two dogs sitting on chairs at a table looking at their bowls of kibble

Best Kibble for Small Dogs: Top Picks for Optimal Nutrition

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We’ve noted before that small dogs have special nutritional needs which their owners need to be aware of. Kibble is a really popular dog food type because of its convenience and affordability. However, and again it bears repeating — not all kibbles are created equal and it can be a headache to choose one from the many kibbles on the market. For that reason, this article will dive into what makes a good kibble and our choices for the best kibble for small dogs.

It is important to make sure the size of the kibble is right for your dog. Then be sure the nutrition is correctly balanced and the first ingredient is real meat. The ingredient list should also show the inclusion of dog-friendly fruits and veggies, as well as vitamins, minerals, and any special additions that promote good health and/or any specific disease or nutritional problem your vet has advised you about. 

Small breed puppies, for example, may need softer and smaller kibbles that are easier to chew and digest. Additionally, small dogs may develop dental issues, making it important to choose a kibble that has ingredients that support good oral health.

Fortunately, there are many high-quality kibbles available that are specifically formulated for small dogs. By doing your research and consulting with your veterinarian, you can find the best kibble to meet your small dog’s unique nutritional needs.

Understanding Kibble for Small Dogs

Kibble is often the most convenient and cost-effective way to feed your dog.  But remember, not all kibble is created equal, and it’s important to understand what to look for to be sure your pooch is getting the nutrition it needs.

Small breed dogs and puppies have unique nutritional requirements, so it’s important to choose a kibble specifically formulated to meet their needs. Look for kibble that is labelled as “small breed” or “puppy kibble” so that the size is right for your dog’s age, small size, mouth, and teeth.

In addition to the dog’s age and size, you need to know what ingredients and nutrition are in the kibble. For instance, is the kibble accurately formulated for small-breed dogs? For puppies?  For senior-aged dogs? For pregnant or nursing dogs? 

Be sure to look for a kibble that fits the bill for your dog. That is, the ingredient label should list a high-quality source of real meat first, such as beef, chicken or lamb followed by other ingredients and the inclusion specs for essential vitamins and minerals. And, avoid cheap kibbles that use irresponsible fillers like corn, wheat, and soy, which provide little nutritional value for dogs and can be difficult for pups and small breed dogs to digest.

It’s true that small-breed dogs have a higher metabolic rate than large breeds, so they need more calories in their diet than big dogs. Remember — dog treats have calories, so be sure you take that into account! Look for a kibble that is well formulated and lists the calorie content on the packaging.

When it comes to feeding small-breed dogs, it’s important to choose a kibble that meets their unique nutritional needs. By selecting a high-quality kibble that is appropriately sized and contains the right balance of protein, fat, and calories, you will be sure that your fur buddy stays healthy and happy for years to come.

Nutritional Needs of Small Dogs

Small dogs have their own nutritional needs that must be met by the dog food. As with all dogs, small breeds need a balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and fatty acids to maintain good health. But, all dogs are not the same. You need to know that because of their smaller size and higher metabolic rates, small dogs have dietary needs that differ from big dogs.

Protein is essential for all dogs, but small breeds need a higher percentage of animal protein in their diet than larger breeds. Animal protein is easier for small dogs to digest than plant proteins and meat provides the necessary amino acids for maintenance, growth, and repair. We recommend that small dogs eat a diet that is around 25% total protein.

In addition to protein, small dogs need a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals in their diet to support their high metabolic rates. 

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy vision, while vitamin D is necessary for proper bone development. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorus must be properly balanced in the correct ratio for normal bone development, repair, and health.

Vitamins C and E are essential for small dogs to maintain healthy vascular and immune systems. Fatty acids, like omega-3, are necessary for maintaining healthy skin and coats. Probiotics may also be beneficial for small dogs, as they aid in digestion and promote healthy gut microbes.

Overall, all dogs really need to eat a diet that is properly balanced.  Small breed dogs especially need a diet that is high in animal protein and balanced for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and total fat. It is also important for normal digestion and gut health that your dog gets adequate fibre every day in his or her diet. Always buy a high-quality kibble that is specifically formulated for small breeds to be sure that their daily dietary needs are met.

Three jars of dog kibble

Best Kibble Ingredients for Small Dogs

Choosing the best kibble for your dog should be high on your list of priorities. The ingredients play such a critical role in making sure that your furry friend gets all the necessary nutrients for its overall health and wellbeing. 

Here are some of the crucial kibble ingredients for small dogs:

High-Quality Protein Sources

That means real meat! Small dogs need a diet rich in protein to support their high metabolism and to maintain their lean muscle mass. Shop for kibble that contains high-quality protein sources such as deboned chicken, lamb, or salmon. Chicken meal and chicken by-product meal may also be used as cheap sources of protein, but they should not be the main ingredient.

Whole Grains and Vegetables

While some small dogs may have grain sensitivities, whole grains such as oatmeal can provide essential nutrients like fibre and complex carbs. Ask your vet what is best to feed your dog if an allergy or sensitivity to grains is suspected or diagnosed.  Vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach are often used in kibbles because they are good sources of natural vitamins and minerals.

Natural Antioxidants and Supplements

Kibble that is formulated with natural antioxidants like apples, blueberries, and tomatoes may support your small dog’s immune system. Supplements like taurine and vitamin E can also provide other health benefits. Try to buy kibble that contains a mix of tocopherols. These are natural preservatives (vitamin E is a tocopherol) that help keep the food fresh and they are beneficial to your dog.

Balanced Minerals

Small dogs need a balanced diet of minerals to support their overall health. Look for kibble that contains potassium chloride, zinc sulfate, and calcium carbonate. These minerals can help support your dog’s bones and teeth.

Overall, the best kibble for small dogs should contain high-quality protein sources, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and avoid including hard-to-digest common allergens like wheat, contain natural antioxidants and any supplements, and have balanced minerals. It is essential to choose a kibble that meets your dog’s specific nutritional needs and consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about their diet.

Avoiding Harmful Ingredients

When it comes to choosing the best kibble for your small dog, it’s important to know what ingredients are harmful to your dog’s health. 

Some of the most common kibble ingredients to avoid are:


Fillers are ingredients that are used to bulk up the kibble and make it cheaper to produce. Many of these fillers offer little to no nutritional value and can even be harmful to your dog’s health. 

  • Corn
  • Hominy
  • Corn Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Simple Sugars
  • Soy

Artificial Preservatives

Many kibble brands use artificial preservatives to extend the shelf life of their product. However, some of these preservatives have been linked to serious health problems in dogs. Here are some of the most common artificial preservatives to avoid until they are proven 100% safe:

  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)/BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Propylene Glycol

Unhealthy Ingredients

There are some common, cheap kibble ingredients that are simply unhealthy for dogs to eat. These ingredients can cause a range of health problems, including digestive troubles, tissue abnormalities, and allergies. Some of the most commonly used unhealthy ingredients in kibble include:

  • Meat by-products
  • Artificial colours and flavours
  • Rendered fat

Best Kibble for Small Dogs

When shopping for kibble for your small dog, be sure to read the ingredient list carefully. Look for high-quality ingredients like real meat, vegetables, and fruits. Avoid kibble that contains fillers, artificial preservatives, and unhealthy ingredients. By choosing the right kibble for your small dog, you can help ensure that your small dog stays healthy and happy for years to come.

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