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Your small breed dog may have the strength and stamina of a large canine, but they have different metabolic rates, and as a result, different nutritional needs. To be healthy, fit, and happy, small pups require specially formulated recipes that are smaller in kibble or chunk size but higher in calories to satisfy their high energy needs. To help get you started on healthy small breed dog nutrition, we reviewed some of the most popular dog foods on the market, detailing our favorites below. We also created a comprehensive buying guide in which we cover everything you should know about dog food for petite pooches, including how to find the right one for your pet.
Containing no less than 28 percent of protein from top-quality sources, this dry dog food is formulated to satisfy the high energy needs of small dogs. Deboned turkey, salmon meal and chicken meal are all excellent sources of protein as they contain a complete amino acid profile, plus plenty of essential fatty acids, yet are easy to digest. The kibble is also smaller in size to suit small mouths and jaws, while the calorie intake is optimized to support a healthy weight.
Thanks to blueberries, spinach, apples and carrots, the food is packed with antioxidants, while brown rice and oatmeal provide much-needed fiber for healthy digestion. As for fat sources, flaxseed and salmon oil provide Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids necessary for a strong immune system, healthy skin and shiny coat. All in all, one of the best small breed dog foods currently on the market!
Looking for novel protein sources for your sensitive small dog? Check out Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley as it’s made with venison and lamb meal. This grain-free recipe is ideal for pups who are sensitive to standard protein sources and grains, although all small breed dogs can enjoy it as it’s tasty and healthy.
Besides excellent protein sources, the formula also contains antioxidant- and fiber-rich legumes, fruits and vegetables such as garbanzo beans, lentils, tomatoes and blueberries. There are also canola oil and ocean fish meal for essential fatty acid content, making the food great for skin and coat health. And to support your pooch’s gut health, Taste of the Wild added their proprietary K9 probiotic blend to this recipe, making it easy to digest. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley is one of 7 dog food recipes mentioned in our Taste of The Wild Dog Food Review.
Crafted using top-quality ingredients, including lamb meat, menhaden fish meal and brown rice, this small breed food by Blue Buffalo is as healthy as it is tasty. Aside from excellent animal protein sources, the formula contains wholesome grains and healthy fruits and vegetables, making it nicely balanced – perfect for high-energy small dogs!
The recipe is supplemented with all important vitamins and minerals to promote a strong immune system and overall well-being, and there are Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and lustrous coat. The recipe contains no meat by-product meals and no corn, soy or wheat, making it a good choice for dogs with food sensitivities.
Containing at least 24 percent protein and 15 percent fat, this nutrient-rich food is nicely balanced, perfect for both indoor and outdoor pets. Tailored specifically to meet the high-energy needs of petite pups, this recipe is packed with nutritious and highly digestible ingredients such as farm-raised chicken, lamb meal, wholesome brown rice and sweet potatoes.
Other ingredients include oatmeal, barley, peas and flaxseed, so there is plenty of fiber for healthy digestion. Of course, the recipe is also fortified with supplements, including essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, so it’s 100% complete and balanced.
This is one of the smallest-sized kibbles that you can get for small and toy breeds. But don’t let the tiny size fool you – this is one nutritious, high in protein food thanks to bison meat, ocean fish meal, and lamb meal it contains. Aside from these powerful protein sources, the recipe also contains whole grains and more than 20 superfoods to keep your little pooch in optimum condition.
Some of the ingredients include fiber-rich oatmeal and brown rice, and antioxidant-packed pumpkin, blueberries, spinach, broccoli, and beets. There are balanced levels of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids for a shiny, healthy coat thanks to salmon and almond oil too, making this formula one of the best small breed foods available.
28% crude protein
18% crude fat
Contains bison meat, ocean fish meal, and salmon meal
If you’d like to try a raw diet with your small pooch but still want to keep some dry food on the menu, then check out this grain-free kibble topped off with freeze-dried raw meat that comes from cage-free duck. Crafted from only high-quality ingredients, it’s perfect for high-energy small breed dogs.
The high-quality protein will boost your mini-dog’s energy, muscle strength and all-round health, while providing a natural meaty taste they will love. Add in probiotics, essential fatty acids and vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as calcium, glucosamine and chondroitin for bone, heart and digestive health, and you have a complete meal that packs a power punch. As well as being grain-free, the formula is also made without corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors and additives, making it ideal for sensitive pups.
