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10 Best Small Breed Dog Foods in 2021

Small dog breeds are some of the most playful dogs and they need the right food to fuel themselves.

It’s important to pick dog food that is meant for your dog’s particular size because different sized dogs have different nutritional needs. For example, what a small dog breed needs is not the same as what a large breed needs. Without the right nutrients, your small dog is at risk for low energy levels among other health problems.

On this page, we’ll share Dog Food Care’s top picks for the best small breed dog foods!

10 Best Small Breed Dog Foods in 2021 – Overview

Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for more details and picks 6-10).

Overview
BEST OVERALL
Instinct Original Small Breed Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Dog Food by Nature's Variety, 11 lb. Bag
LOWEST PRICE
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food Small Breed Recipe - 4.0 Lb Bag
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Appalachian Valley Premium Dry Dog Food (418037), 14-Pound
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Small Breed Dry Dog Food, Chicken and Brown Rice 15-lb
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag
Title
Instinct Original Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Recipe
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine RecipeBlue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed
Price
$39.99
$19.99
$33.99
Price not available
$17.39
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BEST OVERALL
Overview
Instinct Original Small Breed Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Dog Food by Nature's Variety, 11 lb. Bag
Title
Instinct Original Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe
Price
$39.99
Rating
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LOWEST PRICE
Overview
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food Small Breed Recipe - 4.0 Lb Bag
Title
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Recipe
Price
$19.99
Rating
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Overview
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Appalachian Valley Premium Dry Dog Food (418037), 14-Pound
Title
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine RecipeBlue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior
Price
$33.99
Rating
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Overview
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Small Breed Dry Dog Food, Chicken and Brown Rice 15-lb
Title
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior
Price
Price not available
Rating
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Overview
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag
Title
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed
Price
$17.39
Rating
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1. Instinct Original Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe

Instinct Original Small Breed Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Dog Food by Nature's Variety, 11 lb. Bag
429 Reviews
Instinct Original Small Breed Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Dog Food by Nature's Variety, 11 lb. Bag
  • SMALL BREED GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD WITH CAGE FREE CHICKEN: Instinct Original dry dog food is high protein dog food made with probiotics to support healthy digestion and omegas for skin & coat....

This small breed-specific formula by Instinct is very high in protein. Small dogs tend to need extra protein to support their faster-than-normal metabolism. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas, tapioca, chicken fat
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Best for: Small breed adults and small breed puppies
  • Price: $$$

This particular dog food within Instinct’s Small Breed line has an excellent balance of fat and protein with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.  Additionally, it contains 35% crude protein, 19.5% crude fat, and an estimated 26% carbs. As a real chicken, grain-free dog food that is excellent for smaller dogs of all ages, we highly recommend this particular Instinct formula.

Sample buyer review: “Excellent ingredients in this food.  Organ by-products which dogs love.  I was looking for a more nutritional food for my 1 and 13-year-old Yorkies.  They love this product.  I do still give them royal canon wet gastro food, but I see an improvement in their energy levels, may switch to Instinct wet food as well soon.”

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2. Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed Recipe

Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food Small Breed Recipe - 4.0 Lb Bag
2,665 Reviews
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food Small Breed Recipe - 4.0 Lb Bag
  • One (1) 4 lb Bag - Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food Small Breed Recipe

This formula by Merrick contains a traditional blend of meats, grains, and supplements. It has all of the good and none of the bad such as artificial ingredients and fillers. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, turkey meal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive – brown rice, barley, oatmeal, quinoa
  • Best for: Small breed adults
  • Price: $$

This particular Merrick recipe is one of our top picks for small adult dogs.  It contains 30% crude protein and 17% crude fat for a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.  Additionally, it contains about 45% carbs. High up on their ingredient list is glucosamine and chondroitin supplements which promote healthy hips and joints in adult dogs.  All of their products are made right here in the USA, so you can trust that they’re extremely fresh while still being low priced.

Sample buyer review: “My pomeranian Chloe has a sensitive stomach and she is super picky.  She would not eat her food for a day or 2, then when she did eat she would get sick.  I work at a pet store so I decided to try a new food.  She loves Merrick and I love giving it to her because I know it’s good for her.  Since I switched food, she is much happier and she stopped getting sick.”

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3. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Recipe

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Appalachian Valley Premium Dry Dog Food (418037), 14-Pound
2,409 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Appalachian Valley Premium Dry Dog Food (418037), 14-Pound
  • Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley with pasture-raised VENISON small kibble dry dog food for small breed dogs; REAL MEAT is the #1 ingredient; high protein (32%) to help support bones, joints and...

With many excellent sources of protein and carbs, this Taste of the Wild formula is particularly good for extra-active small dogs. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans, peas, lentils
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Best for: Small breed adults
  • Price: $$$

This particular Taste of the Wild formula contains 32% crude protein, 18% crude fat, and an estimated 36% carbs with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.  This formula uniquely contains real venison as its first ingredient and most abundant protein source.

What’s also unique about this formula is that it includes several sources of antioxidants.  Blueberries and raspberries are just a few of them and they’re great for many things including promoting a shiny coat.  We definitely recommend this brand to small dog owners.

