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Article: 12 Best Dog Foods for Pugs: Comprehensive Buying Guide

12 Best Dog Foods for Pugs: Comprehensive Buying Guide

12 Best Dog Foods for Pugs: Comprehensive Buying Guide

Best Pug Dog Food

You want to make sure your pug is getting the best possible nutrition, but with all of the different dog food options out there, it can be tough to know where to start.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll help you sort through the best dog foods for pugs and find the perfect option for your pup.

I'll cover everything from grain-free diets to special treats, so you can be sure you're giving your pug exactly what they need.

First a quick note: this website is reader-supported. I spend a lot of time personally evaluating, testing and reviewing each product on this list, along with the help of my two dogs.

When you buy through links on our site, I may earn an affiliate commission. This also keeps my two pups fed and happy.

9 Best Dog Foods for Pugs

1. Best Overall: Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Whitefish & Quinoa

Here's the hearty meal your Pug has been craving: the Nulo Turkey, Whitefish & Quinoa flavor. This top-tier pick offers:

An impressive 77% animal-based protein content and 27% crude protein. Sourced from the finest deboned turkey and whitefish, it ensures your furry friend boasts a strong heart and well-toned muscles. 

But the benefits don't stop there. The inclusion of beneficial Omega-3 (1.3%) and Omega-6 fatty acids not only promises a radiant, glossy coat but also ensures their skin remains supple and healthy, essential for wrinkly pugs.

Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Whitefish & Quinoa

Key Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Oats, Barley, Brown Rice

One of the standout features of this product is its valuable probiotics. They support a flourishing digestive system and bolster immune health.

And for those concerned about fillers and additives that may impact heart health, you'll be pleased to know that this meal is free from pea or potato protein powders. This commitment to purity makes the entire meal not just tasty but also highly nutritious.

While some might be hesitant due to its slightly premium price tag, I see food as an investment. With this product, you're not just paying for food; you're guaranteeing optimum value for both quality and the health benefits it brings to the table.

Budget is the only hurdle for the Nulo Frontrunner. However, it's perfect if investing in your Pug's health and happiness matters to you!

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2. Best Meal Topper: Bluebird Provisions Dog Bone Broth

Are you seeking the best meal topper for your Pug? Look no further than the Bluebird Provisions Dog Bone Broth. It's at the top of our list for exceptional reasons!

I top both of my dog's meals with this broth, and they go bonkers for it as if they're eating the finest steak.

Not only is it packed with glucosamine and chondroitin that boost your Pug's joint health, but it also contains collagen protein that give them that shiny coat and healthy skin you've only dreamed of.

Both of my dogs get comments on their luscious coat all the time.

Bluebird Provisions Dog Bone Broth

What sets this broth apart is its preparation method; it's cooked slowly to ensure that the maximum nutritional value is retained. And if you're worried about your Pug being a picky eater, this broth's delicious taste is sure to enhance their meal, encouraging a hearty appetite. 

Plus, for those Pugs with sensitive tummies, the broth is easy to digest (thanks to the gut healing amino acids like glycine and glutamine), making it a good addition for sensitive tummies.

This is best suited for adult Pugs needing a nutrient boost in their meals, or dogs with a delicate digestion system. You'll see the difference that a high quality dog bone broth can make. 

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3. Best for Puppies: Diamond Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

The Diamond Puppy Formula is an economical choice for Pug owners.

My coworker, who's a new pug owner is on a budget, so I suggested Diamond Puppy Formula.

She's particularly pleased with its affordability and the fact that her puppy enjoys it, especially when used with a meal topper like bone broth.

One of the notable aspects of Diamond is its inclusion of grains. Contrary to some beliefs, these grains can be beneficial for pugs. Check the ingredients below.

Diamond Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Key Ingredients: Chicken meal, whole grain ground corn, wheat flour, chicken fat

You might be wondering why I said grains are okay as it goes against what the cool kids tell you online. You want to make sure that pugs don't grow too fast to avoid potential health issues.