Specifically made for adult small breed dogs, this high-quality recipe contains everything your pup needs to thrive, and then some. It’s packed with protein thanks to cage-free chicken and chicken meal, as well as antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients thanks to nourishing superfoods such as kale, blueberries, chia seed, coconut and pumpkin.
Aside from these super-healthy ingredients, the recipe also contains wholesome grains to provide fiber for gentle digestion. There are also added probiotics for gut health, making the food highly bioavailable. Like all Diamond Naturals, this formula too is free from all artificial additives, which means it should be suitable for sensitive pooches as well.
Looking for grain-free, high-protein and low-carb food for your small pup? We recommend Nulo’s Small Breed Salmon & Lentils recipe. 84% of the protein content comes from animal sources that pack in more amino acids. This is further supplemented by miscanthus grass, a natural fiber that will support healthy digestion regulate their appetite and keep their weight to a healthy level.
The carbohydrate content in this small breed dog food is on the lower side but there are plenty of low glycemic carbohydrates like lentils, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas to help prevent hypoglycemia. There are added probiotics to support digestion, as well as L-carnitine to help small dogs shed extra weight more easily.
For small dogs who have trouble digesting their food, the Holistic Select Small & Mini Breed recipe might be a perfect choice. Made with novel protein sources, including anchovy and sardines, plus active probiotics, digestive enzymes and fiber, this food is one of the easiest to digest.
Aside from nutritious protein sources, the recipe also contains a variety of superfoods, including pumpkin, apples, cranberries, blueberries and papaya, all rich in antioxidants needed for a healthy immune system, plus flaxseed and salmon oil for those much-needed omega-3 fatty acids. Needless to say, the formula is free from all artificial additives, making it ideal for sensitive pooches.
35% crude protein
16% crude fat
Made with anchovy, sardine and chicken meal
Contains probiotics and prebiotics, digestive enzymes and fiber
This carefully balanced food is specially crafted to be easy on the stomachs of small breed dogs. It comes with plenty of quality protein (minimum 25 %) and healthy fat (minimum 15 %) in small-sized kibble pieces that are easy to munch on. The first two ingredients are real chicken and chicken meal, and to this are added garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and plenty of other healthy fruits and vegetables.
This is a grain-free formula, however, it’s not super-low in carbohydrate content, thanks to wholesome legumes, veggies and fruits, making it a great choice for active pups. There are optimum calcium and phosphorous levels to support strong bones, plus antioxidants to boost the immune systemm as well as glucosamine to support joints. All in all, one tasty and healthy small breed food!
Small breed dogs differ from their larger counterparts in many ways, with nutritional needs being the most important difference. Having higher metabolic rates, small and toy breeds typically need more calories in their daily diet, and some pups may require additional supplements and nutrients to remain healthy in their old age. If you’d like to switch your petite companion to an appropriate small breed diet but don’t know where to start, this buying guide is for you. Here, we explain everything you should know about the specific diet of small dogs, including what to look for in good-quality recipes.
How Are Small Breed Canines Different?
A small breed dog’s nutritional needs greatly differ from those of a large breed dog. Small and toy pups’ metabolisms have higher metabolic rates (which is something to keep in mind if you have a small breed puppy), plus they have different health concerns you need to worry about (such as hypoglycemia). As a result, their diet should be different and specifically formulated to support their delicate but high-energy needs. Here are some of the main ways in which small breed canines differ from large breeds.
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 blood sugar level drops too low, they can suffer from hypoglycemia which makes them weak and lethargic. In more serious cases, dogs can suffer from muscle tremors and seizures which can even lead to death. Because of this, petite dogs need a regular intake of calorie-rich foods.
Smaller stomach. Unlike bigger dogs, small dogs can’t and shouldn’t eat huge quantities of food, which means that their diet needs to be of very high quality. They need plenty of protein and healthy fat, plus extra calories to satisfy their high-energy needs.
Smaller mouth. A dainty mouth simply cannot cope with a giant, hard kibble. Foods developed for small breeds need to come in the right sizes for their small mouths. However, kibble should also be able to scrape off the plaque to prevent dental problems which can be a particular issue with small breed dogs.
