Small breed dogs, including Papillons, spaniels, terriers, and even Shiba Inus, are among the most sought-after dog breeds globally. In the United States alone, they make up 48% of the pet population in American homes.
What makes them so popular?
They’re easier to care for in most instances, especially for families with smaller homes and small children. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t require as much attention, care, and nutrition as other larger dogs.
Small breed dogs don’t tend to have as many problems as larger breeds, especially when they’re puppies. They do, however, need to receive enough calories to support their fast metabolisms.
So which is the best dog food for small breed dogs that will cater to their special needs? We’ve got the full breakdown for you below.
All About Small Breed Dog Nutrition
What do small breed dogs need in terms of nutrition? Well, for starters, you should be feeding a small breed dog food that corresponds with their age.
Regardless of a dog’s breed, professional animal groups and veterinarians recommend that you engage in something called life stage feeding. This means that you feed a puppy food for puppies, and adult food for adult dogs, and so on. To ensure that your dog remains healthy, you should follow this recommendation. It does not matter whether you have a small breed dog or a large breed dog.
Besides life stage feeding, you’ll need to understand the types of problems that small breed dogs have. This is so as to cater to those issues through proper nutrition. Due to their size, small breed dogs tend to have extremely high metabolisms. This means that they can burn through a meal faster than a larger dog.
As such, you’ll need to ensure that your smaller dog is receiving enough calories throughout the day. Otherwise, they’ll be at risk for developing issues such as muscle tremors and weakness, lethargy, and even hypoglycemia.
How many calories should you be feeding a small breed dog exactly?
Try to aim for feeding them 40 calories per pound that they weigh. This means that if they weigh five pounds, you’ll feed them 200 calories per day. Dog food for small breed dogs tends to be calorie-dense, to begin with, so don’t worry if 200 calories worth of small breed dog food looks a bit less than the 200 calories you might serve a larger breed dog.
Tips for Feeding Small Breed Dogs
Young, small breed puppies can eat calorie-dense meals up to three to four times a day. However, the feeding schedule you decide on depends on your dog and its individual nutritional needs.
Small dogs are descendants of hunting dogs. This means that they’ve got an innate sense of sport when it comes to eating. Generations ago, they’d eat the full animal after hunting it, leading them to receive all of the healthy, nutritional aspects of everything from skin and fur to bones and internal organs.
To help ensure that your small breed dog gets enough nutrition as their ancestors did, you’ll need to look for a dog food that includes more than just meat and vegetables.
What else do they need?
Any food that’s rich in antioxidants is great for small breed dogs. Small dogs have longer lifespans than most large breed dogs, meaning they’re more susceptible to free radicals exposure over time. Feeding them a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables with antioxidants can help fight this.
You’ll also want to look for a dog food that includes:
● Animal-based protein
● Essential vitamins and minerals
● Fiber to promote intestinal health
● Complex carbohydrates to help balance blood sugar (but not too many carbs as smaller dogs do best with moderately low-carb formulas)
● Vitamin-rich fish oils
In short, small breed dogs benefit most from very nutrient-dense food.
The Best Dog Food for Small Breed Puppies
One of the most important things to know about small breed puppies is that they don’t really need carbohydrates. This will affect your buying decision when it’s time to look for dog food.
Small breed puppies should be eating food that’s at least 22% protein and 8% fat to grow properly. You’ll keep them on this diet until they’ve reached about 80% of their adult weight. That is usually around 9 to 10 months, before switching them over to adult food.
Keeping this in mind, here are our picks for the best dog food for small breed puppies in 2021.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Puppy
Blue Buffalo small breed dog food is actually a great option for your small pup at any stage of its life. However, the Life Protection Small Breed Puppy food is especially nutritional for young dogs.
Chicken is the base of this food’s protein, making it ideal for any small dog that doesn’t like the taste of duck, fish, or red meat.
This grain-inclusive puppy food features a formula of 32% protein and 19% fat for a fat-to-protein ratio of 59%. It’s ideal for growing puppies and dog owners wishing to include a grain-inclusive option in their puppy’s diet.
