What is the Best Dog Food for Small Dogs: The Critical Decision

by | Feb 3, 2019 | 0 comments

what is the best dog food for small dogs? That’s today’s review.

In the world of being a fur parent, nutrition is one of the most important factors to ensure the health of our fur babies. It is the most essential aspect of their well-being, because this is where they obtain the nutrients for their bodies to remain healthy and active and for them to live long lives.

If you’re a new fur parent, you always want the best for your puppy, and in this particular era, you will be flooded with countless options when it comes to dog food. In this discussion, we will cover questions, such as, “what is the best dog food in today’s market?” and “what is the best food to feed my puppy?”

Best Dog Foods for Small Dogs

Royal Canin
  • Tailor-fit to the nutritional needs of each specific small dog breed
  • Accurate amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and prebiotics in each serving
  • Small kible size
Check Price on Amazon.com
Orijen Regional Red
  • Ingredients aligned based on natural prey-based sources
  • Balanced recipe based on red meats
  • Human-grade food
Check Price on Amazon.com
Taste of the Wild
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Contains a lot of antioxidants from tomatoes, raspberries and blueberries
  • One of the highest-rated dog food brands in the market
Check Price on Amazon.com
Hill's Science Diet Small & Mini Breeds
  • One of the less expensive dog food options
  • Large lineup of dog foods depending on the size and activity requirements
  • Plenty of vitamins and prebiotic fiber
Check Price on Amazon.com
Earthborn Holistic Small Breed Natural
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for the prevention and management of heart problems
  • High-quality carbohydrate sources, such as brown rice, barley, and oatmeal
  • Great holistic recipe for dogs under 20lbs
Check Price on Amazon.com

Aren’t all dog foods the same when it comes to what is the best food to feed my dog?

The quick answer is no. In general, we have three dog sizes: small, medium, and large. These categories further branch out into how the breed was developed; hence, you’ll encounter terms like Non-Sporting Breeds, Sporting or Hunting Breeds, etc. Different sizes come with different energy and nutritional requirements, which will also diverge based on age and pre-existing health conditions. Now, things may already start to seem complicated for you, and we haven’t even started yet. The bottom line is, dog food selection is not a walk in the park. You, as the pet parent, should be able to determine the answer to the question, “what is the best food to feed my dog?

Different dog foods may look similar, as the basis of the ingredients belong to a particular set of sources, such as meat, root crops, or grains, but the way the portions and nutritional values are calculated to create a final product varies per brand and dog food variant. Ideally, when selecting the best dog food for small dogs, you should consider the reviews, the compatibility, and, of course, the budget to sustain one particular brand for the rest of your dog’s life. Are you excited to know what is the best dog food for small dogs? Read on.

Small dog breeds at a glance

In general, small dog breeds age slower and have lower energy requirements not because of their activity but because of their size. Small dog breeds, collectively, comprise the size segment that, when taken care of properly, can easily leave more than 12 years.

In the small dog breed category are some of the most popular breeds, such as the following:

  •                 Chihuahua
  •                 Shih Tzu
  •                 Pomeranian
  •                 Maltese
  •                 Yorkshire Terrier
  •                 Toy Poodle

These breeds were specifically developed to be companion dogs, and their ultra-compact size makes them portable, such that their owners can bring them along everywhere. Most breeds in this category require extra care and attention, especially in the grooming department, because a large number of these small breeds were developed to become show-type dogs. Their nutritional requirements are quite different from those of medium and large dog breeds because of the following factors:

  •                 Small breeds have a significantly higher metabolic rate.
  •                 They have a smaller digestive system.
  •                 The smaller digestive system equates to shorter “transit time” for food.

As these cute balls of fur possess a significantly fast metabolism in a small package, the dog food that must be given to them as the primary source of nourishment should be concentrated and packed with essential proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins without the need to consume too much in quantity. Overfeeding is highly likely for small dog breeds, especially for toy and lap dogs that live sedentarily.

However, for small dog breeds that are hyperactive like a little furry tornado, bloat might occur when they start roaming around with partially digested food in their tummies. These important factors will help you, as a pet parent, to determine what is the best dog food for small dogs to help them achieve optimum nutrition and live long lives.

Why is my decision important to determine what is the best food to feed my dog?

The answer is quite simple and straightforward – your dogs cannot decide what to eat by themselves. Whatever you buy for them to eat will be the only choice they will ever have. Unlike humans who can decide for themselves if they will go and follow a certain diet or go splurge on fast food, dogs don’t have that kind of privilege. This is why your decision on what to feed your dog is as important as the day you decided that you want to own a dog.

Another factor to consider when searching your answer to the question of what is the finest food to feed my dog is that small dog breeds live the longest. Other than record holders, in general, most small breeds live significantly long lives, and when we say long, we are talking about more than a decade. Chihuahuas, for example, have a life expectancy of up to 20 years. That feat can only be achieved if you will be able to find what is the best dog food in the market for your dog.

