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Canine owners are constantly looking for the best dog food for their pups. What is best for one breed or size of dog is not best for all. If you are the pup parent to a small breed, there are a few things to keep in mind when picking out their food. Smaller breeds need nutrient-dense food that offers enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and calories in a smaller amount of kibble. Proper nutrition can be challenging as smaller dogs need more calories than big dogs but eat significantly less. So, how do owners pick the best dog food for small breeds?
We’ve researched hundreds of dog food brands and formulas and have determined Baby Blue, BARK Food, The Farmer’s Dog, and Ollie Fresh to be among the best dog food options for small dogs. However, there are factors to consider, including your pup’s age and health status, so read below to determine which food is best for your sweet little pup.
At A Glance: Our Favorite Dog Food Picks For Small Dogs
|The Farmer’s Dog
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- Small Breed Dogs' Nutritional Needs
- Best Dog Food For Small Breeds
- Best Puppy Food For Small Breeds
- Best Dry Dog Food For Small Dogs
- Best Wet Dog Food For Small Breeds
- Best Dog Food For Small Senior Dogs
- Best Dog Food For Small Dogs With Allergies
- Best Dog Food For Picky Eaters Small Breed
- Best Dog Food For Small Dogs With Sensitive Stomach
- Best Healthy Dog Food For Small Dogs
- Best Weight Management Dog Food For Small Dogs
- Don’t Forget Teeth Cleaning
- What About Supplements?
Small Breed Dogs’ Nutritional Needs
Small canine breeds are those that are considered 20 pounds or less when fully grown. These smaller dogs reach about 11 inches tall and are between 10 and 20 pounds. Those smaller than 10 pounds are considered toy dogs. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting dog food. Of course, owners want to look for food that uses all-natural, quality ingredients, tastes good, and is well-balanced. But what does that mean?
High-quality dog food should use fresh ingredients. Named meats should always be the first ingredient, followed by easily identifiable foods. Stay away from foods that use artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
It is pivotal that owners keep in mind that smaller breeds have much smaller stomachs. Because of their smaller stomachs, they have very high rates of metabolism. The higher metabolic rate means they use a lot of energy quickly, so their food must be nutrient-dense. Smaller canines cannot eat as much as larger breeds and quickly become full. Because of the high energy use, smaller pups need more calories per pound than larger ones. They also tend to do better when given several smaller meals throughout the day rather than 2 larger ones.
Because of their extremely fast metabolism rates, smaller breeds have trouble storing energy and fat. Giving them energy replenishment with smaller meals three to four times a day is necessary for them to have enough energy to be healthy, active, and develop properly. Owners must be careful not to overfeed their pups, as an overweight little breed is prone to many health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and mobility limitations.
Smaller breeds often have a reputation for being picky eaters. While it depends on the unique animal, many small dog owners report picky eating being an issue. I myself have owned several little dogs, and they all have been picky eaters. Owners must be careful not to give in to the fussiness unless an underlying medical issue, dietary sensitivity, or allergy causes it. Smaller pups often get away with naughty behavior due to their cuteness. Bad behavior can also apply in the area of nutrition and proper eating habits.
What To Look For
Canines are omnivores, meaning they need elements from both animal proteins and plant materials to survive. There are six essential elements that a smaller breed’s diet must contain. These include water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Canines require essential amino acids that come from their diet to help provide energy, protein, and elements needed in essential body functions.
Protein is an essential element of the small breed dog’s diet. Due to the propensity to be fussy eaters and have sensitive stomachs, highly digestible proteins are best. These come from muscle meat, organ meat, and eggs. It is essential to look not only at the protein content of a product but also at what elements provide that protein and if it is digestible. Non-digested proteins add no nutritional value to a dog’s diet and leave the body unused.
Puppies require 29% protein by weight in their diet, and adults need around 18% dietary protein. These numbers are a minimum. Some smaller-sized canines may have trouble digesting red meat, as well as fiber.
Fat is an essential element in canine nutrition as it provides energy and nutritional value and is highly flavorful. Fat contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, essential fatty acids the body cannot make themselves. Canines must get their Omega fatty acids through their diet. Healthy Omega fatty acids can come from linoleic acid, found in certain oils like sunflower, safflower, soy, and canola, and whole grains. Others are found in eggs, fish oils, poultry fat, lean meat, and other sources. Omega three fatty acids are found in some fish oils, cold water fish, and flaxseed oil, among other things.
