Unfortunately, obesity is the most common health problem that pugs have. Pugs aren’t alone in this, either. According to VCAhospitals.com, 20-30% of all dogs are overweight, but 40-45% of dogs over the age of 5 are overweight. The good news is, pet obesity is a problem that owners can fix!
How Do I Know If My Pug Is Overweight?
With obesity being common in dogs (and in pugs, specifically) it can skew our idea of what a healthy weight looks like. If you think your pug would look pretty ‘average’ if they were surrounded by other pugs, they may still be overweight. If you think your pug would look like a chunky one in a group of pugs, they’re almost certainly obese.
However, it’s best to not rely on assumptions. Talk to your vet about your pug’s weight to see if they think they are overweight. Some vets will talk to pet owners anytime they see an overweight animal, but others don’t. So, if you’ve been to the vet and their weight hasn’t been addressed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t overweight. However, if you ask your vet about your pug’s weight and whether it’s too high or not, they should be happy to give you a good answer.
According to the AKC, ideal pugs weigh between 14 and 17lbs. However, this doesn’t always mean that your pug is overweight if they are over 17lbs. Pugs can vary in height and length, and pugs with bigger frames should weigh more than pugs with more petite frames. This is where body condition score comes into play. Here is a body condition score chart made just for pugs, which I find super helpful seems how pugs are a short, stout breed, their ideal body condition looks different from some other breeds.
Source: Universiy Of Cambridge.
As you can see from the chart, you can determine if your pug is overweight by looking at how visible their waist is, any feeling their rib area. A body condition score of 5 or 6 is where you want your pug to stay. If your pug has a body condition score of 7 or higher, they would benefit from losing weight.
How To Help Your Pug Lose Weight
How many calories your pug is consuming is by far the largest factor in their weight. Like people, pugs will gain weight if they eat more calories than they burn. While increasing activity can increase how many calories are burned, if too many calories are consumed, it is extremely difficult to exercise those extra calories away.
One study showed that if a 20lb dog walks at a pace of 4 miles per hour, they will only burn 8 calories after a 1 hour walk. In other words – if you’re overfeeding your pug, they have no hope of losing weight by exercising more. You must feed them less.
Really, the solution to helping your pug lose weight all comes down to making sure you’re feeding them the right amount. Pugs are not a breed that does well with being “free fed”. Meaning, you shouldn’t leave food out for them all the time – most pugs will become severely obese if they have access to as much dog food as they can eat.
Instead, you should feed them 1-3 times per day, and measure the amount. How much they should eat will depend on the food that you are feeding. Look up how many calories are in a cup of the brand and type of dog food that you purchase, then calculate how much food to give them based on the calorie content.
You’ll want to give your pug the amount of calories for their ideal weight, not their current weight. Most dogs need to eat 25-30 calories per 1lb of body weight. If your pug has a goal weight of 17lb dog would need to eat 425 to 510 calories a day. Younger dogs and more active dogs can eat towards the higher end of the spectrum, while older and/or lower activity dogs should sick towards the lower end of the calorie spectrum. Most pugs are not super active, so in most cases, it’s best to stick with the lower-calorie range for their ideal weight.
I made the table below using information from AmericanMedicalCenterOfChicago. Pugs are an obese-prone breed, so I used the obese-prone status for dogs weighing 14-22lbs as pugs should have an ideal weight between 14lbs and 25lbs.
How many calories pugs should eat per day based on ideal weight
Keep in mind that this is their total calories, including any snacks or treats. If you give your dog any snacks or treats, then their meal calorie total should be less than that shown above.
Also, metabolism can vary, and usually lowers with age. If you find that feeding your pug a set calorie amount per day keeps them too heavy, this likely means that they have a slower metabolism and should be fed a bit less. Part of why older dogs are more likely to become obese is because pet owners sometimes continue to feed their dog the same amount even after their dog’s metabolism slows down. Monitor how much you’re feeding your dog and how it impacts their weight. If they are gaining weight, they’re eating too much. Or if your goal is to have them lose weight and they are maintaining weight instead, you need to restrict their calories a bit more.
I have a whole blog post on how much to feed pugs if you want to learn more.
Factors That Contribute To Obesity in Dogs
- Some breeds are more prone to it, and pugs are one of those breeds.
2. Age. Older dogs have slower metabolism which means they will weigh more if they eat the same amount as a younger dog.
3. Spay/neuter status. Spaying and neutering your pets is important and recommended, but it does have the downside of increasing the risk of obesity.
3. Activity level. While pugs are small and don’t burn a lot of calories while moving around, it is somewhat of a factor in their weight.
4. Personally. Dogs who are in love with food are more likely to become obese. These dogs will be more likely to find table scraps or dig food out of the garbage if left unattended, and are more likely to beg for food from people. On the other hand, dogs who aren’t excited about food or picky eaters will often have a easier time maintaining a healhy weight. Most pugs are lovers of food!
