two chihuahuas sitting at a dining table

A Buying Guide for the Best Dog Foods for Small Dogs

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You know how important it is to provide your little furry friend with the correct nutrition. But, little dogs have notably different dietary needs than the larger dog breeds. Finding the best dog food for your small fur buddy can be a challenge. With so many options available, just how can anyone know what is the best dog food for small dogs?  Allow us to lighten your burden a bit with our top picks and buying guide.

This is really important….When deciding on the best dog foods for small dogs, there are some key factors to keep in mind. These include: 

  • How the main ingredients are sourced
  • Size of the kibble (dry commercial foods)
  • Any added water (canned foods)
  • Any added fat and what type of fats
  • Calorie count of the dog food
  • Ash content of the dog food
  • Your dog’s age, weight, and health
  • Total nutritional value of the food

By understanding these limiting factors, you can rest assured that your small breed dog is getting the right balance of correct nutrients to stay healthy and happy. In this article, we’ll take a close look at some of the best commercially branded dog foods for small dogs and what to look for when choosing a dog food.  But first,  you should be aware of a few nutritional guidelines.

Nutritional Needs of Small Dogs

It’s really important to understand the nutritional needs of your small dog. Small breed dogs (think Chihuahuas) are wound tighter than big dogs. What does that mean?  It means that typically small breed dogs have a faster metabolism and burn energy quicker than larger dogs. It’s not rocket science — small dogs have to eat a diet that is specifically formulated to meet their unique small breed needs.

Protein Requirements

Protein — reduced to peptides and amino acids — is essential for maintaining muscle mass and supporting healthy metabolism in small dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, small-breed dogs require a higher percentage of protein in their diet than larger dogs. Look for dog food that contains at least 25% protein for small breeds. And, contrary to what many folks may think, the total protein should come from a mix of meat and vegetable sources, not just from meat.

Fat Requirements

Although fat often gets a bad review, believe it or not, fat is an important source of energy for all of us including small dogs. Fat helps maintain healthy skin, muscles, nerves, and the dog’s coat. Fat also supports the all-important brain and eye development. You should always look for dog food that has 15-17% fat for optimal nutritional support of small breed dogs. 

Be aware that there is a point where too much fat in the diet (18% or higher) — or the wrong kind of fat — is unhealthy. Also remember that it’s all fat sources too, including treats, not just the fat in the dog food.  If you are prone to give your dog table scraps (which you shouldn’t do!) then you must take that into account too.

Carbohydrate Requirements

Carbohydrates are the fuel that provides the energy for small dogs. Carbs in dog foods are also an important source of nutritional fibre for digestive bulk. Look for dog food that contains sources of high-quality carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and peas. Avoid any dog foods that contain useless fillers, such as corn and wheat, which can be difficult for small dogs to digest and utilize. 

Small breed dogs need a diet that is rich in protein and fat, and one that is balanced with high-quality carbohydrates. Buy a dog food that is formulated solely for small breeds and that meets or exceeds their specific nutritional requirements. 

Always feed your small dog a nutritionally sound and well-balanced diet.

Avoid gimmicky dog foods produced and sold by people who do not have the knowledge needed to back up their claims.  Feed your small dog a nutritionally sound and well-balanced diet and he or she will live a healthy and normal life. 

Jack russell dog eating from a bowl.
Hungry dog eating dry feed from food bowl. Pet feeding

Look at the Ingredients List

When selecting the best dog food for your small dog, pay close attention to the labeled ingredients list. 

Here are some key ingredients you should look for: 

High-Quality Proteins

Protein is an essential nutrient for your small dog’s health, and high-quality protein sources should be the foundation of their diet. Look for dog food that lists first real meats like chicken, turkey, beef, venison, buffalo, or fish.  These real meats should always be listed first and should never be substituted with byproducts or other inferior ingredients. 

Never buy cheap dog food that lists meat by-products or meat meal as the number one protein source.  These are lower quality ingredients and may not provide adequate nutrition.  Also, they are often contaminated with disease-causing bacteria or other hazardous substances.  

