, fish

Contains calcium minimum 1.8%, phosphorus 1.2%, Omega 6 minimum 2.25%, Omega 3 minimum 0.75%, glucosamine minimum 320mg/kg

Contains vitamins A, B12, C, D3, E, folic acid, taurine

Specification:
  • Brand: Eagle Pack
  • Model: 4169332916
  • Weight: 30 pounds

5

While not specifically designed for small dogs, the Natural Dry Dog Food by Holistic Select holds many benefits for your Pug. It offers a complete and balanced diet that contains high quality meats, fruits, and vegetables. It offers digestive support through its use of prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and natural fibers. All the ingredients for this food come from natural sources and the main protein source is lamb. It contains no meat by-products, fillers, wheat, or wheat gluten. It is also free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 454 Kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 23%

Minimum amount of fats: 15%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 4.5%

First 5 ingredients: Lamb meal, oatmeal, peas, rice, chicken fat

Contains phosphorus minimum 1.1%, Omega 6 minimum 3.45%, Omega 3 0.45%, glucosamine minimum 340 mg/kg

Contains lamb, chicken fat

Contains vitamins A, B12, C, D3, E, biotin, folic acid, calcium, taurine

Specification:
  • Brand: Holistic Select
  • Model: 22953
  • Weight: 30 pounds

6

AvoDerm Lamb Meal Formula for Senior Health

Created for small dog breeds that are in their senior years, AvoDerm’s natural, grain-free product can help support your dog’s joints, immune system, and their eye and brain health. One of the biggest selling points of this product is that they use avocado and avocado oil. Specifically, they use Californian avocados. Why are avocados so important in dog food? Well, Californian avocados are packed with nutrients. There’s nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals in this superfood, and they’re rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Senior dogs often suffer with duller coats as they get older, AvoDerm’s Natural Lamb Meal Formula with Californian avocados can assist your dog’s coat in becoming shinier and healthier again.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 420 kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 28%

Minimum amount of fats: 10%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 6%

First 5 ingredients: Lamb meal, pease, tapioca flour, pea flour, chicken meal

Contains lamb and chicken meal

Contains avocado and avocado oil to promote healthy skin and coats in dogs

Contains omega-6 and omega-3

Specification:
  • Brand: AvoDerm
  • Model: 100525218
  • Weight: 4 pounds

7

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo’s Lamb and Brown Rice Recipe is suitable for small dog breeds that have reached adult status. Small dog breeds are usually switched over to adult dog food a little earlier than larger breeds because they reach maturity faster. Blue Buffalo understand this, and they want to ensure that your pup is protected as they grow. Protection starts with the food your dog eats every day.

Like all of their products, Blue Buffalo starts with protein-rich lamb. No chicken meal, no by-products, no corn, wheat, or soy. They also don’t use any artificial flavors in their recipe. You can expect greatness, the finest ingredients, and a huge number of vitamins and minerals to help your dog live their best life.

Check out our Blue Buffalo Dog Food Review.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 428 kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 24%

Minimum amount of fats: 16%

Maximum amount of moisture: 10%

Maximum amount of fiber: 4%

First 5 ingredients: Deboned lamb, turkey meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal

Cold-formed to preserve the potency of all ingredients in the recipe

Contains omega-3 and omega-6

Contains antioxidant-rich ingredients

Contains essential vitamins and minerals

Specification:
  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Model: 368
  • Weight: 15.16 pounds

8

Merrick Lil' Plates Real Beef & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

From Merrick, we have their Real Texas Beef and Sweet Potato Recipe. This Lil’ Plates dry food is an excellent treat for small dog breeds, and Merrick assures dog owners that it’s suitable for all life stages. That’s unusual because most dog food products are split up between puppy, adult, and seniors, but the added probiotics in this food will help a dog of any age digest it.

The food features real deboned Texas beef, prebiotic and probiotic fiber, and a great, crunchy texture to help clean your dog’s teeth as they chew each bite. The food will promote muscle health in your pup, while also ensuring that they have enough energy to go about their day as usual. The sweet potatoes, which are the other highlight of the product’s recipe, are an excellent source of dietary fiber and will assist your dog’s digestive function.

Read here our detailed Merrick Dog Food Review.

