The small size of toy breeds makes them instantly adorable, but the diminutive dimensions of these dogs don’t just make tiny breeds cute: They also make the care and maintenance of these pups a bit easier.
For example, toy breeds require smaller beds and crates, make smaller poops, and need less food than their larger cousins do.
But even though they don’t require the amount of food that larger dogs do, toy breeds — including the smallest Shih Tzus and the tiniest terriers — still need a nutritious diet to ensure they remain healthy and enjoy a high quality of life.
Read on to learn more about the things you’d want in any dog food, as well as the specific things that small dogs need in their diet. Then, we’ll detail five of the best options available to you and your pooch.
Short on time? Take a look at our quick guide for the best toy breed dog food – or continue reading for more detailed info!
Best Dog Food For Toy Breeds: Quick Picks
- Wellness Complete Toy Breed [Most Protein] This toy breed formula features deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as first three ingredients. No wheat, corn, soy or artificial additives. Our all-around top pick for small breeds.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost [Best With Raw Bits] If your pup is picky, she’ll have a hard time saying no to the tasty freeze-dried raw chunks found in this recipe. Grain-free, small-sized pieces, and featuring chicken and chicken meal as first two ingredients, it’s a quality kibble worthy of your tiny pal.
- Nutro Ultra Toy Breed Recipe [Best With Bonus Antioxidants] Not only does this recipe include three different protein sources (chicken, lamb, and salmon), it also contains antioxidant-packed ingredients like coconut, chia seed, blueberries and kale.
Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
Things to Look for in any Dog Food (Regardless of Breed)
Whether you are feeding a 200-pound Great Dane or a 5-pound Yorkie, there are a number of characteristics you’ll want in any food.
Some of the most important criteria, which most premium brands meet, include the following:
Look for Foods Manufactured in a Country with High Safety Standards
Different countries impose different types of safety and quality-control standards on the kitchens within their borders, and you’ll want to restrict your choices to those foods produced in countries with the highest standards.
This includes the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and most of the countries in Western Europe.
Seek Out Foods Featuring a Whole Protein at the Beginning of the Ingredient List
Your dog may be an omnivore, but meats are clearly the most important component of her diet, and you’ll want to see a meat listed first in any food you consider buying.
Look for foods that list things like chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, beef, pork or trout at the top of the ingredient list.
Avoid Foods Containing Unidentified Meat Meals or Meat Byproducts
Despite the fact that they sound unappetizing to humans, meat meals are valuable supplemental protein sources that are included in many premium dog foods. However, it is important that these ingredients are always properly labelled and produced from a single species.
Chicken meal, turkey meal and similar products are perfectly acceptable items, but you’ll want to avoid generic “meat meal” or “poultry meal.”
Select Foods Made Without Artificial Additives
Artificial colors and flavors are entirely unnecessary additives for foods made with high-quality ingredients, and, because they may trigger food allergies, they are best avoided entirely.
Instead, look for foods flavored with natural ingredients and preserved with mixed tocopherols (a naturally occurring preservative).
Specific Dietary Requirements and Health Issues of Toy Breeds
In addition to the generic requirements that apply to any dog food, you’ll want to be sure to select foods that address the specific issues common to toy breeds. Some of these include:
Small Dogs Require More Calories Per Pound than Large Dogs Do
Because small dogs have a larger amount of surface area relative to their volume, toy breeds lose body heat more rapidly than big dogs do. This, in turn, means that they require more calories per pound of body weight than larger dogs do.
Most foods specifically designed for toy breeds accomplish this by making calorie-dense kibble, which delivers more energy in a tiny, toy-breed-appropriate package.
Toy Breeds Often Develop Hypoglycemia
Because of their small size, the high metabolic rate that accompanies this, and the fact that they have relatively few fat reserves, toy breeds often suffer from low blood sugar levels – a condition called hypoglycemia. This can cause weakness, tremors, lethargy and, if not treated properly, seizures.
The best way to prevent this is by providing the appropriate number of calories for your dog, and selecting a food with lots of protein and fiber, which help to maintain blood sugar levels.
Feeding your dog several small meals, spread out through the course of the day can also help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Toy Breeds Are Prone to Obesity
While it is true that we just explained that small breeds often need more calories than large dogs, and they frequently suffer from hypoglycemia, they are also extremely susceptible to obesity if they are provided with too much food. It doesn’t take many additional treats or table scraps to cause your pup to pack on the pounds.
This can be a fine line to tread – feeding your dog too little or too much food can both have negative consequences.
