Small dogs are special. They’re man’s best friend and constant companion, but that’s not the only thing that’s unique about them. Small dogs have specific dietary requirements related to their size. But which dog food is the best for your small breed? Do you need something grain free? Dry dog food? A high protein diet?
Let’s take a look at what makes small breed dogs special and everything you need to know about choosing the best dog food for small dogs.
- How is a small breed different?
- What To Look for in the Best Small Breed Food
- Best Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs
- 1. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Small Paws for Small Breed Dogs
- 2. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Adult Dry Dog Food for Small & Toy Breeds
- 3. Royal Canin Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
- 4. Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food
- 5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food
- 6. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Light for Healthy Weight & Weight Management Small Bites
- 7. Merrick with Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food
- 8. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Grain Free Dry Dog Food Recipe
- 9. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Adult Small & Mini Breeds Sensitive Stomach & Skin
- Best Wet Dog Food for Small Dogs
- 1. Hill’s Science Diet Wet Dog Food Adult Small Paws for Small Breeds
- 2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Small Breed Wet Dog Food
- 3. Blue Buffalo Blue Divine Delights
- 4. Cesar Simply Crafted Wet Dog Food
- 5. CANIDAE Petite Small Breed Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
- 6. Cesar Gourmet Filets in Sauce Wet Dog Food
- 7. Cesar Gourmet Puppy Wet Dog Food
- 8. Purina Beneful Small Breed Wet Dog Food Variety Pack
- 9. Purina Bella Single Serve Grain Feee Adult Wet Dog Food or Topper
- Final Thoughts
How is a small breed different?
When it comes to giving your dog the best nutrition, the biggest difference between large and small breeds is that smaller dogs have faster metabolisms. This is true through all stages of life, from puppyhood to old age. That means that the best food for small dogs is calorically dense.
Portion size is also very important because small dogs can gain weight quickly, and some breeds like to eat. Follow the feeding guides on the label or talk to your vet to make sure you’re balancing portion size and caloric intake appropriately.
Large breeds, on the other hand, need pet food with ingredients to support strong, healthy bones because they get so much larger. Food for large breeds contains optimal levels of calcium and ingredients to promote joint and bone health.
Here are some specific things to consider when choosing the best dogs food for your small dog:
Small breed dogs have small mouths. Kibble has to be the right size to make sure they can chew it adequately while still having the right shape to scrape plaque off their teeth.
Because small dogs have high metabolisms, they burn carbohydrates very quickly. This puts them at risk for hypoglycemia. To avoid this, smaller dogs should have a regular intake of calorie-dense, nutritionally balanced food.
A small breed dog can’t fit as much food into their bodies as large dogs can. Smaller dogs eat smaller meals, which means that their food has to be high-quality, with plenty of healthy fat, protein, and enough calories to support their energy needs. Because of their high metabolism, small dogs should have small meals multiple times a day.
Small dog breeds are prone to upset stomach and food sensitivities. Some dog breeds that are known for having sensitivities are small breeds, including the Bichon Frise, pugs, Brussels Griffon, and Maltese. Food with easily digestible ingredients and probiotics can help your small breed dog with GI and skin sensitivities.
Little dogs live significantly longer than large ones, and long lifespans often mean more health complications as they age. Small dogs require food that is rich in antioxidants to help protect them from cancers and other health issues later in life.
What To Look for in the Best Small Breed Food
How do you meet the special needs of a small breed? Here are four key things to remember when choosing the best food for your dog.
1. They need nutrient-dense dog food.
Small dogs have small stomachs and eat less than medium and large breeds. That means that every morsel of food has to be packed with nutrients to make sure your small dog gets the nutrition it needs to thrive.
2. They need small pieces of dog food.
We already mentioned small kibble, but there are other options for small breed dog food, too. For example, wet food like pâtés, and slice and serve rolls let your small dog take little bites easily.
3. You have to watch serving sizes.
Small breed dogs are prone to gaining weight because it’s very easy for them to overeat. Plus, they’re so cute that they’re easy to spoil. Make sure you follow the recommended serving size on the food packaging or talk to your vet to make sure you’re giving your dog the right amount of food for its size. Weight gain of even an extra pound or two can cause significant damage to the joints and puts them at risk for health issues in the future.
