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The 5 best dog food brands for small breed dogs

2 small dogs

As a small dog owner you know their attitudes are many times larger than their physical size (ahem, Chihuahuas). Large attitudes also come with large appetites. Regulating your dog’s diet can be tricky especially if they’re a picky eater or have allergies. Luckily we are here to help with some recommendations and information.


After considering all the factors of what makes a good dog food brand for your small dog we selected 5 formulas, which we will discuss more in depth later.

Our choices for the 5 best dog food brands for your small dog

How much should you feed your small dog?

Small dogs obviously have small stomachs. This means that they are more sensitive to over eating. There are several ways to make sure your dog gets all the nutrients and calories they need without overeating.


Choosing a protein-rich formula ensures that your dog gets the calories they need in every feeding, without having to eat a lot of food. You can also feed your dog more often (yorkie puppies are recommended to be fed 3 or more times a day).


Every bag of dog food will have a recommended feeding schedule and quantity listed. You should try to stick to this as close as possible, but remember that you should be watching your dog’s eating behavior and weight/size. If they get too thin or too fat, adjust their feeding schedule and/or the amount you are feeding them.


Buying a formula specific to small breeds will ensure that there are nutrients provided that small dogs need in particular. Another reason why you should buy dog food specifically for small dogs is the size of the kibble. You want a small kibble that your dog can easily chew and swallow. If the kibble is too big your dog might refuse to eat it.


When changing your dog’s food they may not immediately want to eat it. One method for getting your dog used to a new formula is to mix increasing amounts of the new food with decreasing amounts of the old food over a 7 day period.

Common health concerns for small dogs

Small dogs are more prone to certain diseases than other breeds. Most common are joint problems and increased risk of hypoglycemia. Proper nutrition and exercise are the best ways to reduce the risk of developing these conditions.


If you notice any odd behavior in your dog (not eating as much, limping, etc), contact your vet. Dogs are experts at hiding their ailments, so even if they are in pain they might be hiding it from you. This is where having a good relationship with your dog and paying attention to their mood and demeanor is crucial. You should have a sense of when your dog is not acting normal.


  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypoglycemia is mostly a concern during the puppy phase. If your dog goes too long between meals, their blood sugar levels can drop, so just make sure you feed them on a regular basis.
  • Luxating Patella - Kneecap Dislocation
  • This is a common problem for small & toy breeds. This condition can be brought on due to aging or a fall. Dog foods with glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain the health of bones and joints, reducing the risk of developing luxating patella.
  • Reverse sneezing
  • It occurs when they are excited, eat or drink too fast, or when they experience allergies. Nose secretions drip onto the soft palate and cover the windpipe. It’s a temporary condition that resolves itself. This is mostly just a nuisance for your dog, it is generally not harming them.

What ingredients should you look for?

Be sure that any dog food you buy has an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose. This statement ensures that the dog food has the minimum required nutrients for a dog at a particular life stage or of a particular breed or size.


As far as ingredients, a meat-based protein should be in the first 3 ingredients on the bag of dog food. This ensures there is a significant amount of animal protein per weight in the food. Ingredients are listed in order of their percentage by weight- so the higher up on the list the ingredient is, the more of it (by weight) is in the food.


It is usually recommended to select a formula with grain-free sources of carbohydrates. Not all small dog breeds have problems with grains, but if your dog develops allergies or itchy skin, it might be caused by the grains. Good examples of non-grain carbohydrate sources are sweet potatoes and peas.


Since small dogs live longer than larger dogs, it is important to have antioxidants as a part of their diets. These come from fruits and vegetables.


Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids will help keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy. If your dog has dry skin or itches themselves a lot, it might be because they aren’t getting enough fatty acids in their diet.

What ingredients should you avoid?

Corn and soy have the potential to upset your small dog’s stomach. Luckily you can get the same nutrients from these sources through ingredients that aren’t harsh on your dog’s stomach.


As mentioned before, grains have the potential to be the source of allergies or skin irritation. Just be sure to monitor how your dog reacts to their food if they are eating grains. You should be doing this any time you try out a new food for your dog.


Avoid food that has the following on the label

  • Meat meal
  • Animal meal
  • Poultry meal
  • Meat and bone meal
  • Blood meal
  • Glandular meal
  • Chicken by-product meal

Our recommendations

Blue Buffalo Life Protection small breed

  • Crude Protein (Min)26.00%
  • Crude Fat (Min)15.00%
  • Crude Fiber (Max)4.00%
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance
  • First 3 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice
  • Delicious, protein-rich, Deboned Chicken
  • Wholesome whole grains, garden veggies and fruit
  • No chicken (or poultry) by-product meals
  • No corn, wheat or soy
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • Contains Omega 3 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food

  • Crude Protein (Min)28.00%
  • Crude Fat (Min)16.00%
  • Crude Fiber (Max)4.00%
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance
  • First 3 ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal
  • Smaller kibble size made with turkey, oatmeal and salmon.
  • Optimal Caloric Intake to Support Healthy Body Weight.
  • 4 Animal Protein Sources for High Energy Needs and Lean/Strong Muscles.
  • Omega 3 and 6 Mix to Help Support Healthy Skin & Coat.

Wellness CORE small breed

  • Crude Protein (Min)36.00%
  • Crude Fat (Min)16.00%
  • Crude Fiber (Max)5.00%
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance
  • First 3 ingredients: Turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain bone and joint health
  • Nutrient-dense and enhanced with antioxidants and probiotics
  • No meat by-products or fillers (see all ingredients below)
  • No grain, corn, soy, wheat-gluten or artificial preservatives, colors or flavors
  • Fish and flax omega blend for healthy skin and coat

Hill's Science Diet Advanced Fitness Small Bites Adult Canine

  • Crude Protein (Min)24.50%
  • Crude Fat (Min)15.00%
  • Crude Fiber (Max)2.20%
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance
  • First 3 ingredients: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley
  • Fruits and vegetables provide a source of antioxidants
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Omega-6 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin and coat
  • Vitamins C and E boost the immune system

Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

  • Crude Protein (Min)25.00%
  • Crude Fat (Min)15.00%
  • Crude Fiber (Max)3.00%
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance
  • First 3 ingredients: Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes
  • Fish protein focused formula, made with real smoked salmon
  • Grain free
  • Guaranteed probiotics and dried chicory root support a healthy digestive and immune system, while ensuring proper nutrient absorption
  • Formula provides an optimal amino acid profile, and naturally sourced antioxidants
  • Omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids promotes optimal skin and coat health
  • Provides highly digestible energy for your sensitive dog

Conclusion

Your small dog’s attitude and appetite are usually several times larger than reality. You need to ensure you not only feed them a high quality food, but you also must monitor their weight/size as well as their general behavior.


The type of food you select will have a large impact on their health. Since small dogs live longer than larger dogs, their diet is even more important to keep them healthy and happy into their older years.


Following the recommended feeding schedule on the bag of dog food you get is always a good idea. Remember that these are just recommendations (usually based on their size/age) so if your dog starts to get too fat or thin, adjust their feedings accordingly.



If you have tried out any of the dog food brands listed in this article I would love to hear about your experience. Feel free to leave a comment below!