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The Best Dog Food for Small Breeds

By: | Updated: March 4, 2020

A healthy dog is a happy dog. Like human health, an important aspect of maintaining a dog’s health is diet. Accommodating to a dog’s unique nutritional needs is especially important for smaller dog breeds.

Compared to their larger breed counterparts, small dogs and toy breeds have very different nutritional requirements. Our complete buyer’s guide explores the nutritional needs of our little canine companions and what to look out for when choosing the best dog food for small breeds.

But firstly, let’s take a look at the best dog food for small breeds. With so many different brands on the market, it is important to take the time to research the right product. Luckily, we’ve completed all the research so you don’t have to!

The 5 best dog food for small breeds

All of the following dog foods are highly recommended and highly rated. We’ve only selected products that contain high-energy and nutrient-dense ingredients. More importantly, they are free from artificial preservatives, colors and flavors.

1. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food

This dry dog foodmade especially for your smaller breed contains everything you want and need. It is grain-free and uses a limited number of natural ingredients, unlike other foods that are full of chemicals harmful to dogs. With the balanced formula, this food is appropriate for all stages of life.

By using a small number of premium ingredients, you can be sure that your dog is receiving all of the protein and carbohydrates they need from the right sources. Salmon is a great source of protein because it is full of the amino acids that give your dog the healthy and shiny coat everyone loves. It is also a good way to help your pet maintain strong muscles. The other high-quality main ingredient is sweet potatoes, which are very rich in potassium. Sweet potatoes are easy on your dog’s digestion system while still providing them with plenty of energy.

Smaller dogs will love the shape and size of this kibble, which was designed with their little mouths in mind. As a bonus, the food has a texture that is great for cleaning their teeth and gums while they are chowing down.

2. Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food for Healthy Weight and Weight Management

If your little dog has struggled with weight issues, this yummy food from Science Diet is the way to go. Your dog will love the taste of this food as it helps them to achieve and maintain the ideal weight. This is a great food for small or toy dogs that are prone to weight gain. Using prebiotic fibers, this food is designed to make sure your dog’s stomach can easily digest it while absorbing all of the essential nutrients. This product also works great when combined with Science Diet Perfect Weight wet food.

With real chicken as the number one ingredient, it guarantees a high-quality food. Chicken as a source of protein allows your dog to hold onto muscle mass while still encouraging weight loss.

In order to keep your dog healthy, this food also has antioxidants, including vitamins C and E. These ingredients are great for boosting your dog’s immune system. This food is manufactured in the USA. It is easy to see why Science Diet is the number one recommended brand by veterinarians.

3. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

This is a great food for small and toy dogs that seem to have energy that never runs out! It is made with high-quality chicken and turkey. This brand agrees with the raw feeding philosophy and uses no grain or animal by-products in this food. The large amount of protein means your dog will be building their lean muscle mass while burning off any unnecessary fat. There are also optimum levels of carbohydrates in this food to give your dog plenty of energy that lasts throughout the day.

With live active probiotics, as well as prebiotics and fiber, this USA-made food is incredibly easy on your dog’s digestive system. Wellness Core includes fruit and vegetable antioxidants in their food to help your dog feel healthier overall. This food is also full of vitamins and minerals. Fatty acids including Omega 3 and 6 are included to give your dog a healthy, shiny coat. Not only will your pup be feeling good but they will be looking great too.

This is a very balanced food that has everything your dog needs to have healthy gums, teeth, and eyes. Wellness Core offers foods for every stage of your dog’s life. This particular food is designed for adult dogs over the age of one. It is not recommended for dogs that are pregnant or nursing.

4. Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food

With real venison as its number one ingredient, it is clear at a glance that this is a high-quality food for your small dog. The philosophy behind the Taste of the Wild brand is that your furry little friend is more similar to wild wolves than you think. They base the formulas of their food on this idea.