Healthy Fats

Dietary fats are very important for your small dog’s overall health and well-being. Look for dog foods that contain sources of healthy fats like fish oil, flaxseed, or chicken fat to name only a few. These “good” fats can help improve your dog’s coat and skin health, as well as support their musculo-nervous and immune systems.

Whole Grains

Milled (dry rolled, ground, or flaked) whole grains are a really good source of complex carbohydrates.  These carbs are necessary for your small dog’s bodily and energy needs. You want to look for a dog food that incorporates unbleached whole grains like brown rice, barley, or oats. A mix of these grains should be listed on the package. Avoid any product that lists further processed grains, refined flour, or any grain by-product,  such as hulls or fillers.

Healthy Vegetables

Many vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals for your small dog. However, like humans, some dogs can have allergies to certain foods.  So, be aware of any anaphylactic reaction like a chronic skin itch or laboured breathing that your dog may have shortly after eating any new dog food. You should look for dog food that contains a variety of vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, peas, pumpkin, or carrots. These vegetables provide your dog with needed essential nutrients like vitamin A, beta carotene, and fibre.

Ingredients to Avoid in Small Dog Food

When it comes to dog food, you need to be an informed consumer! 

It’s important to know the potentially harmful ingredients that you don’t want in the dog food you feed your pooch. When it comes to choosing the right dog food for your small dog, you need to be an informed consumer!  Some ingredients can be harmful to your dog’s health, while others may not provide the necessary nutrition your dog needs. 

Here are some ingredients to avoid in any small dog food:

Artificial Preservatives

Artificial preservatives are often added to pet food to extend its shelf life. Besides the manufacturer, who cares about long shelf life? You don’t want preservatives and your dog doesn’t need them. In fact, some commonly used preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, have been linked to serious health problems in dogs. These preservatives have been shown to contribute to cancer, liver and kidney damage, as well as other probable health concerns. The bottom line — you should buy only dog foods that use natural preservatives like tocopherols (Vitamin E) instead of artificial preservatives.

Artificial Colours and Flavours

Artificial colours and flavours are added to dog food to make it more appealing to humans. How vain! Such marketing nonsense! These fake ingredients offer absolutely no nutritional value to the dog food and may be detrimental to your dog’s health. Stupid! Some artificial colors have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in dogs. Buy dog foods that use natural flavours and colours instead.

Fillers and By-Products

Ah, the bottom line mentality raises its ugly head! 

Unnecessary fillers and by-products are commonly added to dog food to bulk it up and make it more affordable. The fact is these fillers offer no real nutrition to your dog. Fillers like corn, wheat, and soy can be hard for dogs to digest and can often be dangerous.  Allergic reactions in dogs sometimes occur, and you have no way of knowing if your dog is allergic or not. 

By-products like chicken beaks, chicken feet, and chicken beaks are low-quality protein sources that can be harmful to your dog’s health. Not only that, but these poor quality ingredients may be a microbial contamination source.  Some unscrupulous dog food makers have even been caught adding dead pets into dog foods.  

7 Recommended Dog Food Brands

These are our top seven picks, in no particular order. However, please remember to do your own research so you make the best choice for your dog.

Wag click here for more info.

Blue Buffaloclick here for more info.

Nutroclick here for more info.

IAMSclick here for more info.

Cesarclick here for more info.

Frommclick here for more info.

Merrickclick here for more info.

The best dog food for your small dog will always have high-quality protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and dog yummy vegetables. By paying attention to the ingredients list, you can ensure that your small dog is getting the nutrition they need to thrive.

So when you are shopping for the best dog food for your small dog, always read the label carefully and avoid potentially harmful ingredients. Be smart! Read the label! Pay attention to ingredients! Buy dog food that is free of artificial preservatives, colours, flavours, fillers, and by-products.

You, and you alone, can protect your dog’s health and well-being.

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