Carbohydrates are important as they provide fiber and energy and play a prominent role in the gastrointestinal tract’s function. Rice, wheat, corn, barley, and oats are grains commonly used. Along with that, fruits and vegetables provide healthy sources of fiber and carbohydrates. Dietary fiber from these sources helps keep the digestive system functioning properly and ensures your pup has proper bowel movements. Fiber also helps the body feel full for longer, so it can be beneficial in curbing your pup’s appetite, especially for pets that are overweight or obese. Be careful not to offer your pup meals with too much fiber, which can cause digestive upset and distress.
Canines need a variety of vitamins and minerals that are added to foods and contained in the ingredients. These include vitamins like A, C, D, E, K, and B, and trace minerals.
Another thing owners need to keep in mind is that smaller dogs mature faster than larger dogs. They are often at full adult size and maturity before reaching 12 months old. Always look for a kibble that is smaller in size and provides enough protein, fats, and carbohydrates to support your small breed pup. Smaller breeds are at a higher risk of developing dental disease than larger Breeds. Appropriate size kibble is essential, as it helps scrape plaque and build up off teeth.
Best Dog Food For Small Breeds
We have selected our recommendations based on nutritional content, ingredient quality, flavors, pricing, customer reviews, and other factors. Remember that every dog is an individual and will have unique needs based on their activity level, health, and age. Our top selections meet or exceed the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines, do not use by-products, preservatives, or artificial ingredients, and are manufactured in the U.S.
Best Puppy Food For Small Breeds
Blue Buffalo Baby Blue Small Breed Healthy Growth Review
Blue Buffalo’s Baby Blue Small Breed is created specifically for small-breed puppies. It contains elements like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins to promote dental health and strong bones and is the right size to fit a tiny pup’s mouth. Puppy kibble contains DHA and ARA to support brain and eye development. It includes omega-3 and six fatty acids to support skin and coat health. The formula contains no wheat, corn, soy, or poultry by-product meals.
Baby Blue Small Breed puppy kibble starts with deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, barley, menhaden fish meal, peas, dried egg product, brown rice, chicken fat, dried tomato pomace, flaxseed, pea protein, fish oil, as well as ingredients like potatoes, pea fiber, blueberries, cranberries, barley grass, parsley, and more. The Baby Blue recipe is packed full of essential nutrients that puppies need for development. It does not contain fillers or artificial ingredients that make it hard to digest and add no nutritional value.
Kibble contains 29% crude protein (min), 17% crude fat (min), and 5% crude fiber (max). It offers 10% moisture, so owners must ensure dogs get enough water. You can add bone broth to the kibble for added nutritional value and flavor. Baby Blue Puppy Kibble contains 415 kcal/cup and is a tasty pick for energetic little pups. Blue Buffalo also makes a Life Protection formula for small breeds with chicken and oatmeal, another excellent, small-breed puppy kibble choice from the brand.
- Starting at for a 4 lb. bag
JustFoodForDogs Puppy Review
JustFoodForDogs makes a top-of-the-line wet meal option for puppies from human-grade ingredients. The food is top of the line as far as nutrition and taste. Limited ingredients include all-natural animal proteins, fresh veggies, fruits, and healthy grains. Foods are prepared fresh and then frozen, lasting up to 18 months in the freezer.
JustFoodForDogs makes two puppy varieties: Chicken & White Rice and Fish & Sweet Potato. Both are top quality and very tasty. The chicken and rice is a top pick for all breeds and has a bit more protein and fat, so it is our pick for smaller breeds. That said, your petite pup will be happy with either recipe. Both contain DHA and EPA fatty acids that support brain development, immune system health, and overall development—no fillers, preservatives, or artificial additives.
The chicken and white rice recipe contains chicken thigh, long grain enriched white rice, spinach, carrots, apples, chicken gizzards, chicken liver, fish oil, and the JustFoodForDogs nutrient blend. It contains 8% crude protein (min), 3% crude fat (min), and 1% crude fiber (max). It also has 72% (max moisture) and offers 43 kcal/oz.
- Starting at $72.03 for a small box, 7.8 lbs.
Best Dry Dog Food For Small Dogs
BARK Food Itty Bitty Chicky
BARK Food offers premium kibble available on a subscription or stand-alone purchase basis. There are several reasons we like BARK. For starters, they provide breed-specific nutrition for a growing number of breeds, including several popular smaller breeds. Additionally, BARK uses only high-quality, natural ingredients and makes a puppy-specific formula. All recipes are designed to meet or exceed the AAFCO guidelines. Kibble is made to be the appropriate size for a small breed’s mouth. These recipes are quite nutritious, flavorful, and full of protein.