4. Dental care is important.
Small breeds are particularly sensitive to dental issues so it’s important to take care of their teeth. Dry food that is designed to scrape away tartar is great. Wet dog foods are more likely to lead to tooth problems because it clings to their teeth. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give your small dog wet food, but you should brush their teeth at least three times a week to avoid any issues.
Best Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs
Hill’s Science Diet is a well-known brand of dog food, and this Small Paws for Small Breed Dogs dry dog food recipe is a great example of why. It contains highly digestible ingredients that are easy on your dog’s stomach, with the high-quality protein little dogs need to maintain lean muscle. With 371 kcal per cup, this high protein formula keeps up with your little bundle of energy.
A special antioxidant blend supports the immune system, and omega-6 fatty acids promote a healthy coat and skin. Hill’s Science Diet is veterinarian recommended. It uses natural ingredients and never any by-product chicken meal. Plus, it’s made in the USA and never includes any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Farm-raised chicken is the main protein and first ingredient in this best dog food from Nutro. With 339 kcals per cup, this recipe is loaded with the nutrition your small dog needs to stay healthy for many years to come.
Other wholesome ingredients include brown rice, barley, sweet potatoes, and dried apples, blueberries, and carrots. Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids promote a shiny coat and healthy skin and there are never any meat by-product chicken meal, wheat, soy, corn, or artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. All ingredients are sourced from trusted suppliers and farmers, and recipes are produced in kitchens in Nutro’s US facilities.
This small breed dry best dog food recipe from Royal Canin is formulated for a small breed dog from 10 months to eight years old, weighing between nine and 22 pounds. It’s specially formulated to meet the energy needs of your small dog while helping to maintain a healthy weight with L-carnitine.
The small kibble has a rich taste dogs love, and it’s the perfect size for their small jaws. If you have a picky eater and are looking for a tasty recipe, this one is highly palatable and a great one to try. It has optimal levels of fatty acids for optimal skin and coat health and kibble shape to promote tartar control. Plus, every Royal Canin recipe comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
If you’re looking for good puppy dog food for your small breed dog, Royal Canin has you covered. This small puppy recipe is made for puppies up to 10 months old that are expected to reach an adult weight of 22 pounds or less.
Small breed puppies grow fast, and this recipe is designed to support the short, intense growth in the first year of a small breed puppy’s life, with the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs. The small kibble size is perfect for their small mouths, and the wholesome ingredients provide an exclusive blend of antioxidants, prebiotics, protein, and vitamins to support the immune system and digestive health. If you’re not satisfied, don’t forget that Royal Canin offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
A small breed dog needs special nutritional support as it gets older. For senior small breed dogs, Blue Buffalo Life Protection pet food is a great choice. This food uses real deboned chicken protein as the first ingredient to build and maintain healthy muscles.
Also included are Blue’s LifeSource Bits, a proprietary blend of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins to support the immune system and maintain a healthy oxidative balance while meeting life stage requirements for your small breed dog.
This small breed natural dog food also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and encourage mobility. The kibble size is ideal for small jaws, and Blue Buffalo never uses any poultry by-products, corn, soy, wheat, or artificial flavors or preservatives.
As we mentioned, it’s easy for a small breed to gain weight so the right diet is important. If you need help managing the weight of a small breed, this Healthy Weight dog food recipe from Hill’s Science Diet can help. It has 18% fewer calories than the brand’s regular small breed adult formula, at 271 calories per cup.
This dog food recipe also has L-carnitine to promote a healthy heart and body weight in your small breed. The high-quality chicken meal delivers concentrated protein and natural fibers help satisfy your dog’s appetite, and there are plenty of omega-6 fatty acids to support a healthy coat and skin.
Merrick’s Health Grain formula for small breeds is made with real deboned chicken as the first ingredient and main source of protein. This high-quality protein supports lean muscle growth development and high energy levels. It also contains high-quality grains, like quinoa, brown rice, and barley, to support healthy digestion.
This recipe also promotes healthy joints with glucosamine and chondroitin as well as omegas 3 and 6 for skin and coat health. It’s pea-free, lentil-free, and potato free and, best of all, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
If you have a picky eater or want to try the best dog food that uses a protein other than chicken, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe might be for you. It uses deboned beef as the first ingredient, a delicious protein that helps build lean muscle mass.
