If you have a small breed puppy, you want the best food to ensure that they grow up to be healthy and happy. But there are so many different puppy foods to choose from – how do you know which ones are the best? And does your puppy really need food formulated just for small breed puppies?
We’ve done the research for you and created this list of the best small breed puppy food available in 2020.
- Small Breed Puppy Food Buying Guide
- Our Top Picks for the Best Small Breed Puppy Food
- #1 – Nutrisource Sm/Med Breed Dry Puppy Food
- #2 – Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Small Breed Dry Puppy Food
- #3 – Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Natural Puppy Small Breed Dry Dog Food
- #4 – Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy Real Chicken Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food
- #5 – Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food Small Breed Puppy
- Why Do Small Breed Puppies Need Special Food?
- Frequently Asked Question about Small Breed Puppy Food
- How Much and How Often Should I Feed My Small Breed Puppy?
- Should I Feed My Puppy Dry Food, Wet Food, or Both?
- Can I Feed My Small Breed Puppy Adult Dog Food?
- What’s the Difference in Nutritional Requirements Between Small and Large Breed Puppies?
- Is Raw or Homemade Food Better than Kibble?
- Is Grain-Free Food Bad for Puppies?
- Final Thoughts on Small Breed Puppy Food
Small Breed Puppy Food Buying Guide
Here are some things you should pay attention to as you look for the best small breed puppy food for your new fur child. There is no one best food for every puppy, so this buying guide will help you find what’s best for your pup.
Small breed dogs actually burn more calories (per pound of their body weight) compared to large dog breeds. This can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Your small breed puppy will do best on a food that is high in calories, which is one reason you should look for puppy food made specifically for small breed puppies.
To help prevent hypoglycemia, you should feed your small puppy 4-6 times a day when you first bring them home. As your puppy gets older, you can gradually decrease how often you feed them. However, you should always feed your small breed dog at least twice a day to help prevent hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Muscle tremors
Small breed puppies are tiny and have small mouths. They need small kibble to be able to chew it. Kibble that’s too large can actually pose a choking hazard for your small puppy. That’s one of the biggest reasons to look for puppy food designed for small breed dogs – you can be confident that the kibble will be small enough for your puppy to chew.
What to Look for in Small Breed Puppy Food
There are many things you should look for to find the best small breed puppy food, including:
- DHA, a fatty acid found in dog milk that’s crucial for brain and eye development
- Omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat health
- Whole meat should be the first ingredient because it is more nutritious than meat meal
- Vitamins and minerals should come from fruits and vegetables
- Made in the USA or another country with high safety standards
- Probiotics help improve digestion, so your puppy has smaller, firmer poops
Ingredients to Avoid
Meanwhile, there are many ingredients you should avoid when choosing a small breed puppy food, such as:
- Animal by-products – These are parts of the animal (like beaks, feathers, and fur) that humans don’t eat. By-products don’t add any nutritional value; they are a cheap filler ingredient.
- Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives – They are unnecessary and could make your puppy sick.
- Unidentified meals – If there are meat meals in the food, the source should be identified (for example, “chicken meal” is acceptable, while “poultry meal” is sketchy).
Our Top Picks for the Best Small Breed Puppy Food
Nutrisource created a chicken and rice puppy food designed especially for puppies who will grow to be less than 50 pounds. It’s high in the protein and fat that small breed puppies need to grow properly. Nutrisource also includes probiotics in every formula to help with digestion.
- High in protein and fat, which is ideal for small breed puppies
- Small kibble is easier for tiny puppies to chew
- Made with humane certified chicken
- Designed for dogs who will weigh less than 50 pounds when fully grown
- Made in the USA
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken meal, chicken, brown rice, white rice, fish meal (a source of fish oil)
Customer Reviews: Most of the few complaints are about shipping or pricing issues rather than the food itself. Many people reported that their puppy’s breeder recommended this food, and they have happily stuck with it since their puppy is thriving on it.
Final Verdict: Nutrisource Sm/Med Breed Dry Puppy Food is among the best small breed puppy food you can get. There is little risk of it upsetting your puppy’s stomach, and it has a great nutritional profile. As long as your puppy isn’t allergic to chicken or sensitive to grains, they will probably thrive on this food.