Amount of calories per serving cup: 402 kcals

Minimum amount of proteins: 38%

Minimum amount of fats: 15%

Maximum amount of moisture: 11%

Maximum amount of fiber: 3.5%

First 5 ingredients: Deboned beef, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes

Contains prebiotic and probiotic fiber for digestion

High levels of omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat

Supports hip and joint function

Grain-free

Specification:
  • Brand: Merrick
  • Model: 94168
  • Weight: 12 pounds

9

Instinct Small Breed Dog Food

Another grain-free recipe for small dog breeds, Instinct self-identifies as the raw brand because their dog food is all about feeding pups without the use of fillers. You’ll find no potato, grain, corn, wheat, or soy in their ingredient list, nor will you find any by-products or meal. This is a can of pure meat, fruit, vegetables, and other great, high-quality ingredients.

The special thing about this Instinct recipe is their use of responsibly sourced cage-free chicken. This is the first ingredient on the list, meaning that it’s the one that the product has the most of in it. The real chicken recipe promotes strong, lean muscles in your small dog breed pup, while still offering the ideal calorie levels for a dog of that size.

Take a look at our Nature’s Variety Dog Food Review.

Amount of calories per serving can: 88 kcals (per 3 ounce can)

Minimum amount of proteins: 8.5%

Minimum amount of fats: 4.5%

Maximum amount of moisture: 78%

Maximum amount of fiber: 3%

First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, cod, peas

Contains cage-free chicken

No filler ingredients, just high-quality meat, vegetables, and fruit

Raw dog food with plenty of vitamins and minerals

Specification:
  • Brand: Instinct
  • Model: 6171800
  • Weight: 5.29 pounds

10

Solid Gold Small & Toy Breed Wet Food

As labelled, this brightly colored dog food product is for toy and small breed dogs looking for more goodness in their diet. Solid Gold has a grain-free recipe made with chicken, chickpea, and pumpkin, all of which have amazing benefits for your dog and their diet. This is labelled as a holistic food for dogs because that’s the approach to gut health that Solid Gold take when creating their products. They know that up to 80% of the immune system is influenced by what goes on in the gut, so having a happy gut really is the key to a healthy body.

The whole superfoods used in this dog food aid digestion, while the antioxidants from those superfoods feed good bacteria. From there, Solid Gold assures that there are 90 million living probiotics per pound of their dog food, which helps to protect your dog’s immune system, supports their health, and ensures that their gut is balanced and healthy.

Amount of calories per serving can: 87 kcals (per 99g can)

Minimum amount of proteins: 7.5%

Minimum amount of fats: 3%

Maximum amount of moisture: 75%

Maximum amount of fiber: 1%

First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth, water sufficient for processing, chicken liver, dried egg whites

Contains whole superfoods and real chicken

Suitable for all life stages

America’s first holistic pet food brand

Specification:
  • Brand: Solid Gold
  • Model: 32203
  • Weight: 3.45 pounds

Best Dog Food for Pugs Buying Guide & FAQ

As well as knowing the best foods that are available for your Pug, it is important to know more about their nutritional needs. In this section of the buying guide we explore the needs of both adult and puppy Pugs, the common health problems that you need to be aware of, and the ingredients that you should avoid feeding your Pug.

Nutritional Needs of Pugs

Pugs are energetic, small breed dogs who love to play. They also love to eat, so it is important that their food is both balanced and filling to help stop them from overeating. Because Pugs are so energetic they also need a high protein diet that is balanced with complex carbohydrates for slow energy release.

  • Protein

Your Pug’s diet should consist of at least 18% crude protein. For puppies the crude protein content of their diet should be at least 22% to meet their needs as they grow and develop. When looking for the best dog food for pugs you need one that has quality animal protein as one of the main ingredients. If the food contains animal by-products, then this needs to be balanced with other protein sources such as fish.

Check out our High Protein Dog Food Review.

  • Complex Carbohydrates

Ensure the food contains slow release complex carbohydrates that give your Pug energy throughout the day and that help avoid crashes and spikes in their blood sugar. However, with their limited ability to digest plant fiber, your Pug’s intake of carbohydrates and fiber should be no more than 5% of their diet. The best Pug food brand to choose is one that contains brown rice, sweet potato, or potatoes, as they are all good sources of carbohydrates.

  • Crude fats

The most concentrated source of energy for your Pug and animal fats such as fish oils for dogs and chicken fat are the best sources. Crude fat should make up at least 5% of your adult pug’s diet and 8% of your puppy’s diet.

