Best Dog Food For Small Dogs : 7 Healthy Brands for Small-Breed Pups

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To some degree, a dog is a dog, but if you want your dog to remain in optimal health for as long as possible, you need to cater his diet to meet his unique nutritional needs – this is especially important for smaller dogs.

All dogs are not created equal – this is a fact that many dog owners do not fully comprehend. Not only do dogs come in all different sizes, colors, and ages but they also have differences in terms of their nutrition. Keep reading to learn about the nutritional requirements for small dogs and to receive tips for feeding your small-breed dog.

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The Nutritional Needs of Small-Breed Dogs

Dog food comes in all kinds of shapes and flavors, but every product serves one primary purpose – to provide your dog with energy and nutrition. The energy provided by food is measured in calories, as you may already be aware. What you may not know is that your dog’s need for calories is likely very different from your own – especially if you have a small-breed dog. For example, the average person needs about 2,000 calories on a daily basis while a small-breed dog like a 10-pound Bichon Frise may only need 400 calories a day. This doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?

Another important thing you need to understand about the calorie needs of small-breed dogs is that they are generally much higher than the calorie needs of large-breed dogs when measured as calories per pound of bodyweight. Consider this – a 100-pound German Shepherd might need something close to 2,250 calories per day. If you were to divide that out, you would determine that this dog needs about 22.5 calories per pound of bodyweight. Now, think back to that 10-pound Bichon Frise and his 400-daily calorie requirement. If you do the math, that equates to 40 calories per pound of bodyweight. This goes to show you that small-breed dogs need a more energy-rich diet than large-breed dogs and the reason is because their metabolisms are much faster.

In addition to meeting your small-breed dog’s needs for calories, you also have to consider his nutrient requirements. Protein and fat are the two most important nutrients for small-breed dogs. Protein helps your dog to build and maintain lean muscle mass which will also help to protect him against obesity. Fat provides your dog with the energy he needs to fuel his fast metabolism throughout the day. Both of these nutrients should come from high-quality, animal-based sources to ensure optimal bioavailability. In terms of carbohydrate, your dog doesn’t have any specific requirements but they should come from nutritious and digestible sources.

Not only does your dog need protein, fat, and carbohydrate but he also needs vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants are particularly important for smaller dogs as well because they have very long lifespans (up to 20 years) – antioxidants will help to protect your dog against free radical damage throughout his lifetime. Other supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can also be beneficial for small-breed dogs to protect them from arthritis as they get older, though smaller dogs are not quite as prone to joint problems as larger dogs.

Tips for Feeding Small Breed Puppies and Dogs

Small-breed puppies grow very quickly (as all puppies do) and they reach their adult size more quickly than large-breed dogs. This being the case, a protein-rich diet is incredibly important for small-breed puppies to make sure that their muscles and tissues develop properly. Smaller puppies will also have higher needs for energy than large-breed puppies which means more fat in their diet. Once your puppy reaches adulthood, he will still need a diet rich in protein but you may need to scale back the fat content just a little to prevent him from gaining too much weight. The best way to make sure that your puppy’s needs are met is to feed him a small-breed puppy formula until he is about 80% of his adult size and then switch to a small-breed adult formula. Just be mindful of the calorie content of the product you choose and refer to the feeding recommendations on the label.

A small-breed dog food formula is uniquely designed to meet the nutritional needs of smaller dogs, both for calories as well as nutrients. When shopping for a small-breed formula, look for a protein content between 22% and 30% for dry foods and 5.5% and 8% for wet foods. In terms of fat content, somewhere between 10% and 20% is adequate for dry foods and 3% to 5% for wet foods. Once you’ve chosen a small-breed recipe for your dog you need to think about how much you are going to feed him. Most veterinarians and animal nutritionists recommend three daily feedings for small-breed dogs to ensure that they get the energy they need to fuel their metabolisms. Small-breed puppies should really be allowed to eat as much as they want, however – this can also work for some small-breed adult dogs as long as they don’t eat too much.

Another thing you might want to consider with small-breed dogs is the risk for food allergies. While any dog can develop a food allergy or sensitivity, some breeds have a higher risk than others and many of those at-risk breeds are smaller dogs like Boston Terriers, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels. Some of the foods most likely to cause an allergic reaction include chicken, pork, beef, eggs, dairy, corn, wheat, and soy. If your dog suffers from recurrent ear infections, itchy skin, or digestive issues, it could be the result of a food allergy and you might want to switch to a limited ingredient diet. Because small dogs have a higher risk for allergies, many small-breed dog owners choose products made with novel proteins and carbohydrates to reduce the risk for ever triggering an allergy or causing one to develop.

