The Best Dog Food for Small Dogs — Everything You Need to Know
Small dog breeds may have petite physiques, but their energy levels are through the roof! These tiny pooches are endlessly fun to be around, and they are so zippy that they give much bulkier breeds a good run for their bone.
Such a lively disposition must be coupled with a diet that can match this pup’s energy requirements. We have gathered, compared, and assessed numerous food options in order to find the best dog food for small dogs. We are proud to say that our top picks are indeed our own — Alpha Paw is not supported by any affiliate links.
Before we begin our assessment, we do have our very own Alpha Paw dog food called Natural Vitality™ that is vet-approved and fast becoming the go-to brand for pet parents. Our chicken and sweet potato recipe is made to support all dog breeds for all of their life stages. Formulated with purposeful ingredients in accordance with AAFCO guidelines, our dog food is a natural source of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Our Evaluation Process
If you are an avid Alpha Paw reader, you already know that we know dogs. We know how to train them, how to tend to them, and how to keep them healthy. We also know a lot about how to feed them properly.
Top-quality nutrition is essential for your dog’s well-being, but we don’t claim to know absolutely everything on the subject. When we set out to find the healthiest dog food for small dogs, we made sure to consult with experts and use their knowledge in our quest. We talked to:
- Pet shop owners and employees
- Online reviewers
- Our readers
Veterinarians shed light on the nutritional needs of small dog breeds and their recommended daily food intake. Online reviews helped us come up with a list of 50 brands that dog owners across the country used most often.
We also made sure to confirm the prices and availability of those products at local pet stores and online shops. Finally, our loyal readers were an invaluable source of wisdom because they told us exactly what their pooches had a taste for. Only then did we have enough info to compare the best dog food for small breeds according to the following criteria.
How We Selected the Top-Rated Dog Food Brands
Proper nutrition is essential for minuscule dog breeds. Small dog breeds have high metabolisms and burn calories at a fast rate, but their stomachs are so tiny that they are full after only a dozen bites.
We looked for food that is jam-packed with essential nutrients for canines, such as protein, carbs, minerals, and vitamins so that these pooches can get everything they need in one small portion.
Miniature dogs also have narrow throats and require smaller kibble, so we only went with options that won’t pose a choking hazard and that would be easy to digest.
We thoroughly checked the labels, origin of the ingredients, and recipes of all the brands on our list. We looked for unbiased online reviews and conducted a survey among our readers to find out which flavors their small pups liked the most.
Our choice was nevertheless primarily based on food with premium-quality ingredients. The food we looked for had to:
- Be rich in protein (20% and above)
- Have enough calories in a small serving
- Have fat content from natural sources
- Contain antioxidants and probiotics
- Be a source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
What Is the Best Dog Food for Small Dogs?
Having considered the ingredients, flavors, nutritional value, and dog owner reviews, we were able to sum the list down to the top five foods for small dogs.
We strived to include options that fit every budget and that are safe to use in all stages of your dog’s life, from puppies to seniors! You can rest assured that what you read below is our honest opinion as we don’t earn a dime through sponsored links.
|Alpha Paw Picks||Brand||Rating|
|Best overall||Wellness CORE Small Breed Grain-Free Original||4.9|
|Runner-up||Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken for Small Breed Dogs||4.8|
|Best on a budget||Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paw Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe||4.6|
|Best for senior dogs||Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe||4.8|
|Best for puppies||Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe||4.7|
Our Top Pick: Wellness Core Small Breed Grain-Free Original
Wellness CORE Small Breed Grain-Free Original takes the top spot on our list of the best small breed dog food that you can offer your pooch.
This recipe is based mainly on delectable meat — it is so yummy that owners swear their pups lick their bowls clean every time. This meal consists of turkey meat that ensures the necessary protein kick, spinach that contains magnesium and iron to keep your doggo’s heart strong, and flaxseed that is rich in precious Omega-3 acids.
Apart from high-quality protein and Omega fatty acids, Wellness Core dog food contains glucosamine and chondroitin that support your doggo’s joints. This formula is also grain-free, which means that it has low carb content and will prevent your dog from getting chubby quickly. It is also packed with antioxidants and probiotics that support your small dog’s delicate digestive system.
|Crude Protein||min. 36%|
|Crude Fat||min. 15%|
|Crude Fiber||max. 5%|
|Vitamin A||min. 25,000 IU/kg|
|Vitamin E||min. 400 IU/kg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||min. 3%|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||min. 0.50%|
|Glucosamine||min. 1,200 mg/kg|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||min. 1,200 mg/kg|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||min. 80,000,000 CFU/lb|
Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal (source of Glucosamine), Chicken Meal (source of Chondroitin Sulfate), Lentils, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Spearmint, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
The Runner-Up: Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe for Small Dogs
Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken for Small Breeds was specifically designed to meet your tiny pooch’s dietary requirements.
