What is the Best Dog Food for Small Dogs?

If you have a small dog in your family, you most likely wondered about this – What is the best dog food for small dogs?

If you have, you are not alone at all!

We all want to feed the best to our smaller companions. We have the best intentions in the world. But sometimes the food that we are feeding our small dogs might not be the best option for them after all. So exactly what IS the best dog food for small dogs???

What is the best food for me???

To answer this question to your satisfaction, you will have to understand the differences between food that is specifically marked for small breeds and food that isn’t.

At first, I never understood the distinction. Whenever I posed the question to pet store associates, I got back the same answer:

It’s just the kibble size…It is smaller for small breeds than for large breeds. You can feed the regular kibble if your dog eats it just fine.

I innocently accepted their answer without second thought. After all, they WORK at the pet store! The chances of them not knowing what they are talking about are minimal, right?


Truth of the matter is that small dogs have different nutritional requirements than large dogs. And the dog foods that are specifically formulated for small breeds address these factors.

Want to know what these factors are? Read on! If you just want to skip to the recommendations, click here.

Factor 1 – Small breed dogs need more calories per cup in their food than large breeds

Why? It is because unlike large dogs, small ones are on the go most of the time and have higher metabolic rates.

Of my two dogs (Simba the Havanese and Lucky the Labrador), Simba is always roaming around the house sniffing behind the sofa or under the dining table. He gives off the impression as though he has more pressing issues to attend to than lazing around all day.

Lucky, on the other hand, relaxes on the couch or in his bed most of the time. When he is tired from sleeping too much, he sleeps some more!

This picture of lucky pretty much describes his daily routine.

Don’t Disturb!!

Due to this higher level of activity, Simba has a higher metabolic rate and needs more calories per pound of his body weight than Lucky.

His food needs to be more calorie-rich compared to Lucky’s. 

Factor 2 – Smaller dogs can only eat so much at a time due to their small stomachs

Lets say you feed your dog two meals a day – breakfast and dinner.

Since they are getting only two meals a day and they can take in only small amounts at a time, their food needs to be very nutrient-dense.

Their daily energy and other physiological requirements have to be met by these two small meals a day. This won’t happen unless the food they are eating is extremely dense in nutrients and calories.

This is a very important factor when considering a dog food for small breeds.

Considering the fact that most of us work from 9-5, our dogs need to make do with the food that you give them for breakfast before leaving.

I am hungry 🙁

If this food is not rich in calories and nutrients, the poor things will suffer from hunger pangs, blood glucose level dips, and mood swings during the day!

And we are NOT going to let this happen to them!!

Fortunately, foods that are specifically formulated for small breed dogs take care of the calorie and nutrient math per pound of your dog’s body weight. They are formulated with the special nutrient requirements of your small dog so that you can rest assured knowing that you are giving them the best that they can possibly get!

There are a few things you can check to ensure the quality of any small breed dog food. 

The food should have no by-product or by-product meals. 

By-products are animal parts that are discarded after the human grade items are scrapped off the animal. These include feet, head, beaks, feathers, intestines (including their contents) etc.

I will assume that you muttered “YUCK!” under your breath. Yeap – yuck is exactly what it is! And we don’t want to feed these to our dogs at any cost!

It is worse if the source of the by-product is not named. Who knows where the parts are coming from? For all we know, they could be coming from roadkill or from other euthanized animals from shelters. This is absolutely not something we want to feed our furry family members.

The food should have a combination of named meat and named meat meals as the primary ingredients. 

The primary ingredients, which I consider to be the first ten ingredients of the dog food, should come from protein sources. These should ideally be a combination of named meals and meat meals.

For example, Bison, turkey meal, and Beef Liver are all specific named meats as opposed to just meat meal. The more specific the ingredient, the better.

I am a good named source of meat!

Also, the meat in the dog food should come from more than one animal. This will ensure that the dog is exposed to multiple amino acid profiles at each meal. Feeding a small dog food that has only one source of animal protein (hence one amino acid profile) is not good for the dog in the long run.

