Small Breed Dog Food – Which is The Best Dog Food for Small Dogs?

Hi, my name’s Irena and I’m going to talk about what to feed your small dog breeds. My dogs are all medium sized, but I did have a small dog called Gladstone once.

All I can say about him is that he had masses of energy especially when he saw a cat. He was such a character. He would even climb up trees trying to chase the cat, not that he ever managed it I’m pleased to say!

It may seem strange, but small breed dogs have completely different nutritional needs to bigger breeds.

Despite the fact that they are small, they often need more calories per pound than larger dogs because they have a higher metabolic rate.

What Should I Feed my Small Dogs?

I think it’s important to ensure that your dogs are getting high quality proteins. These are more likely to be digestible and have all the nutrients your dogs need.

They also need fiber so that their digestive system works properly. Their food should have the right number of vitamins and minerals and a high quality diet will supply these.

Dogs, unlike cats are not strictly carnivores, so it’s alright for your dogs to have fruit and vegetables in addition to meat.

Because of this most owners prefer to give their dogs commercially prepared food as it’s difficult to ensure that your dogs are getting the right nutrients if they are fed a home-made diet.

If you have small dogs you have to ensure that they are getting enough amino acids. They will get these from a high-protein diet.

Your small breed dogs will benefit from a variety of proteins.

This will ensure that they are getting all the essential amino acids they need. Some foods contain a special amino acid, while others contain different ones.

If you combine different proteins, your dogs will be assured of getting all of the essential amino acids.

Fats and fatty acids are important for your small dogs as they are a fantastic source of energy.

They are also important in ensuring that your dogs are able to absorb vitamins. Omega-3 and omega-6 will give your pets a beautiful coat and healthy skin.

Fiber is also important in the diet of your small dogs as it will give them better digestion.

It is important that purified starches and cellulose are avoided and instead their food should have cereal flour and non-fermentable fiber. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of digestible fiber.

It is essential that you ensure that the food you are giving your small breed dogs contain probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics are foods which travel undigested to the colon. In the bowels prebiotics promote a healthy digestive flora.

In addition to aiding good digestion, both probiotics and prebiotics are helpful in lessening the chance of illness.

Always check the labels of the dog food you purchase to make sure that there is the right balance of vitamins and minerals.

Cheaper dog food could be lacking and you should take care if you are preparing the food yourself from scratch.

If you are buying kibble, make sure that you buy specifically designed dry food for small breeds. It will be the right size for them so they will chew better. In addition small kibble will help to promote their oral health.

It’s always a good idea to protect their teeth from tartar and plaque especially as small breeds tend to have much longer lifespans than bigger breeds. They can easily reach 15 if not more.

How Much Should I Feed my Small Dogs?

As mentioned earlier, small breeds need more calories per pound than bigger dogs. Small breed puppies need around 500 calories a day to support their growth.

Adults need 296 calories unless they are particularly active. In this case they can be fed up to 400 calories per day. Senior small breed dogs need around 320, while pregnant dogs can be fed up to 518.

There’s just one note of caution here. Don’t feed your adult small breed dogs puppy food, whether or not it’s for small breeds. Puppy food is more calorie dense and can lead to obesity in adult dogs.

Always keep an eye on the weight of your dogs to make sure that they’re not losing or gaining too much.

What to Feed Small Breed Puppies

Don’t think that it is easy to feed small breed puppies just because they are small. They need a lot of calories otherwise they can develop hypoglycemia which is the scientific word for low blood sugar.

Because they have such a high metabolism they need to be fed small breed puppy food between four and six times a day.

This should stop them from getting hypoglycemia, but if you see any signs of weakness, lethargy, muscle tremors, or seizures, it’s time to pay a visit to your vet.

What to Feed Small Breed Adults

There are a lot of choices out there so it’s best to ask your vet what he recommends. You may end up paying a little more for your dog food, but that’s a small price to pay for the good health of your dogs.

Diets formulated particularly for small dogs are best as they provide more calories and smaller kibble for little jaws.

Having said all this, make sure that you don’t overfeed your dogs as obesity can take off a couple of years from their lives.

If they are obese they could end up with any of a number of diseases; osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, or respiratory disease.

Best Food for Small Breed Senior Dogs

This is a bit more difficult.

There aren’t any senior small breed dog foods that have been recognized by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

However this doesn’t mean that senior foods are a bad choice for your dogs. Just ask your vet what he recommends.

If you find a diet which is high in antioxidants, go for it. It can help to prevent free radical damage. Again ask your vet which are the best foods to go for.

How to Read a Dog Food Label

One of the most difficult things to do is to read the ingredients on a dog food label. For a start, they’re nearly always small so you need your glasses handy, and in addition they’re not always easy to understand.

There are, however, a few things to keep in mind as you read the label.

If it says ‘complete and balanced’ it should contain at least the minimum amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients necessary for your dog to lead a normal life without any nutritional deficiencies.

