5 Best Dog Food Brands for Small Breeds
Veterinary experts share their insights on the best dog food for those small, but mighty breeds.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
RD.COM, VIA MERCHANT (3)
This article is brought to you by The Pet Collective, the happy place for animal lovers. We’re here to entertain, pet-ucate and offer the very best pet product recommendations to keep your furry family member healthy, happy and, dare we say, spoiled? Find us here on Reader’s Digest and follow us on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
You know that in order to keep your pup healthy and strong they need to eat nutritious, completely balanced food. But did you know that there are different dog foods according to a pup’s size and age? It’s important to feed your pooch the best small breed dog food for their lower body weight.
“Small breed dogs, in general, have a faster metabolism than those of most large breed dogs doing the same amount of activity,” notes Antje Joslin, DVM, a veterinarian for Dogtopia. “Usually, small breed dogs require 88 calories per kilogram per day, whereas large-breed dogs require just a little over half that amount.”
In other words, if you feed a small dog a big dog diet, they may end up not getting their nutritional and caloric needs met every day. Ahead, we’re showcasing the best small breed dog foods that veterinarians recommend. While you’re doing your research, now’s also a good time to think about what healthy dog treats to give your pooch.
- Best overall: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult
- Best premium: Nutro Natural Choice Small Bites Adult
- Best budget: Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult
- Best fresh: JustFoodForDogs Frozen Human-Grade
- Best for puppies: Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy
Best overall small breed dog food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
This well-reviewed dog food for small breeds features chicken as the primary ingredient along with ingredients rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s free of filler ingredients like corn, wheat, soy and byproducts, and the kibbles are tiny to accommodate small jaws. Bonus: The food helps promote good dental health and includes glucosamine to encourage joint health, mobility and a healthy coat.
- Includes ingredients infused with essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants
- Free of filler ingredients
- Small-bite kibble
- Light fishy smell
Best premium small breed dog food
Nutro Natural Choice Small Bites Adult Dry Dog Food
The first ingredient in this dry dog food features real lamb meat—a high-quality source of protein. Suitable for dogs one year or older, it’s also formulated with essential antioxidant-rich foods to bolster your small pup’s health and immunity, as well as natural sources of fiber to support digestion. The small kibble size allows for easier chewing and digestion, and the formula is free of GMO ingredients and by-product meal.
- Features real lamb meat as first ingredient
- Made with non-GMO ingredients
- Suitable for both small and extra-small dog breeds
- Tiny kibble allows for easier chewing and digestion
- On the pricier side
Best budget small breed dog food
Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
For dry dog food suitable for small breeds that won’t break the bank, consider feeding your pup this chicken and rice formula by Diamond Naturals. The number one ingredient is chicken, and the nutrient-rich recipe also features omega fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants from superfoods such as blueberries and oranges. It’s also made without corn, wheat or artificial flavors and colors, and the kibble is tiny for small mouths.
- Lower cost
- Rich in natural foods
- Contains probiotic ingredients
- Cage-free chicken is first ingredient
- Not as high in protein as others
Best fresh small breed dog food
JustFoodForDogs Frozen Human-Grade Fresh Dog Food
If you prefer to feed your small pup fresh food made from human-grade ingredients, JustFoodForDogs is an excellent option. The formula contains ground venison—which is rich in protein—along with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cranberries. It’s ready to serve, and suitable for small dogs as well as medium and large breeds. Just feed your pup according to their weight.
- Fresh and raw ingredients
- 100% human-grade ingredients
- High in protein
- Vet-recommended fresh food for dogs
- Very expensive
- Can only keep small amounts on hand
Best puppy small breed dog food
Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Dry Dog Food
Puppies have specific nutritional needs, and this small breed puppy dog food from Wellness has all the bases covered. The formula features deboned turkey, oatmeal and salmon meal as the primary ingredients, which provides a wholesome, well-balanced formula. The small kibble size makes it easier for your tiny pup to chow down, and the formula is also fortified with omega fatty acids (including DHA), antioxidants, probiotics and vitamins.
- Wholesome balanced diet
- Free of byproducts and filler ingredients
- Includes probiotics and omega fatty acids
- Affordably priced
- Some reviewers felt the kibble was too hard
What to consider when buying small breed dog food
Small dog breeds have a higher metabolism compared to food for large dog breeds and generally require a higher-calorie diet. Ideally, their calories should be fed over three to five meals during the course of the day in order to prevent episodes of low blood sugar. Aside from higher calorie diets and small, frequent meals, there are some other factors to consider.
“Due to their longer life spans as compared to larger dogs, small dogs undergo more oxidative stress and benefit from a diet high in antioxidants that can help them live long, healthy lives,” notes Dr. Joslin. “Additionally, because these dogs are smaller and therefore eat a smaller overall quantity of food, it is important that they eat high-quality nutrient-dense food.”
She says to make every bite count by not feeding them ’empty’ calories or snack foods. They should eat dog food formulated with higher levels of healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates to help provide them with all the nutrients for a small dog’s needs.
Dr. Lindsey Wendt, a holistic veterinarian and advisor to Badlands Ranch, says that you should look for diets with meat as the first ingredient, adequate amounts of high-quality fiber—like sweet potato, pumpkin and broccoli—and to avoid ultra-processed foods high in carbohydrates.
Another interesting point about the best dog food for small breeds is that the kibble is generally much smaller compared to food for large breeds. This allows your tiny pup and their tiny teeth and mouth to easier chew, swallow and digest the food.
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
Do small breed dogs need special food?
Yes, small dogs require more calories spread out over three to five small meals throughout the day. Their food should also be nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich, and their kibble should be tiny so they can chew and digest more easily.
What’s the best food to feed your small breed dog?
The best food to feed your small dog breed is nutrient-dense, higher calorie and small in size. This ensures your pup gets the nutritional and caloric needs they require for a strong and healthy body. From there, you can select foods based on your pup’s specific needs, such as age, tummy sensitivity or allergies.
About the experts
- Dr. Antje Joslin: Dr. Joslin, DVM, is a veterinarian for doggy daycare company Dogtopia.
- Dr. Lindsey Wendt: Dr. Wendt, DVM, is a holistic veterinarian and advisor to Badlands Ranch.
Craving more paw-some content? Get hilarious videos, heartwarming stories and editor-vetted product recommendations for every type of pet delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for The Scoop newsletter.