Homemade Pug Food

The following information is provided as a courtesy. This is not a recommendation for any other dogs with calcium oxalate bladder stones. It is a description of how we have managed the condition in our own pugs.

Why Make Dog Food?

An X-ray to check out a back problem revealed that one of our first pugs, Tessa, had what veterinarians call a calcium oxalate urolith. In other words, a bladder stone.

Surgical removal was required, as was taking steps to prevent more from forming (they are highly recurrent). The way to prevent them from recurring, we were told, is by controling what goes into the pug.

Easier said than done, we found out.

Tessa—a highly food-obsessed pug—was put on a canned prescription diet. The food looked gross and we soon found that she was losing interest in food. She also began experiencing a lot of diarrhea, occasional vomiting, and some coprophagia. She wasn't happy and, frankly, neither were we with all the messes there were to clean up. There had to be a better way.

Literature on prevention of canine bladder stones says to avoid feeding dogs "human food." It's a stupid blanket statement. Humans eat a lot of stuff, some of it good for them, some of it not. There's a big difference between feeding your dog Doritos and feeding her some plain chicken. Surely, we could devise a homemade dog food—using whole food—that would be appropriate for Tessa.

After some prodding from my wife, our vet contacted the Minnesota Urolith Center (part of the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine), where Tessa's stone had been sent for analysis, and they provided us a list of foods that were acceptable (pdf) and to be avoided (pdf).

Based on that list, consultation with a veterinary nutritionist, and some experimentation with Tessa, we came up with a diet for her. We can tell you that Tessa never had a recurrence of bladder stones and she lived to a ripe old 15 years. (And people always thought she looked much younger.)

So when, years later, Gretel was diagnosed with bladder stones, we knew just what we were going to do. Today, this is what we feed Gretel as well as CeeCee (who does not have bladder stones):

Pug Food (Large Batch Recipe)

  • ~15-16 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 Costco packages)
  • Salt
  • 5 C. white rice
  • 8 C. frozen green peas
  • Bananas (see #12 below)
  1. Cook the chicken - 60 minutes at 350 degrees
    Our technique: Thoroughly rinse and drain the chicken. Do not trim any of the fat. Place in a casserole dish (for this much chicken, we use three pans). Sprinkle it very generously with kosher salt, and put it in the oven for an hour.
    Note: The salt is added because it acts as a diuretic for the dog. It causes her to drink more water, which causes her to urinate more, which is good for dogs prone to bladder stones.
  2. Pour off all juices from the cooked chicken and/or transfer it to a collander to drain all the liquid.
  3. Cut up the chicken
    For best results in step #10, you'll want to cut/tear the chicken into smaller chunks (about 3-4 pieces per thigh).
  4. Drain the chicken again
    Drain off any liquid that has been released as a result of cutting up the chicken.
  5. Cook the rice
    My wife prefers to rinse the rice several times before cooking. In a very large pot (somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-8 quarts), add the rice (5 C.) and two cups of cool/cold water for every cup of rice (10 C.). Heat uncovered on high until it boils. Once it boils, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover it, and let it cook until all the water is absorbed. Perfect every time.
  6. Combine the rice and the cut-up chicken
    Stir it together to start forming a fairly consistent mixture.
  7. Steam the green peas
  8. Mix the peas into the chicken and rice. It should look like this:Pug Food Mix
    Click here for larger image
  9. Refrigerate at least overnight, but preferably for a couple of days
    This is critical to step #10. The food needs to be firm enough that it will blend properly. If it's warm and soft, it'll mix into a paste. Yuck.
  10. Blend it in a food processor
    Blends the food into an even mixture of very small pieces. It should look like this:
    Pug Food
    Click here for a larger picture
  11. Store it
    This food must be stored in airtight containers and refrigerated or frozen. It will go bad if it is not consumed within days or frozen for later use.
    Pug Food Packed for Freezing
  12. Feed the pugs
    Our girls eat twice a day (6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m SHARP!) For breakfast, they each get 1/4 C. of the homemade food and 1/2 of a banana (sliced). For dinner, they each get 1/2 C. of the homemade food. CeeCee also gets canned green beans and sometimes we also give her canned pumpkin (100% pure pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie mix).
    Note: Gretel is a certified couch potato and a very dense dog. She weighs around 18 lbs. CeeCee is about 15 lbs.

Additional Notes on Homemade Pug Food and Gretel's Diet

Since switching from a high-quality commercial dog food to this homemade diet, we've noticed a number of things:

  • No indication for approximately 7 years that Gretel has had any recurrence of bladder stones
    Previous indications that she had bladder stones included difficulty urinating, frequent urination, and incontinence. None of these symptoms has returned. She takes Methio-form (a medication that must be prescribed by a veterinarian) daily to help keep crystals from forming in her urine.
  • Weight loss
    The girls are maintaining healthy figures.
  • Improved coat
    People RAVE about how soft they are.
  • Decreased shedding
    OK, they still shed a good deal, but it's definitely less than it used to be.
  • Improved skin on Gretel
    In addition to the bladder stone problem, Gretel is allergic to corn (it makes her fur fall out, her skin turns black and she looks like vultures have attacked) and had always been on the itchy side. We suspected she either has rather sensitive skin generally or may have other mild food allergies. Whatever the case, the itchies have stopped since switching to this food.

Treats

In addition to the food above, we occasionally give them high-quality dog treats. We look for treats with packaging that says things like "all organic ingredients," "no corn," "no preservatives," and "no chemicals." We look for lists of ingredients that are all recognizable (e.g., rye flour, eggs, canola oil, peanut butter, molasses). There is, of course, some risk that the treats we buy may have things in them that should be avoided by dogs with a history of bladder stones. But since commercial treats are not a regular part of the girls' diet, it's a risk we're willing to take. (Sliced up bananas and cantaloupe also make really great treats.)

Vitamins

Originally when we put Tessa on this diet, the veterinary nutritionist we consulted recommended that in addition to the food, we feed her a multi-vitamin. We tried a wide variety of vitamins in a variety of formats: plain, wrapped in cheese, disguised in meat, ground up and mixed into her food. No matter what we did, she would not ingest them. She seemed healthy enough and the battle to get vitamins in her was difficult enough that we just gave up on it.

In retrospect, my wife wonders if perhaps that was for the best, because we don't know whether a multi-vitamin would have the minerals and other things that cause calcium oxalate bladder stones to form.

LOTS of pug photos here


To help pugs who have been victims of abuse or neglect, or who just need loving new homes, please contact Seattle Pug Rescue, PugHearts (pug rescue of Houston) or a pug-rescue group in your area. Please, never buy puppies from a pet store.