You may also like our review of Salmon Oil for Dogs.

  • Fatty acids

Fatty acids are an essential part of any dog’s diet, but they are vital to the coat and skin health of Pugs. Fatty acids in Pug food help to maintain the moisture levels of their skin and stop it from drying out causing the hair to become brittle and shed more heavily than it would normally do.

little pug eating food

Common Health Problems with Pugs

One of the most common health problems faced by pugs is obesity. Pugs love their food and if it is not monitored carefully, they can put on weight very easily. The easiest way to avoid weight gain in Pugs, and the associated joint and breathing problems that come with weight gain, is to provide a high-quality food with no filler, avoid titbits, measure their food carefully, and ensure they have plenty of exercise and play time. As well as obesity there are several other common health conditions that Pugs can suffer from, some of which are unique to the breed. This include:

  • Pug Dog Encephalitis

A fatal brain disease that is unique to Pugs, Pug Dog Encephalitis or PDE is a little understood condition. It currently has no test or treatment and is only diagnosed after death.  The disease causes inflammation of the brain, leading to seizures, blindness, coma, and death. While little is known about the causes of the condition, experts believe that there is a genetic component. This means that it is important to check the family history of any Pug you are considering buying.

  • Epilepsy

Pugs are one of the breeds that are prone to idiopathic epilepsy. Such seizures happen for no known reason. If your Pug shows signs of seizures, then speak to your veterinarian who can discuss appropriate treatment with you.

Take a look at our Dog Food for Seizures Review.

  • Nerve Degeneration

Nerve degeneration is most common in older Pugs. If your pet pooch is beginning to drag their rear, have trouble jumping on and off things, staggering, or showing signs of incontinence, then they may be suffering from nerve degeneration. The condition is generally thought to be painless and advances slowly. Little is known about its causes, but veterinarians can often prescribe medication that alleviates the symptoms. As the front legs remain strong with this condition, one course of action is to buy a cart or dog wheelchair to aid your pug in getting around easier.

  • Corneal ulcers

Pugs are very susceptible to eye problems and injuries. The main reason for this is because their eyes are very prominent and large in comparison to their face. If injury occurs, it can lead to ulcers developing on the cornea.

The main symptoms to look for are squinting, redness in the eye and excessive tearing. Corneal ulcers are treatable with medication from your veterinarian, however, if left untreated they can lead to blindness or eye rupture.

  • Dry eye

Pugs often suffer from either pigmentary keratitis or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and in some cases, they can occur together. Both can cause reduced tear production. When the eye does not produce enough tears to stay moist, it causes dry eye. Both conditions are treatable with the correct medication and care, but both also require lifelong therapy to stop them from returning.

  • Other eye problems

Pugs suffer from several eye conditions caused by the size and nature of their eyes. One of the problems associated with the bulging eyes of a pug is proptosis. This is where the eyeball becomes dislodged from the socket and the eyelid clamps behind it. Pugs are also susceptible to distichiasis, where the eyelashes grow abnormally and rub against the eye and entropion, where eyelid rolls inward. This causes the hair to rub against the eye and cause irritation; it usually occurs with the lower eyelid. Pugs can also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy. This is a degenerative disease of the retinal visual cells that leads to blindness.

  • Allergies

Pugs are extremely susceptible to allergies and this is one of the main reasons why their food must be chosen with care. Avoiding fillers, additives, and other ingredients that commonly cause reactions it the best way to prevent reaction. If you are unsure of the possible cause of an allergic reaction, speak to your veterinarian who can advise on the best way forward.

You may also like our review of the Best Dog Food for Allergies.

  • Hemi-vertebrae

This is a condition that is common in short nosed breeds, including Pugs. The severity of the condition depends on the number of vertebrae that affected and misshapen. Many dogs suffer no noticeable effects. At its more extreme end it can lead to paralysis. Treatment usually involves surgery.

  • Hip Dysplasia

Commonly considered as a condition that affects large breeds, hip dysplasia can also affect pugs. Diet and environment play a role in the onset of the condition, as does your Pug’s weight.

  • Legg-Perthes Disease

This condition mainly affects toy or small breed dogs, such as Pugs. It causes the blood supply to the head of the femur to decrease and causes degeneration of the head. It is usually noticeable in puppies around 4 to 6 months of age. Its main symptoms include limping and leg muscle atrophy. It can be treated through surgery.