Merrick is a popular brand of dog food. Their Lil’ Plates line is formulated especially for small breed dogs. This chicken and sweet potato recipe is designed for small breed puppies and is full of real ingredients rather than filler.
- Includes DHA for healthy brain development
- Grain-free and gluten-free
- Includes omega fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat
- Small kibble for small mouths
- Made in the USA
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes
Customer Reviews: A few puppies didn’t like the taste of this food, and some people got bad batches. However, most puppies love this food and do really well on it.
Final Verdict: Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Puppy Food is a great choice if you like to feed your puppy grain-free food.
Blue Buffalo combines grain-free food with their exclusive LifeSource bits, which are cooked at a lower temperature to retain more nutrients. Deboned chicken is the first ingredient in this small breed dry dog food, and the kibble is tiny, which is perfect for small breed puppies.
- Contains BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits – a precise blend of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals designed to support life stage requirements, immune system health, and a healthy oxidative balance
- Made with DHA and ARA, important fatty acids found in mother’s milk
- Contains no chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives
- Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
- Grain-free and gluten-free
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, pea starch, turkey meal
Customer Reviews: Some puppies don’t like the taste of this food, and a few got sick. However, the majority of reviewers say that their puppy loves this food and is doing really well on it.
Final Verdict: There is a chance your puppy won’t like this food or that it won’t agree with their tummy. However, there’s a better chance that your puppy will love the taste and will thrive on it.
Although you may not have heard about Diamond Naturals, they have been a family-owned pet food company for 50 years. This small breed puppy formula is high in protein but isn’t grain-free, which is a great combination if you believe that dogs should eat a lot of protein but are worried about the possible link between grain-free foods and dilated cardiomyopathy.
- Enhanced with superfoods and guaranteed probiotics
- Includes DHA for healthy brain and eye development
- Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient
- No wheat, corn, filler, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Made in the USA
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, ground white rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea protein
Customer Reviews: There seem to be some quality control issues when ordering from Amazon. Otherwise, most puppies love the taste and do really well on this food. It’s a popular puppy food for breeders.
Final Verdict: If you’re worried about grain-free foods but still want a high-protein kibble for your puppy, then Diamond Naturals is an excellent choice. There’s a chance you might get sent a bad bag by Amazon, but it’s more than likely that your puppy will thrive on this food.
Wellness Complete Small Breed Puppy food is a well-rounded option that includes antioxidants from blueberries and spinach. Flaxseed supports a healthy skin and coat. This formula is also designed to be highly digestible.
- No corn, wheat, soy, meat by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Guaranteed levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Includes probiotics and prebiotics for improved digestibility
- Rich in antioxidants
- Made in the USA
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal, salmon meal (a source of DHA- Docosahexaenoic Acid), oatmeal, ground barley
Customer Reviews: There are a handful of reports of people getting bad bags from Amazon. Also, some puppies don’t like the taste. However, most puppies thrive on this food.
Final Verdict: While there is a chance you might get a bad bag, it’s more likely that your puppy will enjoy the taste of this food and will grow well on it.
Why Do Small Breed Puppies Need Special Food?
You might be wondering why you can’t just use any puppy food for your small breed puppy. Small breed puppies have different nutritional requirements than puppies of other sizes. Here are a few reasons why small breed puppies need special food.
High Calorie Requirements
Small breed puppies need more calories (per pound of body weight) than larger dogs. However, they have tiny tummies, so more food isn’t necessarily the right answer. Small breed puppy food is high-calorie and nutrient dense so your puppy can get the most energy with the least amount of kibble.
High Protein and High Fat
Small breed dogs need higher protein and fat levels than large breed puppies. In fact, large breed puppies can grow too quickly and develop bone and joint problems if they eat food that’s too high in protein or fat. That’s why you should choose food designed specifically for small breed puppies – it helps ensure your pup gets the right proportion of nutrients for their size.