Sample buyer review: “Our dog has been eating Taste of the Wild since we rescued her.  We looked at all the available foods and, in my option, Taste of the Wild had the best ingredients for our dog.  No grain and first ingredient is venison!  Dogs eat mean, and that’s what we want to see as the first ingredient.”

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4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Small Breed Dry Dog Food, Chicken and Brown Rice 15-lb
  • REAL MEAT FIRST: Blue Buffalo foods always feature real meat as the first ingredient; High-quality protein from real chicken helps your dog build and maintain healthy muscles; Plus they contain...

This formula is made especially for small breed dogs in their later life stages.  It is high in both glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy joints in small senior pups. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive – rice, oatmeal, barley
  • Best for: Small breed senior dogs
  • Price: $$

Blue Buffalo as a dog food brand prides itself on being a holistic brand filled with only high-quality ingredients that boost the immune system, provide an oxidative balance, and boost energy levels with many whole-grain carbohydrates. This particular formula contains 29% crude protein, 17% crude fat, and an estimated 46% carbs with a fat-to-protein ratio of 58%.  We definitely recommend this formula for your senior pooch.

Sample buyer review: “Have a tiny rescue chihuahua who can not eat large kibble.  He loves Blue Buffalo.  I mix dry food with Blue Buffalo wet food and he cleans the bowl.  He is a senior dog, all white faced, so the glucosamine & chondroitin for joint health and antioxidants.  Omega 3 & omega-6 fatty acids help with immune health and healthy skin and coat.”

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5. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed

Sale
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag
3,331 Reviews
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Small Breed, 4-Pound Bag
  • SMALL BREED DRY DOG FOOD: Optimal protein levels and calorie content to help support the higher energy needs of small breed dogs

The Wellness dog food line is known for its high-quality protein ingredients.  In this particular formula, the first 5 ingredients are all high in protein to support your little dog’s high energy levels. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, lentils, peas
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Best for: Small breed adult
  • Price: $$$

High on the ingredient list in this specific formula is flaxseed.  While a small number of dogs have food allergies to flaxseed, in most dogs it is a great ingredient for promoting healthy skin thanks to flaxseed’s high levels of amino acids. Wellness Core Small Breed is 36% crude protein, 15% crude fat, and an estimated 37% carbs with a fat-to-protein ratio of 42%.

Sample buyer review: “My dogs absolutely love this food.  I love that it’s grain-free and it doesn’t upset their stomach since they’re on the sensitive side.  And the price point is great.  I would definitely recommend this to other pet parents.”

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6. Halo Grain-Free Small Breed Wet Dog Food

Halo Grain Free Natural Wet Dog Food - Small Breed Recipe - Premium and Holistic Real Whole Meat Chicken & Salmon Recipe - 5.5oz Can (Pack of 12) - Sustainably Sourced Puppy Food - BPA Free & Non-GMO
488 Reviews
Halo Grain Free Natural Wet Dog Food - Small Breed Recipe - Premium and Holistic Real Whole Meat Chicken & Salmon Recipe - 5.5oz Can (Pack of 12) - Sustainably Sourced Puppy Food - BPA Free & Non-GMO
  • ONLY REAL WHOLE MEAT HERE – We proudly give your dog delicious and healthy whole meat - never any of that rendered "meat meal," like "chicken meal" or "fish meal"

New to the Halo Dog Food brand? Check out Dog Food Care’s full review of Halo Dog Food to find out more of what makes them so great. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Turkey, turkey broth, turkey liver, ground dried peas, duck
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Best for: Small breed adults
  • Price: $$

This wet dog food for small breeds by Halo is one of our favorite wet food options.  It contains 11% crude protein, 5% crude fat, and an estimated 19% carbs bringing its fat-to-protein ratio to 45%. You won’t find any meat meals or by-product meals in this food.  Halo only uses whole meat that is sourced from farms in the US.  Overall, its excellent sources of protein make it a great choice for muscle development in dogs.

Sample buyer review… “My elderly Pomeranian, a very, very picky eater, thinks this is just pretty good food.  She has been licking her bowl clean since I offered it to her.  Considering she is over 15 years old, her coat is full and her weight is good.”

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7. Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog Food

Earthborn Holistic Dry Dog Food - Coastal Catch, 5 lb.
142 Reviews
Earthborn Holistic Dry Dog Food - Coastal Catch, 5 lb.
  • Formulated without grain, gluten or potatoes, this special formula is ideal as a high-protein, grain-free alternative diet.

Never heard of Earthborn before? Get to know that brand and all that’s good about it in our 2021 review of Earthborn Dog Food!

  • First 5 ingredients: Herring meal, peas, dried eggs, canola oil, tapioca
  • Type: Grain-free (and gluten-free)
  • Best for: Small breed adults
  • Price: $$

This formula contains 32% crude protein and 18% crude fat making its fat-to-protein ratio about 56%.  It also contains an estimated 37% carbs.  As a family-owned and holistic brand, Earthborn puts no artificial ingredients in any of its products. Not only is this Earthborn Holistic formula great for small breed dogs, but it’s also good for larger breeds.  Given its high-quality, well-sourced ingredients, we recommend this Earthborn formula for your pet.