Choose the right life stage for your dog as that will keep your dogs nutritionally satisfied. Also, if you know what your dogs are allergic to, avoid foods with these allergens.

The ingredients list is a good way to see what the main ingredients in the food are. However, to know what the quality of these ingredients are, consult your vet.

Another thing to look out for is the AAFCO label which means the food has gone through clinical trials.

You can always ask the manufacturer questions, such as where to they get their ingredients from. Do they manufacture in-house or do they outsource? How many calories are in each serving of the food?

What is the Dietary Requirement Difference Between Small Dogs and Big Dogs?

So you might think that a dog is a dog and there aren’t any nutritional differences between them.

However, this is far from the truth. Although they all have similar nutritional needs, there are some important differences.

First let’s look at the differences between small and large breed puppies.

Large breed puppies can develop orthopedic diseases like hip dysplasia. They need to have a less energy dense diet than small breed puppies who need lots of calories, 500 a day to be exact.

Large breeds also need to have lower levels of calcium and phosphorus as this helps to stop orthopedic diseases.

Small breed puppies on the other hand need to have an energy dense diet because they burn the calories from their meals in a matter of a few hours.

The differences between small and large breed dogs continue into adulthood. Small dogs need to take in more calories per pound than large breed dogs as their metabolic rate is higher.

As dogs age, their needs are still different. Large dogs are prone to contracting arthritis as they get older and need ingredients in their food like glucosamine and chondroitin which are helpful with joint health.

On the other hand, small breed dogs need more antioxidants in their food.

5 Ingredients to Avoid

Yes, there are ingredients in your dog food that should be avoided so always make sure that you read the label.


Ethoxyquin is a synthetic antioxidant which is often used as a preservative in pet food.

You will be shocked to hear that it was developed for use as a herbicide.  

Vets have recently discovered that it can lead to liver and kidney damage, as well as cancer, blindness, and immune deficiency syndrome.

Propylene Glycol

Believe it or not Propylene Glycol is used in anti-freeze. It is put into pet food to reduce moisture and prevent the growth of bacteria.

However, dogs need moisture as it aids their digestion. In addition, they also need intestinal bacteria to help absorb and digest their food.

Propylene Glycol can cause cancerous lesions in the intestines or intestinal blockage.


BHA is a preservative and can cause kidney damage, while BHT, which is used to lessen food spoilage, is linked to cancer.

These two chemicals can be found in our food too with the same effects.


Corn is a cheap filler which is used to sweeten dog food.

However, if your dogs have too much sugar, they can put on unnecessary weight or get diabetes.

The worst scenario is that it will become moldy and can cause death.


Cheaper pet food often uses animal and fish by-products in their food instead of using the muscle meat.

By-products are the internal remains of the animals and can include diseased tissues, organs, and even tumors.

Top 6 Best Small Breed Dog Foods

        1. Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food – Small Breed

This is a high protein small breed dog food. Small dogs need plenty of protein to match their energy levels and to build strong muscles.

This has venison and lamb meal as the first two ingredients and there is also some duck meal which is a highly digestible protein.

Good quality protein also gives your small breed dogs essential amino acids which they need to repair tissue.

There is also egg in this dry dog food. Eggs contain protein as well as vitamins and minerals.

We have mentioned that small breed dogs need both prebiotics and probiotics to encourage good microorganisms in the gut. This food has plenty of both. Prebiotics include chicory root and probiotics include lactobacillus.

To have a shiny coat and healthy skin, your small breed dogs need fatty acids and there is both omega-3 and omega-6 in this product in the form of ocean fish meal.

Fatty acids are also useful in transporting vitamins and minerals around the body.

To top it all there are no empty fillers in this product, such as wheat, corn, or soy, neither are there any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

It is a completely natural food which also contains lots of delicious fruits and veggies, such as tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries.

2. Canidae Grain-Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated Dry Dog Food

If you have small breed dogs who are on a limited diet, possibly because of allergies, this is a good food to choose.

It just has one protein in the form of chicken so if they are not allergic to chicken it will suit their sensitive tummies.

There are just eight key ingredients in this food; chicken, chicken meal, peas, lentils, tapioca, chicken fat, garbanzo beans, and freeze-dried chicken, all of which are good for your dogs.

The kibble is small in size so suits the little mouths of your pups. It is coated with freeze-dried chicken. Raw food is becoming very popular as every time you cook food, some of the nutrients are destroyed.

The peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans give your pets a little fiber for soft and gentle digestion.

This food contains HealthPlus solutions. This is a special mixture Canidae uses. It contains probiotics to help with digestion, antioxidants for a healthy immune system, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They promote healthy skin and a silky coat.

Corn is not good for your small breed dogs and you will be pleased to hear that there is none in this product, nor are there other empty fillers like wheat and soy.

3. Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Food Toy Breed Chicken

This is the perfect food for the energy levels of your small dogs. It is specially made with increased protein and carbs.