Most of the brand’s ingredients are from local sources, and all meats are sourced within the United States. Kibble is made at the brand’s production facilities located in Kansas. While we recommend the Itty Bitty Chicky recipe for small-breed adults, BARK also makes little buddy bites, a farm-raised chicken and rice recipe developed specifically for puppies. It is another high-quality choice that owners can look for puppies.
The Itty Bitty Chicky recipe starts with locally sourced chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, oatmeal, pearled barley, Alaska Pollock meal, chicken fat, dried beet pulp, dried eggs, Brewer’s dried yeast, potato protein, flax seed, and contains other ingredients like natural flavors taurine, L carnitine, vitamins, and minerals. 26% crude protein (min), 14% crude fat (min), 3.5% crude fiber (max), and 390 kcal/cup. The recipe supports bone and joint health, which is vital for smaller pups. The formula is developed to support healthy digestion and keep pups at a proper weight.
- Starting at $18.00 for a 4 lb. bag ($20 for a one-time purchase
Personal Experience With BARK Food Itty Bitty Chicky
“I tried the Itty Bitty Chicky recipe for small breeds with my pup Falkor. Falkor is a Poodle Beagle mix and is about 2 1/2 years old. Like many other petite pups, Falkor loves to eat but has picky tastes. He will not touch some kibbles, but others, he will gobble up quickly. Falkor thoroughly enjoyed the kibble from BARK. He was excited from the moment the box came in the door. When I mixed bark kibble in with his old kibble, he ate all of the BARK kibble first, then dumped out his older kibble and looked at me for more. The kibble provided him with plenty of protein for energy and helped with passing regular, healthy bowel movements.”–Danielle DeGroot, rescue pup parent
Best Wet Dog Food For Small Breeds
The Farmer’s Dog Review
The Farmer’s Dog is a company that makes human-grade, fresh dog meals delivered to your door. While several options are available, The Farmer’s Dog is a fantastic pick for just about any breed. The Farmer’s Dog is a wonderful pick for smaller breeds as they use only human-grade, fresh ingredients. Food undergoes minimal processing. It is then frozen and delivered. Owners simply thaw it out and serve.
The Farmer’s Dog recipes are highly palatable. They currently offer four protein choices: beef, chicken, turkey, and pork. We recommend the beef or chicken recipe for smaller breeds as they have the most protein and fat. The chicken recipe has the highest and contains USDA chicken, USDA chicken liver, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, salmon oil, and a TFD nutrient pack, which includes essential vitamins and minerals to provide a balanced diet. 11.5% crude protein (min), 8.5 % crude fat (min), and 1.5% crude fiber (max). All recipes are developed by board-certified American College of Veterinary Nutrition experts and meet AAFCO standards. They use locally sourced USDA proteins.
The Farmer’s Dog does not offer a grain-inclusive option, so mixing some cooked rice or kibble with the fresh recipe is important, especially for smaller breeds. While The Farmer’s Dog is pricey, it is reasonable for little-sized pups as a little bit goes a long way, and it is best to mix it with rice or kibble.
- Prices depend upon your dog’s size. Small breeds start at $2 a day
View our The Farmer’s Dog coupon page for deals and discounts.
Best Dog Food For Small Senior Dogs
Ollie Fresh Review
Senior small breeds often have trouble with their teeth, so softer chow is a top pick for them. Ollie Fresh is another company that makes human-grade, fresh subscription food. Recipes contain high-quality protein and fresh ingredients and undergo minimal processing. The combination makes it easy for senior dogs to chew and digest. Ollie works with specialized veterinarians to create every recipe. Customers create meal plans based on a dog’s breed, age, health, activity level, and ideal weight. Meets our source from family-run farms in the United States and Australia, and every recipe contains high-quality protein, vegetables, and superfood ingredients, including cod liver oil and chia seeds. All recipes meet AAFCO guidelines.
Ollie offers three subscription portions, full or half-portion fresh meals, or a mix of fresh and gently baked dry food. Dry food uses the same top-quality human-grade ingredients as fresh. The mixed-option subscription can be a fantastic pick for the senior small breed.
