May 1, 2019

The best food for small breed dogs

Selecting the best small breed dog food is no walk in the park! From raw food to kibble, there’s just so much to choose from. But, what exactly is the best small breed dog food? And how does a concerned pet parent figure out what’s best for their pint-sized pup?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about small dog nutrition, and what’s the best food for your little dog whether they be a chihuahua, yorkie, pug, bulldog, daschund or any other small breed.

What a small dog needs

Many pet parents often believe that small breed dogs will have the same nutritional requirements of a medium or even large breed dog. However, dogs are quite an unusual species in the animal kingdom in that they have one of the largest ranges in adult size – the largest breed is up to 100 times the size of the smallest breed. This means that small (and large) dog breeds actually do have specific nutritional needs to ensure they’re as healthy as can be.

calorie levels and growth rates of small dogs

Now, you might be thinking, ‘Hmm aren’t big dogs a lot more energetic than small dogs?’ Well, this is not necessarily the case. You see, small breed dogs like the Chihuahua, and Maltese, tend to have higher energy requirements.

This is simply because small dogs metabolize food a lot faster. This fact, together with their smaller stomachs, means that they benefit most from foods with a lot more calories per cup.

small mouths = small pieces of food

Believe it or not! But, the size of your dog’s food does really matter when it comes to palatability and preference. Small dog breeds tend to have short, smaller muzzles which means they need food that matches their size.

This is because dog kibble that’s bigger in size is often a lot more difficult to bite and chew on! As such, larger pieces of food can sometimes be a choking hazard. Similarly dry food is more likely to form a choking hazard for smaller dogs whereas wet or semi-moist food is much more likely to be eaten without difficulty. The ideal dog food for smaller dogs therefore is a wet or semi-moist food with small pieces.

smaller puppies don’t need quite as much calcium

Large and giant dog breeds, such as the Great Dane or Mastiff, tend to grow at a faster rate than smaller breeds. Therefore, their calcium levels need to be controlled and kept high in order to prevent skeletal and developmental disorders.

Small breed puppies grow much less and so don’t necessarily need as much calcium. Dog food designed for small dog breeds can be a lot lower in calcium. Based on this concept, the FEDIAF (the EU pet food regulatory body) states that the calcium levels of a growing puppy need to be a minimum of 0.8g calcium per 100g food (on a dry matter basis) for small breeds and a minimum of 1g calcium per 100g dog food for large breeds. Similarly the calcium to phosphorous ratios for small and large breed dogs are slightly different.

weight considerations for small dogs

While any dog has the potential to become overweight, it’s important to remember that certain dog breeds may be more prone to weight gain than others. Brachycephalic breeds (ones with a short, scrunched up face like pugs and bulldogs) often have breathing issues which can reduce their exercise abilities while other breeds like dachshunds, beagles and chihuahuas are often also at risk of weight gain.

If you’re wondering, how does choosing the right diet play a factor in pet obesity? Well, a study conducted in 2006 noted that one of the most common causes of obesity in small dogs, occurred as a result of pet owners feeding their pet poor quality food. Find out more about how to check your dog’s weight and make sure they keep in shape here.

best nutrition generally for all dogs

So we’ve learnt so far that small breed dogs benefit from diets that are calorie-dense, moist, contain small pieces, and that they don’t need to be quite as high in calcium as foods for larger breeds. Lets look now at what some other factors you should look out for in dog food, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a large or small breed.

We all know that a balanced diet can ensure a healthy happy life! But, have you ever wondered what goes into creating the perfect balanced diet for your dog? AAFCO (the US regulator of pet foods) outlines requirements for 37 different nutrients and that’s not necessarily all there is to consider. More and more research is released each year into pet nutrition. Here’s the main elements to consider:


Protein is made up of amino acids, and all dogs require 10 essential amino acids included in their diet. These include arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. As a general rule of thumb, an adult dog should have a minimum of 18% protein in their diet. However, higher protein levels are much preferred and puppies or lactating bitches especially have higher protein requirements

Dogs are considered facultative carnivores which means that dogs are most often carnivores but they’re pretty adaptable scavengers and can survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. However dogs thrive best on meat based proteins.

Fats and fatty acids

Fat is another important macronutrient that is essential to your dogs diet. Saturated fats (including fats from meat) are a great energy source, and when readily available, ensure more protein is used for muscle building and repair (rather than solely energy). Polyunsaturated fats are also essential – these include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty-acids have an array of functions in your dog’s body including

• maintaining normal physiological and cellular processes
• maintaining normal functioning of smooth muscles, and
• helping mediate inflammatory responses

Without fatty-acids, a dog could develop severe skin and coat conditions, eye diseases, constant allergies, and even digestive problems.


Carbohydrates aren’t technically necessary in a dogs diet but are digestible and can help form an important source of energy alongside protein and fats. They can also help form part of the roughage of a food which can help regulate bowel movements and reduce the possibility of anal gland blockages which is what causes some dogs to scoot uncomfortably around the lounge.

The key is that the proportion of carbohydrates should be relatively low as it is not as important as other energy sources in the food.

food should be natural and minimally processed

Most of us are well aware of the benefits of a fresh, quality, natural diet to our own health – artificial ingredients often lack the holistic nutritional benefits of their natural counterparts while cooking and over-processing can destroy some of the nutritional value of food.

The same principles are absolutely true with dogs yet lots of dog foods undergo extensive processing like boiling, extrusion, pelleting, and autoclaving and contain artificial and low quality ingredients. As a result, the nutritional value of these foods is often poor particularly when it comes to sensitive nutrients like amino acids and omega oils. On the other hand minimally processed or fresh diets with high quality ingredients are bursting with nutrition

As a pet parent, we want the best food for our dogs! If we know that humans eating processed food is bad – then why feed our pets this way too?

food should be easily digestible

Foods that contain ingredients that dare in a form that is easily digestible are known as ‘biologically appropriate’ dog foods. The dogs digestive tract will be able then to extract maximum nutritional benefit from these foods. The factors that make an easily digestible food are:

  • the food should be minimally processed and moist which means enzymes and acids don’t need to work as hard to break down the food
  • the food should match a dogs natural evolutionary diet – high in protein and low in carbohydrates
  • the food should contain nutrients which help boost a dog’s digestive abilities – prebiotics and probiotics for example support a dog’s healthy gut microbiome to help get maximum nutrition from their food

so, what is the best dog food for those little doggies?

Small and large dogs have different nutritional needs—so without a doubt, pet owners need to be able to cater to their pups requirements as well as what makes a great diet for dogs generally. Small breed dog owners should look for foods that:

• contain small pieces and be moist
• be calorie dense
• be balanced and contain high-protein, moderate fat, and low carbohydrate diet
• contain natural, minimally processed ingredients

Its also important to consider:

• your dog’s age and activity levels – less active dogs need less calories (and benefit from lower carb meals)
• medical problems – does Fido have kidney disease, are they on the heavier side? Seek veterinary advice on the best food for your dog
• cost – as with any decision cost is a factor! Getting the healthiest food for your budget is key and can help minimise future vet fees (which can often turn out higher than feeding a dog a premium food for life)

Our air dried raw food is calorie-dense, moist (once rehydrated), minimally processed and balanced – a great diet for all small breeds including puppies

The best food for small breed dogs - Balanced Life