10 Best (Healthiest) Small Breed Dog Food Brands for 2023
If you have a small dog, you know that small dogs pack a lot of personality and energy into a little package. Small dogs are a joy, but they do come with some challenges. Not only do you need to keep up with their high energy levels, but you need to provide a healthy diet to support it.
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All dog foods are not created equal and, while all dog shave the same basic nutritional needs, small dogs need a higher concentration of calories and nutrients in their diet. This is because they have fast metabolisms and burn through energy more quickly than larger breeds.
In this article, we’ll review the nutritional requirements of small dogs and how they differ from those of larger breeds. We’ll also teach you what to look for when shopping for small breed dog food and provide you with our top 10 picks for the best food for small dogs.
What is the Best Small Breed Dog Food?
- Ollie Human-Grade Healthy Turkey Fresh Dog Food – The Healthiest
- Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small-Breed Dog Food – Most Popular
- American Journey Landmark Delta Blend Dry Food – Most Affordable
- Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
- Canidae Grain-Free PURE Petite Lamb Formula Small Breed LID Dry Food
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe
- Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small-Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe
- Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe Dry Food
- Merrick Classic Small-Breed Recipe Adult Dry Food
Nutritional Requirements of Small Breed Dogs
Dogs are considered scavenging carnivores. This means that the majority of their nutrition needs to come from animal (meat) sources, though they can still derive limited nutrition from plant sources.
Here is a quick overview of your dog’s nutritional needs:
- High-quality, animal protein – at least 18% of his diet
- Healthy fats – at least 5% – and a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources
- Essential vitamins and minerals to ensure nutritional balance
- Plenty of moisture for hydration and healthy digestion
Protein is the most important nutrient for any dog. It provides the building blocks for strong muscles and supports your dog’s lean mass. It is best when it comes from animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish because animal proteins are complete proteins – this means that they contain all of the essential amino acids that your dog’s body can’t synthesize on its own.
Fat provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy because it contains 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate. It too should come from animal sources, though plant-based fats can be used to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 content of the diet.
Do Small Breeds and Large Breeds Need Different Food?
All dogs have the same basic nutritional needs because, while there may be dozens of different breeds, they are all of the same species.
Dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats, but they do need a diet high in protein, ideally from animal-based sources. Healthy fats provide a concentrated source of energy for dogs as well as support for skin and coat. All dogs need a balance of these two nutrients, but there are some slight differences depending on the breed size.
Small-breed dogs have very fast metabolisms. This means that, while they may need fewer calories per day than a larger dog, they actually need more calories per pound of body weight. Small breed dog food tends to be higher in fat than regular food to provide for the higher calorie requirements of small dogs.
Though small dogs need a higher concentration of calories, it all needs to be packed into a smaller portion and, ideally, smaller kibbles. A small dog can only eat so much, so he needs to get all of the protein, calories, and essential nutrients in a smaller package. You also have to remember that small dogs have smaller stomachs, so they can’t eat as much at once as a larger dog.
These are some of the reasons you need to buy specific dog food for small breeds instead of just giving your dog regular kibble. Keep reading to learn what to look for in the best food for small dogs.
What to Look for in Small Breed Dog Food
Because small dogs have different needs for calories than large dogs, it is important to feed your dog a dedicated small breed dog food. This is the best way to ensure that your dog gets the proper concentration of calories and nutrients in his diet to support optimal health.
Here are some general things to look for in a healthy food for small dogs:
- Wholesome, natural ingredients. The quality of the ingredients in your dog’s diet is directly related to the nutritional value, so look for a recipe made with natural, whole-food ingredients.
- High in animal protein. Your dog needs a minimum of 18% protein in his diet, but more is generally better. Look for a quality source of meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredients.
- Rich in healthy fats and calories. Small breed dog foods have a higher concentration of calories and fat than typical kibble, but the fat still needs to come from healthy sources.
- Nutrient-rich and nutritionally balanced. Synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are typically needed to ensure complete and balanced nutrition for dogs.