This formula is grain-free, meaning that you won’t have to fret about your dog’s carb intake and subsequent blood sugar levels. This is particularly important for small breeds that are prone to diabetes and obesity.
What makes this commercial food stand out from a sea of similar products is that it is sprinkled with bits of freeze-dried raw chicken. This makes for a tasty delicacy that even the fussiest doggos gobble up in seconds!
This Instinct Raw Boost recipe meets all your miniature pup’s needs as it contains protein, fat, and calories in ideal proportions. It will help your pup maintain a healthy weight and keep their muscles strong and lean.
|Crude Protein||min. 35%|
|Crude Fat||min. 20%|
|Crude Fiber||max. 4%|
|Vitamin E||min. 225 IU/kg|
|Vitamin C||min. 120 mg/kg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||min. 2.50%|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||min. 0.25%|
|Glucosamine||min. 300 mg/kg|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||min. 525 mg/kg|
|Bacillus Coagulans||min. 60,000,000 CFU/lb|
Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Chickpeas, Tapioca, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Turkey Meal, Herring Meal, Peas, Freeze Dried Chicken, Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Coconut Oil, Salt, Pumpkinseeds, Potassium Chloride, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Egg Product, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Montmorillonite Clay, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Choline Chloride, Dried Kelp, Salmon Oil, Blueberries, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
Best Small Dog Food for Owners on a Budget: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paw
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paw Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe is an excellent choice if you want to provide your dog with all the necessary nutrients without breaking the bank.
This is a well-balanced food made from natural ingredients and tailored for small and miniature breeds. The kibble is nibble-sized and super easy to chew and digest. The formula is packed with quality protein, Vitamin E, and Omega-6, which boost your dog’s immunity and nourish their bones, skin, and fur.
|Carbohydrate / NFE||51.3|
|Vitamin C||260 ppm|
|Vitamin E||1462 IU/kg|
|Total Omega-3 FA||0.66|
|Total Omega-6 FA||3.83|
Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Soybean Meal, Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken Liver Flavor, Pork Liver Flavor, Flaxseed, Lactic Acid, Soybean Oil, Green Peas, Apples, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Cranberries, Potassium Chloride, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Carrots, Choline Chloride, Broccoli, Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, L-Carnitine, Beta-Carotene.
Best Small Breed Food for Senior Dogs: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior
When we searched for the best small breed food for elderly pooches, the one that immediately stood out from the bunch was Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe.
This food recipe was tailored specially for senior dogs.
It is made from deboned chicken and antioxidant-packed fruits and veggies, which makes it gentle on your old doggo’s frail digestive tract. It has no poultry by-products and no preservatives or artificial flavors that are typical of the worst dry dog food, so you know your buddy is getting only the best quality meat.
The kibble is small and easy to chew, even for fellows who have teeth issues or have already lost a tooth or two. This formula is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which is also beneficial for your canine’s munchers.
|Crude Protein||23.0% min|
|Crude Fat||13.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||6.0% max|
|Vitamin E||300 IU/kg min|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||0.75% min|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||2.25% min|
|Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C)||100 mg/kg min|
Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Peas, Pea Starch, Natural Flavor, Pea Fiber, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, DL-Methionine, Salt, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Dicalcium Phosphate, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Garlic, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
Best Small Dog Food for Puppies: Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy
Puppies have unique nutritional needs because they have to grow into strong and healthy adult dogs. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe meets those requirements to a T.
This formula is based on natural ingredients that support your puppy’s development in a plethora of ways. Here are the most relevant ones:
- Turkey meat for premium-quality protein
- Salmon contains essential fatty acids for optimal brain and eye development
- Beta carotene from carrots for keeping cataracts and heart disease at bay
- Phosphorus and calcium for healthy bones and teeth
- Vitamins and minerals for a resilient immune system
|Crude Protein||min. 28%|
|Crude Fat||min. 19%|
|Crude Fiber||max. 4.25%|
|Vitamin A||min. 25,000 IU/kg|
|Vitamin E||min. 200 IU/kg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||min. 4.20%|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||min. 0.60%|
|Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)||min. 0.1%|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||min. 100 mg/kg|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||min. 20,000,000 CFU/lb|
Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Salmon Meal, Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Oats, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Menhaden Fish Meal, Tomatoes, Pea Fiber, Salmon Oil, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Spinach, Potassium Chloride, Ground Flaxseed, Salt, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Apples, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
Ideal Macros for My Small Breed Dog
The best dog food has to contain the right amounts of macro-and micronutrients. Your dog can take micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) through various dietary additions, such as the Nutra Thrive dog food supplement. Macronutrients can only come from good-quality meals.
