Small Breed Puppy Food: Specific Nutritional Needs small puppy breeds
small breed puppy food is essential for puppies like this young Cavalier King Charles spaniel

What is the best puppy food for small breeds? Many new owners have questions about the different kinds of puppy food on the market and what’s best for their breed. After all, do small breeds really need different food from large breed puppies?

For example, does my Pomeranian puppy need special food, or will any healthy diet do? Can my puppy eat food for all life stages? Well, there are a couple of reasons that puppy-specific diets exist, so let's look at the facts about small breed puppy nutrition.

Why is a small breed puppy food really necessary?

In a nutshell, yes small breed puppies need to eat properly formulated small breed puppy food.. Just like human babies need different food than adults, puppies need food made by them. What's More, there is a difference between what food is best for small breeds puppies versus large breed puppies. So what does a small breed puppy needs from their diet?

Balance nutrients in the right amounts

Some of these things, like nutrients, are present in adult dog food but the wrong amounts and ratios for small breed puppies. For example, small breed puppies need the right amount and ratio of essential fatty acids for proper immune functioning. This ratio is estimated to be about 5:1 omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. It also means they need marine oils in their diet.

While plant oil omega-3s are an essential antioxidant, it comes in the form of ALA The EPA and DHA omega-3s from marine sources like fish and krill are far more effective for your puppy’s health Further, puppies specifically need far more DHA in their diet for their developing brains, eyes and immune systems than adult dogs do.

Ideally, for the best learning, memory, eye development, and immune function, your puppy should be fed high doses of choline, DHA from fish or krill oil, Vitamin E, Taurine, and L-carnitine.

Small breed puppy food needs more calories

AN active maltese like this needs more calories in its small breed puppy food
small breed puppy food should be denser in calories than large breed puppies or most adults

Young small breeds also need a higher calorie intake than adult dogs and large breed puppies due to their fast metabolism. That is another reason that puppy food is your best option. You see, balancing a puppy's caloric intake can be a real hassle, but quality puppy foods take care of that for you. The average small breed puppy can require upwards of 40 calories per/pound of food.

Naturally, a pup's caloric intake comes with a big asterisk. If your pup is overweight, something isn't clicking with their diet and lifestyle. We aren't expanding too much on the weight problem, but it's good to know it is a factor. Keeping your puppy lean can help avoid many health issues later in life.

However, never put a puppy on a weight loss diet. Instead, you can more carefully manage a fat puppy’s portion and increase their activity with play. At this stage, a weight loss diet formula can cause deficiencies for your puppy.

If you want to know more about how to exercise your puppy, you can read this article. If you have a five-week-old puppy or litter, you can see our article here.

Diet-related health concerns

A lot of small breed puppies are prone to hypoglycemia. This is particularly true of the toy breeds, or dogs bred to be micro or teacup sizes. That means that they need to eat many small meals throughout the day. So naturally, that makes a nutritionally balanced diet all the more important.

Always have a small breed puppy assessed for health issues. Certain hereditary issues such as liver shunts are common in small breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, and this can affect how well they can metabolize certain proteins. These puppies will require a specialized diet.

Proteins in a small breed puppy food

One of the most important parts of any pup's diet is proteins. Small breed dogs should usually have more protein in their diet than adult dogs. Keeping to fish and lean poultry proteins is good basis for your puppy in general.

However, you want to experiment with different animal proteins and let your pup try everything at least once—the more varied their protein sources, the better.

The best proteins

If it's the very best protein you seek, nothing comes close to wild-caught fish. You can't do much better for your pup. However, for some owners, especially those living in areas where fish needs importing, that may not be that realistic an option.

Alternatively, fresh-caught fish, turkey, chicken, duck, and rabbit are relatively sound protein sources for your pup as well. Furthermore, you could try out some of the 'novel' protein diets like venison on the market, although some need more testing as part of a canine diet.

Novel proteins

Those are protein sources like ostrich and kangaroo, usually meant to substitute normal proteins in dogs with certain food allergies. But whether or not your pup has a bad reaction to normal protein sources, they might benefit from alternative sources like calamari meal.

If you suspect your puppy has food allergies, be sure to read our article on hypoallergenic dog food.

Proteins that need some disclaimers

But hold on a second, what about common staple proteins like beef and lamb? It turns out that beef is not that great and is better not fed everyday—golden retrievers who eat red meat-based diets have higher incidences of cancers than those that are mostly white meat protein.

A bit of lamb could be alright, but keep in mind, lamb ingredients have been linked to taurine deficiencies. The meat itself is quite low in taurine compared to many other animal proteins.