We like the turkey or lamb options better for smaller pups as they are the highest in protein and fat. However, any of Ollie’s recipes will do well. The turkey recipe includes turkey, kale, lentils, carrots, turkey liver, oats, blueberries, pumpkin, tricalcium phosphate, chia seeds, sunflower oil, salmon oil, and a nutrient and vitamin blend. Contains 11% crude protein (min), 7% crude fat (min), and 2% crude fiber (max). The limited ingredient recipes, minimal processing, and fresh taste all appeal to senior dogs. We recommend mixing the meal with rice or kibble to provide a complete nutritional balance.
- The cost varies depending on your dog’s specific size, portions, and health goals. A mixed bowl plan that includes half-fresh and half-baked chow starts at $42.00 a week. A full fresh plan starts at $51 a week, and a half fresh plan starts at 3570.
Best Dog Food For Small Dogs With Allergies
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Small Breed Salmon & Potato Review
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet is developed to support immune function, digestion, and skin and coat health. It is fortified with healthy nutrients like Omega fatty acids, antioxidants, probiotics, taurine, and glucosamine. Wellness’s recipe is formulated to be single protein sourced and has easily digestible elements.
Some smaller canines can develop sensitivities or allergies to common dietary ingredients. The most often found are beef, chicken, dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat gluten. So, owners may need to find options without those ingredients to satisfy their pups’ nutritional needs. Incorporating fresh foods into your dog’s diet can help with these allergies, but owners still need a reliable kibble. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient contains no meat by-products, chicken, beef, corn, wheat, dairy, eggs, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Wellness’s limited-ingredient kibble starts with salmon, salmon meal, peas, potatoes, canola oil, dried crowned potatoes, tomato pomace, ground flaxseed, and natural fish flavor and contains a nutrient and vitamin blend. Kibble contains 29% crude protein (min), 14% crude fat (min), and 5% crude fiber (max). It packs 450 kcal/cup.
- Starting at
Best Dog Food For Picky Eaters Small Breed
Stella & Chewy Small Breed Red Meat Raw Blend Kibble Review
Stella & Chewy’s makes a protein-rich baked kibble coated in freeze-dried raw meat. Along with that, real freeze-dried raw meat bits are mixed in. Stella & Chewy’s is a low-carbohydrate kibble that contains 28% carbohydrates. Along with high-quality animal proteins, kibble contains organic fruits and vegetables and has added taurine and probiotics for digestive health. It is a grain-free kibble, so owners will want to add some rice, oats, or grain-inclusive kibble.
Stella & Chewy’s uses grass-fed, responsibly sourced animal proteins, and kibble is oven-baked for less processing. Kibble contains beef, pork meal, peas, lentils, salmon meal, chickpeas, pea protein, sunflower oil, lamb, tomato pomace, beef liver, beef kidney, free-range venison, beef fat, natural vegetable flavor, flaxseed, sun-cured alfalfa, beef heart, beef tripe, fenugreek seed, pumpkin, coconut flour, and pumpkin seeds. It also contains organic cranberries, organic spinach, organic broccoli, organic beets, organic carrots, organic squash, organic blueberries, salmon oil, added taurine, dried kelp, and other vitamins and minerals.
Not only does Stella & Chewy’s provide top-quality nutrition, but the kibble also has a delicious taste that canines cannot resist. Contains 36% crude protein (min), 14.5% crude fat (min), and 6% crude fiber (max). Offers your little pup 432 kcal/cup.
- Starting at for 10 lb. bag
Best Dog Food For Small Dogs With Sensitive Stomach
American Journey Active Life Small Breed Formula Review
American Journey makes top-quality, limited-ingredient kibble suitable for pups with sensitive stomachs. The Active Life Small breed kibble \contains salmon, vegetables, and brown rice. Specifically, it is made to be tiny enough for your pup to comfortably chew with limited ingredients to promote healthy digestion. No corn, wheat, or soy. High protein, grain-inclusive formula.
The recipe contains deboned salmon, menhaden fish meal, brown rice, chicken meal, rice bran, peas, chicken fat, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, sun-cured alfalfa meal, flaxseed, salt, dried egg product, carrots, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil, blueberries, cranberries, and vitamins and minerals. It contains 27% crude protein (min), 17% crude fat (min), and 6% crude fiber (max) and provides 371 kcal/cup.
American Journey makes several varieties of limited-ingredient kibble that are perfect for pups with sensitive stomachs. The first ingredient is always real meat, fish, or poultry. We like that the kibble is simple, all-natural, and made specifically to fit in smaller breed’s mouths.