Just be sure to provide your dog with the appropriate number of calories and monitor her weight and body condition.
Most toy breeds require about 30 Calories per pound of body weight per day, according to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Toy Breeds Have Small Mouths and Tiny Teeth
Small dogs often have trouble crunching through the relatively large kibble size common to most regular dog foods.
This can not only make dinner time unpleasant for your pooch, it can discourage them from chewing their food thoroughly before swallowing, which can cause choking and digestive problems.
Fortunately, a number of dog foods are made with small kibble pieces to suit toy breeds. Opt for dog food with small kibble chunks for your toy-sized pooch!
Toy Breeds Live Longer than Most Other Breeds
While a long lifespan is certainly something to be celebrated, it is important to supply toy breeds with plenty of antioxidants to promote immune health and joint-supporting ingredients, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, to help prevent arthritis and other diseases that often arise in aging dogs.
5 Best Dog Foods for Toy Breed Dogs
While you’ll want to review the following products carefully and determine the one that is best suited for your dog’s individual needs, any of the following five toy breed recipes should provide your pooch with the nutrition and calories she needs.
1. Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Recipe
Grain-inclusive recipe with smaller kibble size
This recipe features chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as first three ingredients along with antioxidant-rich veggies!
About: Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Recipe is an all-natural dog food, made without any wheat, corn, soy or artificial additives.
Designed specifically for your tiny pup, this recipe is designed to support your dog’s immune system, and promote good skin, coat and joint health.
- Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Contains several supplemental protein sources, including chicken meal, turkey meal and peas
- Small kibble size is designed specifically for your toy breed’s mouth
- Made with spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, blueberries and other antioxidant-rich ingredients
- Made in the USA
Most owners were pleased with Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Recipe and rated it highly. Several owners noted improvements in skin health after switching to this product, and most dogs appear to love the taste. Additionally, the probiotics seem to help regulate the digestive system of many dogs who eat this food.
A few owners noted palatability problems, although these types of complaints were generally rare. Several customers did experience problems with packaging or shipping, but these types of problems can occur with any dog food. A handful of owners reported that the food made their dog gassy, but such reports were easily eclipsed by the number of dogs who exhibited improved intestinal function after switching to this recipe.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Ground Brown Rice...,
Ground Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Oatmeal, Peas, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Tomatoes, Carrots, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Apples, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Mixed Tocopherols Added to Preserve Freshness, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Beta-Carotene, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Chicory Root Extract, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
2. Blue Wilderness Toy Breed Chicken Formula
USA-made high-protein kibble
Grain-free kibble packed with impressive protein composition as well as added glucosamine.
About: Blue Wilderness Toy Breed Recipe is a nutritious, high-protein food, designed to provide your dog with an evolutionarily appropriate diet.
Like most other Blue Wilderness recipes, the Toy Breed Chicken Formula is packed with a wide variety of all-natural, high-quality ingredients, which make it as delicious as it is nutritious.
- Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals and five different probiotic strains
- Small kibble is easy for toy breeds to chew
- Grain-free formula
- Made in the USA
Most owners who try any of the Blue Wilderness recipes love the products and speak glowingly about them. Dogs appear to love the taste of the food, while owners – especially owners of toy breeds – appreciate the wealth of antioxidant-rich ingredients in the recipe. Many owners note improvements in coat condition and elimination habits after making the switch to Blue Wilderness, probably due to the food’s included omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics, respectively.
Very few owners who tried Blue Wilderness Toy Breed Formula had anything negative to say about the food. However, a few owners reported problems with shipping, packaging or, very rarely, quality-control issues.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine)...,
Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dried Egg, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Dried Tomato Pomace, Pea Starch, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, DL-Methionine, Salt, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Caramel Color, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Oil of Rosemary, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite.
3. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost
Delicious kibble boosted with raw ingredients
This high-protein, grain-free kibble comes in small-sized pieces for small mouths and features freeze-dried raw meat for drool-worthy eats.
About: Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost is a nutritious, grain-free dog food designed specifically for small breeds. A high-protein formula, Nature’s Variety Raw Boost contains both cooked chicken and pieces of freeze-dried raw meat.
This recipe is formulated with a number of important supplements and ingredients to help promote long-term health and address the specific needs of toy breeds.