Best Dog Food For Small Dogs (2019 Recommended Brands)

If you do a little research you will find that many dog food brands offer small-breed specific recipes, even formulas for small-breed puppies and small-breed seniors. Choosing one of these formulas is not necessarily the only option for small dogs, but it may be your best option for making sure that your dog’s unique nutritional needs are met through his diet. Here are a few of the top brands that offer small-breed specific dog food formulas:

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck Dry Dog Food Buy It

Our Pick : Best Overall Small Breed Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Duck, Duck Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Chicken Meal, Peas, Tapioca

Instinct by Nature's Variety Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe

Nature’s Variety company is known for producing high-quality and nutritious products for dogs in all life stages. This company follows a natural approach to pet nutrition, using only the freshest ingredients including premium meat proteins, digestible carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only does Nature’s Variety offer two different brands (Instinct and Prairie) but they have a wide variety of different recipes to choose from. Within the Instinct line of products, for example, there are original recipes and grain-free recipes, plus freeze-dried meals, raw frozen medallions, and limited ingredient diets. Several of these product lines include recipes that are specifically designed for small-breed dogs. For example, the Instinct Originals lineup includes one recipe for small-breed specific kibble and two for small-breed canned food. The Ultimate Protein line of high-protein recipes contains one small-breed formula and the same goes for the Limited Ingredient Diet line. There are also a few options for small-breed recipes of raw frozen and freeze-dried products.

Merrick Classic Grain-Free Cowboy Cookout Recipe Canned Dog Food Buy It

Our Pick : Best Canned Dog Food For Small Breed Dogs

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Beef, Beef Broth, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Green Beans

Merrick Classic Grain-Free Cowboy Cookout Recipe

The Merrick Pet Care Company was founded in 1988 and it remains a family-owned operation. This company offers only the most nutritious products made with the most high-quality ingredients. In fact, they offer their customers the Merrick “five star” promise which includes local growers, real whole foods, company-owned kitchens, balanced nutrition, and health benefits you can see. Merrick’s dog food products can be divided amongst five different product lines, many of which offer small-breed formulas. The Classic line features real animal proteins as the first ingredient with whole grains and wholesome fruits and vegetables and no corn, wheat, or soy. The Grain-Free line includes recipes made with fresh meats and grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. The Limited Ingredient Diet line is all grain-free, featuring pure and simple recipes for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities. The Backcountry line features both raw and freeze-dried options, all of which are incredibly rich in protein and natural flavor. There is one small breed recipe in the Classic line of dry food and three in the Grain-Free line.

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food Buy It

Our Pick : Best Grain-Free Dog Food For Small Dogs

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Chicken Recipe

The Wellness pet food company believes in the power of healthy nutrition for transforming the lives of pets. This company is dedicated to creating the products that will help you give your dog a “healthy, happy, long life” so you can enjoy his company for as long as possible. The Wellness company divides their pet food products among several different lines. The Complete Health line features life stages recipes for puppies through adult dogs, all of which are formulated with authentic, carefully chosen ingredients from trustworthy sources. The CORE line of products features grain-free recipes for kibbles, canned foods, and air-dried dog food, all of which are nutrient-rich and centered around real animal proteins. The Simple line features limited ingredient diets which are perfect for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities, plus they are free from fillers and artificial additives. When it comes to their breed size formulas, Wellness offers a large variety of toy and small breed recipes. There is a whole lineup of five small breed recipes in the Complete Health line of products as well as several choices divided between the CORE, Simple, and TruFood lineups – there is also a dedicated line of small-breed wet foods.