5. Medical conditions. Some medical conditions such as thyroid problems or diabetes can be a factor in a dog’s weight.
Why Pug Obesity Matters
It’s easy to think that chubby dogs are cute! Sometimes people feel that it really isn’t a big deal. Here’s why obesity does matter in pugs.
- Shortens life span. While each dog is unique and there are always exceptions to the rule, statistically, obese dogs don’t live as long as dogs that maintain a healhy weight. We all want our pugs to be with us as long as possible, so keeping their weight down can help.
2. Can make it harder for pugs to breathe. Pugs are prone to breathing problems due to their facial structure. When a pug is overweight, this adds stress to their chest and neck which can worsen their breathing struggles.
3. Can worsen joint problems. Pugs are prone to arthritis and other joint problems. If a pug has excess weight on them, this adds unenccesary pressure to their joints which worsens joint problems and can increase pain.
4. Heat intolerance. Due to pugs’ flat faces, they aren’t very tolerant of heat at any weight. However, when a pug is overweight this exacerbates their heat intolerace.
How To Get Your Pug More Active
Be active yourself! Pugs love their people so if you are out and about more, they’ll join you.
Take time to play every day. Try out a wide range of types of dog toys if you need to find something your dog likes. Playing is often the best way o get pugs moving! My pugs liked small plush dog toys, so we’d use them for tug-o-war and would throw them for them to fetch.
Let them tag along! Going for a walk to the neighbors, or doing yard work? Open the door and let your pug outside with you.
Go to the dog park or dog-friendly parks. Dogs often get a lot of exercises while playing with oher dogs, so trips to the dog park can help. If you don’ have a dog park, going to a park that is dog-friendly may result in meeting up with another dog to play. Or if you have friends or family member’s with dogs you could plan meet-ups with their dogs.
Daily walks. Whether you live in a city or a rural area, find a way to take a daily walk. It could be on the sidewalk, through the woods behind your house or in a public nature trail. My pugs loved to explore, and they loved routines. Anytime they knew what we were doing next, they’d get excited! So if your pugs are lke mine, once they begin to understand the routine of their daily walk time, they’ll look forward to it!
How To Reduce Your Pug’s Food
- If your dog has been severely overeating (such as being free fed), you may try cutting back slowly rather than making a really dramatic reduction, for the sake of letting your pug emotionally and mentally adjust to getting less food.
2. Try more meals but smaller ones. For example, if you’ve calculaed that your dog should eat 3/4 of a cup of dog food per day, you may give three 1/4 cup meals a day rather than one meal that is 3/4 of a cup all at once. For some dogs this makes them more emotionally/mentally satisfied.
3. If you give them snacks or treats, use VERY low calorie and healthy options. You don’t to spend most of their daily calories on snacks. Carrots or other dog-safe veggies can make great snacks or treats.
4. If your dog likes ‘volume’, consider a weight control dog food. Like people, some dogs will feel more satisfied if they eat a lot of a low-calorie food vs if they eat a small amount of a calorie dense food. Weight control dog foods are usually just lower-calorie versions, but if yur dog likes to eat a lot of volume they may help.
5. Keep your pug busy and mentally enertained so they aren’t wanting to eat out of boredom.
6. Use a kibble dispenser, hide kibble in a snuffle mat or other toy that will make your pug “work for their meal” and make it last longer.
How I Helped My Pugs Lose Weight
My pugs were free-fed by their previous owner. When I got them, they were 31 and 33lbs! Severely obese.
I kept them on the type of dog food that their previous owner had them on, and left food out for them 24/7 for the first couple of weeks. While I knew this wasn’t healthy, I knew that being rehomed was really emotional for them. I didn’t want to force unneccesary changes on them in the beginning. So, I let them get a bit settled in first.
When I felt they could tolerate the change, we changed them to a higher quality dog food (they were on Walmart brand previously) and to a weight-control dog food. This way, I could divide up their daily food into several small meals easily due to it having more volume. Early on, they would beg for food constantly so I would give them 4 meals per day (1/4 a cup each time) to try to appease them.
After a while they seemed to grow to accept their new “diet”, and quit begging for food between meals. That’s when I realized we could feed them fewer times per day. I measured out 1/2 of a cup twice per day after that, and that is the feeding schedule that we stuck with for the rest of their lives. We bought store-brand dog treats that were really soft. We reduced their treat calories by tearing dog treats into very small sizes, so although we would give them a treat each time they went potty (it was clear to us when we got them that they expected treats after going potty!) they only ate about 1 dog treat per day because each time we gave them a treat it would be a small peice broken off, rather than a full one. We also gave them bully sticks occasionally, mostly as an anxiety tool.
I am sure that I could have switched to a non-weight control dog food if I wanted to, but it was working fine so I figured why fix what isn’t broken?
Frank went from 33lbs down to 24lbs. Beans went from 31lbs down to 23 pounds. They both were still slighly overweight. While Beans weighed less, she was more overweight because she had a smaller frame than Frank had. I (wrongly) struggled with feeling bad about reducing their food more than that, so I allowed them to stay a bit overweight. Not great, but it’s the truth! Still, I think their story shows that getting your pug to lose weight is very possible.