Large kibble can be a choking hazard for a small breed puppy. Even if they don’t choke on it, tiny puppies may have a hard time chewing larger kibble. Small breed puppy food is designed for tiny mouths, making it easier for your puppy to eat.
Frequently Asked Question about Small Breed Puppy Food
To save you some time, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about small breed puppy food.
How Much and How Often Should I Feed My Small Breed Puppy?
When you first bring your small breed puppy home, you should feed them 4-6 times per day. As they grow, you can decrease how often you feed your puppy. By the time they’re 6 months old, you can probably get away with feeding them only twice a day.
However, you should never feed your small breed dog less than twice a day, because that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Toy dog breeds may do best eating three times a day, even as adults, to prevent hypoglycemia.
You should follow the feeding instructions on the food you buy. Foods that are nutrient dense will have different feeding requirements than foods that are full of filler ingredients. Feeding recommendations are usually based on your puppy’s current weight and activity level. More active puppies will need to eat more than less-active puppies.
Should I Feed My Puppy Dry Food, Wet Food, or Both?
Most dry dog food is nutritionally complete, meaning your puppy will get all the nutrients they need from just that food. Some wet food is nutritionally complete, while some is designed to be added to other food and not used as a primary source of food.
Your puppy can do just fine on a kibble-only diet. However, many puppies enjoy having some wet food mixed into their kibble. It can add taste and moisture to otherwise bland food.
Vets usually recommend against an all wet food diet for dogs (apart from specific medical conditions, like having no teeth). However, if you choose to feed your puppy only wet food, make sure you find one that is labeled as nutritionally complete. Otherwise, you may accidentally cause your puppy to have malnutrition.
Can I Feed My Small Breed Puppy Adult Dog Food?
Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs do since they are still growing. In particular, puppies need higher levels of DHA, antioxidants, protein, and fat than adult dogs.
While your puppy might be OK eating adult dog food, they may miss out on some crucial nutrients. It is best to feed your small breed puppy food made for puppies (even if it isn’t designed specifically for small breed dogs). Any food formulated for puppies is probably a better choice than a small breed adult dog food.
What’s the Difference in Nutritional Requirements Between Small and Large Breed Puppies?
Small and large breed puppies have very different nutritional requirements. Here are just a few of the different requirements:
- Calories – Small breed puppies need more calories than large breed puppies.
- Protein and fat – While small breed puppies need high levels of protein and fat, large breed puppies can actually develop bone or joint problems if they eat a food that is too high in protein and fat.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin – Small breed dogs can benefit from these nutrients, but they don’t need as much of it as large breed dogs to develop healthy joints.
- Kibble size – While the size of the kibble has nothing to do with the nutritional requirements, small breed puppies need small kibble, while large breed puppies benefit from larger kibble.
Is Raw or Homemade Food Better than Kibble?
Raw and homemade diets are becoming increasingly popular these days. If you put in the research to make sure you’re giving your dog proper nutrients and you have the time and money to provide your puppy with a raw or homemade diet, it might be better than kibble.
However, it is extremely difficult to make sure you’re providing even an adult dog with the right nutrients when you feed them yourself. Small breed puppies, especially, have very specific nutritional requirements. Feeding your small breed puppy a raw or homemade diet is a big risk.
Kibble is convenient, relatively affordable, and nutritionally complete. It’s safer to start your puppy on kibble, then transition them to a raw or homemade diet once they’re fully grown.
Is Grain-Free Food Bad for Puppies?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found a link between grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). They have not yet proven if or how grain-free dog food contributes to causing the heart condition in dog breeds that aren’t usually prone to it.
Some vets recommend against feeding grain-free diets. Talk to your vet about the risks and benefits of feeding your puppy a grain-free diet. We have included both grain-free and grain-inclusive foods on our list, so you can pick the food you feel is best for your small breed puppy.
Final Thoughts on Small Breed Puppy Food
Hopefully, we’ve given you the resources you need to find the best small breed puppy food for the new addition to your family. There is no one food that’s best for every puppy, but we’ve listed some great options that should work well for most puppies. Now, you can be sure that you’re setting your puppy up for a lifetime of health and happiness.