- Smaller kibble size. Your small-breed dog has a smaller mouth and stomach than the average dog, so his food needs to be appropriately sized to make it easier to chew.
Now that you understand your small dog’s nutritional requirements and have a better idea of what to look for in a dog food for small dog breeds, you’re ready to start shopping! If you’re still not quite sure where to look, you can consider one of our top 10 picks reviewed below.
Our 2023 Picks : 10 Best Foods for Small Breed Dogs
A healthy food for small dogs will provide for your dog’s basic nutritional needs and be formulated according to his breed size. Dog food for small breeds tends to be higher in calories and fat than traditional kibble, and the kibbles themselves should be smaller. As long as your dog’s nutritional needs are met, you have a wide variety of options to choose from.
Here’s our top pick for the best dog food for small breeds:
Ollie Human-Grade Healthy Turkey Fresh Dog Food
Overall Best Small Breed Dog Food: If you’re concerned about the quality of your dog’s diet, fresh food is the way to go. Because it is prepared fresh, the ingredients retain more of their original nutritional quality which is good news for your dog. Ollie is a fresh pet food delivery service that sends fresh pet food right to your door.
Choose from four different recipes, grain-inclusive or grain-free, and know that your dog’s nutritional needs won’t just be met – they will be exceeded. Ollie caters each recipe to your dog’s unique calorie needs, so you don’t have to worry about choosing a recipe for his breed size – the company will adjust the portion to meet his needs and send the food to you in pre-portioned packages to make your life easy. All you have to do is fill out a profile online and wait for your first shipment!
- Pros: Fresh food sent right to your door, choose from multiple recipes, catered to your dog’s calorie needs, made from wholesome natural ingredients, complete and nutritionally balanced
- Cons: More expensive than typical kibble, but still affordable for smaller dogs
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small-Breed Dog Food
Most Popular Small Breed Dog Food: If you’re not sure what to feed your small dog, you can’t go wrong with a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. This brand features real roasted meats in all of their recipes and delivers high-quality nutrition in every bite. This Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Dog Food is a great choice because it is catered to the unique nutritional requirements of small breeds. It features fresh venison as the first ingredient with supplemental protein from lamb meal, duck meal, and ocean fish meal. It is a grain-free recipe, made with digestible carbohydrates like garbanzo beans and peas, with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients. Overall, it contains 32% protein and a whopping 18% fat to provide 370 calories per cup.
- Pros: Real venison first ingredient, plenty of supplemental protein, rich in healthy fats, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, probiotic supplements, chelated minerals
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), could be higher in calories
American Journey Landmark Delta Blend Dry Food
Most Affordable Small Breed Dog Food: A high-quality dog food doesn’t have to break the bank. American Journey is Chewy’s in-house brand and not only is every recipe made with premium natural ingredients, but every recipe is highly affordable. We’ve chosen this American Journey Landmark Delta Blend Dry Food because, while the brand doesn’t offer any small-breed recipes, this formula offers a high concentration of protein, fat, and calories. It features rainbow trout as the main ingredient with supplemental protein from herring and turkey meal. It is a rich source of essential fatty acids, including a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. You’ll also be glad to know that it is highly digestible and supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics for healthy digestion and optimal nutrient absorption.
- Pros: Rainbow trout first ingredient, rich in animal protein (40%), digestible grain-free carbohydrates, concentrated source of fat and calories, chelated minerals, probiotics
- Cons: Not specifically for small-breed dogs, could be higher in fat (only 15%)
Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe
Best Small Breed Dog Food for Puppies: All puppies need a protein- and energy-rich diet to support their growth and development, but small breed puppies need even more. Small breeds have very fast metabolisms and, as puppies, they grow quickly. We’ve chosen this Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal recipe because it offers complete and balanced nutrition formulated specifically for small-breed puppies. This recipe features wholesome, natural ingredients like real turkey and oatmeal to meet your puppy’s nutritional needs in a healthy way. It contains supplemental protein in the form of chicken meal, salmon meal, and menhaden fish meal, which also means that it is rich in skin- and coat-supporting omega fatty acids. Overall, this formula provides 28% protein and 19% fat with fresh fruits and vegetable to provide natural sources of key nutrients, supplemented as needed for balance.