Whenever the question “what is the best food for small dogs?” is asked, experienced pet parents and veterinarians will always guide you towards what they believe is the best. When we talk about the best, we are talking about premium ingredients, proven nutritional research, and sustainability.

What are the best dog foods?

The dog food industry is a billion-dollar market worldwide. With many brands offering holistic nutritional support for dogs through years of research and applications, you can easily get lost if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Nowadays, it is not just about determining the type of dog food to feed your dogs. Dog food choices vary depending on price, ingredients, and processing, and you can even encounter breed-specific ones. So, what are the best dog foods in the market? more importantly, our question still lingers on what is the best dog food for small dogs?

Small breed dogs hold a unique set of health concerns and nutritional requirements. Going back to the high metabolic rate requirements, this is carried on until the puppy becomes a full-grown (but still cute) adult dog. In general, a small breed dog will need approximately 40 calories per pound, and that is way higher than the calculated calorie requirement for large breed dogs, which is 22.5 calories per pound. This means that despite being small in size, their calorie requirement ratio is actually higher than that of their larger friends.

When talking about what are the best foods in today’s pet parenting landscape, the answer is a lot. But don’t let the massive selection overwhelm you because we are here to help!

Dog food manufacturing companies have conducted evolutionary research, and they have managed to come up with their respective dog food products that only require a small amount of serving for the small stomachs to accommodate and reduce the incidence of bloat while still being able to provide the daily nourishment requirements based on the recommended serving suggestion and feeding frequency.

Such scientific marvels can only be achieved when the raw ingredients used contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates. This is why ingredient lists may look similar, but this does not mean they are actually the same. In terms of carbohydrate source, for example, grains such as wheat are the least expensive sources available in the market. However, premium dog food brands take carbohydrates from more expensive sources, such as rice and vegetables. Being the main source of energy, carbohydrates in dog food are a must, but this should be balanced enough not to trigger obesity or metabolic problems.

Some pet parents may argue that excessive readily available carbohydrates in dog food can cause more health problems, especially when the dog is not the active type. While this point is true, your dog, regardless of activity level, will need carbohydrates as a direct source of energy. Protein and fat can also be used as energy sources and are also among the key components for a well-balanced dog food product, but they require more energy to break down. Basically, when you turn to protein and fat as the primary source of energy, you are choosing a longer, fuel-inefficient process compared to directly using carbohydrates. What is the best dog food for small dogs in this category should have the perfect balance of simple and complex carbohydrates, as this will help control weight and the already elevated metabolism of the smaller breeds.

After talking about carbohydrates, we now go to protein sources. Previously, dog food protein has been sourced only from three meat products: chicken, beef, and fish. However, those options branched out further, and now, we have breed-specific fish selections (like wild-caught salmon and whitefish) and other more exotic meat products (like venison). On the other hand, while you’re looking for what dog food is best for your dog, cheap sources also surfaced, along with inexpensive protein sources, such as fishmeal and even beef and bonemeal. What the best dog foods in the market are would usually be those packed with nutrients without requiring an excessive serving size.

The importance of sources

The dog food industry is not just about being fancy. Each dog food brand showcases careful years-long research to bring out the most effective way to promote nutritional support. When the source is cheap, most likely, you will not get a lot of viable nourishment from it. Fishmeal for example, is a left-over product from fish, and it is used primarily as a fertilizer ingredient and not a dog food ingredient. Fishmeal can also contain offal or the internal organs of fish, which has been proven to be more harmful than helpful in terms of providing nourishment. Sources also play a very important role in providing high concentrations of protein and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber to aid digestion. You must have a very critical eye about sources in order for you to find out what is the best dog food for small dogs like yours.

Nutritional value

Small breeds have very distinct nutritional requirements compared to medium and large dog breeds because of their accelerated metabolic rates. This means that the calorie content of the dog food must be high enough to sustain daily energy consumption, even if small dog breeds are the most sedentary ones in the bunch. Remember, energy consumption is not just about running or walking around the house with their little paws. Energy consumption is all about bodily functions, including breathing, muscle movement, and coordination.

Now, do not confuse calorie content with serving size. Small breed dog food options have very small serving size recommendations, but their calorie content is way higher than regular dog food, even if the serving size is less than half. Each tiny kibble or dog food pellet is packed with dense amounts of vitamins, nutrients, carbohydrates, and proteins, which are essential for muscle growth or repair, as well as skin and fur health.

You may ask why some products carry steep prices compared to others. This is due to the way the nutrients are sourced from raw materials and ingredients. In general, when dog food has been processed from cheaper ingredients, such as wheat, vegetable by-products, or meat by-products, the dog receives nutritional support, but in most cases, the amount is insufficient.

