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The Best Food and Supplements for Small Breeds in 2018

Last Updated:
Wednesday
July 25, 2018

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We love our tiny but terrifying terriers, and small breeds require a bit of additional attention in order to make sure that they grow into healthy dogs. We’ve made you a guide to ensure that you know the best foods for your small canine companion today since their nutritional needs differ from medium-sized mutts and larger dogs.

Whether you’ve got a tiny pup or a small senior dog, we’ve made sure that you’re covered in order to bring you only the best.

Special Considerations When Feeding Small Dogs

While a mammoth mastiff might need only one feeding per day, it’s strongly advised that you don’t do this when you’re feeding a small dog.

Their faster metabolisms and smaller stomachs mean that they need to eat much more frequently, at least twice per day but preferably three times per day. This also means that you’ll want to feed puppies four or five smaller meals per day in order to help them grow to their full size.

Kibble size is also important for small dogs.

Small mouths, small teeth, small stomach… smaller kibble.

It’s really not too hard to figure out, and most small dog breeds aren’t prone to bloat or other issues which can occur when feeding. If you’re unable to get a smaller kibble then pre-wet the food so that they can easily chew it and you’ll be much better off.

Caloric Intake

The general guideline for small dogs is 40 calories per kilogram for dogs with a normal activity level. Unfortunately along with small dogs come small stomachs, which means that you’re going to need to make sure that their food is more nutrient dense than when you’re feeding a larger dog.

You’ll also want to ensure that your dog doesn’t become obese. Of the small dog breeds, this is most commonly found in dachshund and the miniature bulldog breeds. Just monitor your dog, if you’re unsure since some breeds are definitely pudgier than others while remaining healthy, then checking the American Kennel Club guidelines for the breed you have is a great way.

Working dogs, especially hunting dogs who are in constant training, can often take up to twice this level of calories as can those dogs which are in agility courses or going on daily runs with their owners. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding how much to feed them.

What’s most important is that the food you’re feeding your dog is nutrient-dense enough that they can get the food they need in their smaller stomachs.

What Special Nutritional Needs Do Small Dogs Have?

As a general rule, small breeds tend to have much faster metabolisms than larger dogs. While the general rule for medium sized dogs without an active lifestyle is about 30 calories per kilogram of weight even a sedentary small dog will require at least 40 calories per kilogram.

The nutrient distribution required by smaller dogs is also a bit different.

Nutrient Profiles

In general, you’ll want to ensure that your small dog is getting more protein and fat than their larger cousins. This is true regardless of whether or not they’re particularly active.

As always, protein is the most important content for your small breed dog. High protein is pretty much a must, as their faster metabolisms also mean that they need nutrient dense food. We recommend at least 30% crude protein for any small breed dog. Really, the higher the better.

Fats should also be high, as they’re the best way to increase caloric density in your dog’s food. Since fats have more calories per gram than any other nutrient, a fat content of 15% or higher is strongly desirable for smaller dogs.

Carbohydrates should be lower than 30%. They’re almost empty calories for dogs and when it comes down to it you should be able to get the bulk of the calories from more viable sources.

Micronutrients

Unlike larger breeds, there’s no real worry about small dogs growing too quickly. This means that you don’t need to limit calcium intake when they’re younger in order to avoid bone problems. It should still not be much higher than 2% however.

However, including fruit that is high in antioxidants is quite important for smaller dogs, since smaller breeds can live upwards of fifteen years. Antioxidants are always useful, helping to prevent some of the damage of aging and lower the risk of cancers, but they become especially vital for small, long-lived breeds.

Best Foods for Small Dogs

We’ve rounded up some of the best small breed dog foods around, with special attention to both reduced kibble size and the dietary requirements of small dogs in general. You’ll be alright with any of these brands, and we’ve made sure that there’s something there for every type of dog and budget.

The Best Overall Small Breed Dog Food

BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food

When it comes to your small dog, Blue Wilderness produces some of the best food around. This high-quality, grain-free food is essentially the same as the stuff for larger dogs but comes in the right size for your dog.

This kibble comes in at 32% protein and 16% fat, making it one of the most nutrient dense around and perfect for those small breeds who need the extra calories. It’s made primarily with red meats, being comprised of lamb, beef, and even venison.

It contains no chicken as well, making it one of the most hypoallergenic foods we were able to find for adult small dogs. It even includes antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, to help your dog stay healthy as they get closer to old age.

It does weigh in as a bit expensive and the fiber is a little bit high, but all around it’s really hard to beat.

Our opinion: If you’re looking for a truly outstanding food for your tiny terrier or other small breeds, then you’re in good hands with this excellent food from Blue Wilderness.

