Best Dog Food for Small Dogs - Comparison and Reviews

Becky - author

Author: Becky Roberts
Last Updated: December 2019​

Category: Best Dog Foods

Nutrition plays an integral role when it comes to your small dog’s quality of life, energy levels, and the prevention of health conditions.

two small dogs

Many people are tempted to choose the most affordable dog food, but these products typically consist of low-quality fillers with equally low nutritional value. In addition to affecting your dog’s wellbeing, low-cost dog food can also, eventually, ramp up your dog’s healthcare costs as he is not getting the nutrition he needs.

Finding the right dog food for your small breed is no easy task. There are many different products available, and each has unique ingredients. To help you find the best option for your small pooch, we’ll look at the critical ingredients that your dog needs to keep him energized and healthy.

Best Small Breed Dog Food Reviews 2019 - Reviews

1. Rachael Ray Nutrish Little Bites Dry Dog Food

Rachael Ray Nutrish Little Bites has a unique formula to ensure balanced nutrition for small dogs of all life stages. USA farm-raised chicken is the top ingredient, which is a high-quality source of easily-digestible protein to maintain muscle mass.

It also includes fiber-rich peas, beets, and carrots. These veggies contain healthy carbohydrates and essential fatty acids to provide your dog with energy, promote intestinal health, and support healthy skin and coat.

Other notable ingredients in this product include dried pea, a high-quality carbohydrate source, and soybean meal that contains more than 50% protein. The whole grain corn in the food is a source of plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, many professionals believe that wholegrain corn harms the product’s protein quality.

Another drawback of this food is that it contains caramel as a food colorant. This ingredient doesn’t offer any health benefits and is not necessary, as dogs don’t care about the color of their food.

Little Bites Dog food contains a balanced diet for small breed dogs. The food is easily digestible, and it is rich in vitamins and chelated minerals. The product’s kibble consistency promotes your dog’s dental and gum health, too.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Little Bites Small Breed Premium Natural Dry Dog Food, Real Chicken & Veggies Recipe, 14 Lbs

Pros

  • Contains high-quality animal-based sources of protein
  • Features ingredients that are sources of fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals
  • High omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content
  • Does not include any artificial products

Cons

  • Contains dried tomato pomace, a low-quality filler
  • Pea protein is a plant-based protein with a relatively low nutritional value

2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Dry Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula meets the nutritional requirements that are set out by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles. This product provides small breed dogs with balanced nutrition.

Whitefish is the central ingredient, which is a high-quality source of protein and fat. This dog food also contains menhaden and chicken meal, which are condensed protein sources that the manufacturer produces with rendering processes.

The most prominent fiber source is brown rice, which is rich in phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. Brown rice is easier to digest than other grains. Additionally, the food contains oatmeal and peas, which are dietary fibers and sources of B vitamins.

Carbohydrate sources include barley and pea starch. The latter is gluten-free, and it serves as a kibble binder. The potato in the ingredients is also a gluten-free carbohydrate and source of antioxidants.

Blue Buffalo’s small breed dry food is rich in essential fatty acids. Chicken fat provides omega-6 fatty acids, and flaxseed oil is a high-quality source of omega-3 fatty acids. It contains no artificial colors, preservatives, or anonymous meat ingredients. Most sources of protein in the food are also animal-based, which is more than most other dog food manufacturers can say.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Dog Food – Natural Dry Dog Food for Adult Dogs – Fish and Brown Rice – 15 lb. Bag

Pros

  • Contains high-quality animal-based sources of protein
  • Features ingredients that are sources of fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals
  • High omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content
  • Does not include any artificial ingredients

Cons

  • Contains dried tomato pomace, a low-quality filler
  • Pea protein is a plant-based protein with a relatively low nutritional value

3. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food for Adult Small Breeds

This product from Hill’s Pet Nutrition features an AAFCO-approved formula that is rich in carbs, fiber, fat, and protein. Sources of protein include lamb meal, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, and flaxseed. Lamb meal is the only animal-based source of protein in the product, and the rest are plant-based.