This popular but affordable food has an ideal amino acid blend as well as a high amount of protein for helping your dog build lean muscle. Additionally, this product is full of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and mineral to promote the overall health of your dog. This food also has the all-important fatty-acid blend for a beautiful and healthy looking coat.

A neat thing about this food is the proprietary probiotics. These are meant to be specific to a dog’s anatomy and needs. They will thrive in the GI tract, helping your dog to easily digest food while absorbing the nutrients.

One of the best things about this product is what you will not find in it. There is no grain, wheat, corn, or other fillers. Instead, this brand used sustainable ingredients from highly trusted sources all over the world. The end product is made in the USA.

5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo offers a variety of flavors designed with the needs of a small dog in mind. You can feel confident in finding a type your dog will adore. No matter what flavor you choose, real meat will be the number one ingredient, rather than meat by-products.

As small dogs tend to have higher energy needs than bigger breeds, Blue Buffalo has a high amount of both protein and carbohydrates in this food. This brand prides themselves on their unique two-part food. In addition to the top-notch protein source, their food has a blend of vitamins and minerals that is added to their anti-oxidant rich kibble. These special pieces of food are even processed at a lower temperature to preserve the nutrients your dog requires.

One of the great things about this brand is the number of food options they have. You can find the perfect food for your dog’s size and any conditions they may have. Holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists carefully selected its ingredients including wholesome whole-grain, vegetables and fruit. More importantly, its formula is absence of wheat, soy and corn.

Dog food for small breeds: buyer’s guide

Picture of a yorkshire terrier dog in a field.


Different types of dogs can have different nutritional needs. Finding the perfect food for your furry friend can help them live a long, happy, and healthy life. It may not also be easy to find a high-quality dog food that your small dog likes, but the work will ultimately be worth it. This guide explores why it’s important to purchase dog food specifically designed for small breeds and describes which ingredients to look out for.

Nutritional needs

Did you know that small dogs generally need more food per pound than larger breeds? That is because they have a higher metabolic rate. This is particularly true when they are puppies or dealing with certain health issues. Small and toy dog breeds need more energy per kilogram of body weight in comparison to large dog breeds. Although they may be eating less overall than large dogs, dividing the calories they eat by their body weight, typically results in a high number. A large breed dog may need to eat around 20 calories per pound while a smaller dog may need around 40 calories per pound of body weight. Food designed for smaller breeds take this into account.

There are two main things to consider when feeding your small breed dog. The first is that they are consuming the optimum amount of calories. The second is that they are receiving the appropriate nutrients. Small dogs tend to have long lifespans. It is important that they get food full of the nutrients and anti-oxidants to keep them healthy and protect them from illnesses.

It comes as no surprise that small dogs have smaller stomachs. This means there is less room to hold larger meals. Small dogs need to consume a high number of nutrients from various sources to stay healthy. A specifically designed recipe with small kibbles allows them to receive what they need but in a small enough quantity to digest. Smaller kibble is also easier for your dog to crunch and digest, generating the food into usable calories.

While we always recommend using a product specifically designed for dogs, we understand some owners enjoy creating their own dog recipes. Before doing so, learn about the human foods that dogs can safely eat.

Your small dog may have special nutritional needs based on their breed. Asking your veterinarian for recommendations is a great way to make sure your dog is getting everything they need in their diet.


Hypoglycemia, the scientific name for low blood sugar, is a big concern for small and toy breeds of dogs. This is a particular concern while your furry friend is a puppy. Puppies have fast metabolic rates with low fat and sugar reserves. Feeding a food that is designed for small dogs is very important because they are dense in calories. Any dog that is at risk for hypoglycemia should be fed small meals 4-6 times a day.

As a small or toy breed owner, it is vital to be aware of the following signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia:

  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Staggering gait
If you have any concerns that your dog may be experiencing these symptoms, please get in touch with your veterinarian.


Picture of an overweight pug in the field.