  • High in protein and fat
  • High calorie, at 404 calories/cup
  • No poultry
  • Grain free

  • Expensive
  • Fiber content is a touch higher than optimal

The Best Small Breed Dog Food for Puppies

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy

While poultry based, this was among the most awesome foods we could find for small breed puppies. Coming in with high protein and a lack of allergen-containing grains it’s an excellent way to make sure that your dog grows into a healthy and energetic specimen.

In addition to being smaller kibble, it also has quite a range of extras. There’s antioxidant bearing fruits and probiotics to ensure that your animal’s GI tract remains healthy well into adulthood. With an impressive 32% protein and 22% fat you can make sure your animal gets all the nutrients they need to reach their full potential.

It’s not quite as dense as some of our preferred brands, but the high fat and protein content makes up for it. Add in the high-quality ingredients and you’ve got a definite winner for your pup at the end of the day.

It’s a bit expensive, and we’d like to see it a bit more calorie dense, but wishes aren’t going to magically make a better puppy chow and it’s handier than producing your own food.

Our opinion: When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat this excellent puppy food for small breeds. Snap it up and watch your little canine begin to shine.

  • High protein and fat
  • Made with antioxidant-rich fruits
  • All natural flavors and colors
  • Fatty acids for skin and coat

  • Rather expensive
  • Some dogs can be allergic to poultry, monitor their coat

The Best Small Breed Dog Food for Seniors

Nutro ULTRA Dry Dog Food

Your senior dog has different needs than a puppy or just an adult. Nutro ULTRA produces a blend which is ideal for your aging small breed dog, providing all of the extra support that they need as they enter their golden years.

It’s a bit low in protein for small dogs, coming in at 27%, but that’s actually fine since it’s quite likely that your older dog’s metabolism is slowing down. It’s still fairly nutrient dense, but it’s not going to cut it for dogs who still have their adult metabolisms.

On the other hand, it contains plenty of fruits and vegetables to provide vitamins, minerals, and other supporting nutrients like antioxidants. These are extremely essential for older dogs, helping to prevent some of the maladies which come with age.

Like most quality dog foods it costs quite a bit, and we wish it didn’t contain poultry since some dogs are sensitive to it. Honestly, however, by the time your dog is this age, you’ll likely know whether or not they’re allergic to it.

Our opinion: This is one of the best foods you can possibly get for your senior small breed dog. As long as they’re not allergic to poultry they’re definitely in good hands with this one.

  • High in supporting nutrients
  • Good protein content
  • All natural
  • Perfect nutrients for senior dogs

  • Quite expensive
  • Contains poultry

The Best Dog Food for Working Small Breeds

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food

This venison-based food is perfect for those terriers and other small dogs who are still engaged in the hunt. Working dogs need a lot of extras in their diet and Taste of the Wild is almost perfectly formulated for small working breeds.

It comes in at a minimum of 32% protein and it’s grain free to avoid food allergies and empty calories being introduced to your dog. On top of that, it has probiotics to keep your dog’s GI system healthy for an extended period.

It’s pretty nutrient dense, at 370 calories per cup. The important thing is that it contains an optimal nutrient profile due to the venison and lamb meal which is included in it.

It’s expensive, like all of the high-end foods that we’ve found, but it’s worth it to make sure that your little hunter has all of the energy he needs in the field.

Our opinion: For working small dogs, or even just particularly active ones, it’s hard to beat Taste of the Wild. It’s optimal for those dogs who are using a ton of energy.

  • High protein
  • High fat
  • Perfect amino acid profile
  • Contains probiotics

  • Expensive
  • Could be higher in calories

The Best Budget Small Breed Dog Food

Purina ONE SmartBlend Small Bites Beef & Rice Formula

At the end of the day, not all small breeds live with families who can afford to drop the high prices required for absolute top-end dog foods. For those dogs, Purina ONE SmartBlend produces a smaller kibble which is pretty doggone good, even if it’s not the best in town.

It has a high-calorie nutrient profile, coming in with 26% protein and 16% fat. It’s surprisingly dense at 388 calories per cup as well. The only real issue is that the ingredients aren’t quite as high quality as the others on our list.

On the other hand, it’s about half the price of most of the foods we took a look at while maintaining a good nutrient profile for small canines. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask us.

The one thing to be aware of: some dogs don’t handle rice all that well, so you’ll want to keep an eye on their skin and coat while they’re eating it just to be sure. If they can tolerate it, however, then you’ll be in good hands.

Our opinion: The ingredients aren’t quite as awesome as the rest of our picks, but the price is right and it’s readily available so if you want to save a bit of money but keep your little dog healthy then give this one a shot.