Sample buyer review: “My girl Ginny has been eating Earthborn coastal catch since I adopted her in 2014.  I thought I’d finally write a review for it because I’ve always been so pleased with it.  Ginny absolutely loves this food, gobbles it up completely dry, nothing at all added to it.  Her coat is healthy and shiny.  She’s in beautiful shape and in perfect health! :).”

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8. Purina Little Bites Dog Chow for Small Breeds

If you’re on a bit of a budget, then this small breed option from Purina is a good choice.

  • First 5 ingredients: Whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, beef fat
  • Type: Grain-inclusive – wheat 
  • Best for: Small breed adult dogs
  • Price: $

While it may not have the best of the best ingredients, this formula is affordable and designed to be ideal for small breeds.  Specifically, the smaller kibble sizes are meant to be easier for small dogs to chew.  When they can chew their food better, it’s easier for them to digest and absorb the food’s nutrients. Its guaranteed analysis profile shows that it contains 25% crude protein, 12% crude fat, and an estimated 42.5% carbs with a fat-to-protein ratio of 48%.

Sample buyer review: “My dog loves when I open a brand new bag. She loves it and eats it all. ” 

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9. Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble for Small Breeds Salmon & Red Lentils Recipe

Nulo Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food with BC30 Probiotic (Salmon and Red Lentils Recipe, 4.5lb Bag)
1,115 Reviews
Nulo Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food with BC30 Probiotic (Salmon and Red Lentils Recipe, 4.5lb Bag)
  • GRAIN-FREE recipe contains no corn; wheat; soy; white potatoes; tapioca; artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives. Based in Austin, TX and proudly made in the USA.

With several great animal protein sources, this formula from Nulo Freestyle supports your small dog’s fast metabolism. 

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned salmon, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, salmon meal, red lentils
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Best for: Small breed adults and small breed puppies
  • Price: $$$

The first four ingredients in the dry dog food are animal protein sources and the fifth a plant source of protein.  That leads to an analysis of 31% crude protein, 17% crude fat, and an estimated 39% carbs with a fat-to-protein ratio of 55%.

A little further down the ingredient label, you’ll find other high-protein ingredients including chickpeas and chicken fat.  Overall, the high protein in this formula of dog food makes it great for small breeds with high energy and activity levels.

Sample buyer review: “Thank goodness for Nulo, my vet put my two Shih Tzus on a brand that was $100 a bag and my dogs wouldn’t eat it.  Now that I found Nulo, my dogs can’t get enough and I feel better and the ingredients I am feeding them.”

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10. Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach

Sale
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Sensitive Stomach Small Breed Dog Food, Salmon & Rice Formula - 30 lb. Bag
16,583 Reviews
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Sensitive Stomach Small Breed Dog Food, Salmon & Rice Formula - 30 lb. Bag
  • One (1) 30 lb. Bag - Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Sensitive Stomach Small Breed Dog Food, Salmon & Rice Formula

This small breed formula within the Purina Pro Plan line is great for small dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs.

  • First 5 ingredients: Salmon, rice, barley, canola meal, fish meal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive – brown rice, barley
  • Best for: Small breed adult
  • Price: $

It is a more affordable option that still contains many great ingredients such as real whole salmon.  Salmon is particularly good for small dogs as it’s a great protein source to support their fast metabolism. It contains 28% crude protein and 17% crude fat for a fat-to-protein ratio of 60%.  It also contains an estimated 40% carbs.

Sample buyer review: “My dog has a sensitive stomach, to almost everything.  My vet recommended Pro Plan for a sensitive stomach and we have never looked back.  The small breed size is an absolute guarantee that she will keep her meal in her stomach.  Thank you, Purina!”

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Small Breed Dog Food FAQs

1. How much food should I feed my small dog?

Adult and senior small dog breeds usually need between ¾ cup and 1½ cups of food per day.  Depending on how active they are should determine what within that range they get. Puppies are a little more challenging because they need a lot of calcium in their diet to promote growth.  Check with your vet on exactly how much you should be feeding them.

2. When and how often should I feed my small dog?

Depending on the age of your small dog, they will need to eat either twice a day or three to four times a day.  Small dog puppies can eat three to four times and adults and seniors can eat twice per day. Most vets recommend that you feed your adult dog once in the morning then again at night.  Double-check with your vet on exactly how many times per day and at what times you should feed your pup.

3. Is my dog a small breed?

There are dozens of small dog breeds.  So, odds are that, as a pet owner, you have one. Some of the most common small dog breeds include:

  • Beagle
  • Boston terrier
  • Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • French bulldog
  • Pug

Final Thoughts on the Best Dog Foods For Small Dogs

If you’re serious about your small dog’s health, then make sure you’re feeding them a pet food that fits their specific nutritional needs.  When they’ve got the right formula that fits their petite size, you can rest easy knowing that you’re giving them food that makes them feel at their very best!

 

Bonus tip: Does your small dog have a somewhat bigger friend?  If so, then you need to check out our favorite dog foods for large breeds!

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.