  • Vaccination Sensitivity

Of course, vaccinations are an important part of your dog’s wellness routine, but Pugs are more susceptible to reactions than other breeds. Usually these reactions are minor and include soreness, facial swelling, hives, and lethargy. However, the reactions can be more severe, so it is important to watch your dog carefully after they have been vaccinated and to contact your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual.

pug puppies eating at home

Ingredients To Avoid

When it comes to foods to avoid, you need to take the same precautions as you would with any dog. Onions, chocolate, grapes, and raisons are among the foods that no dog should ever be given. However, there are also certain ingredients, present in dry dog food, that should also be avoided for the health and welfare of your Pug.

One of the key ingredients to avoid in Pug food is fillers. If the food has a high cereal or soy content, then not only is it likely to be of inferior quality, but it puts your dog’s digestive health at risk. Cereals ferment I the gut and can cause an increase in problems with flatulence.

Take a look at our review of the Best Dog Food for Flatulence.

Animal by-products should be avoided, especially if they are the main ingredient. They provide very little in the way of quality protein for your pet.

Wheat and other sources of gluten should be avoided if your Pug has sensitivities or suffers from allergies. While not a general problem, gluten can be a main cause of allergies in dogs with sensitivities.

Best Dog Food for Pugs FAQ:

Q:  What’s the recommended calorie intake for my pug?

A:  The recommended calorie intake for an adult Pug is 40 calories per pound of body weight. However, you need to take into account your dog’s fitness, activity level, and individual metabolism. If your dog is already overweight, then they need fewer calories, if they are extremely active, then they may require more. Experts suggest that this amount can be varied by 30% to suit your individual dog.

Pug puppies require around 50 calories per pound of body weight, with the same 30% variation depending on your individual dog. It is also important to remember, with both adult and puppy Pugs, that these calories should come from a high-quality source.

Q:  How often should I feed my Pug?

A:  Up until around three months of age, it is ok to free feed your pug high-quality pug puppy food. After this, it is important to structure meal times and make them part of your dog’s general routine. Not only will this help with their general behavior, but it also makes monitoring their food intake and maintaining them at a healthy weight that bit easier.

Between 3 and 6 months Pugs should be feed three times a day. This can be reduced to twice a day at 6 months and remain at this level for the majority of your Pug’s adult life. Some owners feed smaller, more regular meals to senior dogs to help them with energy levels and digestion. This is suitable, as long as the overall amount of food does not increase beyond what is suitable.

Q:  How much food should I feed my Pug?

A:  If you are feeding your Pug one of the best dry dog foods for Pugs, then start with the manufacturers guidance on the amount you should feed them. This is important because every food is different. Check the feeding amounts for your size and weight of dog but take into consideration the recommended calorie intake for Pugs.

As a general rule, it is recommended that puppies from 3 months have the equivalent of one cup of food spread over their three meals. Adolescents require slightly more and should have 1 ½ cups split between two meals, while an active adult requires one cup a day across two meals. Seniors generally need 1/3 cup at each meal.

Q:  Is my Pug overweight?

A:  The breed standard, set by the American Kennel Club, states that the ideal weight for an adult Pug is between 14 and 18 pounds. The weight standard is currently the same for males and females. Of course, most dogs fall somewhere just outside of the breed standard and their ideal weight is determined as much by their individual shape and size as it is by breed expectations.

The best way to determine whether your Pug is overweight is to visit your veterinarian. However, if your male Pug weighs more than 22 pounds, or your female is more than 19 pounds, then they are overweight.

If you can feel a thick layer of fat over the ribcage and it prevents you from feeling the bones, then this is an indication your dog is overweight. Similarly, if they are beginning to struggle with their mobility, their breathing is more labored than normal, or a friend points out that your dog looks heavier, then weight is becoming an issue.

Sources:

  1. Pug, Wag!
  2. Dr. Marty Becker, How to Choose the Best Pet Food for Puppies, Vetstreet
  3. Dog Nutrition Tips, ASPCA
Destin Benoit
A former Special Forces Canine Handler, Destin Benoit has extensive knowledge and experience with military canine training. He has worked with multiple military dogs in the most stressful places and situations in the world. Currently, Destin is a SOC Canine Handler, aiding in the protection of US diplomats abroad.
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