There are a lot of ingredients in dog food, but they can be categorized as follows:

   Meat is the primary protein source and the basis of most dog food options in the market. They can range from chicken, fish (of various types like salmon, whitefish, or menhaden), turkey, and beef to the more premium variants, such as venison.

   Carbohydrates can be derived from grains, nuts, and vegetables. These sources vary from product to product and in terms of price as well. High-end products lean towards vegetable derivatives as the primary source of carbohydrates. Other more premium sources are rice and peas. Wheat is more commonly found in the less expensive selections.

   Antioxidants are infused into the mix to promote cell integrity and slow down the degeneration of cells in the body.

   Prebiotics and probiotics aid digestion, and there are strains specifically cultured to be compatible with dogs.

   Other essential vitamins and minerals, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, have also been added in recent times owing to their proven effectiveness in promoting cardiovascular health.

What are the best dog foods’ processing method

You may have seen various videos online about how dog food is processed, especially the dry dog food variants being manufactured in massive plants and packed in huge batches. When veterinarians are asked what is the best dog food for small dogs, they will always mention the importance of how the dog food is processed. You may not know it, but the processing method is very important in sealing in the good stuff and in making sure that your dogs get what they need. Thus, this factor helps determine whether a certain brand of dog food is really one of the best in class.

Price

Of course, in order to sustain the way we feed our fur babies, dog food price will be the most important factor as a fur parent, especially when you’re budgeting your monthly expenses for your fur baby. There are a lot of inexpensive dog food options, as well as top-tier, more-expensive-than-your-food type of options. When talking about what is the best dog food to feed small dogs like yours, the “best” category will always depend on the price point you wish to consider.

What are the best foods for dogs? Remember that obtaining the “best” can also be classified on a tier basis depending on the price point. Veterinarians have mentioned that, as important as the nutritional value of the dog food is, sustainability also plays a vital role and should be considered.

Whenever we ask other pet parents, what is the best food to feed my puppy? They really recommend the sustainable ones over premium brands because you cannot get your dog food for free all the time, so you must also be cautious about the money you spend for your fur baby.

Great dog food brands worth considering

What is the best dog food for small dogs? There are so many dog food options available, we cannot compress all of them in one article. However, we came up with a great list, which includes dog food brands with varying features and price ranges to help you filter out your options and determine what is good for you (your budget) and your fur baby.

Royal Canin

Royal Canin is one of the few brands that offer breed-specific dog food selections. The company really exerted a great amount of effort to come up with a dog food line-up that has been tailor-fit to the nutritional needs of each specific dog breed. Each individual product has been formulated to provide the accurate amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and prebiotics in each serving.

Royal Canin

Small kible size and a recipe designed especially for Shih Tzus.

Orijen

Orijen is one of the most premium dog food options. In fact, this company is one of the few dog food manufacturing companies that offer human-grade dog food. That says a lot, as having a dog food preparation that is also safe for human consumption guarantees freshness and quality. Orijen believes in the principle of aligning the ingredients based on natural prey-based sources, along with eliminating the presence of preservatives and other artificial ingredients to ensure that your dog is getting only the best nutritional source.

ACANA is Orijen’s equally premium sibling, which takes pride in the nutritional value of its line-up with at least 50% meat inclusions and utilizing wild-caught fish, as well as free-range poultry, to establish a highly nutrient-dense meat source for your fur baby’s consumption.

    ORIJEN Regional Red

    Balanced recipe based on red meats with high protein content.

    Taste of the Wild

    Taste of the Wild also follows the principle of Orijen and ACANA that our fur babies should receive only the best and only natural ingredients. Showcasing zero grains, absolutely no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, Taste of the Wild delivers a simple yet very effective way to ensure great nutritional support for our pets. One of the highest-rated dog food brands in the market, Taste of the Wild, particularly Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed, is one of the most premium dog food brands that is highly digestible and includes venison, or deer meat, as one of its protein sources. It also contains a lot of antioxidants from raspberries and blueberries, as well as tomatoes, to ensure that the cells do not degenerate in an accelerated rate due to the lack of proper nutrition.

      Taste of the Wild

      With no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Highly digestible and includes venison, or deer meat, as one of its protein sources.

      Hill’s Science Diet

      Hill’s Science Diet is one of the less expensive in dog food options in the list, but that doesn’t mean it will not provide your dogs with their nutritional needs effectively. Hill’s Science Diet also showcases a large lineup of dog foods depending on size (Medium Breed) and activity requirement (such as Advanced Fitness).

        Hill's Science Diet Small & Mini Breeds

        A reasonably priced option aimed at the smallest breeds out there. Plenty of vitamins and prebiotic fiber.

