Small dog breeds are boisterous, spunky, and incredibly intelligent. You want to nurture that incredible mind with the best dry dog food for small dogs. It’s important that you feed your pup the right food to prevent allergies, stomach problems, and even more severe issues.
Keep in mind that not every small breed will have the same eating habits or tastes, so you might have to play around with their food a bit before finding one that works. If you have a pup, you know how fussy they can sometimes be.
Keep your unique doggo in mind when choosing the best dry dog food for small dogs.
Best Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs: Q&A
If you want to make the right decision on dog food for your pup, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Many people have questions and concerns about choosing food and for a good reason. We hope to answer some of those questions for you.
How to choose the right dry dog food?
The most important thing to keep in mind is the unique needs of your pup. The hardest thing about choosing dog food is that there is no one-size-fits-all option in this area. Each dog will desire different flavors, textures, and sizes based on their personality.
One area you can shop for is their size. Since you’re looking for a small breed dog food, you can rule that one deciding factor out. When it comes to flavor, you’ll likely have to test out a variety of different foods to see what works.
Some dog foods contain different textures with added bits thrown in for nutrition or flavor. Your pup might love this, or they might hate it; once again, you won’t know until you try it. Remember that you can always donate the food that doesn’t work for your pup, so it isn’t a total loss.
Why do small dogs need special dog food?
Now let’s get a bit technical here. Contrary to popular belief, small and toy breeds need more calories per pound than larger dogs. They have a higher metabolic rate, which means they burn more calories, so they require more.
Another factor to keep in mind is kibble size. Many dog food manufacturers will alter the size or shape of the kibble to make it look “cute” or appealing to humans. What they’re really doing is causing a choking hazard for your pup by not developing the food to an ideal size for consumption.
Small breed dog food will have smaller sized kibble to make it easier for your pup to chew without making it a choking hazard either.
What if my dog has allergies or sensitivities?
The best choice you can make for your pup is to talk to a professional if they have allergies. Choosing the best dry dog food for small dogs gets complicated when we start dealing with allergies and sensitivities.
That said, there are many different limited ingredient dog foods on the market. These claim to use fewer ingredients and one main source of protein, which should limit the possibility of a reaction from your pup.
We say the proof is in the pudding. It might work for you, or it might not. The problem is a lot of dog foods will state “chicken and rice recipe” on the bag, but if you look at the ingredients you’ll find, beef meal, chicken by-product meal, and fish oil.
While your dog is getting chicken and rice, they’re also encountering a variety of other proteins and animal products, so it makes it hard to determine what is causing the allergy.
Is grain-free the way to go?
Ah yes, the never-ending debate of grain-free vs. whole diet. We might sound like a broken record here, but once again, it depends on your pup. I can provide you a true story of grain-free working well.
Our six-year-old Lhasa Apso started vomiting frequently and acting lethargic out of nowhere. After talking with our vet, he instructed us to try a grain-free diet that is high in protein, and it changed everything. Some dogs are sensitive to gluten, like humans. Does this mean that grains are bad for dogs? No, of course not.
Companies like Blue Buffalo Wilderness will make the claim that dogs come from wolves, and wolves are carnivores, so dogs are as well. This is primarily a marketing scheme that isn’t backed by a whole lot of scientific evidence.
The bottom line is, if your pup doesn’t seem right, you might want to try a grain-free diet. If they’re fine with the grains, then you’re not hurting them. But there are plenty of other bad ingredients to eliminate.
What ingredients are bad for my pup?
Let’s clear the air right away. The best dry dog food for small dogs will not contain any of the following ingredients.
The best dry dog food will never have artificial flavoring. If the manufacturer is including the best ingredients, they won’t need to doctor it up with fake flavors. Artificial ingredients cause intestinal problems and allergic reactions around the mouth.
BHA or BHT
These are synthetic antioxidants found in cheap dog foods such as Alpo or Kibbles n’ Bits. The ingredient is banned in many countries due to dangerous allergic reactions, liver damage, and kidney issues.
Once again, you’ll find this primarily in cheap wet foods like Alpo. The last thing you want to do is get your dog hooked on sugar because you’ll have a hard time feeding them other foods that aren’t sweet.
By-products are not always bad, but it’s best to exclude them whenever possible. There is a difference between “meal” and “by-product meal.” By-products are the leftovers after the high-quality pieces of meat get extracted from the animal. A primary issue is that the by-products are not labeled, so it could be a mix of five different proteins, which can cause allergies.
