10 Best Dog Foods for Small Dogs in 2022 – Reviews & Top Picks


Who loves small dogs? We do! Small dogs are getting more recognition in the pet world as fantastic companions for many reasons. Their size makes them better suited for tiny homes and apartments. Also, small dogs usually have a longer life expectancy than large breeds. Plus, they are just so cute (but so are all dogs). If you own a small dog, you want to ensure that their needs are met, from the food they eat to shampoo used on their fur. Some people might think that all dog food is universal. Does it matter if you get dog food for large dogs to feed your small dog? Yes, it does!

If you want to know more about why small dogs need food formulated for them and our top recommendations, read on! This article provides you with information about feeding your small dog and a review of our top 10 small dog food recommendations for various tiny pooches.divider-dog

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022

The 10 Best Dog Foods for Small Dogs –

1. Nutro Natural Choice Small Bites Adult Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food – Best Overall

Nutro Natural Choice

Main ingredients: Deboned lamb, chicken meal, brown and brewers rice, rice bran, split peas, chicken fat
Calories: 341 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 22% min
Crude fat: 14%

Out of the reviewed dog foods for small breeds, Nutro Natural Choice Small Bites Adult Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe takes place as the best overall food. Nutro Natural is a balanced combination of ingredients your adult small breed dog needs to thrive. The primary source of protein in this recipe is lamb, which is a variation from the standard poultry protein source that many other dog foods have. The lamb is combined with hearty whole grains like brown rice and split peas to add fiber and nutrients your little guy needs each day.

Since this formula does contain grains, some pet owners might want to try other recipes if their dog is sensitive to grain. While this formula is a bit expensive, the quality of the ingredients and taste are worth the extra few dollars!

Pros

  • Higher quality ingredients
  • Non-GMO formula
  • Plenty of antioxidants

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Some dogs prefer older formula

2. Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor & Spring Vegetables Garnish Small Breed Dry Dog Food – Best Value

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor

Main ingredients: Beef, ground wheat, meat and bone meal, whole grain corn, brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, soybean meal
Calories: 350 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 26%
Crude fat: 12.5%

We all want to treat our small dogs, but sometimes we need to watch our budget when buying pet food. Never fear! Our recommendation for the best value small dog food for your money is Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor & Spring Vegetables Garnish. Even though this dog food formula is budget-friendly, it still contains high-quality ingredients. Made with real beef as the primary ingredient and blended with grains and vegetables, this formula is high in protein and nutrients. Some of the kibble pieces are shaped like an “H,” which helps clean your dog’s teeth.

One con that people noted was about some of the ingredients, like glycerin. Certain ingredients can cause digestive issues in dogs with digestion issues.

Pros

  • Good quality beef as main ingredient
  • High level of protein

3. Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Recipe – Premium Choice

Merrick Classic Healthy

Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, turkey meal, oatmeal, chicken fat, quinoa, salmon meal
Calories: 404 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 27%
Crude fat: 16%

If you want to give your dog something that screams premium, our recommendation is Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Recipe. This combination of high-quality chicken and hearty grains such as quinoa and oatmeal will be a welcome meal for your pooch at any time during the day. There is no wheat, corn, or soy products in this formula! Small dog owners found this recipe easy for their canine friends to digest, which is always a bonus.

However, some people felt that for the price of this food, they expected this formula to have a novel protein like duck, lamb, or venison.

Pros

  • Wheat, corn, and soy-free
  • Includes quinoa, a high-quality grain
  • High in protein

Cons

  • Made with a common protein

4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy Chicken & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food – Best for Puppies

Blue Buffalo Life

Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, barley, fish meal, dried egg product, peas, brown rice
Calories: 417 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 29%
Crude fat: 17%

If you have a small breed puppy, getting them the right food for their age and breed is equally important. We recommend Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy formula for your dog. Once they are weaned, puppies need to make sure the food they eat has plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein so they can start thriving as they grow into healthy adult dogs. This formula is made with high-quality chicken, grains, and vegetables providing a taste your pup will love! Since puppies have a lot of energy, a serving size contains more protein and calories the puppy will need throughout the day.

