Little dogs don’t eat very much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need quality nutrition! If you have a tiny canine family member, their main nutritional needs are similar to that of a larger dog’s, but there are still some key differences. Toy breeds have a higher metabolic rate than bigger dogs, so they typically need more calories than their larger counterparts. What should you look for in an ideal food for small breed dogs?
Canned or Dry Food?
This is often the biggest question owners have. Little dogs have tiny mouths and teeth, and particularly devoted owners think this means they should avoid dry kibble because it’s too hard for them to chew.
Most vets recommend avoiding wet (canned) food for toy breeds because of their propensity for developing dental disease. Dry kibble is abrasive and helps keep plaque from building up on the teeth. Dry food isn’t a replacement for regular dental cleanings, but small dogs who eat wet food typically need more frequent dental scalings than dogs on dry food.
Small breeds are more likely to be overweight, too, and wet food has a higher calorie content. Unless your dog is very active, you might be predisposing them to being overweight.
What About Homemade Food?
Homemade diets are becoming increasingly popular among the holistic crowd. This may or may not include raw diets, but nutritionists agree that homemade dog food can be harmful to dogs long term if important nutrients are left out.
Many people think that dogs just need protein to thrive, but they need so much more than just meat. Dog food companies don’t add fruits, vegetables, and grains to their food to fill it. Those ingredients are in there to add nutrition.
There’s a difference between quality ingredients and low-quality ones, however. Corn is considered low in nutritional value, but brown rice, sweet potatoes, or quinoa are acceptable “fillers” in terms of nutrition.
Dog food companies also add various vitamins and minerals into their foods to ensure your dog’s daily minimums are met, so if you are planning on feeding your dog homemade dog food long term you will want to support their food with supplements.
When you make a homemade diet, it’s a lot harder to get the full range of necessary vitamins and minerals, and too much of certain nutrients can start to negatively impact their kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
The Nutritional Needs of Small Dogs
Protein is the number one nutritional need in all dogs because they’re carnivores. Even though your Shih Tzu is about as far removed from wolves as they could possibly be, they still need a good source of protein!
Since toy breeds are susceptible to being overweight, a lean source of protein is best. The ideal food has 18 percent protein for healthy adults, while puppies need a food that has 29 percent protein.
A low-fat diet is exceptionally popular with humans, but dogs absolutely need fat in their diet. Fats give dogs energy and support healthy skin and coats. Puppies in particular need to have fat to support brain development . Dogs deficient in fats often have dry brittle coats and itchy skin.
In terms of canine diets, fats are added to commercial foods in the form of fish, flaxseed, or other oils. Coldwater fish like salmon is also a great choice for toy breeds like the Maltese and Shih Tzu that have long, luxurious coats.
Fats also help protect joint health. Dogs with arthritis seem to do much better when they’re given a diet high in healthy fats.
Carbohydrates are often the second ingredient in most commercial dog diets. The types of carbs found in the food depends on the brand. Cheaper brands will toss in low-quality carbs like corn to bulk up the food, and corn isn’t exactly dense in nutrients.
Instead, look for a food that has plenty of high quality complex carbohydrate sources like sweet potato and brown rice.
So What Should You Look for in Food for a Toy Breed?
There are a few things to look for when choosing a diet for your tiny pup.
- Higher amounts of good quality lean protein and fats
- Ingredients that are natural sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Complex carbohydrates
- Small kibbles that are suitable for their small mouths
- Higher amount of calories, stressing the importance of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates
When you’re choosing a food suitable for your toy breed, don’t look at the brand or the price. Learning to read labels is the single best thing you can do to ensure your dog is getting the appropriate nutrition.
Purina Pro Plan Natural Grain Free Small Breed Dry Food
This is our top pick for small breeds and we find that it consistently gets the popular vote with small dog owners. It is grain free and best of all there are no “crude fats” listed as ingredients. It is supplemented with the vitamins B-12, A, and C for immune system support. Also a plus owners of small dogs with allergies, Purina Pro Plan Natural Grain Free foods do not have any added preservatives or artificial colors. See the latest price on Amazon.
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe
This top pick contains real meat and no grains or gluten which is great for little dogs with allergies. It is fully crafted in the USA with no ingredients from outside sources. Merrick Lil’ Plates features small bites and deboned meats as its primary ingredient. It is available in beef, chicken, lamb, and salmon flavors. Like all small-bite kibble, it helps keep your small dog’s teeth and gums healthy. See the latest price on Amazon.
Hill’s Science Diet Small and Toy Breed Dry Dog Food
This is our top pick for small dogs looking to lose a little weight. It has a healthy high protein count coming in at 21%, contains natural ingredients and does not have any artificial colors or preservatives. Calcium and Vitamin E have been added to the bite-sized biscuits for immune system support. Science Diet small breed dry food is available in several flavors, including chicken meal and rice, and lamb meal and rice. See the latest price on Amazon.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Mature Adult Small & Toy Ground Entrees Wet Food
If your dog has gotten a taste for wet food, this is hands down the best choice. It is an easy to digest lean protein and low carbohydrate formula that helps small dogs maintain healthy body weights. It is available in several flavors, including chicken and barley, beef and barley, and several “savory stew” entrees. See the latest price on Amazon.
Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Food
Each bite-sized morsel is made with small and toy breeds in mind. It is enhanced with added Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and only includes “good” carbohydrates in dried sweet and white potatoes. When fed properly, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient dog food is a complete diet for your companion dog. See the latest price on Amazon.