This protein rich dry dog food recipe is grain free and uses healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes to keep up with your active lifestyle. It also has omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support skin and coat health as well as Blue’s LifeSource Bits that support the immune system and meet life stage requirements. Blue Buffalo never uses corn, wheat, soy, or any artificial preservatives or flavors.
Here’s another great option for a small breed dry dog food with sensitivities. This dry small breed dog food from Hill’s Science Diet has prebiotic fibers to encourage optimal digestive health and omega 6 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin. It also has 293 calories per cup and high-quality protein to keep up with your dog’s high energy needs. It’s made in the USA from carefully sourced ingredients and doesn’t include any artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives.
Best Wet Dog Food for Small Dogs
These peel-and-serve dog foods trays are easy and convenient and deliver the perfect portions for your small breed dog. Beef and pork liver deliver high-quality protein to support lean muscle development. Natural ingredients like brown rice, carrots, and spinach promote healthy digestion and balanced nutrition.
This small breed dog food recipe is made in the USA using natural ingredients and packaged in convenient single-serving sized trays. They also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t like it, contact Hill’s for your money back.
Blue Buffalo’s grain-free wet dog food for small dogs is packed with real turkey and chicken protein. It has meaty flavors your small dog will love and the protein to support its active metabolism. Blue enhances its wet dog foods with added vitamins and minerals to ensure well-balanced diet.
These grain free dog foods can be served as a meal on its own or mixed in with dry food. It contains no by-product chicken meal, corn, soy, or wheat as well as no artificial preservatives or flavors.
The first ingredient in this small breed wet dog food from Blue Buffalo is real beef and chicken, high-quality protein options that encourage lean muscle development and keeps up with the high energy needs of small breeds. Other ingredients include chicken liver for additional protein, peas, carrots, and tomato paste.
Blue Buffalo uses natural ingredients and adds necessary vitamins and minerals to provide the well-rounded nutrition your dog needs. They contain no by-product chicken meal, corn, soy, or wheat, along with no artificial preservatives or flavors. These single-serving meals are a perfect size and easy to serve.
This variety pack of Cesar Simply Crafted wet dog foods is a good choice if you want to give your small breed dog some variety. Each flavor is made with five ingredients or less, and you can see the difference when you pull open the tub. Real chicken is the first ingredient and source of protein, followed by carrots and green beans. There are no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or fillers.
Cesar recommends serving one tub of dog food per day for every 15 pounds of dog. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a topper to encourage your small breed dog to eat or just to offer a special treat.
Canidae grain free wet dog food recipe for small dogs is loaded with simple ingredients and perfect for small breeds with food sensitivities or allergies. With no fillers and limited ingredients, it’s easy on your dog’s stomach while still providing the well-balanced nutrition it needs.
There are multiple flavors available, including lamb and carrot morsels, minced duck and pumpkin, turkey and green bean morsels, and salmon and shrimp pâté. In all, there are morsels, minced, gravy, and pâté options in 12 flavors. Each includes the protein needed to support strong lean muscles, antioxidants for overall health, and fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Canidae grain-free wet dog food contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and no wheat, corn, or soy.
Cesar Minis Wet Dog Food Filets are portioned in small servings which makes them ideal for small, mini, and toy breeds. There are two flavors to choose from, including grilled chicken and slow-cooked chicken. Each uses chicken as the number one ingredient and source of protein to make sure your small dog gets the protein it needs to thrive.
This food has no fillers or artificial flavors, and dogs love the meat cuts and chunks of green beans and carrots in rich gravy. Each tray has an easy to open, peel-away lid and splits into two 1.3 ounce servings.
A great option for small breed puppies is this wet puppy dog food from Cesar. There are two flavors to choose from, including lamb, if you want a protein other than chicken and chicken with beef. These recipes are crafted without grains and have a complete and balanced amount of vitamins and minerals.
This dog food is made in the USA from high-quality ingredients and makes a great meal or a topper for dry food. Each tray is easy to open and pre-measured to the perfect 3.5-ounce serving size.