Having these tolerable carb sources in their diet can help regulate that growth pace. The food's primary ingredient, chicken meal, ensures a concentrated protein source (31%), while its economic pricing provides great value.

And, while every Pug's digestive system is unique, this formula has been a good fit for her puppy.

In summary, balancing quality, affordability, and health considerations can be challenging, but with choices like Diamond, it's achievable.

This dog food is recommended for Pug owners on a budget who are seeking value for money.

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4. Best Cost Effective Option: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed

Here's why Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula is a game changer for your pug./

For starters, it prioritizes real meat (chicken or lamb), ensuring your pug enjoys protein-rich meals that are essential for maintaining healthy muscles.

Recognizing the unique digestive needs of pugs, the formula is designed with less fat and more fiber, promoting smoother digestion.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed

Key Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Fish Meal

But the benefits don't stop there. Blue Buffalo has a few crucial vitamins worth noting.

  1. Calcium for robust bones.
  2. Combination of glucosamine and chondroitin that's perfect for joint health.

If you're concerned about allergies or sensitivities, you'll be pleased to know that the recipe steers clear of common allergens and artificial ingredients.

One of the standout features that I really love is the inclusion of Lifesource Bits. This unique blend, crafted by holistic veterinarians, is a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, all aimed at bolstering your pug's immune system.

In short, it's best for senior pugs who need premium, balanced nutrition.

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5. Best Wet Food: Hill's Science Diet Small Paws Wet Dog Food

The Pug-tastic dish of Hill's Small Paws Wet lands a spot on the top list.

Growing up, I had the joy of sharing my home with a pug. As she aged, her teeth deteriorated, making it challenging for her to enjoy regular dry food. That's when I discovered Hill's. It was a game-changer then, and it remains a top choice now.

Back in the day, my pug relished every bite of Hill's wet food, and I genuinely believe it played a role in keeping her spirited and active for longer.

The high-quality proteins in the formula were perfect for maintaining her spunk, ensuring she remained as jolly as ever. The gentle fibers took care of her digestive health, especially crucial for older dogs.

Hill's Science Diet Small Paws Wet Dog Food

Key Ingredients: Water, Chicken, Pork Liver, Corn, Barley

One of the standout features of this food is the inclusion of taurine, ensuring her heart remained strong. And for that classic sleek pug coat?

The combination of Omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E worked wonders. Best of all, I never had to worry about what I was feeding her, with Hill's commitment to all-natural ingredients and no artificial additives.

Especially devised for adult Pugs aged between one to six years, this dog food ticks all the boxes for your Pug's nutritional needs, all while tantalizing their taste buds. Try some today.

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6. The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Chicken Recipe

The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Chicken Recipe is an excellent choice for your Pug's nutritional needs.

Navigating the world of dog food can be daunting, but Honest Kitchen shines as a top pick, especially if your vet has recommended a grain-free diet for your Pug.

While many Pugs thrive on grain-inclusive diets to manage growth and weight and prevent heart issues, this option is perfect for those needing a grain-free alternative.

Key Ingredients: Chicken, Potatoes, Peas, Chicken Liver, Lentils, Carrots

The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Chicken Recipe

Crafted with non-GMO ingredients and responsible sourcing, it offers genuine nourishment in every bite. The brand's commitment to safety is evident, producing food in a facility that meets human safety standards.

Beyond the product, the company stands out as a certified B Corporation, championing both social and environmental responsibility.

The recipe's star ingredient, highly digestible chicken, ensures a meal your Pug will adore. Combined with 100% human-grade ingredients, it's a blend of taste and health.

In summary, if your Pug requires a grain-free diet and you value quality and ethics, Honest Kitchen is a top contender.

However, this product is particularly recommended for Pug puppies and may require transition to an adult formulation as your Pug matures.