Whole grain wheat is a controversial dog food ingredient as it can trigger a food intolerance or allergy. However, this ingredient is beneficial as it is a source of dietary fiber and other nutrients.

The fiber ingredients in the product include brown rice, cracked pearled barley, dried beet pulp, and flaxseed. Brown rice is an ideal fiber source as it is easily digestible and rich in minerals like magnesium and manganese. Cracked pearled barley doesn’t have the nutritional benefits of whole grain barley, but it is a good source of carbohydrates.

Cracked pearled barley is not the only source of carbs, however. Whole grain sorghum is a gluten-free carbohydrate and a source of B vitamins, magnesium, and iron.

Fat sources in this product include chicken fat, soybean oil, and flaxseed. Chicken fat and soybean oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids, while flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is also a high-quality source of B vitamins and minerals.

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small Paws for Small Breed Dogs

Pros

  • High in essential fatty acids, including linoleic acid
  • Contains no artificial ingredients
  • The natural chicken liver flavor from a natural source
  • The preservative is lactic acid, which is an organic compound

Cons

  • Most sources of nutrients are plant-based
  • Contains brewer’s rice as an inexpensive, low-quality filler

4. Wellness Core Natural Grain-free Dog Food for Small Breeds

This turkey-flavored dry dog food for small breeds has an AAFCO-approved formula that is suitable for adult dogs. It has relatively high moisture content and is a steady source of protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates.

Wellness Core contains several sources of protein, including turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal. Plant-based sources of protein include ground flaxseed and peas. The animal-based sources or protein are predominant, which means this food is ideal for the development and maintenance of your dog’s body tissue.

There are three main fat sources in this product, namely chicken fat, ground flaxseed, and salmon oil. Chicken fat is an excellent source of linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid and a vital element of a healthy diet. Flaxseed oil and salmon oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help with skin conditions, allergies, and arthritis.

It also contains dried ground potato, a prominent source of dietary fiber. This ingredient is gluten-free and a source of various vitamins and minerals. Another source of dietary fiber in this product is tomato pomace.

Thanks to the inclusion of peas and potatoes, the carbohydrate content is around 31%. Both these ingredients are healthy and sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag

Pros

  • Most sources of protein are animal-based
  • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Contains high-quality sources of dietary fiber
  • No artificial preservatives or colorants
  • Salmon oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids

Cons

  • Tomato pomace is a low-quality filler

5. IAMS Proactive Health for Small Breeds

IAMS Proactive Health for small adult breeds provides your dog with a balanced diet and a formula that is AAFCO-approved. This product contains several high-quality sources of proteins, fat, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

The first notable feature of this dog food is that it contains a wealth of animal-based protein sources. These ingredients include chicken and dried egg products. The latter is a unique ingredient and has one of the highest biological values of all protein sources. Dried egg product consists of shell-free eggs and is easy to digest.

Plant-based sources of protein in this product include flaxseed ground whole grain corn, and dried brewer’s yeast. Along with the chicken content, flaxseed is also a healthy source of fat to provide your dog with long-lasting energy.

This product is also high in dietary fiber. Ingredients that are sources of fiber include dried beet pulp and flaxseed oil. Some veterinarians recommend this dog food for dogs with weight or digestion issues.

The most prominent source of carbohydrates in this product is ground whole grain sorghum, which is a gluten-free cereal grain. This ingredient also contains trace amounts of B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Small & Toy Breed Adult Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs with Real Chicken, 15 lb. Bag

Pros

  • Rich source of animal-based proteins, including dried egg product
  • Natural flavor for picky eaters
  • High in fiber to promote gut health
  • Meets all your dog’s amino acid requirements

Cons

  • Contains caramel color ingredient that can be harmful to your dog’s health
  • Ingredients include chicken by-product meal

6. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Small Breed Bites

This sweet potato and fish-flavored dry dog food from Natural Balance has an AAFCO-approved formula to meet the dietary requirements of adult small breed dogs. In addition to proteins, fat, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber, it is a rich source of various vitamins and minerals.