Blue Buffalo is a little bit pricey, so if you think your puppy will be a picky eater, get a smaller bag first to test it out.

Pros

  • Contains no wheat, corn, or soy
  • High level of antioxidants
  • Higher caloric content for active puppies

5. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Bites Chicken Meal, Barley & Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food – Best for Senior Dogs

Hill's Science Diet Adult

Main ingredients: Chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, brewers rice, whole grain wheat, corn, and sorghum, chicken fat
Calories: 353 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 15.5%
Crude fat: 10.5%

As your small dog gets older, it becomes even more essential that they have proper food so they can live out their golden years healthily. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ comes recommended as the top food for senior dogs. Older dogs can put on more weight because they are often less active, so this formula has fewer calories per serving when compared to adult formulas. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ also has less fat per serving to ensure your older dog does not get overweight. The blend of ingredients also helps maintain a balanced digestive system.

This recipe is a bit expensive. It is recommended to get a smaller bag to try out if you have a picky dog.

Pros

  • Lower in calories and fat per serving
  • Made with easily digested ingredients
  • No artificial colors or preservatives

6. Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Chicken Adult Small Breed Formula Dry Dog Food – Best Weight Control Food

Purina Pro Plan

Main ingredients: Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-meal, whole grain corn, soybean meal
Calories: 346 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 30%
Crude fat: 10%

We all know that chunky dogs can look cute, but pet obesity is a serious problem that can lead to several health problems. Small dogs are often prone to weight gain, so we recommend feeding them Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Chicken Adult Small Breed Formula. This blend has fewer calories than other recipes for small adult dogs and a much lower fat content. Instead, there is more protein in this recipe, with the primary ingredient being high-quality chicken. The kibble is also a combination of small bits and shredded pieces, giving this blend a pleasing texture along with a delicious taste. This formula does contain corn and corn gluten meal, so be aware of this if your dog has a sensitive digestive system.

Pros

  • High in protein
  • Good texture

Cons

  • Contains corn and corn gluten

7. Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken & Freeze-Dried Raw Pieces Dry Dog Food – Best Raw Food for Small Dogs

Instinct Raw Boost

Main ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas, tapioca, chicken fat, turkey meal
Calories: 469 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 35%
Crude fat: 20%

More dog owners are learning about the benefits of a raw food diet. If you are interested in trying out raw food, we recommend Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe. This formula is grain-free, high in protein, and contains no gluten. The Instinct Raw formula aims to recreate the balance of protein, fat, and calories a dog would get in the wild. There are also high levels of natural probiotics, omegas, and antioxidants to keep your dog thriving!

Keep in mind that this formula is higher in calories, protein, and fat than the standard fare. This would not be the best food choice if your dog gains weight easily or is not overly active.

Pros

  • High in protein and calories, great for active dogs
  • Limited ingredients

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Not suitable for dogs who gain weight easily

8. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Small & Mini Breed Chicken Recipe Dry Dog – Best for Sensitive Stomachs

Main ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, chicken meal, yellow peas, cracked barley, whole grain sorghum
Calories: 392 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 21%
Crude fat: 12%

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, finding the right food for it can be a nightmare! Out of the formulas designed for a dog’s sensitive digestive system, we recommend Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin for them. The formula contains prebiotic fiber that can greatly help with your doggo’s digestion after eating. Chicken is easy for most dogs to digest as well, which is why it is the primary ingredient. There are also fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that are beneficial for your dog overall.

However, this formula is not grain-free, which might be a concern for some dog owners.

Pros

  • Contains vitamin E to promote healthy skin and fur
  • Plenty of prebiotic fiber and other fiber-rich ingredients

Cons

  • Contains grains
  • A bit expensive

9. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food – Best Grain-Free Food for Small Dogs

Taste of the Wild

Main ingredients: Venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans, peas, lentils, pea protein, canola oil
Calories: 422 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 32%
Crude fat: 18%

While grains like corn, wheat, and barley are not a standard part of a wild canine’s diet, they are often added as a filler in many dog foods. Some dog owners want to avoid grains when feeding their pets, which is why we recommend Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. The first two ingredients are venison and lamb meal in this formula, making this blend high in protein. Instead of grains, Taste of the Wild includes garbanzo beans and lentils to provide nutrients and vitamins essential for your dog’s growth.