- Pros: Formulated for small-breed puppies, complete and balanced, real turkey first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, DHA for brain development, probiotics
- Cons: Not a grain-free recipe (some puppies may be sensitive)
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
Best Small Breed Dog Food for Seniors: As your small dog gets older, his metabolism may slow down a little bit, but his basic nutritional needs won’t change. You may need to reduce the fat and calorie content of his diet to prevent him from gaining weight, but he still needs a protein-rich diet that is highly digestible. This Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is an excellent choice because it is uniquely formulated to provide for your small-breed senior’s changing nutritional needs. It features deboned chicken as a lean source of protein with chicken meal to provide a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin. This recipe contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, provide key nutrients. Overall, it is complete and nutritionally balanced with beneficial supplements, including chelated minerals and probiotics.
- Pros: Formulated for small-breed seniors, real deboned chicken first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in omega fatty acids, controlled calories and fat
- Cons: Could be higher in protein, not a grain-free recipe (some dogs may be sensitive)
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Petite Lamb Formula Small Breed LID Dry Food
Best Small Breed Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your small-breed dog suffers from food allergies or sensitive stomach, you need a limited ingredient diet made with a novel source of protein. This Canidae Grain-Free PURE Petite Lamb Formula Small-Breed LID Dry Food is a great choice. It features just 8 main ingredients with fresh lamb as the first, followed by lamb meal as a concentrated source of supplemental protein. This formula contains grain-free carbohydrates like peas and lentils with a healthy blend of omega fatty acids for skin and coat support. It contains 23% protein and 14% fat, with over 500 calories per cup. This recipe is full of natural flavor and it has a freeze-dried coating for a boost of nutrition.
- Pros: Limited number of ingredients, real lamb first ingredient, grain-free carbohydrates, chelated minerals, probiotics for digestion, rich in protein and fat, high in calories
- Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, first source of fat is plant-based
4 More Top-Rated Small Breed Dog Foods
If you don’t like the small breed dog foods reviewed above, don’t worry – there are plenty of other options out there. Here are four more top-rated picks:
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe
Quality nutrition is essential for all dogs, no matter what their size. This Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe is a great option because it consists of high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites to deliver a powerful punch of protein-packed nutrition. This recipe features real chicken as the first ingredient, and it is uniquely formulated for small breeds. It contains chicken meal as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin, plus other beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics. It contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients and is supplemented with fiber for healthy digestion. Overall, it provides 37% protein and 16% fat with just over 450 calories per cup, making it a concentrated source of energy and nutrition.
- Pros: Formulated for small breeds, high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in protein and fat, chelated minerals
- Cons: Expensive compared to traditional kibble
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small-Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe
If you’re looking for a wholesome, natural recipe for small0breed dog and grains are not a problem, this Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small-Breed Adult Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe is a great option. It features real farm-raised chicken as the main ingredient with carbohydrate support from brown rice and sweet potatoes. It is highly digestible and supplemented with plenty of fiber to make sure. This recipe contains 24% protein and 15% fat, providing 377 calories per cup. It is rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus it contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. You’ll also be glad to know that this recipe is complete and balanced for small breeds and comes in a smaller kibble size. As a dry food, it is also designed to help scrape plaque and tartar off your dog’s teeth.
- Pros: Formulated for small breeds, farm-raised chicken first ingredient, highly digestible, whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, no artificial additives
- Cons: Not a grain-free recipe (some dogs may be sensitive)
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe Dry Food
When it comes to high-quality ingredients, it’s hard to do better than organic. This Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe Dry Food is a high-quality, nutritious recipe formulated uniquely for small breeds. It features organic, free-range chicken as the primary ingredient with grain-free carbohydrates like organic peas and organic sweet potatoes. This recipe is highly digestible and contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients. Organic flaxseed provides supplemental fiber for healthy digestion as well as omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Overall, this recipe contains 26% protein and 15% fat, an ideal ratio to support your small-breed dog’s fast metabolism. It is also complete and nutritionally balanced for total health and wellness.