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7. High Protein: Wellness CORE Small Breed Puppy Dog Food

Welness CORE Small Breed Puppy is among the best food choice for your pug puppy.

My coworker, who's been feeding her pug puppy the Diamond brand, has always kept an eye on Wellness CORE as a backup. She's mentioned that if her puppy starts showing any signs of digestive issues, she's ready to fit this food into her budget.

Why? Because of its chicken-free, turkey-based protein source and the prebiotics and probiotics.

So, what makes Wellness CORE a standout choice for pug puppies? For starters, its primary ingredient is high-quality turkey (38% protein), providing a lean protein source that's essential for muscle development. 

Wellness CORE Small Breed Puppy Dog Food

Key Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas

It's tailored to meet the unique dietary needs of growing puppies. The inclusion of DHA (0.10%) is a thoughtful touch, because it is great for cognitive development and setting the stage for a lifetime of learning.

But perhaps its most notable feature is the blend of prebiotics, probiotics, and omega 3 fatty acids (1.5%). This trio works in harmony to promote overall health, ensuring shiny coats and a robust digestive system.

And, considering the petite size of pug puppies, the small kibble design is just perfect.

If you're looking for a grain free food that prioritizes digestion, overall health and cognitive development, Wellness CORE is a top-notch choice.

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9. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Puppy Dry Dog Food

Your Pug deserves the best, and Nutro Puppy Food delivers. Despite many brands opting for cheaper options, Nutro offers a blend of quality and affordability, making it a top pick!

In a market where many brands compromise on ingredients for cost savings, Nutro strikes a balance between quality and affordability.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Puppy Dry Dog Food

Key Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Barley, Brewers Rice

I also appreciate the avoidance of meat by-products. With a crude protein level of 29%, primarily sourced from chicken, it's clear that muscle health is a priority.

But perhaps the most appealing aspect for many Pug owners is the price point. With Nutro, you're not just getting a meal; you're investing in high-quality nutrition that doesn't strain your wallet.

In conclusion, if you're in the market for a dog food that combines quality, health benefits, and affordability, Nutro is a choice that delivers on all fronts.

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10. IAMS Adult Minichunks Small Kibble with Real Chicken

For your Pug's mealtime, you won't go wrong with IAMS.

At the heart of its formula is a solid protein content of 25%. This ensures your Pug maintains lean muscles, staying active and agile. 

The primary ingredient, real farm-raised chicken, not only offers a taste that dogs love but also promotes healthy digestion.

But what truly sets this product apart for Pug owners is the kibble size. Designed with small breeds in mind, the minichunks are perfect for your Pug's petite mouth.

IAMS Adult Minichunks Small Kibble with Real Chicken

Key Ingredients: Chicken, Ground Corn, Ground Sorghum, Chicken Meal

Beyond just being a meal, the food is enriched with a blend of fiber and prebiotics. This combination works wonders in supporting your dog's digestive system, ensuring they process their food comfortably.

If you're seeking a dog food that's tailored to your Pug's size, offers quality ingredients, and provides added health benefits, IAMS Adult Minichunks is a choice that checks all the boxes.

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11. Halo Meal Bites Freeze Dried Beef

Your Pug deserves only the best, and Halo Freeze Dried is a great freeze dried option.

When it comes to feeding Pugs, raw diets often spark debates. Some people swear by raw food, while others scoff at it.

While you may or may not be vibing with the raw trend, the results speak for themselves. When my dogs go raw, they sport the shiniest coats and, surprisingly, have nearly odor-free poos.

So, what makes Halo stand out? For starters, it's packed with animal proteins. 

Halo Meal Bites Freeze Dried Beef

Key Ingredients: Beef, beef heart, beef liver, beef lung, beef kidney

With 99% of its formula derived from freeze-dried raw beef and organs, it's a powerhouse of nutrition tailored for active Pugs. The food is also rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids, which collectively boost immune, digestive and skin health.