Longer life. Many small breed dogs live longer than larger breeds. While this is good news for our petite pals, longer lifespans can also bring particular health issues. For this reason, it’s important that our small pets’ diets are rich in antioxidants to prevent free-radical damage and certain cancers associated with advanced age in dogs.
More frequent stomach upsets. Many smaller breeds are especially prone to digestive issues. Thankfully, diet can help with this. A proper small and toy breed diet needs to contain easily digestible ingredients, including protein and carbohydrate sources. Added probiotics are a plus as well.
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 specific health problems, including the already mentioned hypoglycemia. The best dog food for toy breeds, therefore, needs to be carefully formulated to support the specific health and energy needs of smaller dogs.
What to Look for in a Small Breed Dog Food
A small breed of dog food needs to contain specific nutrients and possess particular characteristics to suit your little pooch. Here are some things to look for in the best dry dog food for small dogs.
Small-sized kibble. Smaller mouths need smaller-sized kibble, so look for foods specifically designed for small and toy breeds. This type of kibble will be easier on your pooch’s jaw and will, as a bonus, also scrape off soft plaque, promoting better dental health.
Plenty of protein. Petite pups thrive on high to moderate protein diets. They cannot take in a large volume of food due to their small stomachs, so the food that they eat needs to be nutrient-rich. Of course, you don’t have to buy only the highest-in-protein recipes unless your vet recommends it or your pooch is highly active and young; anything between 24% to 36% of quality protein is great.
Plenty of healthy fat. Fat is essential for canine health and well-being and is particularly welcome in a smaller dog’s diet. Tiny pups have faster metabolisms, so they require recipes higher in fat than their larger counterparts.
Quality protein source. Always look for animal or fish protein sources in your dog’s food. While vegetable and legume protein sources are very much welcome too, only animal proteins contain a complete amino acid profile. Look for recipes that contain meat or fish as the first ingredient.
Moderately low carb content. Little dogs can get fat! They need to have a carefully controlled carbohydrate intake and should eat low glycemic carbs. Look for whole grains, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potatoes on the ingredients list.
Natural fiber and probiotics: Because small pooches are often prone to digestive issues, it’s a good idea to look for recipes that contain moderate amounts of fiber and added probiotics. These are friendly bacteria that support your pup’s gut health and aid in digestion.
High antioxidant content: Since small dogs tend to live for a long time, free radicals in the environment have plenty of time to attack cells in the body and cause diseases like cancer. Look for superfoods in the ingredients list such as blueberries, cranberries, and kale. These are packed with antioxidants and will combat the free radicals and keep your little dog healthy for many years.
Diet and Nutrition for Small Breed Dogs
An appropriate 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.
To remain healthy and happy, small and toy breeds require careful feeding. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
Choose appropriate food: Feed your tiny pup food specifically crafted for small breed dogs because it comes in smaller-sized kibble or chunks and is higher in nutrients. Also, feed life stage appropriate diets: puppy food for developing pups, adult recipes for adult dogs, and senior formulas for aging canines. Have a multi-pet household? Choose all life stages dog foods.
Moderate their portion sizes: Because they have smaller stomachs, petite dogs should eat smaller amounts of food in one sitting. If you have both large and small breed pets, do make sure each dog is fed accordingly.
Include supplements if necessary: While foods formulated for smaller breeds typically contain everything small and toy dogs need to thrive, sometimes you may have to include extra supplements in your pooch’s diet. Probiotics are a good choice if your pet suffers from digestive issues, as is fish oil if they struggle with poor skin and coat health. For more options, check out our detailed reviews of supplements for older dogs and joint supplements for dogs here.
Our Top Pick
While all foods featured in our top list are excellent-quality recipes, our top pick has to be Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Dog Food. Specifically crafted for small breed pups, this well-balanced, highly palatable and easily digestible food should suit most adult petite dogs. It contains three nutritious protein sources, plenty of antioxidant-rich complex carbs, and just the right amount of fat to promote general health and well-being of canines. As a bonus, it’s more than reasonably priced, making it one of the best, if not the best dog food for small dogs in the market!
Sharon is a Ph.D. scientist and experienced pet content writer. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a Cockapoo puppy. She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and turning it into easy-to-understand articles that offer practical tips. When it comes to our furry friends, she knows that there is always something new to learn!