Like other high-quality dog foods, this product derives most protein sources from animal-based ingredients. Protein ingredients include salmon, menhaden meal, and potato protein. The latter is the only plant-based source of protein, but it doesn’t affect the overall protein quality of the product.

The salmon is not only a good source of protein but also omega-3 fatty acids. The only other prominent fat source is canola oil. However, because manufacturers typically produce canola oil with genetically modified grapeseed, this ingredient has questionable health benefits.

Sweet potato is this product’s most prominent ingredient, which is a gluten-free carbohydrate. Sweet potato is also the primary source of fiber, beta carotene, and antioxidants.

This is a top quality grain-free dog food with a natural flavor that makes it a good option for picky eaters. The formula is somewhat limited, which is ideal for pets with food allergies, and it contains no artificial flavoring or colorants. The kibble texture also promotes teeth and gum health which is usually a problem in small breed dogs.

Natural Balance Puppy Formula L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Potato & Fish Formula

Pros

  • Most proteins are animal-based
  • A limited list of ingredients to limit food sensitivities and allergies
  • Salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Contains no artificial ingredients that may be harmful to your dog’s health

Cons

  • Canola oil is a controversial pet food product because of its manufacturing process

7. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Wet Dog Food

Blue Buffalo is one of the best wet dog food with an AAFCO-approved formula and natural chicken flavor. It has high moisture content and provides your dog with complete nutrition.

Except for flaxseed and peas, protein ingredients are mostly animal-based, including chicken and dried egg. The biological value of these ingredients ensures a high amino acid content, which provides your dog with significant health benefits, such as immune system health, the production of hormones, and the growth of muscle and hair.

Chicken is also a good source of fat, particularly omega-6 fatty acids. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids in this product include flaxseed and salmon oil. The chicken broth in the ingredient list is responsible for the food’s moisture content and authentic flavor but doesn’t have significant nutritional value.

There are several ingredients in this product that are healthy sources of dietary fiber, including brown rice, barley, oatmeal, guar gum. The latter is a thickening agent that manufacturers use in wet dog food along with carrageenan and cassia gum.

This wet dog food also contains blueberries and cranberries, which provides dietary fiber. These ingredients are also sources of manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Carbohydrate ingredients include barley, peas, and sweet potato, which is also a good source of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Natural Adult Small Breed Wet Dog Food, Chicken 5.5-oz can (Pack of 24)

Pros

  • Animal-based proteins that are high in amino acids
  • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Several sources of vitamins and minerals, including carrot, brown rice, and barley

Cons

  • Relatively expensive per serving

8. Halo Natural Holistic Chicken & Liver Dry Dog Food

Halo’s holistic dry dog food for small breeds has an AAFCO-approved formula and contains a wide range of healthy ingredients. Protein ingredients include chicken, chicken liver, peas, pea protein, and soybean protein concentrate.

Animal-based protein, apart from chicken and chicken liver, is a dried egg product. This ingredient is made from shell-free eggs that dogs can easily digest. Peas provide a secondary source of carbohydrates, along with pearled barley and soybean protein concentrate.

Veterinary nutritionists often recommend this food to dogs who need a high dietary fiber intake. Pea fiber is the most prominent source of fiber in this product. This concentrated ingredient can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and enhance your dog’s colon health. Other fiber ingredients include pearled barley and oatmeal.  

Halo Natural is also high in fat content. Ingredients that are sources of fat include chicken, chicken liver, as well as chicken fat. These ingredients are especially rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The most prominent source of omega-3 fatty acids in this product is flaxseed.

The chicken liver, peas, oatmeal, and flaxseed are also high in vitamins and minerals to enhance the health of your dog.

Halo Natural Dry Dog Food, Small Breed Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe, 4-Pound Bag

Pros

  • High fiber content to boost colon health
  • Contains a natural flavoring that makes the food more palatable for picky eaters
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Cons

  • Most protein sources are plant-based
  • Lacks the amino acids that your dog requires
  • Contains calcium sulfate, which can be a local irritant

9. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Small Breed

Nature’s Recipe’s grain-free dry food for small breeds meet AAFCO’s nutritional requirements and is suitable for adult small breed dogs.

