The Best Dog Food for Small Breeds (Review & Buying Guide) in 2019

Small breed dogs are treasured by their adoring owners and soon become part of the family. However, they differ greatly from larger breeds in their diet and nutritional needs. To keep your little pooch healthy and happy they need a carefully formulated recipe that will support their metabolism.

Small dogs have small stomachs and need to take in a lot of calories to prevent issues such as hypoglycemia which can be life-threatening. They need a nutrient-dense food with a high protein and fat content. To get you started, here is our guide to the best dog food for small breeds.

best dog food for small breeds
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed

Nature'S Variety Instinct Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Nature'S Variety Instinct Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Solid Gold Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

Solid Gold Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

Best Dog Food for Small Breeds Buying Guide & FAQ

How Are Small Breeds Different?

A small breed dog and a large breed dog differ in a lot more than size. Their metabolism works in very different ways and they have different health concerns. Therefore, their diets must take this into account. Here are some of the main ways in which small and large breeds differ.

  • Small breeds have a faster metabolism. A dog with a fast metabolism uses up carbohydrates very quickly, converts them into glucose and uses them to create energy. If the glucose blood level falls, they develop hypoglycemia which makes them weak, lethargic, suffer muscle tremors and seizures and can even lead to death. They need a regular intake of calorie-rich food.
  • Small breeds have small stomachs. Small dogs cannot eat huge quantities of food so their diet needs to be very high quality. There should be no fillers or unnecessary carbohydrates. They need plenty of protein and fat and plenty of calories.
  • Small breeds can become obese. Some small dog breeds are prone to obesity. It is important that their diet promotes the development of lean muscle and does not have any unnecessary sugars in it.
  • Small breeds have small mouths. A dainty mouth simply cannot cope with a giant, hard kibble. Foods developed for small breeds need to have a kibble that is the right size for their mouth. It needs to be able to scrape off plaque to prevent dental problems which can be a particular issue with small breed dogs.
  • Small breeds live a long time. Many small breed dogs live longer than larger breeds. This brings particular health issues. It is important that their diet is rich in antioxidants to prevent free-radical damage and some of the cancers associated with advanced age in dogs.
  • Small dogs get stomach upsets. Small breeds are especially prone to digestive issues. Diet can help with this. It needs to contain carbohydrates that are easy to digest. It also needs to contain probiotics and appropriate fiber to support a healthy digestive system.
  • Small dogs are lap dogs. Small dogs tend to spend a lot of time on their owner’s lap getting petted. They need healthy skin and a shiny coat so it is important that they have plenty of Omega oils and vitamins in their diet.

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The smaller a dog is, the more these differences will be exaggerated. Some of the toy breeds, and the teacup varieties, in particular, have very fast metabolisms and are prone to very specific health problems. The best dog food for toy breeds, therefore, needs to be carefully formulated.

small breed dog food

What to Look for in a Small Breed Dog Food

A small breed dog food needs to have particular nutrients and characteristics to suit your little pooch. Here are some things to look for in the best dry dog food for small dogs.

  • Small size kibble. Little mouths need a small kibble so food designed for small breeds often has a reduced size kibble. It will be easier for your pooch to get into their mouth and chew. It will also scrape off plaque so they don’t develop dental disease. This is a particular problem in small dogs because the teeth are so crowded in a small mouth.
  • High protein content. Small breeds need a high protein content. They cannot take in a large volume of food because they have small stomachs. The food that they do eat needs to be nutrient-rich. Many small breed formulations have a protein content of around 30 percent or more. Protein is essential for their health.
  • High-fat content. Fat is essential for producing energy and for maintaining a healthy body. Little dogs need a food that has a high-fat content because their metabolism is so high and because they can’t eat very big meals.
  • Protein source. An animal or fish protein needs to be the source of protein for a small breed. It will have the amino acid profile that they need for tissue growth and repair. Free range chicken or venison are great options.
  • Low carbohydrates. Little dogs can get fat! They need to have a carefully controlled carbohydrate intake and they need low glycemic carbs. Look for ingredients such as pumpkin and sweet potatoes on the ingredients list.
  • Digestive allergens. Small breeds often get allergies to food ingredients so try to avoid things like corn, wheat, and soy.
  • Digestive issues in small breeds can often be tackled by the inclusion of probiotics in their diet. These are friendly bacteria that support the normal action of their intestines.
  • Because small dogs live for a long time, the free radicals in the environment have the time to attack cells in the body and cause diseases like cancer. Look for superfoods in the ingredients list such as blueberries and kale. These are packed with antioxidants which will combat the free radicals and keep your little dog healthy for many years.

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Diet and Nutrition for Small Breed Dogs

The correct diet can play an important role in keeping your small dog healthy. Here are a few things that you should know about their diet and nutrition.

  • They need small regular meals
  • They need a high-calorie food
  • They need a small kibble
  • They need high protein and fat content
  • They need a nutritionally rich recipe
  • They need low carbohydrate content

two chihuahuas eating

Tips for Feeding Small Breed Puppies and Dogs

Here are the top 7 tips for choosing the best dog food for small breeds

  1. Small breed pups have an extremely high metabolic rate. They burn off a meal in hours and need a regular intake of calories. The best dog food for small breed puppies has plenty of calories.
  2. Small breed adult dogs also have a high metabolic rate and need high-calorie food.
  3. Small breeds eat small portions so the food has to be densely packed with nutrients.
  4. Small breeds have small mouths and often have dental issues so they need small kibble.
  5. Small breeds need antioxidants to keep them healthy into old age.
  6. Small breeds need careful weight management to prevent obesity
  7. Their shiny coats will benefit from Omega oils and vitamins.

small maltese dog

Our Top Pick

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food  – this best dog food for small dogs has a high protein (28 percent) content that delivers all the calories that a small dog needs through the turkey, salmon and chicken recipe. The kibble is smaller than average and packed with antioxidants thanks to the blueberries and spinach.

This healthy dog food for small dogs has flaxseed and salmon oil providing the Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils for a healthy coat.


  1. Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy, and Large Breed Dogs, Ped MD
  2. Feeding Your Adult Dog FAQ, Pet Web MD
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