Best Dog Food for Small Dogs – Reviews & Buying Guide

Small dogs have big appetites!

But you can’t feed them just any type of dog food. Your little four-legged friend needs food formulated for their small stature.

We’ve researched, talking to various veterinarians and dog trainers, to discover the six best brands of dog food specifically created for dogs 30 pounds and under. Plus, we’ve got a complete guide to small dog nutrition to help keep your pup happy and healthy:  

Canidae Grain Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated1. Canidae Grain Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated4.4
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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula4.4
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Hill’s Science Diet Small and Toy Breed Dry Dog Food3. Hill’s Science Diet Small and Toy Breed Dry Dog Food4.6
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Purina Bella Natural Bites for Small Dogs4. Purina Bella Natural Bites for Small Dogs4.5
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Cesar Small Breed Dry Dog Food5. Cesar Small Breed Dry Dog Food4.3
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1. Canidae Grain Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated

Canidae is a terrific grain-free dog food. No fillers. Just all natural good quality food. If your dogs eat this, your dogs are eating right.

The main ingredients are real lamb, peas and lentils. This is gourmet quality food for your little dog.

If you want a grained alternative, the Canidae All Life Stages Dog Dry Food is also a terrific food, but the kibble size is a little bigger. Still a fine size for a small dog, but a little bigger if your dog has trouble eating.

Canidae has a great reputation among veterinarians, dog trainers, and dog owners alike. With only one dog food recall over the last 20 years, it is a very safe and healthy bet.

Pros & Cons


  • All-natural formula with lamb as the top ingredient
  • Nutritionally balanced for small dogs
  • Grain free (in case your dog is allergic)
  • Contains no by-products or artificial flavors


  • No grains, if you want your dog to eat grains
  • A little more expensive than the alternatives

2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Blue Buffalo dog food is as notable for what it doesn’t contain as what it does. You’ll find no artificial flavors, preservatives, corn, soy, wheat or poultry by-products.

The main ingredient is real chicken. It’s a high-quality protein which provides plenty of power. Other ingredients include whole grains, garden vegetables, and fruit.

Protein and carbohydrate levels are balanced for the needs of small dogs, who burn through energy quickly.

The kibble is bite-sized for small dogs. Aside from the regular kibble, the formula also includes Blue Buffalo’s unique LifeSource Bits. These tiny kibbles are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Pros & Cons


  • All-natural formula with chicken as the top ingredient
  • Nutritionally balanced for small dogs
  • Kibble includes unique LifeSource Bits
  • Contains no by-products or artificial flavors


  • Chicken is a common protein in dog food

3. Hill’s Science Diet Small and Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

Each small bite is loaded with big nutrition! Hill’s understands what small dogs need. Their dry dog food for small and toy breeds was developed with input from over 220 veterinarians, pet nutrition experts, and scientists.

The food contains a blend of Vitamin C and E which helps boost your dog’s immune system. Plus, it also contains calcium and high-quality protein. It supports bone and muscle strength, which is especially important in smaller dogs (due to their small limbs and joints).

Hill’s Science is a trusted name in pet care. They’ve been making natural dog food since 1939. All food is made in the U.S. under the strict supervision of animal care experts.

Pros & Cons


  • Helps maintain bone and muscle health
  • Available for small dogs of all ages
  • Clinically-proven antioxidant properties
  • Available in both chicken and lamb flavors


  • Contains corn (as the sixth ingredient)
  • Kibble relatively large compared to most food for small dogs

4. Purina Bella Natural Bites for Small Dogs

Real turkey is the top ingredient, supplemented with a blend of turkey and chicken. It’s packed with plenty of protein to keep your dog active at any age.

The tiny kibble is a big benefit. It’s small even by small dog food standards. Your little friend should have no problems comfortably chewing on these bites. Plus, it helps clean teeth and freshens breath.

