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Best Puppy Food For Small Breeds: Ratings & Reviews


Last Updated: May 9, 2024 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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Searching for the best puppy food for your small breed dog? There are so many different small breed pups out there, that it’s hard to know what’s best when comparing different dry kibbles for your dog.  Welcoming a puppy into your home is one of the most rewarding experiences a family can go through, and the last thing you should be worried about is nutrition.  This is why we’ve put together this guide.

When puppies ween and start to come to the point of needing a dry food, it’s important to get it right. Puppyhood is the most critical growth period for your dog, and not ensuring that your dog is fed proper nutrients during this timeframe can impact their health and growth trajectory.  You’ll want a dry kibble that’s nutrient-dense and packed with antioxidants and other vitamins to support growth in these early stages.

When finding a puppy food for smaller breeds, there are several important elements you’ll need to consider. Unlike the food made for larger breed puppies, one of the biggest mistakes that small breed puppy owners make is buying a dry kibble that’s too big for your puppy’s mouth.  This can lead to choking and other problems.  Sticking to a formula that’s specifically made for small breeds is essential.  In the article below, we will cover what you should look for in a small breed dry puppy food, as well as our favorite brands.  Let’s jump in!

At a Glance: Our Favorite Foods for Small Breed Puppies

Our Rating

Best Overall

Diamond Naturals Small Breed

Our Rating

Budget Pick

Blue Buffalo Small Breed

Our Rating

Grain Free

Canidae Small Breed Puppy

Small Breed Puppies

Small Breed Puppies Eating
Small breed puppies have different nutritional needs than large breeds.

Small breed puppies should start eating a dry kibble around 3 months of age and should continue until your pup gets to about a year old. They shouldn’t stay on a small breed puppy food for longer than 15 months of age, or they will risk putting on excess weight. Once they gain weight, it gets difficult to get rid of it. Overweight dogs will need exercise, and likely need to transition to a lower calorie dog food. Small breed puppy food is extremely rich, which is why it’s important to manage it appropriately.

Most small breeds won’t clear more than 20 pounds of weight by the time they are fully grown. Small breeds by definition don’t weigh more than 22 pounds. The puppy food analysis below will cover the best foods for most small breeds, which includes mixed breed pups, or smaller designer dogs.  With that being said, we’ve put together a number of nutritional guides that are breed-specific as well.  If you have a smaller breed dog, these breed-specific nutrition guides should help.

Small Breed Puppy Nutrient Needs

Small Breed Puppy Nutrients in Food
Small breed puppies will have more nutrient-dense foods.

Small breed puppies are different from medium-sized and larger breed dogs.  They have a much higher metabolism and metabolic rate which means they can burn through their meals rather quickly.  If your small breed pup doesn’t eat enough or frequently enough, they can start to suffer from a low blood sugar problem, which can cause weakness, lethargy, and even death if not treated properly.

Because of their unique nutritional needs, your small breed puppy should be fed multiple times per day, and should have a very calorie-dense food selection.  Small breed puppies weigh far less than larger breed pups, so their nutrient density in their food needs to matchThe eight-pound dog that needs 350 calories per day to survive, will need more calories per pound of body weight than a mastiff will need. This also means there’s some ingredients you’ll want to consider when putting your small breed pup on their first dry kibble.

Ingredients To Look For

Blueberries in Small Breed Puppy Food
Look for real ingredients in your small breed puppy’s food.

Whole Meat or Meat Meal: Whole meats are preferable, but dog foods made with whole meat will typically be more expensive than meat meal.  Meat meal is still fine, even though it includes all tissues of the animal it was made from. By-products are different than meat meal and should be avoided if possible.  Examples of healthy meats for your small breed pup include Fish, Chicken, Beef and Bison.

Healthy Carbs & Grains: If your pup is sensitive to any grains, then you may want to consider a grain-free formula.  Many manufacturers offer grain-free formula dog foods, including Taste of the Wild and Orijen. Most puppies will do fine with grains though, and some bigger brands like Purina have many different grain-filled options and will be easier on the budget than most grain-free puppy food.

