Small & Toy Breed Dog Food Basics

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Small & Toy Breed Dog Food Basics

Small dogs were initially appreciated for their hunting skills and today they are very well-liked as pets.

The small size of these dogs makes them appear delicate, but they’re usually very strong.

They have unique physiological characteristics (jaw size, bone strength and sensitive digestive systems) which need special thought when it comes to nutrition.

best small breed dog food

Examples of small and toy breeds are:

  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Miniature and toy poodles
  • Shih tzus
  • Chihuahuas
  • Boston terriers
  • Maltese
  • Pugs
  • French bulldogs

Smaller dogs have:

  • Faster metabolism
  • Smaller mouths
  • Smaller stomachs, which means that they can’t efficiently digest a lot of food at one time
Comparing large breed dog food versus small breed dog food, the latter presents the follow characteristics:

  • Rich in calories
  • More protein
  • More fat for extra energy
  • Easily digestible
  • Small kibble size
Smaller breed dogs can become choosy eaters.

The best way to avoid fussy eating is keeping to a standard feeding routine throughout their adult lives, and sticking to manufactured foods as the staple diet.

Small dogs mature more quickly and age more slowly.

Small-breed puppies start the weaning process at around three to four weeks old and are considered adult by their first birthday.

Toy and small dogs are known for their long life expectancy, which can span as long as 14 to 16 years.

As small and toy breed dogs age, their nutritional needs change.

In my opinion, some significant attributes of dog food composition for different life stages in small dogs are the follow:

Life stage Food attributes
Puppy (weaning to 10 months old)
  • Boost immune defenses
  • High energy
  • Nutrient balance for healthy development of bones, muscles and teeth
  • Digestive security promoting development of intestinal flora
Adult (10 months to 8 years old)
  • Enhance immunity and support long life expectancy
  • Promotes healthy skin, coat, eye and ears
  • High digestibility
  • Tartar control
  • Moderate energy
Mature (> 8 years old)
  • Digestive security promoting development of intestinal flora
  • Maintains internal organ health (kidneys, heart, liver)
  • Tartar control
  • Promotes healthy skin, coat, eye and ears
  • Maintains healthy muscles and bones to support an active life
  • Anti-age System: vitamin E and C, selenium

Small dog feeding tips:

  • Feed your dog in a quiet place
  • Always serve food in a clean bowl
  • Serve food at room temperature
  • Is not advisable to exercise your dog an hour before or after feeding
  • Use dry food because it helps remove plaque from teeth
  • Ensure your dog have access to plenty, clean and fresh water
  • Avoid overfeeding
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s body condition
  • There is no need to give food supplements, unless advised by your vet
Many manufacturers produce formulas specially adapted to meet particular needs of toy and smaller breed dogs.

Feeding your dog a good quality, commercially manufactured pet food will ensure he eats everything he needs.

If you are looking for an appropriate dog food for your small dog you can find reviews about the top dog foods suitable for your dog in our Dog Food Selector.


About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.


  1. Judith wolf May 2, 2015 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Please notify me with the best dog food. I have I miniature silver poodle, 1 1/2 yrs old. Unfortunately he doesn’t get as much exercise as he should and I’ve been giving BLUE SWEET PATATO AND FISH SMALL BITES.
    ONE CUP 2 x a day.
    Thank you.
    Judy Wolf

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Why was the Dog Food Selector created?

Each dog has unique needs... The approach "one food for all dogs" isn't the more suitable. Dogs have different sizes, different life stages, unique breed characteristics, health conditions and a few other factors... Choosing the right food for your dog may help him or her life a longer and healthier life! We exist to make that task easier for you.

How does the Dog Food Selector work?

It's quite simple... It's a 1-2 step process. You just have to fill in the form with your dog's characteristics, like gender, age, size, activity, health conditions and a few other important data and click "search". Then, you'll see a list of dog foods with the highest review score. If you wish you can see all the detailed review of each individual dog food.