It contains a wide range of protein sources, including chicken, chicken meal, peas, and pea protein. Other notable proteins in this dog food are garbanzo beans, along with chickpeas and poultry fat preserved with mixed tocopherols. Poultry fat is a low-quality source of protein; however, as the specific protein is not specified. Pea protein is also not an ideal source of protein because it boosts the product’s plant-based protein content and lowers the amino acid content.

Despite the prominent presence of pea protein, this product’s protein sources are predominantly animal-based.

Carbohydrate sources in this dog food include garbanzo beans, sweet potato, and pumpkin. Both pumpkin and sweet potato are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene, and minerals. Apple is another unique, high-quality ingredient that is high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Another ingredient worth noting is tapioca starch, which is a gluten-free cassava root extract. Kibble production requires starch, and tapioca is a healthy alternative. Other healthy ingredients include potassium chloride, which is a potassium supplement, and choline chloride, a member of the B-vitamin complex.

Nature's Recipe Grain Free Chicken, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food for Small Breeds, 12 Pounds, Easy to Digest

Pros

  • Most proteins in this dog food are animal-based
  • Contains garbanzo beans that are high in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates
  • No anonymous meat ingredients
  • Choline chloride is a healthy source of vitamin B

Cons

  • Contains controversial products like poultry fat, tomato pomace, and pea protein

10. Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Small & Mini Adult Chicken Recipe

Hill’s Science Perfect Weight dog food for small breeds has a unique AAFCO-approved formula for weight management. Protein ingredients are somewhat limited and include chicken, chicken meal, and corn gluten meal. Most sources of protein are from non-meat ingredients.

This dog food has a relatively high carbohydrate content, even though cracked pearled barley is one of the only significant sources of carbs in this dog food. This ingredient, along with brown rice, pea fiber, oat fiber, and flaxseed, adds dietary fiber to the product, which promotes intestinal health.

In terms of fat content, this product is on par with other high-end dog food products. Chicken, which is the primary ingredient of this product is a good source of omega-6 fatty acids, while the flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

This dog food is also one of the only products in this review guide that contains coconut oil, which contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA.) This ingredient promotes food digestion and improves your dog’s skin and coat health.

Hill’s Science Healthy Weight includes several supplements as well, including vitamin E, A, B12, and D3. The brown rice and flaxseed are excellent sources of minerals to promote the health of your dog, too.

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Perfect Weight for Healthy Weight & Weight Management, Small & Mini, Chicken Recipe, 15 lb Bag

Pros

  • High in minerals and vitamins
  • Ideal food for managing your adult dog’s weight
  • Contains coconut oil and medium-chain fatty acids
  • Rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids

Cons

  • Most proteins are not animal-based

How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Small Breeds

In the buyer’s guide below, we will discuss crucial buying considerations when shopping for dog food. By taking these considerations into account, you will be able to select the most appropriate dog food for your little pooch.

corgi walking

What Things to Consider When Buying Dog Food for Small Dogs

When selecting food for your small dog, there are several things you have to consider. The most crucial things you have to take into account are your small dog’s nutritional needs, the current life stage of your dog, as well as any special dietary requirements they may have.

Nutritional Needs of Small Breed Dogs

Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not strictly carnivores, and they need a balanced intake of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Proteins

Proteins are complex organic molecules that consist of amino acid chains. Your little dog needs proteins to enhance body tissue growth, for example, muscles, bones, hair, and skin. A dog’s body produces nonessential proteins, but these are not sufficient to keep them healthy.

In addition to nonessential proteins, your dog also needs essential proteins that his bodies can’t produce by itself. The only source of these essential amino acids is your dog’s diet. Animal-based proteins are better for a dog’s tissue development than plant-based proteins.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a source of energy that includes the simple sugar from fruits and milk as well as fibers from grains. Carbs in your dog’s food typically include things like oats, corn, rice, wheat, and barley, and can make up anywhere from 30% to 70% of dry dog food.