Fruits & Veggies: Fruits and veggies are a good source of fiber, and many times you’ll see them included in food for puppies. Fruits like Pineapple can aid in digestion and boost the immune system.  Sweet potatoes are another common ingredient in many different dog foods.  Cranberry can help with urinary functions, and other ingredients like blueberries can help with fiber content.

Vitamins & Minerals: There are several vitamins and minerals you’ll want included in your small breed Puppy’s food.  B-vitamins boost the immune system, with biotin and beta-carotene both being important.  Zinc and iron contribute to your pup’s overall health, and calcium will help them grow strong bones.

Water: Moisture content is something that we compare across every dog food comparison we make.  Keeping your pup hydrated is of the utmost importance.  It’s impossible for your puppy’s immune system to function properly without being properly hydrated.

Natural Preservatives: This will help keep your dog’s food fresh. Certain preservatives derive from natural sources, while others are man-made and are usually found in low-quality dog foods. Man-made preservatives can cause cancer, so it’s important to stay away.

Best Foods For Small Breed Puppies

Small Breed Puppy Eating Dog Food
Your Small Breed Puppy should be eating a high quality puppy food.

Ok, so that was a lot of information. But it’s important to understand what’s important when it comes to picking a small breed puppy food based on nutrition.  Next up is taking a look at those same factors and how they actually compare between brands.

Our goal here with this guide is to save you time.  Below are our favorite dog food brands for small breed puppies, and we compare each brand against each other in five vital categories.  You’ll see that we compare protein, fats, fiber content, moisture content, and calories per cup.  In no particular order, let’s dive in and take a deeper look at each brand and each puppy food.

Wellness Puppy
Blue Buffalo
Diamond Naturals
Canidae Pure
Merrick Lil’ Plates

Wellness Complete Puppy Small Breed

Wellness Complete Small Breed Puppy Formula

  • Contains no meat by-products or fillers.
  • First ingredient is real meat (turkey).
  • Supports small breed energy needs.
  • Calcium Supports bone development.
  • Contains blueberries & spinach (antioxidants).
  • Skin & coat support with Omega 3’s.
  • Made in the United States.

Wellness has created this recipe with three main protein sources: deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal and Salmon meal, which not only provide him with much-needed puppy growing power, but they are full of energy and oils for his brain development and coat. Oatmeal, barley, and brown rice are all gentle and healthy carbohydrates that provide your small pup with high energy levels. Blueberries, apples, and spinach provide his developing immune system with antioxidants and vitamins.

We love that this recipe delivers complete and balanced nutrition, concentrating on digestive health, eyes, teeth, gums, skin, coat, energy and immunity.

Blue Buffalo Small Breed Puppy

Blue Buffalo Small Breed Puppy Recipe

  • All-natural small breed puppy food.
  • Real meat is the first ingredient.
  • Contains no meat by-product.
  • Contains no fillers or artificial ingredients.
  • Contains blueberries, peas & carrots (Fiber).
  • Also contains sweet potatoes (antioxidants).
  • Smaller size kibble for smaller jaws.

Deboned Chicken and Chicken meal are the first two ingredients on this list, which are great sources of protein which are full of the essential amino acids that he needs. It is naturally preserved with vitamin E and rosemary oil, and the only added color is vegetable juice. Peas, sweet potatoes and carrots provide him with fiber and antioxidants, as do cranberries, blackberries and pomegranate, and dried egg and fish oils provide him with DHA and other essential nutrients. Also listed is Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, which are cold-formed nuggets that contain a precise blend of puppy nutrients, as well as providing an additional texture to his bowl to keep him interested.

We love that this recipe has the highest fiber content, which some pups thrive on or need if they have particularly loose stools.

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula

  • No artificial fillers, flavors or colors.
  • Real meat is the first ingredient.
  • Made with real cage-free chicken.
  • Amino acid profile supports muscle growth.
  • Made in the USA from sustainable sources.
  • Includes blueberries, kale and carrots.
  • Veggies supply fiber for young puppies.

Chicken and Chicken meal are the first two listed ingredients, which help to build and maintain strong and healthy muscles. Egg product and fish meal further down provide plenty of DHA, and alongside chia seed, coconut, and flaxseed, his coat is well nourished. There are also a lot of exotic antioxidants, including papaya, blueberries, and oranges, which care for his developing immune system and overall health. This recipe is also great for those owners on a tighter budget, but do not want to scrimp on quality.