The food should have named sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

As with humans, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to your dog’s health. These should be coming from healthy sources of fat such as flax seeds, fish/fish oil etc instead of from added supplements in the food.

This requirement can also be satisfied with the addition of specific named animal fats such as chicken fat, beef fat etc.

So if the food you are considering has a combination of the above ingredients, then more power to you!

Aside from supplying omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fat is important for the absorption and assimilation of fat soluble vitamins. So keep an eye out for fat-based ingredients to ensure that the requirements for essential fats are satisfied.

The food should have fruits and vegetables as a source for carbohydrates

Protein > Fat > Carbs

This should be the order of density for the above nutrients in a small dog food.

berriesThe carbs should come from fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies supply your dog with vitamins, minerals, and most importantly fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and promotes regularity.

And of course, NO grains whatsoever!!

The food should have probiotics

Your dog’s intestinal tract is filled with friendly bacteria that assists in the synthesis of several amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is important that this bacterium balance is maintained.

The best way to satisfy this factor is to ensure that your dog’s food is supplemented with either chicory (inulin), or a form of Lactobacillus bacterium, or some other probiotic supplementation.

The above are the very basic factors that should be taken into consideration before deciding on a food for your small dog. 

I will take these factors into consideration for my reviews and ratings of food for small dogs in this blog.

I have already done the homework for you and reviewed a highly regarded dog food brand for small breeds. Please click on the below link to read the review.

check_mark#1 – Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dog Food – Small Breed Formula

Read the in-depth review here

You can also check out reviews of other small breed dog foods in the Small Breed Dog Food Reviews page.

Please post your feedback on this article in the comments below. My goal is to continually improve upon the content of this blog for the pleasure and knowledge of my readers.

I wish you and your small dog an abundant amount of health and prosperity!



10 thoughts on “What is the Best Dog Food for Small Dogs?”

  1. Sam, excellent article on dog food for small dogs. I thought same as you did, that they just needed smaller portions. I’ve been educated! I currently don’t have a dog, but many of my friends and family do, so I’ll forward your article on to them. Thank you for writing this very comprehensive post.

    All the best, Kevin

  2. Nice post, I have a small dog and didn’t know there was a difference in the food they should be eating. And I never ever have I thought about dogs needing fruits and veggies for carbs, we need them so why wouldn’t they?! I better go take a look at the ingredients to make sure my dog is getting all the nutrients she needs. Do you have more recommendations than the one you mentioned? Sometimes it is hard to find certain brands so more ideas would be great for me!

    1. Hi Summerly,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I do have 3 more brands that I am currently in the process of reviewing just for small breeds. They are Nature’s Variety for small breeds, Blue Buffalo, and Amicus. I will update you when I publish them!


  3. I always knew that puppies required different food when compared to adult dogs, but I never realised there was a difference in the food that adult dogs of different sizes required. Certainly enlightening, especially when almost comparing nutritional needs that are similar to humans.

    1. Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your reply. Definitely! Puppy food is clearly labelled, but adult food is not very clear in regards to the size of the breed. That is I created this website. I am glad you found the post helpful!


  4. Hm, I guess even pet store owners don’t know what they are talking about. I thought the same – Small dogs just need less food. But I guess the myth is busted! Thanks.

    1. Thank you Matt.

      Yeap, I don’t think the store folks are well trained in the ins and outs of dog nutrition. Nothing beats our own research. I am glad my article helped you!


  5. Very interesting post Sam

    I found it interesting that the calorie intake of a small dog is comparably higher to that of larger ones. I agree that they are definitely more energetic! 😉

    I have a midsize woolfer and he has thrived for the last five years from a natural diet. Raw chicken wings (which have a great ratio of calcium and protein) & veges have keeps him lean, energetic and his teeth in perfect condition.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Natural diet is great if you know what you are doing. Looks like you do!
      Thank you for your feedback!


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