Of course, we can't discuss meat proteins without bringing up pork. No one expects to see pig products rank very high on any healthy diet plan. So, unsurprisingly, you should leave bacon off the menu in your puppies diet. Processed pork is often high in carcinogens, raw pork tends to contain pathogens and parasites, and normal pork meat is extremely high in saturated fat. This can cause issues like pancreatitis.

Finally, we need to look at plant proteins. These can be pretty tricky. Sometimes a pup is medically incapable of eating animal proteins and needs viable plant proteins and dairy sources like whey. It could be some sort of food intolerance or a reaction to chronic medication.

Whatever the case, a diet that relies completely on plant protein is not ideal for a growing pup. However, suppose it's an absolute must. In that case, you will have to keep a close eye on your puppy if they develop deficiencies and nutritional imbalances.

The right carbs

Carbohydrates are an important part of a small breed puppy's diet, and like everything else, the amounts need to be just right. That said, carbs are a lot easier than proteins. We have all kinds of debates around things like gluten in our diets, but it is a bit more straightforward for our pups.

There is no reason to avoid any quality source of carbs, including those from grains. Grain allergies are very rare in dogs. If it turns out your pup does have a grain allergy, you can simply swap the offending grain out for something else.

Without getting into the scientific details, some carbs are better than others. For example, carbs that contain resistant starch are great for gut health and help manage blood sugar. Low GI carbs also help prevent diabetes. These make brown rice, oats, or smaller amounts of barley good options for your small breed puppy.

Extras you want in a small breed puppy food

Small breed puppies need loads of vitamin E and C. Both are quality antioxidants and play many roles in your pup's development and well-being. Keeping in mind, most dog foods are far too low in vitamin E, and a diet as high as 300-500 IU/kg per day is ideal.

Furthermore, some probiotics are a great addition to a pup's diet, especially L. Rhamnosus and L. Acidophilus.

The catch is that some dog food supplements are not regulated. Therefore, you should always look for the National Animal Supplement Council's seal to guarantee quality.

Another quality check involves the type of minerals in dog food. Good quality dog foods contain 'chelated' minerals. This means minerals like iron proteinate, or zinc amino acid chelate, rather than zinc or iron sulfate. Essentially, these are minerals that are easier for your puppy to absorb.

Things you don't want

We know that artificial additives of any kind are usually bad. The same is true in puppy food, and you want to avoid any artificial coloring, flavors, or preservatives. Be aware of other additives that could strip or aggravate the lining in your dog’s gut, like polysorbate 80 or CMC.

The ideal guaranteed analysis for small breed puppy food

When checking the label on your small breed puppy food, always have a look for nutrient profile that looks something like this.

  • Protein: 30%
  • Fat: 20% (You can reduce when your puppy reaches adulthood)
  • Carbohydrate: 40%
  • Fiber: about 4 or 5% (blend of soluble and insoluble fibers)
  • Ash: max 6%

Can a small breed puppy eat regular dog food?

The first-time puppy owner is fated to learn that a puppy of any size can eat anything, but a puppy should not eat regular dog food. We have taken a look at all the things that a small breed puppy needs in their diet, and regular dog food simply won't cut it.

That said, it's easy to understand how one might be confused if you compare the ingredients of regular adult or 'all life stages' dog food. After all, these foods contain much of the same basic stuff.

The key difference is that the ratio and quantity of 'stuff' don't get formulated with small breed pups in mind. So, what are the important ratios and amounts that regular dog food doesn't have?

Time to put on our thinking caps

That is where we need to get a little technical. First, we know that small breed pups need a specific calcium to phosphorus ratio to allow their bones to grow correctly. The exact ratio is 1.4:1 Ca:P. There is a little more calcium than phosphorus, because phosphorus binds with calcium in the gut, and prevents it from being absorbed. So this ratio is essential for both minerals. Then there are a couple of percentages that are important as well.

While the ratio stays about the same in adult dog food, adult dog foods should have lower amounts of both minerals. This is because too much phosphorus in particular can damage the kidneys. Since phosphorus is linked with high-protein diets, regular dog food will also have lower levels of protein, DHA, calories, and other essentials for small breed puppies.

A good guideline is that 1.4% of a small breed puppy' food (total dry matter) is calcium and that 1% is phosphorus. Too little can cause a deficiency, and too much can cause a variety of problems, including bone abnormalities.

Nothing but small breed puppy food will do

That presents the perfect opportunity to emphasize the “small breed” part of small breed puppy food again. Small breeds can eat a lot, and they laugh in the face of physics when they pack more food in their body than something so small plausibly should.

Thanks to their fast metabolism, their chowing superpower outpaces their large breed cousins by orders of magnitude.

Therefore, just like regular dog food, small breed puppies shouldn't eat regular puppy food. In addition, they shouldn't eat any food made for large breed puppies

How to choose the best small breed dog food?