How We Reviewed
We understand how important it is for you to choose the best dry dog food for small dogs. You want to make the right decision for your pup that you care about so much. After all, we care a lot about what we put into our bodies; we need to do the same for our doggies.
We take the most reliable information from animal research websites, food manufacturers, breeders, and personal experience. We’re dog owners ourselves, and we care tremendously about what we feed them.
We’re lucky to live in a world where pet owners are entitled to nutritional information, which makes it much easier to feed our dogs right. All the foods we recommend here have passed through an extensive inspection, so they only contain the best ingredients (including none of the aforementioned).
Best Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs
It’s time to get into the best dry dog food for small dogs. Now you should know how to choose the right food and what to avoid. Here are some of our top picks.
Product Comparison Table
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free Adult Small Breed
- PACKED WITH REAL CHICKEN: A recipe made to satisfy your dog’s natural love for meat, this high protein dog food features real chicken to help build and maintain lean muscle mass
- HEALTHY INGREDIENTS: Blue Wilderness grain free dog food for adult small breed dogs is made with the ingredients to help meet the unique energy requirements of smaller dogs with a special kibble ideal for smaller jaws
- ANTIOXIDANT-RICH LIFESOURCE BITS: A precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support immune system health, life stage needs and a healthy oxidative balance
Let’s start off with a grain-free choice from Blue Buffalo Wilderness. This dog food uses real chicken as the first ingredient, which is critically important. This grain-free diet works best for active young dogs that work off a lot of their energy throughout the day.
In addition to real meats and proteins, you get Blue Buffalo’s Lifesource Bits, which contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your pup needs for a healthy immune system.
This dog food does not contain any by-products, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavors. Pet parents who are concerned about allergies or gluten sensitivities would want to consider this food for their pup.
Where to buy
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Appalachian Valley Small Breed
- Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley with pasture-raised VENISON small kibble dry dog food for small breed dogs; REAL MEAT is the #1 ingredient; high protein (32%) to help support bones, joints and LEAN, STRONG MUSCLES
- Nutrient-rich and provides the energy to thrive; vitamins and minerals from FRUITS and SUPERFOODS; omega fatty acids for healthy SKIN and COAT
- Each serving includes species-specific K9 Strain PROPRIETARY PROBIOTICS — plus antioxidants and prebiotics — to help support healthy digestion, IMMUNE system and overall health and wellness
Next, we have a grain-free food that has a unique source of protein. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley uses venison as their primary protein. Venison is the first ingredient in this food with lamb meal being the second.
The only problem we have with this food is the varying sources of proteins. You’ll find venison, lamb, and duck in this blend. While that might not be the greatest, the food also contains an assortment of fruits, vegetables, and probiotics, which are great for gut health.
This recipe contains no grain, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, or colors.
Where to buy
Wellness Core RawRev Natural Grain-Free Small Breed
- ADVANCED NATURAL NUTRITION TO FUEL YOUR SMALL BREED DOG'S BEST LIFE: High protein, nutrient dense kibble combines with 100% raw freeze dried turkey for a crave worthy dog food; with optimal protein levels and calorie content to support higher energy needs of small breed dogs
- SAVORY FOOD DOGS LOVE: Wellness CORE is available in grain and grain free recipes, as well as limited ingredient diets for dogs with food sensitivities
- LEANER BODY MASS AND MUSCLE TONE: Wellness CORE dog food is made with a high concentration of protein from fresh meat ingredients
Here is a grain-free small breed formula from Wellness. We chose this as the best dog food for small breeds because it contains balanced nutrition with 100 percent raw bites and high-protein kibble. The recipe uses freeze-dried raw bites, which makes it easy to store and introduce your pup to a raw diet.
This recipe contains turkey as the first ingredient with turkey meal as the second. They also include carbohydrates from potatoes and peas with superfoods like ground flaxseed. Overall, this formula packs a punch with a lot of great ingredients that your pup is sure to love.
Where to buy
Nulo Small Breed Grain-Free Dog Food
- GRAIN-FREE recipe contains no corn; wheat; soy; white potatoes; tapioca; artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives. Based in Austin, TX and proudly made in the USA.
- HIGH MEAT/LOW CARB proprietary formula 84% animal-based protein for more amino acids and better flavor. Nulo FreeStyle also uses fewer carbs and low glycemic ingredients like lentils, sweet potato and chickpeas.