I was surprised at the lack of additives. It's free from common culprits like corn, wheat, soy and artificial flavors. 

Many users have reported noticeable improvements in their dogs' weight and digestion after making the switch. And, being made in the USA and meeting AAFCO nutrition standards, its premium quality is undeniable.

Whether you're a raw food enthusiast or just exploring options, Halo is a top-tier choice that comes with tangible benefits.

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12. Royal Canin Pug Adult Dry Dog Food

Why is Royal Canin Pug one of the best picks? Simple, it's custom made to meet the nutritional needs of your furry friend.

Recently, my coworker brought home a new pug puppy, and honestly, I've been hearing about it non-stop. But can you blame her? There's hardly anything cuter than a pug puppy with its wrinkled face and playful antics. 

While the little furball is still young, my coworker is already planning for its future, especially when it comes to nutrition. After pouring hours into research (and speaking to me, of course), she’s settled on Royal Canin for when their puppy grows up.

And it's easy to see why.

Royal Canin Pug Adult Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Pug is tailor-made to cater to the needs of pugs. Packed with EPA and DHA, which are two powerful Omega 3 fatty acids. This food ensures that your pug's skin and coat remain lustrous and healthy. 

Key Ingredients: Chicken meal, brown rice, rice, ground corn, oatmeal

The optimal protein content (23% crude protein) helps to ensure your pug is both strong and agile. One standout feature I really appreciate is the kibble size, designed specifically for a pug's small mouth. 

This not only makes eating easier but also promotes dental health. With a blend of vitamins and minerals, it's more than just a meal; it's a health booster in a bowl.

Pugs, adorable as they are, often struggle with weight issues. Thankfully, this formula aids in maintaining an ideal weight, ensuring your pug stays active and healthy.

One other quick note: this product is best suited for adult Pugs over 10 months old.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing Dog Food for Pugs

Some things to consider when choosing Pug dog food are their genetic health concerns, life stage, price, ingredient quality, skin and coat health, respiratory issues and the age-old debate of wet vs dry.

Buckle up as I'll explain each of these below.

1. Pug Health Concerns

These adorable, wrinkly companions can face specific health concerns that should guide your dog food choices. Some common issues include:

  1. Food Allergies: Symptoms include itching, licking paws or paws that smell like corn chips (yeast infection), goobery eyes, vomiting or diarrhea. If you suspect an allergy, you can speak to your vet, try your own elimination diet (use a different food) or try an at-home allergy test.
  2. Breathing Issues: Their flat faces, while endearing, can lead to breathing and cooling difficulties known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).
  3. Eye and Ear Issues: Their unique facial structure can be prone to eye and ear infections. 
  4. Skin Infections: The iconic wrinkles of Pugs, if not maintained, can harbor bacteria, leading to skin infections.
  5. Obesity: Pugs are susceptible to weight-related issues like obesity and diabetes, but a balanced diet can help manage these conditions.

Being proactive about these health challenges ensures a happier, healthier life for your Pug.

2. Age and Health

Make sure you match their food with their life stage. Your Pug's food may contribute to allergies, obesity or diabetes if overlooked. An inappropriate diet can exacerbate health problems your Pug might face! But hey, here's the silver lining; the right food can counteract these issues.

Aim for nutrition-rich, age-appropriate meals to keep your pup in top physical condition and maintain his weight.

3. Skin and Coat Health

Let's face it - skin and coat health in Pugs is a major issue. Moisture levels, dermatitis, even hair loss are common problems with this delightful breed. But fear not! Choosing the right dog food can make a huge difference. Here's the top 4 things to look for:

  1. Omega 3 Fats: a diet rich in fatty acids is paramount. These nutrients help maintain skin moisture and combat skin issues. Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular, are vital for a Pug's skin and coat health, giving it a radiant shine. My favorite brand is Pet Honesty, which you can find on Amazon. Look for at least 1% omega 3s in your dry kibble. Or else consider supplementing.
  2. Antioxidants and Vitamin E provide an extra layer of protection against environmental stressors, ensuring skin vitality.
  3. Amino acids from protein play a role, especially in maintaining the Pug's distinct coat color. 
  4. Zinc & Vitamin A don't overlook the importance of Zinc and Vitamin A. They're important for preventing skin issues like dandruff and crustiness.