Wellness Natural Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Puppy Food
Does your pup love the taste of deboned turkey and chicken meal? If so, they’ll love Wellness’ Natural Complete Health Dry Small Breed Puppy food. It’s grain-inclusive like the Blue Buffalo puppy food but features a formula of 31% protein and 21% fat; this is ideal for small breed puppies needing a bit more fat in their daily diet.
What we love about this dog food for small breed dogs is that Wellness offers quite a few other options for puppies and is well-known in the dog community for catering to puppies and small dogs.
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Pint-Sized Puppy Plate
Not all puppies will like or be able to eat dry food straight away, so we recommend Merrick Lil’ Plates for those who need wet food and perhaps even portion control. These little single-serving portions are ideal for pet owners who want to strictly control their puppy’s calorie intake while also offering them the option to eat lots of great protein, fruits, vegetables, prebiotics, and probiotics.
As an added benefit, these pint-sized puppy plates include zero artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
The Best Dog Food for Small Breed Adult Dogs
Once your small breed dog reaches adulthood, they won’t need to consume as many calories throughout the day because they’ve stopped growing. The goal here, then, becomes to ensure that they have sufficient vitamins, minerals, and protein to support a healthy immune system, healthy bones and help them balance their blood sugar and energy levels.
Merrick Classic Small Breed Dog Food
Just as Merrick offers Lil’ Plates for small breed puppies, they’re also well-known for their adult small breed dog food, too. The Merrick Classic Small Breed Dog Food is dry (as opposed to the wet food for puppies) and features a formula of 30% protein, 17% fat, and 45% estimated carbohydrates.
What’s especially great about this dog food is that the fiber comes from nutrition-rich quinoa, making it ideal for small breed dogs with digestion problems.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Adult
Blue Buffalo does it again! The Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Adult dog food is just as good as the puppy food they offer, and it even comes in a variety of flavors for picky dogs. It’s got 29% protein versus Merrick’s 30% and the same amount of fat. The difference here lies in the flavors and the cost.
Diamond Naturals Small Breed Chicken and Rice
If you’re in need of a budget-friendly small breed dog food option, check out Diamond Naturals Small Breed Chicken and Rice. It’s all-natural for the most part, with the first five ingredients being chicken, chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, ground white rice, and grain sorghum.
Dog owners note that their small breed dogs especially enjoy the size of the kibble in this food, so if you have an extra-small dog, this might be the best option for them.
The Best Dog Food for Small Breed Senior Dogs
Senior dogs usually need more protein than adults and puppies because they’re working hard to replace lost muscle mass (just like adults). When looking for the best dog food for small breed dogs that are a bit older, look for brands that offer senior dog food with at least 25% protein. Here are our two favorite picks for 2021.
Wellness Core Senior Dog Food
Made up of 36% fat, this grain-free senior dog food is ideal for small breed dogs in need of lots of protein without the grains. The recipe is delectable with deboned turkey, chicken meal, dried ground potatoes, peas, and turkey meal. It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for proper bone health (something most senior dogs struggle with despite their breed).
Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Senior Chicken and Rice
This is our budget-friendly option for small breed senior dogs. Purina offers this senior dog food with a whopping 33% protein content, glucosamine, DHA for healthy joints, and prebiotic fiber for proper digestion.
What sets this senior dog food apart, however, is the fact that it includes MCT. It’s the fatty-acid found in bulletproof coffee that’s so popular in parts of the world. In older dogs, it’s been shown to improve cognitive function.
When it comes to selecting the best dog food for your small breed dogs, you have to take time to carefully consider the nutrients that your dog needs. Whether it’s a puppy, an adult dog or a senior, they all need different amount of nutrients. You’ll need to ensure that your loving pet has what they need in order to be happy and healthy.
If you do need to make changes to their diet, take note not to do it suddenly. You may want to slowly make the change, eg switch up one of the meals on day 1 and add more subsequently. You do not want your dog to feel anxious about the total sudden switch as it might affect its health.