Aside from protein, the formula contains peas, carrots, and other veggies. It helps support small joints and is great for aging dogs.

Pros & Cons


  • Kibble helps clean teeth
  • The first ingredient is turkey
  • Helps support joints
  • Suitable for senior dogs


  • Contains grains (a possible allergen)

5. Cesar Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Treat your dog like a king with this gourmet dog food. The first ingredient is always real meat. Three flavors are available: filet mignon, porterhouse, and rotisserie chicken. It also has 26 nutrients formulated for the needs of small dogs.

Cesar also makes wet food which mixes well with this kibble. Generally, you should feed your dog dry food at every meal; wet food alone might not provide enough nutrients. The kibble is small but meaty.

Storing the food is easy thanks to the bag’s built-in resealable zipper. It keeps the food fresh and tasty over long periods.

Pros & Cons


  • The first ingredient is beef or chicken
  • Mixes well with wet food
  • Small kibble for even the tiniest mouths
  • Resealable bag keeps food fresh


  • Contains a lot of ingredients

6. Taste of the Wild Premium Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild is a bit more expensive than the other foods on our list, but your dog will reap the benefits. The top ingredients are roasted bison and venison. It’s packed with protein to help support lean, strong muscles – perfect for little dogs.

Aside from the protein, the food contains a fruit and vegetable superfood blend. Anti-oxidants and fatty acids improve the look and feel of skin and coat.

It contains no grain, corn, wheat or filler. This food is a great choice if you’re trying to diagnose a food allergy, as you’ll need a test protein the dog has never eaten before.

Pros & Cons


  • Main ingredients are bison and venison
  • Unique protein helps dogs with food allergies
  • Contains no grain, corn or filler
  • Supports muscle development


  • More expensive than many similar dog food brands

Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Food for Small Dogs

What is a Small Breed?

Dogs have no official, universally-recognized sizes. A dog under 20 pounds is always considered small. But 20 is a general guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule. A dog weighing 25, 30 or even 35 pounds can still be small.

Not sure if your dog is small? Consider the breed. For example, dachshunds can weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. But even the biggest dachshunds are usually considered small dogs. A 30 or 35-pound dog is still usually considered small if he’s naturally larger than dogs of his breed.

Why Do Small Dogs Need Special Food?

Small dogs aren’t like regular dogs but tinier. They’re biologically different from larger dogs in many significant ways.

Small dogs are prone to joint issues. Running, jumping and playing can put a lot of strain on their relatively small and thin ankles and knees. Always choose food and supplements which support joint health.

Additionally, small dogs often have a lot of energy. They need an increased caloric intake, especially when younger. As with all dogs, they’ll slow down with age. But even small senior dogs have a higher metabolism than larger dos of a similar age.

Finally, small dogs have small teeth and mouths. They’ll struggle with normal-sized kibble. Always make sure you give them only size-appropriate food. Small dogs won’t let size prevent them from attempting to eat something, so it’s up to you to keep them from accidentally injuring themselves.

What are the Nutritional Needs of a Small Dog?

Small dogs have unique nutritional needs. They are:

  •       Increased calories
  •       A specific vitamin and mineral blend
  •       Easy digestibility
  •       Small kibble size

Here’s a closer look at each:


Small dogs have big metabolisms. Because they burn through energy quickly, they need a diet with high caloric value.

You’ll find the calories on the food’s label. They’re measured in units called “kcals.” Small dogs need 40 kcals per pound. For example, a 10-pound dog needs 400 kcals daily.


Small dogs need a specific blend of vitamins and minerals to keep their energy levels high. Look for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The food should also contain B vitamins, which help maintain proper metabolism function.


Generally, small dogs have delicate digestive tracts. Look for food with prebiotics and probiotics. They help make food easy to digest. Also, avoid food with artificial ingredients as they can aggravate the stomach.