- Starting at $31.43 for a 14 lb. bag
Best Healthy Dog Food For Small Dogs
Spot & Tango Review
Spot & Tango makes all-natural, fresh, and shelf-stable options. The highly nutritious, human-grade, whole-food option is incredibly healthy. Owners create a customized meal plan that comes complete with portion-specific scoops depending specifically on what their pets need. Spot & Tango offers three fresh recipes and three shelf-stable recipes. Fresh recipes are freshly frozen to preserve nutritional value. UnKibble is put through a unique fresh drying process to retain taste and nutritional value.
Owners can pick what food type works best for their pup, fresh or dry. Both have the same high-quality human-grade ingredients and use minimal processing. Pups with sensitive teeth may want to pick the fresh option, while those who like crunchy chow should go with UnKibble.
Fresh recipes come in three options: turkey & red quinoa, beef & millet, or lamb & brown rice. UnKibble comes in cod & salmon, beef & barley, chicken & brown rice, or turkey & sweet potato. We recommend the cod & salmon or beef & barley for your smaller breed, though all are tasty and will satisfy your pup’s nutritional needs and palate.
- Prices depend upon your pup’s size and the specific meal plan selected. Smaller breeds can start at $1.06 per meal.
Check out our Spot & Tango coupon page for 2023 subscriptions.
Personal Experience With Spot & Tango
“I tried the fresh and UnKibble options from Spot& Tango. These recipes were huge hits with my dogs. The ingredient quality is far better than most food. My small breed loved both, and my larger breed dog really enjoyed the UnKibble. Mixing it in with their regular kibble added flavor variety and gave them a meaty taste they cannot resist.”-Danielle DeGroot, rescue pup parent
Best Weight Management Dog Food For Small Dogs
Natural Balance Original Ultra Fat Dogs Adult Low-Calorie Wet Chicken & Salmon Review
Natural Balance Original Ultra Fat Dogs is a canned food developed to taste great while keeping dogs at a healthy weight. Though not developed specifically for little pups, canned food is easy to eat, and owners do not have to worry about large pieces being too big to chew. The recipe is developed to support healthy digestion and ideal weight for all breeds. Ingredients like L-carnitine and a protein and fiber blend help canines feel full for more extended periods of time and help to burn fat, which helps keep them at a healthy weight.
Ingredients include chicken broth, chicken, chicken liver, potatoes, salmon, brown rice, oat fiber, pea fiber, dried plain beet pulp, dried tomato pomace, Brewer’s dried yeast, natural flavor, carrots, dried spinach, dried kelp, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, as well as vitamin and nutrient blend Including L-carnitine and vitamin E. The recipe contains 28.02% protein, 15.85% fat, 10.6% fiber, and 282 kcal per 13-oz can.
Natural Balance Original Ultra Fat Dogs formula does not compromise the taste or quality of the ingredients. Owners report their dogs enjoying the taste and losing weight while on Natural Balance food. Some owners mix with additional water and dry food to offer that tasty crunch. Essential vitamins and minerals support overall health, including healthy muscles, bones, skin, joints, and healthy heart function. The recipe can be a complete meal or a topper.
- pack of 12 13-oz. cans
Don’t Forget Teeth Cleaning
Dental cleaning is essential for all dogs, but especially for smaller canines. These little pups have a high tendency to develop periodontal disease before they reach three years old. Owners should participate in regular brushing of their dog’s teeth several times a week. Additionally, dental treats and systems like BARK Bright can help maintain fresh breath and scrape debris, plaque, and tartar off teeth. Having your small-breed dog’s teeth checked at regular veterinary appointments is advisable. Most veterinarians will recommend professional cleaning once a year.
What About Supplements?
Owners of smaller canine breeds worry about their pet’s health and are constantly concerned that their pups are getting enough nutritional value from their food. One way to ensure your dog receives a healthy, balanced diet is to feed them the best quality food you can afford. Some dogs may need supplements or vitamins. However, it is best to check with your veterinarian before adding these, especially if you have a health concern about your dog. Many supplements are available, including for allergies, skin and coat health, joint support, calming, and multivitamins.
To keep your little breed healthy, they must eat high-quality food from day one. Remember that these dogs need more calories per pound than larger breeds, so always look for food entries that use natural, real ingredients without any fillers or additives that will be hard to digest.Tagged With: Comparison, Food Delivery, Small Dogs