Not all dogs have the same nutritional needs. A puppy, for example, needs more DHA in her dog food to boost her nervous system development, while a senior dog often needs more fiber and fewer calories.
But your furball’s life stage isn’t the only factor that determines dog nutrition. Different size dogs also have varied nutritional needs. And if you’re the proud owner of a toy or small dog—that would be any pup under 25 pounds—you may have wondered, “What is the best dog food for small dogs?” Here, according to experts, is what to keep in mind when picking food for your petite pooch:
Small Dog Breeds Have a Higher Metabolism
“Small dog breeds have a higher metabolic rate and will require more calories (than a large dog) per pound of body weight to keep them going,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. How much more? On average, a small dog requires about 40 calories per pound, while larger dogs need 10-20 calories per pound of body weight, according to Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM, author of the Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet. To that end, the best food for small dogs have a higher calorie count, like Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food that has 420 kcal per cup. It also includes plenty of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids for a healthier dog—inside and out.
Just Don’t Overfeed Small Dogs
Just because your Pug burns calories faster than a Great Dane doesn’t mean he’s not at risk of gaining weight. Besides, his metabolism will slow down as he gets older. So keep an eye on everything you feed your pup—from kibble to treats to table scraps. If you are worried that your pup is overweight, you should talk with your veterinarian about switching to size-specific canned food, like Nutro grain-free roasted turkey, potato and pea stew cuts in gravy dog food, which has fewer calories per volume, says Dr. Martinez, who wrote The Dog Diet Answer Book. Another option for overweight pups, Dr. Martinez suggests is adding green beans (canned or cooked) to food—aim for about a ratio of 20% green beans to 80% kibble—to dilute the calorie count but still maintain the right amount of dog nutrition.
Small Dog Breeds Appreciate Tinier-Sized Kibble
“Because their mouth and jaw structure isn’t as big as larger breeds, it’s easier for small dogs to grab and crunch smaller kibble,” says Dr. Martinez. Of course, it’s not absolutely necessary since most dry dog food comes in medium-sized kibbles anyway. But it may make mealtime a little easier on your pooch. Consider Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula Small Breed Bites Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. This food is also a great option if your tiny pooch has a sensitive stomach or skin or suffers from allergies.
Healthy Small Dogs Need More Protein and Fat
Because of his higher metabolism, your fur baby can chow down on foods that contain higher concentrations of fat and protein. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food has a 32% minimum crude protein and 18% minimum crude fat to support the energy requirements of toy or small dog breeds. Another great option is the Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe Small Breed Dry Dog Food, which has a 38% minimum crude protein and 17% minimum crude fat. That’s why it pays to read food labels—it makes deciding what to feed dogs an easier task.
Your Smaller-Sized Pooch May Need to Eat More Often
“Due to their higher metabolic rate, these dogs will fare better when fed more frequent, smaller meals, rather than one larger meal,” says Dr. Morgan. Plus, the higher-quality the food, the less you need to dish up, she adds. The fresh meat ingredients in Now Fresh Grain-Free Small Breed dry dog food, along with berries and veggies, means you can feel good about dishing such high-quality kibble for your fur baby.
Treat Your Small Dog With Love
Just as special food can be a good choice for small dogs, so are smaller-sized treats. American Journey turkey grain-free dog treats are all-natural and don’t contain corn, wheat, soy, by-products or artificial colors. Break jerky into smaller pieces to be more chew-friendly for your little one. Just don’t overdo it—treats count as calories too.
Feeding foods specific to your dog’s size and age is essential to making sure he’s getting the nutrients he needs at every stage and solves the what to feed dogs conundrums that plague every owner. And remember, every pet is different, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before making the decision to transition your pet to a new diet.
Originally from Chicago, Nicole joined the Chewy team as a marketing intern in January, 2017. Since then, Nicole has continued writing and photographing for Chewy as a Content Collaborator while completing her education at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. She is majoring in both marketing and corporate innovation, before returning to Chewy as a Marketing Analyst. In her free time, Nicole enjoys traveling, riding her horse or snuggling up with her Pug, @zoetheloaf, and Terrier, Cozmo.