We love that this recipe has the highest protein content for small puppies, which is great for his puppy growing power as well as meaty taste.

Canidae Pure Small Breed Puppy

Canidae Pure Small Breed Puppy Formula

  • Made with all-natural ingredients.
  • No fillers, corn, wheat or soy.
  • Supports digestion with probiotics.
  • Grain free for sensitive stomachs.
  • Offered in six different flavors.
  • Limited ingredient dog food.
  • Made in the United States (Texas).

This recipe is made with just 8 key ingredients, which means your pup will get everything he needs, and none of the nasty ingredients that we listed above. Limited ingredient lists are also ideal for those with very sensitive stomachs.

This is a grain-free recipe, and your pup will get their energy from lentils, peas and beans, as well as providing him with fiber to achieve a healthy gut flora. Each kibble piece is coated in raw freeze-dried Salmon which is both nutritious and seriously tasty.

We love that this recipe is made with Salmon as the only meat protein source, which is great for those fussier smaller pups or those with poultry ingredient intolerances. CANIDAE is very popular with many small breed dog owners, especially those in the puppy stage.

Merrick Small Breed Puppy Lil’ Plates

Merrick Small Breed Puppy Formula

  • Grain-free formula.
  • First ingredient is real meat.
  • Contains peas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Veggies provide fiber & antioxidants.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.
  • Smaller kibble bites for small breeds.
  • Includes prebiotics and probiotics for digestion.

Deboned Chicken and Chicken meal are the first two ingredients on this list, which provide your small pup with high levels of protein and energy, as well as DHA and glucosamine for his eye function and bone and joint support. It also lists potatoes, peas, and sweet potatoes for his energy and fiber needs, which is further supported with pre and probiotics for optimal digestion. Salmon oil, flaxseed, and folic acid helps to nourish his skin, and this formula comes in ready-packaged little plates which is great for families on the go.

We love that this recipe is grain-free, which makes it one of two only options on this list for smaller pups with grain intolerances, or those owners who wish to feed their small pup such a diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are grains bad for my puppy?
A: Grains are not bad for most dogs.  In fact, there have been studies done that some grain-free dog foods can be linked to heart murmurs. That data is inconclusive though, so really it’s just trial and error. We recommend testing your puppy with a grain inclusive food first, and if they react poorly, switch to a grain-free formula, but stick to a higher-quality brand.

Q: Should I be looking for a small breed puppy food without chicken?
A: There’s really no reason to look for a food without chicken unless it upsets your puppy’s stomach. With that being said, if you want to get your pup a dog food without chicken for your own reasons, there are several formulas you can consider, some of which are mentioned in this article.

Q: Where can I buy the best brands of small breed puppy food?
A: While you can buy most of these brands just about anywhere, we recommend shopping online at Chewy.com or Amazon.com.  Both of these companies make ordering dog food automatically very easy.

Q: How much puppy food should I feed my small breed?
A: This will differ depending on your dog’s size.  A very small breed like a Teacup Yorkie or Teacup Pomeranian are going to eat far less than a Corgi or a smaller Corgi mix. These pups will weigh 5-7 pounds while a Corgi will weigh 15-20 pounds so this will vary by breed.  Most manufacturers will have a guide on the back of the food that shows you how much to feed your small breed pup based on weight.

Q: How long can I keep my dog on a small breed puppy formula?
A: You should look to transition your small breed puppy to an adult dog formula by the time they hit around 12 to 15 months. Going any longer than that and there’s a good chance your dog will end up overweight, which can be detrimental to smaller breeds.

Final Thoughts

Small dog breeds are special in the fact that they need more nutrients per serving of dog food compared to larger breed dogs.  These little bundles of joy will bring many years of love, friendship, and joy into the life of your family. Picking the best dog food for your small breed puppy should be a matter of necessity to build a strong immune system as they enter adulthood.

There are many different options of dog food you can choose from for your small breed pup. But by sticking with any of the different foods we have mentioned here, your pup will not only get the nutrients they need but will likely enjoy their food in the process until you transition them to an adult formula. 

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