While it is important to feed your small dog enough to keep them from getting hypoglycemic, you also need to make sure you do not feed so much that they struggle with being overweight. Small dogs need a diet that consists of high calories and high quality fat content in order to support their high metabolism. Because of this, it’s very easy for a small dog to become overweight.

Obesity causes a long list of problems in dogs, including:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Joint issues
  • Cranial cruciate ligament injury
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory disease
Feed your small dog an appropriate balanced and nutritional diet to easily prevent obesity and its health-related problems.

Reading a dog food label 

Getting to know the facts behind the food before feeding it to your dog is a must. In order to feed your dog the best food possible, you need to know what to look for on the nutrition label. All brands will try to make their product seem like the best, but their packaging can be deliberately misleading.

Identify the life-stage the food was designed for. As a dog grows older, their needs will change. Foods generally come in puppy, adult, or senior formulas. Some foods even have a formula designed for pregnant or nursing dogs.

It is best to find a food that has no artificial preservatives or flavors. Artificial colors were designed to please humans, not dogs. As you can imagine, dogs are unlikely to care what color their food is!

When checking the label, be sure to note the suggested amount of food per day. Also remember to check the number of calories per servings.

Protein and fat content

Whether you feed wet or dry, it is important that your small dog food has the right percentages of protein and fat.

If you are looking at dry foods, the protein content should be in between 22% and 30% while the fat content should be between 10% and 20%. When looking for wet food, you want between 5.5% and 8% protein content and 3% to 5% fat content.

Look for a food that uses real meat as its number one ingredient. Not only is that the best source of protein for your dog, it is also a good indication that the manufacturer uses high-quality ingredients.

Vitamins and minerals

Although dogs are primarily meat eaters, this is not the only food source they need in order to stay healthy. A balanced dog food will also have fruits and grains. It should be full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in order to keep your dog looking and feeling good.

You can find food both with and without grain. There are pros and cons to having grain in a dog’s food.

Source of ingredients

The source of a product’s ingredients is almost as important as what they are. Although it takes some time and energy, most manufacturer websites state where their ingredients are from and where their end product is created. You can also find out if their food participates in AAFCO feeding trials and what their scores are.

As a general rule of thumb, look for a product made in the USA.


Picture of a dachshund puppy in a box.


Some small breeds have a higher risk of developing allergies than other dogs. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, and Boston Terriers. Any dog can develop allergies over their lifetime. Some of the most common ingredients that cause issues in dogs are:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Eggs
In order to avoid the development of allergies, some small dog owners choose to feed their dogs foods that are grain-free. So-called “novel proteins” like venison and duck can also help prevent problems down the road. Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction in dogs are digestive issues, itchy skin, or multiple ear infections.

Our favorite dog food for small breeds

When it comes to finding the perfect food for your small pooch, investing in high-quality ingredients is valuable for health maintenance.   

All our featured products were worth mentioning. However after careful thought and consideration, we’ve decided to choose Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food for Healthy Weight and Weight Management as our favorite dog food for small breeds. Not only is Science Diet highly recommended by us, but also by veterinarians.

The tasty high-quality ingredients are easily digestible. As small and toy breeds are prone to weight gain and weight-related issues, this food helps to maintain the ideal weight while supporting a dog’s fast metabolism. Consumers can feel confident in purchasing a safe and USA-sourced product. 

Final Thoughts

Picture of a welsh corgi on the beach.


As part of being a great dog owner like you are, it is important to find your dog a food that can meet their individual nutritional needs. We hope we have been a valuable resource in your journey to the best dog food for small breeds.

Have we missed any tips? Would you like to share your doggy knowledge and wisdom with us and our readers? Then please leave a comment below!

About the Author:

Serena is the content publisher for Daydreamdog and a life long dog lover. Between walking them, writing about them and spending too much time liking pictures of them on Instagram, her day literally revolves around dogs! If you want to learn more about Serena click here.