It has deboned chicken as the first ingredient as well as chicken meal and fish meal. They combine together to provide energy for a high metabolic rate and they also promote strong, lean muscles.

Carbohydrates come in the form of sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes, giving your dogs some easily digestible fiber.

Blue Wilderness products come with Lifesource bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which have been chosen by holistic vets and nutritionists. They promote a healthy immune system and oxidative balance.

The food has omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids which support healthy skin and a shiny coat, and glucosamine which helps joint function and overall mobility.

The tiny kibble is just right for little mouths and an added bonus is that it helps to reduce tartar.

Finally, no poultry byproducts are used in this food, nor are empty fillers like wheat, corn, and soy. In addition there are no artificial flavors or preservatives.

4. Hill’s Science Diet Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

This recipe is balanced nutrition for dogs weighing no more than 25 pounds and who are aged between one and six years.

If you have a puppy or a senior dog there are other foods out there which offer them what they need for their life stage.

It doesn’t contain chicken by-product meals, only pure chicken meal which means that the food is highly digestible and also helps to support strong muscles and the boundless energy your small dogs have.

It is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals which help boost general overall health. The vitamins C and E can help your dogs successfully fight against illness.

This food has omega-6 fatty acids for a great looking coat and healthy skin. In addition there are omega-3s in flaxseed which help to encourage heart health. Calcium helps to promote bone health.

Citrus pulp and pomace provide dietary fiber for your small breed dogs. They need fiber although it might make the digestibility a little more difficult. However, the nutrients from the other ingredients more than compensate for this.

There is chicken liver flavor and pork liver flavor in the recipe which makes the food even more palatable.

Hill’s always use high quality ingredients including real chicken, lamb, and salmon so you can be assured that you are buying one of the best foods out there. Their dry pet food always has a protein as the first ingredient which provides antioxidants for your small breed dogs.

There are no by-products in this recipe, not are there artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. All the better for the health of your dogs.

5. Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Grain-Free Mini Medley Pack Wet Dog Food

Now we come to a wet food which is great for small breed dogs. Merrick Lil’s Plates come in a variety pack and all the flavors have great names, appropriate for small dogs.

There are four cups each of Petite Pot Pie, Itsy Bitsy Beef Stew, and Tiny Thanksgiving Day Dinner.

Real meat is the number one ingredient in all of them so they are getting a great protein kick. This will give them masses of energy and lean, strong muscles. The three meats used in this variety pack are deboned beef, chicken, and turkey.

The food also contains lots of nutritious fruits and veggies like apples, sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries. This gives your pups a dose of highly digestible fiber.

There are no grains like wheat, corn, or soy which are just empty fillers and don’t have a place in the diet of your dogs. In addition there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, none of which are good for your dogs.

The food comes in convenient single-serve trays which are just the right size for a meal. This is much better than a large tin which can go off if left open for too long.

6. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food Toy Breed Chicken

This small breed dog food has the ideal balance of proteins, fat, and carbs. Real chicken is the number one ingredient so you can rest assured that your pups are getting a big dose of protein to fuel their energy and to build lean and strong muscles.

The chicken is sourced from cage-free chickens and it is freeze dried. Raw food has more nutrients than cooked food as once you start cooking they lose some of the nutrients.

Raw is natural and is becoming popular. After all, your pups would eat raw meat if they were out in the wild just as wolves do.

In addition freeze dried food can increase the appetite of your small breed dogs especially if they are picky eaters.

The recipe includes herring meal which is a good source of protein, fats and fatty acids. Herring meal has omega-3 and omega-6 which promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Calcium and phosphorus are there for strong teeth and bones and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

The food contains probiotics for joint health and antioxidants for a healthy immune system.

A little digestible fiber is present in the form of chickpeas and tomato pomace.

There are no by-products used in this dog food, nor useless fillers like wheat, corn, and soy. There are no artificial colors or preservatives which have no place in the diet of your dogs.

Final Thoughts

You may have thought that it was difficult to find dog food for your small breed pooches, but as we’ve shown, it isn’t that hard. There are plenty of excellent foods out there.

You may have to pay a little more, but it’s worth it, isn’t it? You’ll know that your pups are getting the best nutrition for their size.

What is important is that they are getting a good dose of protein to fuel their immense energy. Remember to give them more calories per pound than bigger dogs.

They completely need it. They also need some fiber to aid their digestion, but not too much. Fatty acids are important for a healthy coat and skin as are essential amino acids.

Also make sure that you are buying the right sized kibble as your small breed dogs have little jaws. They will love munching through the small kibble while reducing tartar on their teeth.

All the products I’ve looked into are great for your small breed dogs, but if I have to give a top choice I’ll go for Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Dry Dog Food. It’s full of high quality protein including venison, lamb meal, and eggs and there are lots of prebiotics and probiotics for a healthy gut.

There are also omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a shiny coat and healthy skin. To top it all there are no empty fillers like wheat, corn, or soy.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below! 🙂