- Pros: Formulated for small breeds, organic ingredients, free-range chicken first ingredient, highly digestible, grain-free carbohydrates, supplemental fiber for healthy digestion, chelated minerals
- Cons: Expensive compared to typical kibble, contains some plant protein (pea protein)
Merrick Classic Small-Breed Recipe Adult Dry Food
Sometimes simple is best and this Merrick Classic Small-Breed Recipe Adult Dry Food is a great option for your small-breed dog. This classic recipe features real deboned chicken as the main ingredient with supplemental protein from chicken meal, turkey meal, and salmon meal. It is packed with protein and provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. You’ll also be glad to know that it is highly digestible and low-glycemic, made with whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa. This recipe is supplemented with plenty of fiber as well as probiotics for healthy digestion and it is complete and nutritionally balanced for small-breed dogs. Overall, it provides 30% protein with 15% fat and 394 calories per cup. Your dog will love it.
- Pros: Formulated for small breeds, real chicken first ingredient, highly digestible, low-glycemic, plenty of omega fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates, chelated minerals
- Cons: Not a grain-free recipe (some dogs may be sensitive)
Frequently Asked Questions
Can small breed dogs eat regular dog food?
All dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, so small breed dogs can eat regular dog food, not just recipes labeled for small dogs. Regular dog food will provide for your dog’s minimum requirements for protein, fat, and essential nutrients, but it may not be the ideal concentration. Small breeds have faster metabolisms than the average dog, so they need a higher concentration of fat and calories to keep up with their energy burn. If you’re feeding your small breed dog regular dog food, you may need to feed him more or simply feed him more often to keep up with those needs.
What is the difference between small breed dog food and regular?
When shopping for small breed dog food, you’ll notice a couple of differences if you make a direct comparison with regular kibble. The most obvious difference is that small breed food comes in smaller kibble sizes. In terms of nutrition, small breed food tends to be higher in fat which also increases the calorie content of the recipe – this is because small dogs have fast metabolisms and burn through calories more quickly than regular food.
How much should I feed my small breed dog?
The amount you feed your dog depends on his age and body weight. The best thing to do is start with a recipe formulated for small breeds and then refer to the feeding recommendations on the package. This will give you a general idea how much you should be feeding your dog on a daily basis and you can divide that amount into two or three feedings, as needed. Keep an eye on your dog’s body weight and condition, as well, and make adjustments if he starts to gain or lose too much weight.
How many times should I feed my small breed dog a day?
Most dogs do well with two daily meals, but small breeds may benefit from an additional meal to support their fast metabolisms. It is important to remember that by feeding your dog three meals you aren’t giving him an extra meal – you are simply dividing his recommended daily portion into three parts instead of two. You should also factor in any treats you give him to avoid overfeeding.
Can I feed my small dog large breed food? What’s the difference?
Theoretically, large breed dog food will provide the same essential nutrients as small breed food, but the concentration of those nutrients is very different. Large-breed dogs need a lower concentration of calories to prevent them from putting on too much weight whereas small dogs need a higher concentration of calories to fuel their fast metabolisms. Many large breed foods are also lower in calcium and phosphorus to prevent bone and joint issues. If you want your dog to have the best diet, it should be formulated for dogs of his breed size.
Small Breed Dog Food – RECAP
When it comes to the best food for small dog breeds, the higher the quality of the ingredients, the better. Higher quality ingredients mean more nutritional value for your dog. As a small breed, your dog won’t be able to eat as much as a larger dog, so the nutrient density is even more important.
If you’re not sure where to look for small breed dog food, you can always try one of the recipes we’ve reviewed above. Good luck!