High-quality dog food will typically contain whole wheat, whole corn, or sweet potato as sources of carbohydrates.

Fats

Fat is a source of energy and gives an appealing flavor to food. Fats with the highest nutritional value include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids because your dog’s body can’t synthesize them, and you have to include them in your dog’s diet.

Omega-6 fatty acids include linoleic acid, gamma-linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid, eicosatetraenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid. Your dog’s food should ideally contain around 0.3% omega-3 and 2.2% omega-6.

Vitamins and Minerals

Your dog’s body can’t produce its own vitamins, and so you have to ensure that the food you give them is a healthy source of vitamins.

Minerals are inorganic compounds that your dog needs to build strong bones and teeth and to convert the food they eat into energy. High-quality dog food typically includes minerals like amino acid chelate, amino acid complex, and proteinate.

Fiber

In addition to energy, grains can also be a source of protein. Low-quality fibers with little nutritional value can contribute to intestinal health, but too much can increase stool production and gas. Fiber is not a required nutrient for dogs, but most manufacturers include it to aid digestion and keep dogs full.

Life Stages of Small Dogs

Puppy

Small-breed puppies require around four times more energy than adult dogs, as they are developing new tissue. When choosing food for your puppy, stick to products that are high in phosphorous, calcium, fat, and, most importantly, protein.

Smaller breeds need a high intake of these nutrients to prevent issues with the development of their skeletal structure, which can lead to obesity and back problems.

Adult

At the age of one to two years, your small dog becomes an adult. The dog food you give him should no longer enhance early development but focus on maintaining its overall health. Select dog food that contains the following:

  • Fish oils with vitamins to promote skin and coat health
  • Fiber to support digestive health
  • Essential minerals to boost the immune system
  • High-quality carbs as a source of energy
  • Animal-based proteins for muscle maintenance
  • Fat as a long-lasting source of energy
  • Essential fatty acids to regulate blood pressure, liver function, and inflammation
Senior

When your dog reaches the last third of his life expectancy, his dietary requirements change again. A dog’s need for proteins, fats, and calories lowers with age. So, older dog food needs more fiber to accommodate an increasingly inactive lifestyle.

Small Dogs Special Dietary Needs

Food Allergies

Dogs with food allergies are typically allergic to proteins like dairy, wheat, chicken, or beef. A food allergy is when the immune system mistakes the protein molecules for allergens. Symptoms of food allergies include non-seasonal itching, recurring skin, and ear infections, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, consult with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist to find out about hydrolyzed or novel protein diets.

Weight Management

Small breeds that have a propensity for being overweight include dachshunds, cairn terriers, and Scottish terriers. Inactive dogs or dogs with medical problems can also become obese. Food that is high in fiber can help your dog to feel full but without the high-calorie intake.

Blood Sugar

If your dog has diabetes, the dietary objective is to keep glucose levels healthy and prevent diabetes-related conditions such as cataracts and urinary tract infections. Vets typically recommend a prescription dog food that is high in fiber and low in fat for diabetic dogs.

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FAQs

How Much Should I Feed My Small Breed Dog?

Generally speaking, miniature and small breed dogs need one cup of food per day. If your dog is in shape, weight is a significant determinant of how much food you should give him. Most dog food products include a chart that recommends the appropriate daily intake according to weight.

Which Breeds Qualify as Small?

A small breed dog is one that weighs less than 22 pounds, or that is shorter than 16 inches. Some small breed dogs may be larger or heavier, however. Small dog breeds include, among others, beagles, Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, miniature schnauzers, French bulldogs, and dachshunds.

Can Small Breed Dogs Eat Regular Dog Food?

Kibbles for small breeds are smaller than the ones for large or regular breeds. Large kibbles may not be suitable for small dog jaws and can cause gastrointestinal upsets and dental issues. Dog food formulas for large breeds may also not contain the nutrients that small breeds need.

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