        The Earthborn Holistic Small Breed Natural Dry Dog Food

        The Earthborn Holistic Small Breed Natural Dry Dog Food takes pride in its premium ingredients, including whitefish meal and real chicken meal. Those ingredients are not usually found in entry-level dog food choices. Other than that, this dog food brand is packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for the prevention and management of heart problems, a common health roadblock for dogs that are usually overfed or that lack exercise. In addition, Earthborn Holistic uses high-quality carbohydrate sources, such as brown rice, barley, and oatmeal.

          Earthborn Holistic Small Breed

          With Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to prevent heart problems, this is a great holistic recipe for dogs weighing under 20lbs at maturity.

          Horizon Amicus Small and Mini Breed Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

          Horizon Amicus Small and Mini Breed Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is made by one of the few dog food manufacturers that primarily focus on small dog breed nutrition. The company has an industry-leading method of utilizing triple animal protein sources, which are chicken, turkey, and wild caught salmon. These natural ingredients have been carefully mixed together to provide holistic nutritional support for small breed dogs.

          Being one of the grain-free products in the list, Amicus uses peas and red lentils as the primary carbohydrate sources, which, in turn, promote a diet with low glycemic index. Dog food preparations with low glycemic index significantly reduce the risk of your dogs becoming obese, which can lead to other more life-threatening health issues. What is great about the kibbles of the Amicus is that they are much smaller and softer than other brands, making the pieces easier to chew and even easier to digest.

          Horizon Amicus Small and Mini Breed

          A grain-free option for the smaller breeds. With peas and red lentils as the primary carbohydrate sources, it has a very low glycemic index, which reduces the risk of obesity.

          The importance of dog food compatibility

          Just like us humans, dog food choices are not universal, and you may encounter dog food brands that are not compatible with your dog, even the most expensive ones. As the dog food industry is an intricate combination of scientific research, passion for dog health, and even art, you will encounter some hindrances making you wonder why a dog food brand is not as effective in giving nutritional support as expected because of various factors that took effect.

          How will you know if the dog food is incompatible with your dog? There are two more obvious indicators of whether the dog food you’ve selected is not the right one for your dog. First is the consumption. If you are shifting from one dog food brand to another, and you are introducing the new dog food brand in gradual servings without any decrease in appetite or consumption, there should be no problem. However, when the consumption noticeably decreases, then the dog food might not be a good choice. Small dog breeds tend to be picky with their food choices. This subjective dog preference will cause your dog to show signs that it doesn’t like the current brand.

          Another indicator of dog food incompatibility is the stool formation. When a dog is well-nourished, stool formation should be solid and slightly soft with no gravely offensive odor (like rotting eggs or other more pronounced smells). If the stools being passed out are consistently soft or watery, there is a good chance that the food is not properly digested, which can be due to the ingredients, size, or the preparation of the food.

          Conclusion

          Just like us humans, dog food choices are not universal, and you may encounter dog food brands that are not compatible with your dog, even the most expensive ones. As the dog food industry is an intricate combination of scientific research, passion for dog health, and even art, you will encounter some hindrances making you wonder why a dog food brand is not as effective in giving nutritional support as expected because of various factors that took effect.

          How will you know if the dog food is incompatible with your dog? There are two more obvious indicators of whether the dog food you’ve selected is not the right one for your dog. First is the consumption. If you are shifting from one dog food brand to another, and you are introducing the new dog food brand in gradual servings without any decrease in appetite or consumption, there should be no problem. However, when the consumption noticeably decreases, then the dog food might not be a good choice. Small dog breeds tend to be picky with their food choices. This subjective dog preference will cause your dog to show signs that it doesn’t like the current brand.

          Another indicator of dog food incompatibility is the stool formation. When a dog is well-nourished, stool formation should be solid and slightly soft with no gravely offensive odor (like rotting eggs or other more pronounced smells). If the stools being passed out are consistently soft or watery, there is a good chance that the food is not properly digested, which can be due to the ingredients, size, or the preparation of the food. 

          Thank you for reading! now you can tell what is the best dog food for small dogs.

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          Greg Holmes
          Greg Holmes resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two daughters, as well as three Havanese dogs. Being an AKC-certified CGC Evaluator and a certified dog trainer, taking care of dogs has been a big part of his life ever since he was young. His love for dogs started when his father took him to the state dog shelter to find his first puppy, which he named Einstein because the dog presented with a very unruly coat when he saw it for the first time. From this experience, he has become a very strong advocate of "adopt don't shop" for aspiring pet parents.

          Greg joined the Pupped.com team because he believes that every dog, regardless of breed or age, deserves critical attention and the best dog-related products in the market because man's best friend only deserves, well, the best. Being an active member of the American Kennel Club, he aims to provide up-to-date information to his readers and present factual data about the products available in the market.