Petcurean Go! Sensitivity + Shine Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Recipe Buy It

Our Pick : Best Limited Ingredient Dog Food For Small Dogs

First 5 Ingredients : De-Boned Duck, Duck Meal, Peas, Tapioca, Lentils

Petcurean Go! Sensitivity + Shine Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Recipe

The Petcurean company is an independently-owned and -operated company that is dedicated to producing high-quality products for pets and pet parents. This company understands the special bond between dogs and their owners, and they seek to create products that will nourish your dog’s body so that you can enjoy his company for as long as possible. The Petcurean company actually produces four different brands of dog food as well as one brand of dog treats. The Summit line of products features the original lineup of classic kibbles and canned foods designed to deliver wholesome nutrition for complete health. The Go! brand includes three different formulas for preventive care, maximum protein, and limited ingredient diets. This brand offers recipes for dogs in all life stages from puppy to senior dog. The Now Fresh brand is completely grain-free and made with quality proteins like fresh meat and fish, with no corn, wheat, or soy ingredients – it includes three small-breed recipes for puppies, adults, and senior dogs. Finally, the Gather brand features organic recipes for adult dogs.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Buy It

Our Pick : Best Affordable Dog Food For Small Dogs

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

Few pet food manufacturers are as well-known as Blue Buffalo. This company began with a single recipe but has since expanded to include dozens of different formulas divided amongst four separate product lines. The Life Protection Formula line of products consists of all-natural recipes made with real meat as the first ingredient and supplemented with whole grains and garden-fresh fruits and veggies. The Basics line includes an assortment of limited ingredient diets which are perfect for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities while the Wilderness line features protein-rich formulas inspired by the natural biological diet of wild dogs. The Freedom line from Blue Buffalo features grain-free recipes for kibble and canned foods. Within each of these four product lines you will find an assortment of recipes for dogs in all life stages as well as dogs of different breed sizes, including both toy and small-breed dogs. For example, the Life Protection Formula line includes more than half a dozen recipes for toy and small breeds, including puppies and senior dogs. The Freedom, Wilderness, and Basics lines have a more limited selection, but there is a huge variety of canned foods specifically formulated for small breed dogs.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small Breed Senior Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe Buy It

Our Pick : Best Small Breed Dog Food for Senior Dogs

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Chicken Meal (Source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewer’s Rice, Rice Bran

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small Breed Senior Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe

The Nutro Natural Choice company believes that quality nutrition starts with fresh, natural ingredients which is why they only use the best in their recipes. Nutro follows strict standards for safety and quality with the development and manufacture of their products, plus they promise that each of their products will deliver noticeable health benefits for every dog who tries them. The Nutro pet food company offers a wide variety of products that can be divided amongst five different product lines. The Nutro line of products features many of the company’s original recipes including formulas for dogs in specific life stages and of different breed sizes. The Rotations line is made up of formulas designed to be used as part of a rotational diet to help reduce the risk for allergies and food sensitivities. The Farm’s Harvest line features a combination of meaty kibbles with real fruits and vegetables plus whole grains and it includes two small-breed specific recipes. Nutro offers a variety of grain-free products as well, both dog foods and treats, plus some small-breed limited ingredient diets and wet foods.

Holistic Select Small & Mini Breed Puppy Health Anchovy, Sardine & Chicken Meals Recipe Buy It

Our Pick : Best Small Breed Puppy Food

First 5 Ingredients : Anchovy & Sardine Meal, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Ground Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Chicken Meal

Holistic Select Small & Mini Breed Puppy Health Anchovy, Sardine & Chicken Meals Recipe

The Holistic Select company follows a wholesome approach to pet nutrition, formulating each of their recipes around high-quality ingredients that will nourish your small-breed dog from the inside out. This company uses only the best proteins, wholesome carbohydrates, and healthy fats to ensure optimal nutrition and maximum flavor. Holistic Select has only been around for a little more than a decade, but this company is quickly rising through the ranks of quality pet food products due, in large part, to the quality of their ingredients and their holistic nutritional philosophy. All of Holistic Select’s products include their Unique Digestive Health Support System which consists of digestive enzymes, natural botanicals, healthy fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics. When it comes to their product offerings, Holistic Select has a wide variety to choose from. Not only do they offer a variety of life stages recipes, but they also have a decent selection of recipes divided by breed size. Holistic Select offers both puppy and adult recipes for small and mini breeds in addition to their traditional life stages recipes. There are no small-breed specific canned foods, but all of their recipes are grain-free and loaded with nutrition and flavor.

There are many more brands of pet food out there, so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to one of those reviewed above. However, if you are not sure where to get started in your search for the ideal small-breed dog food, any of these brands would be a great place to begin.

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  • It’s not true a dog is a dog. Small/toy dogs need almost double the calories per pound that large dogs do and may need 2-3 small meals per day because their stomachs cant hold a lot.

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