Introduction: the eternal debate
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to dog nutrition: advocates of homemade meals on the one hand and supporters of commercial formulas on the other. Some believe only an all-meat, raw food or vegetarian diet should be served to dogs. On both sides you can find people that are very convinced that their way of feeding their dog is best. Their choice may be guided not only by nutritional considerations, but also by philosophical ones.
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Homemade Dog Food
If you have the time and commitment to do things right, we suggest you collect several recipes and bring enough variation in your Pug's diet to cover all the essential nutrients. You can find recipes for homemade diets in books devoted to this topic. We particularly like the book Eco Dog: Healthy Living for Your Pet, which includes not only quick, organic dog meal recipes, but also other tips for nontoxic and planet-friendly dog care. See also: Whole dog food and healthy dog treats.
The major concern with home-made meals is oversupplementation of vitamins and minerals. Dog owners have a tendency to oversupplement with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, especially in home-prepared meals. Oversupplementation is as harmful as deficiencies, so stick to the recommended doses and ask your vet for advice. There is no need to add supplements if you use quality ingredients (preferably organic) from small-scale suppliers in your area. Frozen vegetables provide similar levels of nutrition to fresh vegetables, provided they have been stored and then cooked properly. This is not the case for vegetables kept in the fridge, they lose a large amount of their vitamins if kept several days in the refrigerator. Meat should be hormone and antibiotics free. Cooking utensils should be made from glass, stainless steel, aluminum or enamel as to not affect the nutritional content of the food.
A second concern with home-made meals is the texture and palatability. The texture should be such as to exercise your dog's teeth and gums properly. It should not be cut too small, because a major concern with Pugs is that they tend to gobble their food too fast without masticating it, which not only may cause them to choke, but also tends to increase the risk for obesity. However, if the food is cut in larger bits, but cooked too soft, it may again increase the risk of choking. As we said, doing things right can be time-consuming for a result that may not always reach the same nutritious value as top quality commercial dog food that can be easily stored and served, even when you are in a hurry.
Commercial Dog Food
However, if you prefer to turn to commercial food, there is no need to feel guilty. Some dog owners still consider commercial food as a second-choice option while dry food can be a wise choice, provided you choose a top quality organic formula that covers all the nutritional needs of your dog. Some brands have special allergy formulas, which we recommend for pugs.
So, if you are tight on time or just prefer to stay on the safe side we recommend you try an organic formula. There are several excellent high-quality brands of organic dog food on the market, such as Karma Organic Food and Petguard (which has both a vegetarian and chicken-based formula). Preferably choose a formula that is guaranteed GMO free and do not contain any ingredients that were sprayed with pesticides. Ideally, meat should come from antibiotic and hormone free animals that were free-roaming and humanely treated. One such brand is Natural Balance, but there some other good brands on the market. Just check the labels or Google their brand name to read the product info on their website. Note that if the manufacturer claims the product to be "Organic", it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, not counting added water or salt, and must identify the organic ingredients as "organic" in the ingredient list. If "Made With Organic Ingredients" or a similar wording is used, a product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (not counting added water or salt).
We admit that some of these brands can be quite expensive. For this reason and because some pugs also tend to be overweight (see: obesity in pugs) you may also want to try this weight care formula, which contains adequate amounts of protein and reduced levels of fat. Amino acid L-carnitine has been added because it allows the fat that is in the diet to be burned to form energy that is utilized by the pet's cells. The same brand also has a formula especially designed for dogs that live exclusively indoors, which, believe or not, "helps to limit the amount and odor of stools in dogs living exclusively indoors"...
Whichever solution you choose, it is important to bring variation in your dog's meals. If you use commercial food, rotate between several brands or types 3 times a year. Do not change your dog's food abruptly, but rotate every 4 months between 3 brands (or types within the same brand), changing slowly from one brand to the next brand over one week until the proportion of the new food reaches 100% and then continue with this 'new' food for the next 4 months, until the next change. Keeping your dog for too long on the same food can create food allergies, especially in breeds, such as Pugs that have a predisposition to allergies. If you serve your dog home-prepared meals do not fall into the trap of serving the same, successful recipe over and over again, but try again to rotate between several recipes, with varying ingredients so as to guarantee that all nutritional needs are covered.
An alternative (ideal) solution would to feed your Pug two (smaller) meals a day, one home-cooked and one of dry food; the first one guarantees enough variation and freshness in your dog's diet, the second one helps you to cover all required supplements within the right limits and keep your dog's teeth and gums exercised and tartar-free. Fractioning the same amount of food over several meals is recommended with gluttonous breeds, such as the Pug, but is not always feasible to fit into our tight schedules.
Whole dog food and healthy dog treats
Obesity in dogs
The truth is that dogs, like humans, are very adaptable creatures. Their nutritional needs are not that difficult to satisfy, so your choice should be guided by your own life style and personal experience (what kind of food gives your dog a shiny coat, healthy stools, yeast-free ears and no gas/bad breath). However, some breeds are more forgiving than others; breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs, with their tendencies to skin problems, are a little more demanding in terms of nutritious quality of their food.
Let's be honest: premium commercial food made from high-quality ingredients can be quite expensive. It can be a valid reason to opt for home-made dog meals. Dog owners can group together to buy meat and other dog meal ingredients in bulk, which can considerably push down expenses. Home-made diets can be tricky and time-consuming, but if you have the time and will to do things right, your Pug will surely thank you for it.