How Often, How Much, and When to Feed
How frequently you should feed your puppy for optimal growth depends on his age. Most puppies start with four meals a day after they're weaned. By the time they're ten to twelve weeks old, they're down to three meals a day, one every four to six hours. At four months (sixteen weeks), they can start eating twice a day, a schedule that should be continued for the rest of the dog's life.
If you're a working owner, though, it's not always convenient to fit in that third or fourth meal. When that's the case, it's perfectly fine to feed a puppy only twice a day — morning and evening. It won't make any difference in his activity level or behavior. Just divide the amount of food he needs daily into two meals instead of three or four.
Controlling a pug puppy's growth rate is important. A puppy needs lots of calories to fuel his rapid development, but too many calories simply make him fat. That excess weight is often the determining factor in the development of orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia or luxating patellas. Try to keep your pug pup lean. Pugs are cute when they're roly-poly, but it's not a healthy condition for them.
Within a single breed, gender, and age group, energy requirements can vary by about 30 percent, so it's easy to overfeed one dog, while underfeeding another, even if they're getting the same amount and same kind of food.
Young puppies up to sixteen weeks of age usually eat one to one-and-a-half cups of food each day. It's a good idea to switch him to an adult food at ten to twelve weeks of age. This allows slow, steady growth, and may help prevent the development of orthopedic problems. Active adult pugs usually eat 3/4 cup to 1 cup of food each day, divided into two meals. Base the amount you feed on your pug's appearance.
A routine is important. Try to feed your pug at the same time every day. Feeding meals at set times ensures that you know how much your pug is eating and whether he has a good appetite. Free-feeding (leaving food out all the time) is not a good idea as it promotes obesity.
Why Do Dogs Get Fat?
Obesity is the most common health problem veterinarians see in dogs. Diabetes and orthopedic conditions such as hip dysplasia and luxating patellas are just a few of the problems that are linked to obesity. Obese pugs often develop knee problems and are pre-disposed to intervertebral disk problems, which are aggravated by excess body weight.
Among the reasons for the canine predisposition to obesity are the appetizing flavors of commercial pet foods, owners who leave food out all the time, and a sedentary lifestyle. All of these factors, plus the ability to sniff out food wherever it can be found, are applicable to pugs. They are extremely persistent when it comes to getting what they want, and what they usually want is food. It's not unusual for pug owners to find themselves mindlessly handing the dog potato chips just because he's giving them that special pleading look.
Is My Pug Fat?
A fat pug is neither a pretty sight nor a healthy one. He waddles when he walks and has difficulty going very far or jumping up into a lap. A pug's ideal weight depends on his size and frame. Eye your pug objectively and give him the hands-on test. Can you feel his ribs (but not see them), or are they well padded with fat? As you look down from above him, your pug should have a visible waist behind his ribs. A rounded or bulging abdomen and no waist are clues that your pug has been eating a little too much and not exercising enough. If you're still in doubt, your veterinarian can confirm whether your pug needs to go on a diet and exercise program.
If your pug is a chowhound — and most of them are — take steps now to keep his weight at an appropriate level. Long before little rolls of fat start appearing around his middle, you should have an obesity prevention plan in place. Puppyhood is not too soon to begin. Dogs are very much like people. If they're allowed to become fat when they're growing, they're going to be more predisposed to obesity later in life.
Pugs can't get on counters, but they can learn to open cupboards and drawers. Consider getting child-safe locks for any cabinets or drawers that hold food and any areas where garbage is stored.
The bottom line is that pugs must be prevented from gaining weight. That comes down to feeding the dog, not the food bowl. It's very easy to overfeed this breed, especially when he's looking longingly at you with those big pleading eyes. Don't look at the amount in the bowl, look at your pug. If he weighs too much, feed him less.
A Pug Diet and Exercise Plan
There's no way you can exercise a pug enough for him to lose weight, so exercise must be combined with feeding fewer calories. The simplest way to start is to reduce the amount of food you give. If you usually measure out a heaping cup of food, level it off. That alone can help.
If reducing the amount of food isn't practical, switch to a brand with fewer calories. You can find any number of diet dog foods at the grocery store or pet supply store. Look for a product that says “lite” or “less active.”
Introduce a new food gradually, over seven to ten days, to avoid stomach upset. And don't switch to a type of food that your pug isn't used to eating. For instance, if you feed him canned food, the new food should be a reduced-calorie canned food, not a dry diet. If that's not possible, mix the canned food with the dry over a period of several weeks so he has time to become used to the change.
If your schedule allows, feed several small meals a day rather than two large ones. Eating more frequently will help your pug feel more full and less deprived. Another way to fill him up is by adding more fiber to his diet. Canned green beans, raw baby carrots, and canned pumpkin (plain, not the sweetened pie filling) are high in fiber but low in calories. Most dogs gobble them down. (Rinse canned green beans before feeding to reduce the level of sodium.)
Finally, be sure your pug gets daily exercise. Throw a soft toy for him to chase, and take longer walks. If he's seriously overweight, start slowly and work up to longer periods of exercise. As he loses weight, you can increase the length of walks or playtime.