This recipe does contain canola oil, which some pet owners want to avoid. Since this recipe is high in calories, it is not recommended for less active pooches.

Pros

  • High-quality protein
  • Fiber-rich ingredients

Cons

  • High in calories
  • Contains canola oil

10. American Journey Active Life Formula Small Breed Chicken, Brown Rice & Vegetables Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food – Best for Active Small Dogs

American Journey Active

Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, turkey meal, brown rice, chicken meal, rice bran, peas
Calories: 458 kcal per cup
Crude protein: 27%
Crude fat: 17%

If your dog is an adventurer, we recommend American Journey Active Life Formula for your tiny yet mighty dog. Dogs that lead an active lifestyle will need more calories in their diet to maintain a thriving body. American Journey has a blend of chicken, turkey meal, and fiber-rich grains like rice, providing your dog with a well-balanced meal. Before feeding this recipe to your dog, make sure they are active dogs that need the extra calories.

This formula has about 100 extra calories per serving than standard recipes, and this can lead to weight gain. This recipe is also not grain-free.

Pros

  • Good protein to fat ratio
  • High in calories, excellent for active dogs
  • High-quality meats

Cons

  • Not suitable for less active dogs
  • Contains grains

 

 

divider-dogDo Small Dogs Really Need Small Dog Food?

Now that we have listed our top small dog food choices, let’s go over why small dogs need different food? If you have a small dog and a large dog, it seems more convenient to buy just one kind of dog food and be done with it. People who buy one kind of food will more than likely buy dog food suited for larger breeders. But this is not the best decision for your smaller dog. Why? There are a few reasons why smaller dogs need food formulated for them:

  • They have smaller mouths and teeth – If you look at the kibble size for larger dogs and compare it to smaller dogs, there is a noticeable difference. Food designed for small dogs will be much easier to chew and swallow.
  • Small dogs have small stomachs – Their stomachs can only hold so much food. This means that their food needs to have a higher nutritional quality to get the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.
  • Small dogs require more energy – The ratio of body weight to surface area is higher in small dogs, so they need denser food in calories to give them the energy they need during the day to play and be healthy.
bulldog eating food
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

What Is Considered a “Small Dog”?

Now that you have looked over our recommendations for small dog food, you might be wondering whether your dog is actually a small dog. In general, if your adult dog weighs between 2-22 pounds, they are considered a small dog. Some people own a “toy” or “miniature” breed, but these breeds will fall under the small dog category when buying food. Not exactly sure if your breed is a small dog? The American Kennel Club has a list of their registered breeds and their average weight. This is a great list to have to find out your dog’s size.

Things To Look For When Buying Food For Small Dogs

Before you buy food for your small breed of dog, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the right recipe:

  • Check the calorie content – Little dogs can gain weight easily, so think about your dog’s activity level. If they are less active, avoid high-calorie recipes that can lead to weight gain.
  • Look for the size-specific formulas – Lots of dogs advertise that this formula is suitable for all dogs. Try looking for recipes that are specifically catered to small or toy breeds.
  • Make sure the primary ingredients are natural – Dogs get their protein from both meat and plants, so check to see the primary ingredients in the recipe. Look for natural foods like meat, healthy whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Avoid foods with fillers and additives. That is not the best choice for any dog.
  • Buy a small bag first – Some dogs are quite picky about their food. Instead of spending a lot of money on a large bag of food, buy a smaller bag to test it out on your pooch. This will save money and be less of a hassle.

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Final Thoughts

Do not worry if you have not been feeding your small breed dog food for their size! Now that you know the benefits of recipes designed for small dogs, this is something you can try the next time you need to get food for your canine friend. We recommend Nutro Natural Choice Small Bites Adult Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe or Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor & Spring Vegetables Garnish as the first two formulas to try. We bet your small fur baby will be thankful!


Featured Image Credit: Gryllus M, Shutterstock

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