An optimal canine diet has to contain these macronutrients:
Proteins can come from either animals or vegetables and serve to give energy to your dog, but they also have a key role in making and repairing tissue. Small breed food needs to have a bare minimum of 18% protein in its composition, but those requirements can differ depending on the age and health of the dog. Puppies need substantially more protein for proper development — quality puppy food needs to contain at least 28% protein.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are simple or complex sugars that mostly come from plants. Canines don’t have a minimum carb requirement as it is not essential for their survival. Carbs contain a lot of valuable fiber that does wonders for your dog’s digestive system. Look for food that has a lot of corn, rice, wheat, barley, oats, and other whole grains if your pooch has tummy issues.
Together with carbs, lipids (fats) turn into calories that your buddy burns as fuel for their activities. Your dog’s diet needs to contain enough unsaturated fats, such as Omega-6 fatty acids, that play a vital role in maintaining the health of your doggo’s heart, skin, and coat. Ideally, your pooch’s meal will have over 14% fats. Opt for food that has plenty of beneficial fatty acids from cold-water fish and flaxseed oil.
What Makes Small Breed Dog Food Special?
Small dogs have a different metabolism from large breed canines. If you own a weeny puppy, you must have noticed that they have a surprisingly healthy appetite. They tend to grow faster than their larger cousins and, in turn, need more calories per pound of weight in their nutrition.
Their tiny bodies work hard to become bigger and stronger and burn more of those essential calories in the process. That is why your miniature pooch will reach maturity before their burly relatives, typically before their first birthday.
You should look for high protein and fat content in your petite pup’s dog food. Nearly all reputable dog food brands have developed special formulas for small canines. In order to meet their dietary requirements, the food needs to be:
- Packed with high-quality protein and lipids
- High in calories
- Rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
Not only is the distribution of quality ingredients different in food for small dogs, but the kibble pieces are smaller in comparison to the best large breed dry dog food. That enables your mini pooch to nibble on their tasty pellets with ease and without the risk of choking. It is also suitable for old dogs that have lost some of their teeth. Small kibble is easier for puppies to digest, and it helps you divide their portions accordingly.
How Much Food Should I Feed My Small Dog?
Your tiny dog has a small stomach but high daily calorie demands. To ensure your pooch gets the nutrients they require to be healthy, they need to have around 1–1.5 cups of kibble a day. Strive to divide that into two or three meals to avoid overburdening their tiny tummy.
Keep in mind that the exact serving depends mostly on your dog’s weight. To be on the safe side, either consult with your pup’s vet or follow the recommendations printed on the package. For example, toy dog breeds shouldn’t get more than a cup a day, while particularly active small pooches may eat up to two cups on certain days without a problem.
|Dog’s weight||Daily servings|
|5–10 pounds||½ to ¾ a cup|
|10–20 pounds||¾ to 1 cup|
|20 pounds or more||1–1 ½ cups|
If you have a puppy, feel free to feed it with the best puppy food brands — give them small quantities three or four times a day. Cubs need to have frequent meals so as not to become hypoglycemic due to low blood sugar levels. That can lead to other health issues, so make sure to feed your puppy regularly.
Older dogs are not as active and have different needs when it comes to food. That is why the best senior dry dog food has fewer proteins in its composition, which hinders the development of late-onset canine obesity. Typically, a small elderly dog needs about a quarter of a cup of food less than an average adult pup.
Can I Combine Wet and Dry Dog Food?
Yes, if your pooch is healthy and loves both dry and wet meals, you can mix them together without a problem. The choice of food will depend mostly on your pup’s taste. Some dogs enjoy the crunchy dry kibble, while others prefer the aromatic and juicy wet meals ( check out our best-canned dog food). But most dogs will be equally thrilled with both as long as their bowl is full on time.
In case your dog has digestive issues, you should choose their meals more carefully. The best dry dog food will typically be easier to digest, provided that your pooch drinks enough water every day.
Bear in mind that your small dog is more likely to overeat on kibble than wet food. Canned food contains more water, so it makes their tummy feel full sooner and curbs rapid weight gain. A wet food diet is also preferable for dogs with kidney insufficiency.
Small dog food packs more protein and fat into smaller portions and has nibble-sized kibble ideal for your tiny pooch. Those features go in hand with their minuscule stomachs and exceptionally high metabolism.
The best small breed dog food is made of natural ingredients and has nutrients that satisfy the prescribed amounts for little pup varieties. Those are just some of the criteria we used to select the crown jewels among tiny dog food. Whichever option you go for from our list of favorites, you can sleep soundly knowing that you picked the best of the best for your furry baby!
- Alegría-Morán, Raúl A., et al. “Food Preferences in Dogs: Effect of Dietary Composition and Intrinsic Variables on Diet Selection.” Animals, vol. 9, no. 5, 2019, p. 219., doi:10.3390/ani9050219.
- Zink, M. Christine. Dog Health & Nutrition for Dummies. Wiley Pub., 2001.