What Is The Best Dog Food For Small Breeds?

min read

A small white dog stands up on its hind legs as a bowl of dry kibble is held out in front of it. The dog looks happy and excited with bright eyes and a wide mouth

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Before we think about the best dog food for small breed dogs, what do we mean by a small breed? Small breed dogs are generally those that will weigh no more than 12-15kg when they are adult dogs. Examples would be Jack Russel terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Lhasa apso and cocker spaniels. We also sometimes call the smaller of the small breeds miniature or toy breeds, such as the Chihuahua and Pomeranian. 

When it comes to nutrition, all these dogs can be considered part of the same group: small and mini. But surely dogs are dogs, you might say. Why feed them differently? Well, when you think about the difference in size, weight, metabolism and lifespan of an Irish wolfhound, say, compared to one the mini breeds we mentioned, there are bound to be some differences.

Major differences between small and mini dogs and larger breeds

  • Longer average lifespan. In general, smaller dogs tend to live longer lives than larger ones. Because of this, they benefit from higher levels of antioxidants to help fight wear and tear and cell ageing.

  • Faster metabolisms. Smaller dogs have a higher metabolic rate than larger dogs. They lose heat more quickly and they burn more calories per kilo of body weight. This means they sometimes struggle to keep weight on.

  • They may be more easily stressed than bigger breeds of dog. You can imagine that if you’re very small, the world, the animals, and the humans that live in it can be a little overwhelming.

  • Growth and nutrient requirements. Large and giant breed dogs need to grow and mature more slowly than small breed dogs. Because of this, the two groups need slightly different mineral balances to get their skeleton and muscles to grow healthily and then stay on top form.

  • Small mouths. It may seem obvious, but some small dogs have tiny mouths and they simply need different sizes of kibble from their larger counterparts.

What is the best food for a small or mini dog?

There is no one answer to this because it will depend on your dog’s tastes and whether you prefer to feed wet food, dry, or a combination of the two. The one thing your small dog’s food must be, though, is complete and balanced. This means it has all the nutrients, in the right proportions, for your dog’s life stage. If you like to feed a combination of wet and dry, which lots of small breed dogs love, just make sure that both formulations are complete and balanced, and then you can feed any proportion of the two you like.

Because of their higher energy needs and smaller teeth, talk to your vet about what options might be suitable for your individual dog and how much to feed. It’s really important to keep dogs slim throughout life, but you may find that several small meals a day suits your small dog better than one or two big ones, and helps them maintain their weight.

As we said, smaller dogs might tend to be a bit more stressed. Right from the word go, talk to your vet or nursing team about how to choose a calmer, well-adjusted puppy in the first place and how to socialise and habituate them to the big, wide world around them. This needs to be done in a positive and patient way. If you do end up with a dog that finds life a bit stressful, there are also foods available for small breed dogs that have natural ingredients proven to reduce anxiety and help with signs of stress. Feeding the right food and keeping your dog slim will set you both up for a long and beautiful friendship.

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA