They say that good things come in small packages. And with the big personalities packed into the many small dog breeds, we’d tend to agree. It seems intuitive that a Yorkie would have radically different needs than a Great Dane, but what makes small breed dogs so unique? How are their nutritional needs different than other breed sizes? And how can you find the best dog food for small dogs if no two are exactly alike?
Characteristics of Small Breed Dogs
In short (no pun intended), a dog is considered a small breed dog if he’s at an ideal body weight of 20lbs or less, and about 12 inches tall or shorter. Toy breeds like Chihuahuas and Maltese are even smaller, at about 10lbs or less. In many cases, the smaller the dog, the longer the life expectancy. Of course, finding the right nutrition for your small dog can contribute to his longest, happiest life possible.
Nutrition for Small Breed Dogs
The main concept to understand when determining the best dog food for small dogs is that his stomach is tiny and his metabolism rate is extremely quick. So what does that mean for your small dog’s nutrition? Let’s break it down:
- Smaller stomach – It doesn’t take much dog food to fill your small breed dog’s stomach, so the volume of the dog food he consumes should be proportional to his small stomach size. Toy breed dogs tend to have even smaller stomachs; sometimes they’re about the size of a matchbox!
- Need for nutrient-density – His kibble must be nutrient-dense. In other words, his food needs to have more protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and more calories packed into fewer kibbles. In general, small dogs should consume more calories per pound than larger dogs do.
- Fast metabolism and limited energy reserve – Because small breed dogs tend to have such fast metabolism rates and don’t store up as much energy as larger dogs can, your dog may benefit from smaller, more frequent throughout the day, especially if he’s very active or a puppy. A rapidly growing small breed puppy’s metabolism rate can burn through meals extremely quickly, so they require a formulated-for-puppies dog food with feeding occasions spaced out over 3 to 4 times a day. It’s easy to overfeed your dog when you’re scooping food so frequently. To help your dog avoid putting on excess weight, divide your dog’s daily caloric requirements into per-meal caloric requirements, then strictly measure out each meal.
- Picky eater? – Small dogs get the reputation for being picky eaters, though this is more on a dog to dog basis rather than the general rule. It’s important to keep in mind that dogs should never be fed human food, no matter how tempting, as table scraps can lead to excessive weight gain and even contribute to oral health issues. If your dog is picky, soften his kibbles with warm water to see if it appeals to him, then slowly transition him onto eating hard kibble again to support strong, clean teeth.
Of course, even within the same breed size, metabolism rates differ from unique dog to unique dog. And because factors like activity level, current body condition, and life stage also vary, it’s important to monitor his body condition to make sure you’re feeding the appropriate amount of food. Regardless of whether you have a Jack Russell Terrier with endless energy or a Pekinese who perches contentedly on your lap, all small breed dogs need exercise and accompanied playtime to maintain an ideal body weight, learn socialization skills, and be mentally stimulated. When it comes to exercise though, small breeds tend to tire out before larger breeds – little legs can only go so far – so be quick to identify signs of fatigue and dehydration. To determine the best exercise for your small dog, talk to your veterinarian, breeder, or trainer for suggestions.
Finding Nutrition to Fit Your Small Dog
Though small breed dogs can have much in common with other small breed dogs, no two are exactly alike. Your dog should be evaluated as an individual, especially when selecting the best dog food for him. It’s a lot to consider all at once. We get it. And it’s a lot to have to piece together when picking a bag of dog food from off the store shelf.
That’s why we at Just Right® by Purina® do our best to take the guesswork out of choosing the best dog food for your small dog, so you don’t have to compromise on what’s right for him. When you tell us information like activity level, current body condition, age, and even flavor preference, we recommend a complete and balanced blend of dog food tailored for your small dog’s nutritional needs.
Sound good? Then let’s get started creating your small breed dog’s ideal blend.