Here’s a great variety pack from Purina Beneful that includes beef, chicken, and salmon protein in these IncrediBites recipes. Each includes delicious ingredients you can see, like tomatoes, carrots, and tomatoes, with a touch of the delicious sauce. These recipes include 100% balanced nutrition for adult small breed dogs.
This Beneful wet dog food is specially formulated for the unique needs of small dogs. Every recipe is nutrient-dense to support their high metabolism, and the wet entrees are perfect for smaller mouths.
Finally, we recommend Purina Bella single-serve wet dog foods. This 24-pack features both the lamb and beef recipes, each featuring real meat to support your small dog’s increased energy needs and lean muscle growth. Both recipes are grain-free and feature natural ingredients with added minerals and vitamins.
These grain-free recipes provide antioxidants to support your dog’s immune system and are crafted with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. There are real veggies that you can see, including sweet potatoes, carrots, and peas. Plus, the pâté is perfect for small mouths.
1. How do I deal with a picky eater?
Any dog can be a picky eater. But, because small dogs have such higher caloric requirements, they can experience low blood sugar if they don’t eat. There may be a medical reason why your dog doesn’t want to eat something, so it’s best to check with your vet to make sure your dog doesn’t have any health issues. If you got the all-clear, you probably just have to find the right food. Experiment with different flavors and textures. Try switching to a small breed dog food that uses a different source of protein, or mix in some wet food to make it more enticing.
2. Do I need to get my small breed dog senior food when they get older?
Small breeds age more slowly than large breeds. In some cases, they live significantly longer. They are considered seniors at around 10 years old, but that varies from one breed to the next. It’s best to talk to your vet to be sure.
When your pet is a senior, using a senior dog food is the best way to make sure it gets the right nutrition. Specifically, look for glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and fruits and vegetables to deliver natural antioxidants and vitamins.
3. What breed dogs qualify as small?
There isn’t an overall standard used to determine whether a dog is considered small. Generally, though, small breeds are those that are less than 22 pounds. The small breed category breaks down even further. Toys or miniatures weigh between four and 12 pounds. Anything less than four pounds is considered a teacup breed.
Small breeds include pugs, Havanese, Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Brussels Griffon, and Lhasa Apso. Miniature and toy breeds are generally smaller versions of common small breeds. Toy poodles, Yorkshire terriers, papillon, and toy dachshunds are other kids of small breed pups.
4. Can I feed my small dog regular kibble?
Choosing food that’s formulated for small dogs is always the best option. We already covered the many reasons why small dogs need special food, and they are all very important in making sure your little pal gets the balanced nutrition it needs.
5. What about a small breed puppy?
Small breed puppies have different nutritional needs than large breed dogs. Small breeds grow fast, reaching adult size around 10 months old, with some as early as six months. On the other hand, large and giant breeds can take as long as 24 months to reach their adult size. It’s easy to see why this means they have different nutritional needs and need different dog food. A small breed needs a lot of dense nutrition as puppies to fuel their fast growth. A puppy formula specifically made for a small breed puppy is best.
A small breed dog is special, but if you own one, you already know that they’re the best. These dog breeds are close companions that become a part of the family. Their small bodies, fast metabolisms, and long lifespans require a special diet. We gave you some great wet and dry dog food recipes to choose from and some things to think about when choosing the best dog food for your small breed dogs.
I grew up in a household that was filled with animals. I believe that my fate as a dog-loving person was sealed in early childhood since my parents owned several dogs of varying sizes and breeds. There was no choice but to take care of and learn about dog habits and the best animal care practices — otherwise, I’d be clueless about how to go about the creatures I was surrounded by day and night.
As a life-long puppy lover, I know a thing or two about dogs and how to go about caring for them in the best way possible. Although I’m not a professionally trained dog behaviorist, trainer, or veterinarian, all of my knowledge and experience with canines comes from a place of love and a deep-rooted passion for dogs and animals in general.
Seeing as dogs kept me company throughout every stage of my life, I decided to follow a different path in my academic life and obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Marketing Management and Digital Advertising, which ultimately allowed me to combine my professional training and personal experience by creating the ultimate dog lover’s resource website! Along with my husband, Dave, I run MySweetPuppy for like-minded dog lovers who want to have a single, clear, and reliable information source about anything and everything related to dogs and their well-being.