Apr 6, 2020

Ask a vet: What is the best dog food for a small dog?

By Bryn Pottie
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Any small breed owner knows, little dogs don't have little appetites. Another thing that’s not so small? The amount of dog food options out there. To avoid big time confusion, here are some tips for choosing the best dog food to keep your little buddy full of big dog energy.

Small dogs, big metabolism

Does it seem like your small dog is always hungry? Don’t worry, that’s not a sign that something is wrong. In fact, small breeds need more calories per pound than the big dog breeds.

“Smaller breeds have a higher metabolic rate, so they need higher caloric content.” says veterinarian Dr. Walt Ingwersen. Your small breed should be getting a very calorie dense food, especially as a puppy. Small breed puppies can burn through meals extremely quickly, even within hours of eating. Four to six meals a day is not unusual for small breed puppies.

Not getting enough calories can result in a serious medical condition in small dogs called hypoglycemia. This is essentially a scientific way of saying low blood sugar. A hypoglycemic dog will seem lethargic and weak and could even start having tremors and seizures. If your high energy little pup seems tired lately, you might want to switch to a more caloric dog food.

Don't overdo it

Just like in people, more calories isn’t always a good thing. “Higher caloric food can lead to obesity.” says Dr. Ingwersen. Be sure to actively monitor your dog’s weight after switching dog foods. If you suspect your dog has put on too much weight, rub their chest. If you can’t feel all their ribs, there’s a problem. Time to consult a vet and make another switch.

Size matters

The actual size of the dog food can be easy to overlook, but it’s a factor as well. “If you’re picking a dry food for a small breed, you don’t want monster kibbles. You probably want to get kibbles that are appropriate for the size of the dog’s mouth.” says Dr. Ingwersen. If you’re not buying food specifically for small dogs, make sure to check the contents of the bag before stocking up.

Quality first

No matter what size of dog you’re shopping for, quality ingredients should always be your number one concern. “It really comes down to ensuring that you pick the right food based on the right manufacturer.” Dr. Ingwersen explains. Dogs need a balanced diet so make sure you’re choosing a brand that includes nutrients from meat, grain, fruits and vegetables. While reading the ingredients, the fewer words, the better. Keep in mind, “beef” can mean up to 60% more actual meat than “beef dinner”.


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