A great option is to follow as many of the guidelines we've offered as possible. We say that because it's not always possible to get everything just right, even when we try our best.

While the best diet meets every criterion perfectly and consists of only the very best ingredients, such diets are not universally accessible.

Maybe you can't get quality fresh-caught fish in your town, or cost of the top brand diets is just not attainable. Forget all that. The best diet is the one you can afford and can access.

You need only try your best to get as close as possible to the ideal nutritional intake for your small breed pup. You can compare different small breed puppy foods using our Pet Assistant food comparison too

The best dry food for small breed puppies

There are several great formulas for small breed puppy foods. However, our pick is:

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy Chicken & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food

Blue buffalo chicken and oatmeal formula is an excellent small breed puppy food
The best dry food for small breeds

What we love:

  • The first two ingredients are quality chicken meat proteins.
  • The carbohydrates are barley, oatmeal, and brown rice: all ideal grains for small breed puppies.
  • It contains both fish oil and fish meal for the vital DHA that your puppy needs so much of.
  • It contains a variety of quality probiotics, choline, taurine, and L-carnitine. These are essential for small puppy development.
  • This product has the ideal calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, with 1.4% calcium and 1% phosphorus.
  • It is rich in multiple antioxidants such as Yucca Schidigera Extract and a complete array of essential vitamins.
  • It contains only natural preservatives like rosemary extract, colors, and flavors.
  • The guaranteed analysis of 29% protein and 17% fat is ideal for most small puppies.

What we don’t love:

  • Unfortunately extruded dry food has some health drawbacks. It may be proinflammatory,, have increased oxidized fats, among other issues.
  • This food makes use of sodium selenite. Although selenium is an essential part of the immune system, it should come in organic forms, such as selenium yeast or Sel Met. Sodium Selenite can release free radicals instead of acting as the antioxidant component it is supposed to be.
  • Although some minerals are chelated, this formula seems to add chelates with non chelates. For instance, it contains both Zinc Amino Acid Chelate and Zinc Sulfate. WIth some minerals this can be a problem. For example, adding both Copper Sulfate and Copper Amino Acid Chelate can lead to too much copper building up in the liver. There is growing concern that there may be too much copper in dog food, leading to an uptick in copper storage disease.
  • While this food has added vitamin E, it would be ideal if the label specified how much. Ideally, vitamin E levels should be quite high

Best wet puppy food for small breeds

Traditional canned food for puppies can have many drawbacks, as canned wet food is sterilized at extremely high temperatures. So our pick for the best wet small breed puppy food is not the traditional wet food, but rather a freeze-dried food for minimal processing and maximum health.

Stella & Chewy's Perfectly Puppy Chicken & Salmon Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Stella & Chewy's dinner chicken patties may be a better small dog food than many canned wet foods

What we love about it:

  • The freeze-dried food is minimally processed, making for more intact nutrients and better overall health.
  • The food is 95% quality chicken and salmon protein, making it a good protein choice for the long-term.
  • It contains many vegetables with great antioxidant qualities.
  • These patties are boosted with green-lipped mussel extract, vitamin E, taurine, and L-carnitine, which is essential for growing puppies.
  • It contains a good range of probiotics, vitamins, and chelated minerals.
  • It is a high-calorie food that is ideal for small breed puppies.

What we don’t love:

  • The guaranteed analysis is not ideal. This is a very high-protein diet (min 48%). The high fat content of 27.5% minimum could cause massive health issues in the long run. There is also a lack of healthy carbohydrates. While this food is okay for small breed puppies, it should not be fed to adults or to large breed
  • It contains sodium selenite instead of an organic form of selenium.
  • At 175 IU/kg min, the amount of vitamin E beneficial to puppies is a bit low.
  • This food does not specify the ratio of calcium-to-phosphorus or the amount of these minerals. Together with the copper chelate in this food, .excesses or imbalances of these minerals could cause renal trouble, liver issues, or not be beneficial for a puppies musculoskeletal growth.

How long should you keep a small breed puppy on puppy food?

In general, most small breed puppies reach adulthood between 10 and 12 months. Some very small puppies like Pomeranians could be fully grown at 8 months. The larger your small puppy breed will be as an adult, the longer it takes to mature. For clarity, you can keep a chart and weigh your puppy every few weeks from the time they reach 8 months. If they go a month without gaining any weight or height, then it is time to move your small breed puppy to adult small dog food.

In closing

Puppies have some pretty specific dietary needs. That is even more true of small breed puppies, who need extra calories and precise percentages of various nutrients to keep up with their faster growth rate.

That is why it is so important that you only feed your small breed puppy food designed to provide them with everything they need. The details can become very complicated considering all the ratios and percentages. Still, quality puppy food should cover all the bases.

Puppy foodPuppy nutritionSmall breed puppy