Your Pug's diet is in your hands, fuel their vitality and keep their skin healthy.

4. Respiratory Issues

Pugs often suffer from breaching issues due to their brachiocephalic structure, a condition known as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS).

pug panting

Problems include collapsed nostrils, reverse sneezing and an elongated soft palate, among others. The key to managing these problems lies in your Pug's diet.

Providing high-quality, nutritious food, rich in proteins, omega 3 fatty acids, and low in fats and carbs helps to control their weight, reducing stress on their airways.

It is also a good idea to avoid common allergens such as soy, animal by-products, yeast extract and corn, which can worsen their respiratory issues. So, choose their food wisely for a healthier and happier Pug!

5. Price

When choosing food for your Pug, you're always weighing the"Quality vs Price." While premium dog foods may come with a heftier price tag, you get what you pay for with pet food. And the market is so crowded that brands can't get away with overcharging what the food is worth.

Higher quality food with be more expensive. That being said, I realize it's crucial to balance this with your budget. That is why I included a few different options for lower and higher budgets on the list above.

Remember that Pugs eat less than larger breeds. Investing in a quality food bag can be cost-effective in the long run, as it lasts longer.

6. Ingredient Quality

Choosing top-quality ingredients in Pug food significantly fuels their overall health. Quality matters because a better ingredient list yields a higher nutritional potency for your pet.

A real, recognizable meat, like chicken, beef or salmon should top the ingredient list, ensuring the primary protein source is wholesome. Steer clear of poultry by-product meals, as they often indicate a less nutritious formula. 

Carbohydrates shouldn't dominate; instead, Pugs thrive on diets rich in proteins and fats. Since some grains, like corn, can be hard for Pugs to digest and are sometimes used as fillers, it's wise to lean towards easy-to-digest options like oats and rice.

Lastly, "human-grade" on the label is a hallmark of quality, signifying the inclusion of real meat, fruits, and vegetables.

7. Wet vs Dry

With so many brands and types, you wonder, "Which is best: wet or dry food?" Fear not, let's break this down:

Dry dog food stands out for its convenience and ease of storage. Not only does it promote dental health by helping reduce plaque and tartar buildup, but it also provides a well-rounded, balanced diet for your canine companion.

wet vs dry dog food

On the other hand, wet dog food is great for hydration, especially important for dogs that don't drink enough water. Its rich, savory flavors make it especially appealing, often becoming the preferred choice for picky eaters. 

Additionally, for Pugs facing advanced dental challenges, wet food can be a gentler and more manageable option.

Considering the pros, an 80-20 mix favoring dry food can be perfect. The choice though depends on your pug's preference and needs, ensuring they enjoy mealtime while staying healthy.

How to Transition Your Pug to a New Dog Food


Food Composition

Key Points


25% New Food - 75% Old Food

Start slowly, any abrupt change in diet can upset your Pug's tummy. Monitor your Pug closely for any changes in stool consistency, energy levels, or overall well-being.


50% New Food - 50% Old Food

Increase the new food portion only if your Pug is responding positively. Continue monitoring their reaction to the new diet.


75% New Food - 25% Old Food

Keep upping the percentage of the new food, but be diligent in watching for any potential adverse reactions your Pug may have.


100% New Food

By this time, your Pug's body should have adjusted to the new diet. Keep an eye on their health and consult your vet if you notice anything unusual

What is the best food for a pug?

The best food for a pug is the Nulo Frontrunner small breed. This top-notch dog food is brimming with flavor and nutrients that cater to the unique needs of small breeds like Pugs.

