Small Breed Dog Food FAQ

5 Best Small Breed Puppy Foods with our Most Affordable Pick

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Carlotta Cooper

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Carlotta Cooper

At EasyPet, we are committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date information to assist you in your pet care journey. When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check our professionally written articles.

Puppies practically define the word “cute.” One look at a puppy and most people are helpless. If you have fallen under the spell of a puppy you probably already know how essential it is to provide your little fur ball with the best diet possible.

All puppies are small, of course, but when we talk about “small puppies,” we’re referring to small breed or mix puppies. These little puppies can have some special needs compared to puppies from larger dogs. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right puppy food for them.

Puppies from breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and other very small breeds can have some early issues with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar so they need to have frequent meals for the first several months. Later these puppies will be able to regulate their blood sugar levels on their own and you can reduce the number of meals you feed. If your puppy has problems with low blood sugar, keep treats or cookies handy or a tube of Nutrical so you can avoid a crash.

Small breed puppies, especially Toy breeds, require careful feeding to prevent a condition called hypoglycemia.- Anna Burk @

Small dogs, in general, burn up more calories than bigger dogs. Even though it doesn’t take a lot of food to feed a small dog, pound for pound they need more calories than a larger dog because they have a faster metabolism. For small breed puppies, this means they need plenty of calories while they’re growing. These small puppies usually reach their full adult size before they are a year old, unlike bigger dogs. Giant breeds like Mastiffs and Great Danes can take more than two years to reach their full size.

We’ll tell you which puppy foods are best for small puppies. Now, let’s see what to look for in a good food for small puppies.

What to look for when determining the best puppy food for a small breed puppy

There are so many dog foods available today that choosing one can be difficult. Even choosing a puppy food is no easy task. Puppy foods are different from adult dog foods. Puppies are growing and developing throughout their months after weaning so they have different nutritional needs than adult dogs.

When looking at puppy foods you should make sure that it has an AAFCO nutritional statement. The statement should indicate that the food is formulated for “growth and reproduction.” This means that it is nutritionally balanced for growing puppies and pregnant or nursing mothers. “All life stage” dog foods are also suitable for puppies. These foods meet the nutritional requirements for adult dogs, growing puppies, and pregnant or nursing mothers. You should not feed puppies a food that states it’s for “adult maintenance.” These foods are only intended to be fed to adult dogs. They won’t meet the nutritional needs of growing puppies.

Note that AAFCO doesn’t “approve” dog foods but they do provide nutritional standards.

Your puppy’s bones, muscles, joints, organs, immune system, and other body parts are all developing quickly in the first year. Your puppy has much greater nutritional requirements than an adult dog. For example, puppies need a minimum of 22 percent protein in their diet while an adult dog needs a minimum of 18 percent. Puppies need a minimum of 8 percent fat while adult dogs need a minimum of 5 percent fat.

Other nutrients in puppy food, such as some of the minerals, are specifically adjusted for growing puppies. Adult dogs won’t need very much of some of these minerals later in life. Calcium and phosphorus fall into this category. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is similar for puppies and adult dogs but puppies need more of these minerals while they are growing.

Puppies also need DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in their food while growing. DHA and EPA are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that puppies that have higher amounts of DHA in their diet have better cognition, memory, psychomotor skills, immune system and eye functions.

If you’re buying kibble for your small puppy, we also suggest looking for food that has small kibble pieces that are easier for small puppies to chew.

Different kinds of food for small puppies

There are a number of different kinds of pet food made today. Some of them are better for small puppies than others.

Dry puppy food is a popular choice for dogs. It’s also popular for growing puppies. It has many advantages. It’s less expensive per ounce. It’s practical for many owners to buy and store. And it’s widely available in many formulas. Some people believe that dry foods are better for a dog or puppy’s teeth but this is debatable. Dry food is usually a favorite for people with adult dogs and larger puppies because of the cost savings. Even top quality, expensive dry dog foods can cost less per ounce than comparable canned or moist foods.

Moist or canned dog foods tend to be more popular with people who own small breeds and small breed puppies. These foods are often more expensive per ounce than dry kibble. They often have a moisture or water content of 75 to 87.5 percent compared to 10-12 percent moisture with kibbles.

Other dog and puppy foods available today include semi-moist foods which are usually prepackaged for a single feeding; freeze-dried foods; raw frozen foods; dehydrated foods; and fresh foods. All of these foods have their fans and you may want to try some of them with your puppy.

Before you conclude that kibble or canned food is the best option, it’s important to know that when you compare different kinds of dog or puppy food you need to compare them on a dry matter basis. This calculation removes the water content from the calculation so you can make a fair comparison. There are many dry matter basis calculators online. You can check out this explanation for the calculation here.