  • High protein and fat
  • Great price
  • Extra fatty acids for coat and skin health
  • Most dogs take to this food quite readily

  • Contains rice
  • Not quite as high-quality as other preferred foods

Small Dog Health Issues and Dietary Supplements

Without pinning down the exact breed of dog, there aren’t a whole lot of singular health issues that plague small dogs as a whole.

There are a couple of things to keep an eye out for, however:

  • Very small breeds often need special dental attention
  • Obesity is prominent in some breeds
  • Long-lived dogs often require special care

The long lifespan of smaller dogs, averaging around fifteen years in many cases, is the biggest cause for concern. Over a long span of time, these dogs can develop a multitude of health problems that simply don’t show up in larger breeds of dog.

This means that multivitamins and antioxidant supplements are one of the best things you can do to make sure your small dog stays healthy through their entire lifespan.

It’s always a good idea to make sure that your specific breed of dog doesn’t suffer from any conditions as a general rule as well. Take some time and research your pup’s health needs and you’ll be much better off.

As a general rule, small dogs don’t suffer from nearly the same amount of joint issues as larger breeds.

Feeding a high-quality food, providing multivitamins and antioxidant supplements, and regular vet visits are always going to be the best way to keep your pup healthy in the long run.

As usual, however, we’re going to want to make sure that everything is grain-free in order to avoid the most common food allergies in dogs. Poultry is also a common culprit, but it’s hard to avoid it and we didn’t go out of our way to do so since the allergy is much rarer.

Best Supplements for Small Dogs

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a good way to ensure that your dog is getting what they need no matter what. Small dogs will also benefit from antioxidant supplements due to the fact that most of them will live to fifteen years or more which gives plenty of time for some maladies to pop up that you just won’t see in larger dogs with shorter lifespans.

Best Multivitamin for Small Breed Dogs

Nupro Nutri-Pet All Natural Supplement for Dogs

Field-tested and dog-approved, this was the best supplement we could find for small breeds. The vitamin content comes from all natural sources, and it also contains some antioxidants due to the herbal nature of the ingredients.

The reviews are in, and they’re overwhelmingly positive. The only thing that you need to be careful of is the fact that this powder supplement contains more calories than you’d think at first glance so you’ll have to balance it with food if you’ve got an overweight pup.

It also contains glucosamine complex, in order to provide joint support for senior and working dogs. This means it’s beneficial all the way around, from bright-eyed pup, to steely-eyed hunter, to elderly dogs in their twilight years. It aids in gastrointestinal health as well.

Our opinion: It’s about as close to a wonder supplement as we could find and the fact that it’s all natural makes it that much more attractive for the average dog owner.

Best Antioxidant Support for Small Breed Dogs

Nutramax Denamarin Tablets for Cats and Dogs

This excellent supplement provides both liver support and antioxidants through ingredients extracted from milk thistle. This vital ingredient helps to both protect and restore the liver, and it’s pretty much essential for dogs which are taking NSAIDs to help with arthritis as they age.

Since smaller breeds often enjoy foods with more fats in them, which can lead to fatty liver in dogs if not controlled, it’s a great way to ensure lasting health for your pup. We found that it’s definitely among the best in town, and clinical trials show it reduces liver enzymes.

Anecdotal reports show sluggish animals suddenly becoming lively again.

Our opinion: Combined with a high-quality food, this might just be one of the most effective ways to prolong the lifespan of your companion, and who doesn’t want that?

Which Breeds Qualify as Small Dogs?

As a general rule, small dogs are those which stand less than a foot tall and are under 25lbs when fully grown. This means that almost all toy and teacup breeds fall under this umbrella, as well as most terriers.

The following are some of the most common small dog breeds:

  • Chihuahua
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Dachshund
  • Toy Poodles
  • Shih Tzu
  • Pug
  • Pomeranian
  • Boston Terrier
  • Maltese

Almost all of these dogs have a couple of things in common: high energy levels and an attitude which would convince you they’re unaware of their size compared to the world around them. While not all small dogs are high energy terrors, quite a few of them are which contributes to their reputation.

Of course, there are almost countless breeds of small dog available, and many of these tiny dogs have wormed their way into the hearts of owners all over the world so it’s important to make sure that they’re getting the nutrition they need.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, all dogs deserve a high-quality food to make sure that they stay healthy throughout their lives. Combined with the right nutritional supplements it’s quite likely that you’ll be enjoying the company of your Chihuahua or Jack Russell for years to come.

Don’t be shy about it, just make sure that your family pet has the best diet possible and the rest of their lives will fall into place quite well.

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