Kibble Size

The physical size of the kibble is one of the most important factors when selecting food for a small dog. Average-sized kibble can hurt your small dog. It can crack teeth, tear mouth tissues and otherwise be difficult and dangerous to eat.

Most manufacturers print an actual-size photo of the kibble on the packaging. Additionally, watch your dog when he eats the food for the first time. Excessive chewing or coughing could be a sign the food is too large.

Note: Treat size is important, too. Small dogs can’t safely eat most average-sized treats. Buy treats specifically made for small dogs. You can also cut larger treats in half.

When Do I Feed My Small Dog?

Experts recommend feeding dogs twice a day, once in the morning and again at night. Vets typically favor feeding your dog specific meals instead of free eating. Also called free-range or range eating, free eating is when you leave a bowl of food out for your dog to eat when he likes.

Free eating often leads to obesity.

But small dogs can be an exception. They tend to stay slim due to their naturally high metabolism. Many small dogs prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day instead of two larger meals. Small dog owners should discuss free eating with their vet.

How Much Do Small Dogs Eat Each Day?

Each manufacturer will have specifics instructions to follow. Generally, you’ll feed one cup of dry food for every ten pounds of dog. A ten-pound dog gets a cup of dry food daily, a 20-pound dog gets two cups and so on.

What Ingredients Should Be in the Dog Food?

Dog food labels list ingredients in order of amount, with the largest ingredient listed first. Meat should always be the first ingredient listed. Dogs aren’t vegetarians. Their diet needs to consist mainly of meat.

Know the difference between meat and meat by-products. Avoid foods where the first ingredient is something like “chicken by-product” or “turkey by-product.” Instead, you want just “turkey,” “chicken” and so on.

By-products are bones, tissues and other non-muscle parts of any animal. They don’t have much nutritional value. It’s like a hot dog instead of filet mignon.

Also, avoid foods where the first ingredient is grain. However, grains are often present in the food. They’ll usually be the second or third ingredient.

Choose foods with brewer’s rice, peas, and carrots. They’re usually gentler on a dog’s digestive system than corn and grain.

What are the Different Types of Dog Foods?

Unless your vet tells you otherwise, choose dry food for your dog. Dry food is the most nutrient-dense type of food. Wet food contains a lot of water, which fills your dog’s stomach but doesn’t provide nutritional benefits.

Additionally, dry food helps keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy. Chewing the kibble helps remove plaque and build-up. Wet food can become lodged between teeth.

Some dogs prefer wet food over dry. Try mixing some dry food into the wet food. Feeding a dog just wet food usually isn’t the healthiest options, so try to “trick” your dog into eating kibble whenever possible.  

What Warning Signs Should I Watch For?

The most common potential problem with dog food is a food allergy. Dogs can develop an allergy to their food for seemingly no reason at all.

Watch out for vomiting, diarrhea, itchy skin and hair loss. Those are all signs of a potential allergic reaction. If you suspect a food allergy, you’ll want to conduct a dietary elimination trial.

Basically, you’ll switch your dog’s current food for something new. The protein in the food causes most food allergies. If your dog currently eats food with chicken, switch to duck, lamb or another protein he’s never eaten before. If symptoms subside on the new food, you’ll then switch back to the original food to confirm.

Talk to your vet before beginning a dietary elimination trial. The trail itself usually isn’t harmful, but only a trained veterinarian knows specifically what to watch for when attempting to identify a food allergy.  

Our Favorite Product

If your favorite four-legged friend is on the small side, you want to select the absolute best food for their needs. We recommend Canidae Grain Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated Dry Dog Food. It’s nutritious, simple and expertly formulated for dogs under 25 pounds.

Plus, the kibble is easy for even the tiniest teeth to chew. Blue Buffalo is also a good brand, but has had many recalls over the last 20 years whereas Canidae has only been recalled once. Your dog will enjoy every pint-sized bite!

Keep your small dog in great shape by selecting a healthy, nutritious food formulated specifically for its unique needs.