With a robust protein content of around 27%, it ensures your Pug's vitality and muscle health are in peak condition. The balanced fat content of 15% provides the necessary energy without the risk of tipping the scales towards obesity.

But what truly sets this food apart is its holistic approach to nutrition. It boasts a harmonious blend of omega 3s (1.3%)whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This ensures that your Pug gets a well-rounded meal every time.

What is a healthy diet for pugs?

A healthy diet for your pug should be rich in proteins, low to moderate in fats, and contain a controlled amount of carbohydrates. Foods should be high-quality, coming from digestible whole foods packed with omega fatty acids and antioxidants.

Your pug's diet needs to cater for specific allergies or sensitivities as well. A great example of such a diet is the Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small Breed Adult dog food, carefully crafted to support your pug's health needs. Remember, pugs are prone to obesity so regulate their portions carefully!

Is grain-free best for pugs?

Grain free diets are not the best for all Pugs, however, they are great for Pugs who are allergic to grains. If your Pug is not allergic to grains then grain free is not a good idea.

Several years ago, the FDA announced a potential link between grain-free dog diets and a developing heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Investigations showed that this association might stem grain free diets, typically including peas, potatoes, and/or legumes among their main ingredients.

It is suggested that these specific grain-free diets (because of what they use as carb sources in place of grains) could contribute to heart disease in dogs, although further research is required for a conclusive understanding.

What do I do if my pug is not eating?

If your pug is not eating, you first want to identify when and why they are not eating. Are they showing other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, excessive drooling, or lethargy and has skipped meals for over 24 hours? If this is the case then I would recommend speaking to your vet immediately.

They might have an underlying condition like an intestinal blockage which needs fast attention.

pug running in a field

How do I change my pug's diet?

Switching up your Pug's diet can be a delicate process, especially if they've developed a sudden distaste for their current food. A sudden change in diet can be jarring for their digestive system, so it's important to approach this transition with care and patience.

Start by introducing the new food slowly. For the first few days, mix 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food. This blend allows your Pug to get accustomed to the new flavors and ingredients without overwhelming their system.

As you serve these mixed meals, keep a close eye on your Pug. Monitor for any signs of digestive distress or continued aversion. If all seems well and your Pug is adjusting comfortably, you can gradually increase the proportion of the new food.

Over the next couple of weeks, continue this process until the transition to the new diet is complete.

Remember, patience is key. By taking the time to transition your Pug's diet slowly, you're ensuring their health and happiness during the change.

What human foods can pugs eat?

Some of the popular human foods that pugs can eat are rice, chicken, potatoes, carrots and lamb.

  • Rice is a gentle option for Pugs, especially when they have an upset stomach. It's easy to digest and can be a comforting treat. 
  • Chicken, beef and Lamb: If you're looking to add some protein to their diet, chicken, beef and lamb are fantastic choices. They're rich in protein, and most Pugs find them irresistible.
  • Cooked potatoes can be a delightful treat for your Pug. They're a good source of carbohydrates, but remember to serve them plain – no butter or seasonings. 
  • Carrots: if you're looking for a crunchy treat, carrots can be a hit. Not only do they promote eye health, but their crunchiness can also be a fun texture for your Pug to enjoy.

Closing Thoughts

So there it is! Your comprehensive overview of the best dog foods for your beloved pug. Remember, your pug's nutritional needs should always come first, so choose wisely.

Each brand I discussed offers unique benefits. A great place to start is the Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Whitefish & Quinoa.

And if you need a freeze-dried meal topper, try Bluebird Provisions bone broth.

Do you have any questions about the brands on this list or another brand you want my feedback on? Leave a comment and I will get back to you asap.

Bluebird Provisions is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used to treat or supplement any pet's diet. Consult your veterinarian or animal health specialist if you have questions about anything related to their food, consumption or health. The statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, USDA or CFIA.

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