One of the biggest factors in pug health is keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Yet, many pugs end up overweight and struggling. How do you keep your pug on a diet that’s healthy?
For most pug owners the struggle is all too real. Pugs are amazingly talented at convincing everyone that they’re STARVING. Most pugs are highly food motivated too. Combined with their already naturally roundish proportions, a few extra snackies can quickly start to show.
So if your pug is starting to look a little round, what can you do to keep your pug fit?
Why Do Pugs Become Overweight?
The truth about pugs is that they’re naturally inclined to gain weight. As all pug owners can attest, food is typically the first thing on a pug’s mind at all times. They love snackies. They love treats. Most pugs love every kind of food they can get their mouths on.
In addition, pugs are naturally curvy, roly-poly little creatures. Those curves, rolls, and folds add to the charm of a pug and give him or her their delightful look. Most pugs look as though their “skin suit” is a little too big for them. They often have a furry mane or role near their neck. Some pugs even naturally have rolls down their backs.
Combine this propensity towards curviness, with the health challenges of a pug breed, and you have a perfect storm for an overweight and/or obese dog.
Pugs are brachycephalic dogs, meaning they have very flat faces. This makes them very intolerant to high heat and it means they can struggle with breathing. Going for a long run or hike, especially in warm weather, isn’t possible for must pugs. While almost every pug likes to do “zoomies”, where they zip around the yard at breakneck speed for a few seconds at a time, most pugs aren’t marathon-runners (or even up for a 5K).
Pugs also have a tendency toward joint issues. Luxating patella and hip dysplasia are common musculoskeletal issues faced by many pugs. Unfortunately, with their squat, short bodies, and poor breeding, many puggies face pain and mobility issues, especially as they get older.
If ALL these challenges weren’t enough, pugs can also face other health issues like allergies and eye issues, where they need to take medication that can also lead to weight gain. Steroids and other treatments can cause pugs to gain weight and struggle even more.
Yes, it seems like all factors are working against pugs when it comes to staying fit. Some pug owners simply shrug it off and assume that having a chubby pug is inevitable. But the extra weight only exacerbates many of these already challenging issues and leads to other concerns like heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. Keeping the dogtor away means keeping your pug as fit as possible.
Image Source: University of Cambridge, Cambridge BOAS Research Group
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Keeping Your Pug At A Healthy Weight
1. Take Your Pug to the Vet
Just like humans, pugs can have a variety of factors that affect their weight. These can include thyroid issues and many other health concerns you may not even realize. Before you put your pug on a diet or exercise plan, always have them checked out by a vet.
Your vet should run blood work on your pug and check them over to ensure there aren’t any health issues that may prevent your pug from losing weight. They should do a thorough exam and may recommend special food and other treatments for your pug. Always follow your vet’s orders first and foremost!!!
2. Regular Exercise (Not Regular Extra Fries)
Also similar to humans, exercise is great for your pug. But don’t let your pug face an injury by becoming a “weekend warrior”. Remember, all great exercise programs begin with baby steps. If you regularly let your pug out in the yard to do his or her “business” try taking them for a short walk once or twice a day instead.
Walk your pug on a harness, always. Never use a collar, because it can hurt your pug’s trachea. (Harnesses are especially important for brachycephalic breeds like pugs, bulldogs, and Frenchies). Keep them on a regular leash, not a retractable leash, which can also be dangerous. Start slow and go for a short jaunt around the block.
As your pug builds up stamina, build up to longer walks. Be sure that your pug goes for walks in the cool time of the day, like early morning or late evening, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Provide plenty of fresh water for your pug after his or her walk. You and your pug may both start to enjoy your walking time together.
3. Healthy Snackies
Every pug knows how to pull the “I’m starving” look. It can be tough to deny your pug treats, especially if you’re training them to have good manners. Pugs are very food motivated and small treats are a great way to get your pug to learn commands.
First, familiarize yourself with the foods your pug should avoid. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, and onions can be very bad for your pug--even deadly. Sugar-free snacks with Xylitol and other chemical sweeteners can also be deadly, so use caution.
Some of the best treats for your pug are green beans, carrots, small pieces of protein (like chicken or liver snacks) or their kibble. If you’re training your pug, cut back on the amount of food they get at mealtimes to offset their treats. Because pugs are natural chewers look for bones and chew toys that can stand up to voracious chewing.
4. Measured Meals
It’s also easy to lose sight of portion control when it comes to feeding your pug. Because pugs have a tendency to overeat, they shouldn’t free-feed. You should feed your pug only at designated meal times. Measure out a portion of high quality food, as recommended by your veterinarian. Many commercial brands of food contain fillers like corn and wheat that can cause allergies and also lead to obesity.
That said, feeding your pug people food can also be a challenge. There are certain vitamins and minerals that pugs can only get when added to their high quality food. If you choose to make your own food at home, be sure to research the proper nutrition guidelines and follow all recommendations from your vet.
If your pug eats their food too fast (some pugs literally inhale their meals in 30 seconds), you may want to look for a snuffle mat or a slow feeder bowl. These special bowls slow eating and prevent bloat, which can be dangerous and even deadly for dogs. Keep in mind that some slow feeder bowls are very difficult for flat-faced dogs, so look for a ridged, plate-style feeder.
5. Lots of Playtime and Fun
Finally, make exercise and playtime fun for you and your pug! If you find fitness trackers motivating, consider getting a Whistle 3 tracker or a FitBark for your pug. These activity monitors can help you see how well your pet’s exercise is improving. You can set goals and workout alongside your pug.
Play games with your pug too. Pugs love chasing and playing zoomies with you. Because pugs are so attached to their humans, you are often the best playmate for your furry friend. Run around the yard, teach your pug to fetch, or play tug-o-war with soft plush toys.
It can also be fun to document your pug’s activities. Taking photos of your pug and sharing their adventures on social media can be very motivating for both of you. Take hikes, go on walks through town and snap pictures of all the great times you are having. There’s a fantastic pug community on Instagram. You may even find a pug Meetup group to play with in the park!
Pugs are naturally social, which is their strength when it comes to health. They love accompanying their humans on adventures--anywhere! Use their adventurous spirit to your advantage to encourage more activity and a healthier pug diet.
Even though most of us don’t love diets, it’s important to keep your fur-baby healthy. Obesity can shorten a pugs life and lead to a lot of unfortunate health issues. Keep your pug fit and at a healthy weight so you can enjoy your time together for years to come!