The Best Puppy Foods For Small Breeds, According To Vets

The best puppy food for your little guy 🐶

royal canin and purina pro plan small puppy food
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If you just got a new puppy, you might feel overwhelmed with all the food options out there, especially if you aren’t familiar with any of them.

One consideration you should make when searching for a food is to find one that’s made for your dog’s size. These foods come with many health benefits, especially if you have a small-breed dog.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Keston Smith, medical director at Bond Vet, and Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian consultant at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out why small-breed puppies need special food and to get recommendations for the best small-breed foods out there.

Why do small-breed dogs need different food?

Just like how puppies need different food than adult dogs, small breeds need different food than large breeds because they have different nutrient needs.

Small-breed puppies grow and mature faster than bigger dogs, which means they’ll need more calories in their food. Plus, they’ll need smaller pieces of kibble since they have tiny mouths and stomachs.

“Toy and miniature breeds grow over a shorter period of time and at an accelerated rate compared to other larger breeds,” Dr. Smith told The Dodo. “Thus, they need [food that has] high energy, good nutrition, specific fiber needs and smaller kibble pieces.”

Large-breed vs. small-breed puppy food

Small-breed dogs have a lot of energy and fast metabolisms, which puts them at greater risk for developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if they don’t get enough calories during the day. So puppy foods for small breeds contain more calories than foods for medium and large breeds to be able to keep up with how quickly they burn them.

Bigger dogs eat larger quantities of food, so they’ll typically need a different amount of nutrients, like fewer calories, to keep them from becoming overweight. And because large-breed dogs grow so much, their food is also designed to help their bones develop properly.

“Large breeds grow slowly AND may grow 70 to 90 times their birth weight,” Dr. Smith said. “As vets, we focus on bone and joint health for our large breeds. Diets too high in phosphorus, calcium, vitamin D and fats may lead to poor bone and joint health.”

Diets that include large amounts of meat especially can lead to bone and joint problems because they’re high in phosphorus, Dr. Smith said.

What to look for in a small-breed puppy food

When it comes to small-breed puppy food, according to Dr. Smith, “What is most important is [that the] percentage of crude protein is greater than or equal to 22.5 percent [and that the] crude fat is greater than or equal to 8.5 percent.”

These percentages come from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requirements for puppy food (food for growth and reproduction). The AAFCO recommends that puppy foods contain a minimum of 22.5 percent protein, 8.5 percent fat and 1.2 percent calcium, plus lots of other minerals.

“You must ensure that the dog food is AAFCO-approved,” Dr. Smith said. “You can look at the nutritional adequacy statement on the label of any dog food you are purchasing, and if the phrase ‘complete and balanced’ appears, then the food has met the AAFCO's nutritional profile regulations.”

Make sure the food is made with real ingredients, such as lamb, beef and corn. The first ingredient in the food should ideally be a natural ingredient.

Dr. Smith also recommends choosing food that’s not grain-free. “Grain-free diets that are not prescription may be associated with heart disease if given over long periods of time,” Dr Smith said.

And check that the food is labeled for small puppies or small breeds so that your puppy gets the right amount of nutrients for his size.

Vet-recommended small-breed puppy foods

Here are some of the best puppy foods for small breeds, recommended by Dr. Smith and Dr. Ochoa. Dr. Smith recommends Royal Canin, and some brands Dr. Ochoa recommends are Purina Pro Plan, Royal Canin, Eukanuba and Hill’s Science Diet.

All of these puppy foods meet the AAFCO nutrition recommendations and are formulated for small-breed puppies.

Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food

This dog food is made for puppies up to 10 months old who will grow to be between 9 and 22 pounds. The food pieces are small, so they’re perfect for small pups. It promotes a healthy immune system with antioxidants and vitamins, plus all of the proteins, prebiotics and minerals your puppy needs to grow.

Purina Pro Plan High Protein Small Breed Puppy Food DHA Chicken & Rice Formula

This puppy food is super high in protein, which is perfect for high-energy small-breed puppies. It’s made with real chicken and contains DHA to promote healthy brain development. Plus, there are no artificial colors or flavors.

Eukanuba Puppy Small Breed Dry Dog Food

This puppy food is formulated for puppies up to 12 months old with an expected weight of approximately 23 pounds. It’s made with high-quality chicken and includes DHA for a healthy brain, balanced levels of phosphorus and calcium for bone development, and vitamin E for a strong immune system.

Hill's Science Diet Puppy Small Paws Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food

Your puppy will love this food made of natural ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It’s designed for puppies up to 12 months old who will weigh up to 25 pounds. Vitamins E and C will keep your puppy’s immune system healthy, and DHA will help him grow up to be super smart.

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