- SMALLER KIBBLE SIZE promotes proper chewing, less choking and better digestion. Miscanthus grass provides natural fiber to satisfy the faster small breed appetite without overfilling the smaller stomach.
This small breed dog food contains 84 percent animal-based protein with amino acids and lower glycemic ingredients to prevent sugar spikes. Nulo small breed also uses a smaller kibble size, which helps reduce the chances of choking, and it promotes better digestion.
This dog food gets made in the United States with no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial anything. The first five ingredients are deboned salmon, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, lamb meal, and red lentils. This food packs the protein-rich punch that your active small breed dog needs.
Where to buy
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe
- One (1) 4 lb Bag - Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe
- Real deboned Texas beef is always the first ingredient in this grain free dry dog food
- Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe offers the ideal combination of protein and healthy fats to help a dog maintain optimal weight and increased energy
Here we have a small breed dog food from the popular company Merrick. Their Lil’ Plates formula contains real deboned beef as the first ingredient with grain-free nutrition taking center stage. They exclude gluten from the recipe to try and make the food easier to digest for pups with food sensitivities.
Inside the formula, you’ll find omega-three fatty acids for healthy skin and coat with probiotics for digestion and gut health. They also make sure to use smaller crunchy kibble to make the food easier to chew while it also cleans your pup's teeth.
Something we particularly love about the Lil’ Plates brand is that they also offer some of their foods in pre-packaged portions that take the thinking out of feeding your small breed the right amount. They’ve put their own research in to make sure you don’t overfeed your dog.
The best dry dog food for small dogs will always contain real meats and vegetables as it’s first ingredients, and this one has plenty. Deboned beef, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes are the first ingredients in this formula.
Where to buy
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dry Dog Food for Small and Toy Breeds
- Contains one (1) 15 lb. bag of Nutro wholesome essentials Small Breed Adult Natural Dry Dog Food Plus Vitamins, Minerals & Other Nutrients, Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe
- Farm-raised chicken is the first ingredient in this great-tasting dry dog food that’s rich in nutrients and full of flavor
- Crafted with natural fiber for healthy digestion
Here we have another whole diet dog food from Nutro. This one uses farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient with brown rice and sweet potatoes to complement it. They tailor this formula for small breeds and include omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for skin and coat health.
All of Nutro Wholesome Essentials foods use real protein sources with no by-products, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial anything.
Something we like about Nutro is the variety of offerings they have based on breeds and life stages. You have the option to choose a puppy or senior food for your small breed, as well. It’s important to cater to your pup's age as well as their size.
Where to buy
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Small Breed Dry Dog Food
- Contains 1 - 12 Pound Bag of Dry Dog Food for Small Breeds
- Limited ingredient diet with a single animal protein source
- Real chicken is the #1 ingredient and helps maintain strong muscles
Finally, we have a limited ingredient diet from Natural Balance. I can personally vouch for this food, as I have fed it to my dog for the past three years. The limited ingredient diet means that it only has one source of protein throughout the entire bag.
For this recipe, they use chicken as their one and only animal protein source. When you have ingredients like chicken, salmon, lamb, and turkey, you end up triggering allergies, which are hard to identify because of the many sources of protein.
The small breed formula uses smaller kibble that is easier for your pup to chew. They also don’t use any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. This grain-free recipe contains chicken, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, and garbanzo beans as it’s first five ingredients. The only thing we don’t like about this recipe is the added salt halfway down the ingredients list.
Overall, one of the best dry dog food for small dogs and personally recommended by me if you have a pup with a sensitive stomach.
Where to buy
Keep Your Pup Healthy with the Right Food
Now you should have a solid understanding of how to choose the best dry dog food for small dogs. You might even have a specific food in mind from one of the recommended options above. Regardless of what you choose, you want to keep one important factor in mind.
It might not work for your pup.
What works for one doesn’t work for all, and your doggie might not like the flavor, the smell, the shape, or whatever. There is no one-size-fits-all choice, so you want to shop around a bit and try a few different things.
Purchase a small bag at first and make sure you wean your pup off their old food by mixing the two together and gradually increasing the percentage of new food.
Anyway, feed your dog the best dry dog food for small dogs and watch them hop, skip, bark, and snarl like never before! If you’ve tried any of these foods, make sure to drop us a comment and let us know what you think!
Last update on 2021-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API