- Cage-free chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Grain-free recipe contains no chicken or wheat
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, glucosamine, chondroitin and a probiotic
- Made with the proper calcium and phosphorus blend to ensure strong bones and healthy joints
- Made in the USA
Most owners liked Nature’s Variety Instinct, and several reported that their dog was able to tolerate this food well, when other foods would trigger digestive upset. The omega-3-rich ingredients in the recipe seem to have helped improve the coat condition of most dogs who tried the food, while the glucosamine and chondroitin appeared to improve the mobility of some.
The most common complaint owners raised about Nature’s Variety related to product inconsistency. A few owners did report that this recipe made their dog gassy, and a few complained about the price.
Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate)...,
Chickpeas, Turkey Meal, Tapioca, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Peas, Freeze Dried Chicken, Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Coconut Oil, Pumpkinseeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Salt, Chicken Eggs, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Dried Kelp, Salmon Oil, Blueberries, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract
4. Nutro Ultra Small Breed Chicken
Tasty, grain-inclusive formula for small doggos
This nutrient-rich kibble features healthy grains like brown rice and brewers rice, along with three different protein sources and a unique “superfood” blend.
About: Nutro Ultra’s Small Breed Chicken Recipe is formulated with some of the most impressive ingredients of any commercial dog food, including three different protein sources, fiber-rich whole grains, and a unique “superfood” blend.
This ensures that your dog not only gets the calories she needs, but also the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support her health and immune response.
- Chicken and chicken meal are the first two listed ingredient
- Made without any genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Includes coconut, chia seed and kale for even more antioxidants
- Made without any artificial flavors, colors or additives
- Includes no chicken by-product meal, corn, soy, or wheat.
- Made in the USA
Most owners who tried Nutro Ultra were extremely pleased. Several reported that it rapidly improved the condition of their dog’s coat, and most dogs appear to love the way this recipe tastes. A few owners also noted improved digestive function and an improvement in their dog’s overall odor after switching to Nutro Ultra.
While most tiny dogs seemed to find the small kibble easy to chew, a few owners reported that the kibble appeared to be too hard for their toy breed dog to chew – something to consider if your dog has delicate teeth.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran...,
Lamb Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salmon Meal, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Grain Oatmeal, Whole Flaxseed, Pea Protein, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Whole Chia Seed, Dried Coconut, Dried Egg Product, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
5. Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Recipe for Small Breed Dogs
Holistic, non-GMO small breed food
Made with real, antibiotic-free chicken, non-GMO ingredients, and healthy grains, earning a “most digestible” title from independent lab studies.
About: Halo Spot’s Stew Small Breed Recipe is an all-natural food, made without GMOs, artificial additives or factory-farmed chicken.
Designed specifically for adult small breed dogs and as an appropriate dog food for small breed puppies, this kibble is small enough for your tiny dog’s mouth and formulated for maximum digestibility in your dog’s relatively short digestive system.
- Real, antibiotic-free chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Made without any meat meals
- Includes vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as four probiotic strains
- Ziploc-style bag closure to preserve product freshness
- Proven “most digestible” in an independent U.S. laboratory test of seven leading brands
Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Recipe for Small Breed Dogs received positive reviews by most owners who tried it. Several owners of older toy breeds (who often suffer from dental problems) were happy that their dog seemed to be able to chew the food easily. Other owners reported improvements in coat health, skin condition, energy level and elimination habits after trying this Halo recipe.
A small, but not insignificant number of dogs did not find this food palatable, and a handful suffered from digestive upset after trying it. Some owners found that the closure mechanism for the bag didn’t work properly – we’d suggest putting your dog food into an air tight container to keep it fresh.
Chicken, Eggs, Pea Protein, Oats, Vegetable Broth, Pearled Barley...,
Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Whole Peas, Chicken Liver, Salmon, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Fat Product (source of DHA), Pea Fiber, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Green Beans, Carrots, Cranberries, Zucchini, Parsley, Alfalfa, Inulin, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Vitamins (Folic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Choline Bitartrate, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Ascorbic Acid, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin) Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Cobalt Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium longum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product.
Our Recommendation: Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Recipe
Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Recipe provides everything you’d want for your dog, and is designed to specifically address the needs of your small pooch.
It features a number of very impressive ingredients, it is made in the USA and most dogs find it tasty.
While Blue Wilderness Toy Breed Chicken Formula may have a slightly superior ingredient list when compared to Wellness Complete Health, the difference in price between the two is significant. Still, any dog food on this list is a good choice for petite pooch!
Are you the proud mama or papa of a toy breed? What food have you found works best for your little four-footer? We’d love to hear about your experiences with different recipes – both good and bad – in the comments below.