For small puppies we would recommend kibble for most small breed/mixes. You can mix in some moist or canned food or feed some canned food at some meals. Canned food is usually a big hit with all puppies so saving some for one meal per day or mixing a little into your puppy’s kibble should be a success. A word of caution. If you strictly feed your small puppy a diet of canned or moist food, it can be hard to get him to like kibble later. Most dogs and puppies much prefer canned or moist food when they have the choice.

As for ingredients, we would recommend buying puppy food that uses good quality ingredients. There are many good brands that make puppy foods. You can find foods with and without grains, foods with specific meat proteins, foods that are gluten-free, GMO-free, limited ingredient diets, food for sensitive digestion, and more. Puppies don’t usually develop allergies or food sensitivities until they are a little older but if your puppy does have problems eating certain foods, you should be able to find foods that he can eat. You don’t have to buy the most expensive puppy food on the market but do look at the ingredients to make sure they are good quality.

Overall Best Puppy Food for Small Puppies

Wellness Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry

First Five Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Salmon Meal

There are lots of good foods you could feed your small puppy but we have chosen Wellness Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food as our top choice. Wellness Complete Health makes several good puppy foods – all of them top sellers on This kibble is made from deboned chicken, oatmeal, and salmon. It has kibble in a smaller bite size that’s easy for small puppies to chew. It also has added DHA for healthy brain and eye development. Yucca Schidigera reduces stool odor and taurine supports a healthy heart. We think this is an excellent puppy food for small puppies.

Our 2023 Picks: Best Small Breed Food for Puppies

Best Value$1.49/lb
Overall Best$1.68/lb

4 more good quality puppy foods for small puppies

Whether you prefer to feed your small puppy kibble or canned food, there are some good quality foods available. Here are some we like.

Solid Gold Love At First Bark Beef, Potatoes & Apples Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Canned

First Five Ingredients: Water Sufficient For Processing, Beef, Beef Liver, Potatoes, Dried Egg Whites

Solid Gold was one of the earliest natural dog food companies and they continue to make wholesome foods today. Solid Gold Love At First Bark Beef, Potatoes & Apples Puppy Recipe Grain Free Canned Dog Food is easily digestible for puppies. It’s made with chunks of beef and beef liver as the first ingredients plus it has potatoes and apples in gravy. It has carefully balanced vitamins, minerals,and superfoods such as pumpkin, spinach, cranberries, and blueberries to support your puppy’s immune system and healthy bone growth. It also has all natural DHA and EPA fatty acids for health and brain development. Gentle formula for your puppy’s digestive system. No fillers, corn, wheat, soy, grain, gluten, carrageenan, or artificial preservatives. Made in the U.S.

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry

First Five Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes, Canola Oil

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food is a limited ingredient diet with a single animal meat source. It has 30 percent crude protein to provide puppies (and adult dogs) with plenty of meat protein. Plus, it has all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your puppy needs. It also contains probiotics to support good digestion and immune health; and essential fatty acids from salmon and canola oils for healthy skin and coat. Low in carbohydrates with no potatoes or tapioca. No chicken, eggs, peas, pea protein, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives. Made in the U.S. An excellent food for any puppy with sensitive digestion.

Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Puppy Recipe Dry

First Five Ingredients: Organic Chicken, Organic Chicken Meal, Organic Sweet Potatoes, Organic Chickpeas

Castor & Pollux is well-known for their history with organic dog foods. Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food is formulatd with organic, free-range chicken as the first ingredient. It also has organic sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and superfoods such as blueberries, alfalfa, and coconut oil. It provides DHA that’s essential for brain and eye development in puppies. It also has vitamins, minerals, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and probiotics. This formula is cooked in USDA-accredited organically certified kitchens in the U.S. No soy, corn, gluten, chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial flavors, color or preservatives are ever used.

Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Puppy Diet Dry

First Five Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat

Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Puppy Diet Dry Dog Food is an all-natural diet that’s formulated to promote the development of puppies. It has healthy amounts of protein, fat, and carbs along with key nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus to provide small puppies what they need while growing. Only easily digestible protein and sources of energy are used to make it easy for a puppy’s sensitive digestion to handle the food. Protein includes chicken, menhaden fish, and egg. Antioxidants in vegetables support your puppy’s immune system. EPA and DHA help your puppy’s brain and nervous system.

Small Breed Puppy Food – A Final Word

Small puppies grow quickly, usually reaching full size before they are a year old. During this first year they need to eat a good puppy food that meets all of their nutritional needs. Puppy foods generally have more calories and higher protein and fat percentages than adult dog foods. When looking for a good food for small puppies, be sure to look for a food that has an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy for “growth and reproduction” or “all life stages.” Look for good quality ingredients and DHA for brain and eye development. A good quality kibble is a good choice for most puppies, sometimes mixed with a canned or moist food. Most small puppies require several meals per day for the first few months. After your puppy is several months old you can cut back to 3-4 small meals per day.

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