While larger dogs like Labrador and Golden Retrievers are extremely popular in the United States, there’s plenty of love for small dogs, too. In the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds, smaller dogs like French Bulldogs, Beagles, Corgis, and Dachshunds often rank in the top 10. 

There are lots of benefits that draw people to small dogs. To name a few: Smaller dogs tend to be more apartment-friendly, easier to travel with, and they often live longer. Plus, they’re undeniably adorable. However, with a smaller size comes different dietary needs. 

Read on for everything you should know about the best dog foods for small dogs, including how to choose one that’s appropriate for your petite pup. 

Our Top Small Dog Food Picks

Understanding Small Dog Nutrition

Adult dogs that weigh less than 21 pounds fall into the “small breed” category. Popular types of small dogs include Chihuahuas, Pugs, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, and more. If your dog falls into this category, it’s important to select dog food that’s designed for small-breed dogs, as they have unique nutritional needs compared to larger animals. 

For example, small-breed dog foods typically have more calories per pound – meaning your dog gets more calories from a smaller amount of food. “Small dogs have higher caloric needs and a faster metabolism, so the calorie density of their food will be different,” explains Dr. Nicole Savageau, of The Vets. “The small-breed dog foods also have a smaller kibble size specifically designed for small jaws.”

How We Made Our Selections

We looked at a variety of factors when compiling our list of small-breed dog foods. First, we consulted with Dr. Savageau for her recommendations. Using her guidance, we selected foods from well-known and trusted brands, evaluating each product based on the following:

Key features. We focused on the specifics on what makes each option a good choice for small dogs, from the size of the kibble to the texture of the wet food, as well as any other standout features.

Ingredients. We understand that you want what’s best for your dog, which is why we zeroed in on brands that use high-quality ingredients and prioritize pup health.

Ratings/reviews. Since pet parents are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the pros and cons of food for our furry friends, we read through dozens of reviews to see what small-breed dog owners had to say about the quality and palatability. 

Overall cost. Price almost always plays a role when shopping around for pet food, so we called out the small dog foods that are a great deal as well as those that are priced a bit on the higher side.

Our Picks: Best Dog Food for Small Dogs

No matter your pup’s age, preferences, or sensitivities, we’ve got a pick for them. Let’s go over our list of best dog food for small dogs.

Best Overall Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: Hill’s Science Diet Small Paws Adult Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet is known for its science-backed dog food formulas, and this one is an extremely popular option for pups under 25 lbs. This dry food is available in two flavors options – lamb as well as chicken & rice. And it has extra-small kibble pieces that are easy for small- and toy-breed dogs to eat. The food is made with high-quality protein to help maintain lean muscle, as well as easy-to-digest ingredients and a blend of Omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E to promote skin and coat health. Rounding out this top pick is a special antioxidant blend to help keep your dog healthy for years to come. 

Pros

  • Designed for dogs up to 25 lbs
  • Two flavors available
  • Extra-small kibble size 
  • Contains special antioxidant blend for immune support
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Not recommended for puppies, adult dogs over 6 years of age, or pregnant or nursing dogs
  • Higher price point

Best Dry Dog Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula Adult Dry Dog Food

Another top pick for dry dog food is the Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula, which is available in three flavors: chicken & rice, lamb & rice, and beef & rice. This formula is ideal for adult dogs weighing up to 20 lbs, and the small, crunchy kibble is mixed with the brand’s unique “shredded” food pieces to provide added texture for your furry friend. It contains live probiotics, which are often beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs, as well as calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals to help promote strong bones and teeth.  

Pros

  • Designed for dogs up to 20 lbs
  • Three flavors available 
  • Fortified with live probiotics for digestive health
  • Bite-size kibble mixed with softer shredded pieces for a tantalizing texture

Cons

  • Not recommended for puppies or pregnant/nursing dogs 
  • Some pet parents report dogs pick out the shredded pieces and leave the regular kibble behind 

Best Wet Dog Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: Purina Beneful IncrediBites Adult Wet Dog Food

If your pup prefers the texture of wet food, we have another pick from Purina as our top choice for small-breed dogs. This IncrediBites option from their Beneful line comes in 3 oz cans, and there are a variety of protein flavors available, including chicken, beef, and salmon. This wet food features a high-protein formula that supports lean muscles, and the soft texture is easy for small dogs to eat. There are also real vegetables (including tomatoes and carrots) mixed in, and everything is covered in a little bit of gravy that will entice even the pickiest eaters. 

Pros

  • Soft texture creates small bites that are easy to eat
  • Available in a wide selection of flavors; buy them individually or get some of each in a variety pack
  • Gravy makes food appealing to picky eaters 
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • 3 oz cans may not be enough for some dogs 

Best Air-Dried Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: The Pets Table

The Pets Table

For small dog parents looking for an affordable, healthy alternative to kibble, The Pets Table offers two nutrient-rich air-dried options. Available in Chicken and Sweet Potatoes or Beef with Berries, there is no preparation required to serve your pup a delicious meal. Subscribers receive food in regular intervals so your dog will never miss a meal. For small pups with grain sensitivities, consider the Beef and Berries option, as the Chicken and Sweet Potato contain barley and oats. Each air-dried piece is easy for smaller dogs to chew and enjoy.

Pros

  • Subscription service is helpful for pet parents
  • Air-dried pieces are densely packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients for all good health
  • Air dried meals can be safely stored for up to six months
  • Baked at a low temperature to keep nutrients intact
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)
  • Plan can be changed or modified at any time

Cons

  • Protein options are limited at this time
  • Pet parents must ensure the food is stored in a dark, cool place

Best for Small Dog Food for Seniors

Our pick: Hill’s Science Diet 7+ Small Bites Dry Dog Food

Once your dog turns 7, most veterinarians suggest switching to a senior dog food. And for small senior dogs, we recommend Hill’s Science Diet 7+ Small Bites. Specially formulated for aging small-breed dogs, this dry food has a chicken, barley, and brown rice flavor that’s designed to support your dog’s energy levels and keep them active as they get older. It contains minerals for heart and kidney health, as well as the brand’s antioxidant blend for immune support. The small pieces are easy for small dogs to chew, though the kibble pieces may be a bit too crunchy for seniors with dental issues. 

Pros

  • Formulated for aging small dogs 
  • Supports energy levels 
  • Balanced minerals for heart and kidney health
  • Contains special antioxidant blend for immune support

Cons

  • Only one flavor available 
  • Crunchy texture may be hard for some older dogs to chew 

Best Small Dog Food for Puppies

Our pick: Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food

If you have a small-breed puppy, it’s important to feed them appropriate food for both their age and their size, which is why we recommend the Royal Canin Small Puppy Dog Food. Ideal for any puppy under 10 months old who is expected to be between 9 and 22 pounds as an adult, this extra-small kibble is easy for tiny mouths to handle. It’s formulated to meet the higher energy needs of growing small-breed puppies and is made with easily digestible proteins and prebiotics that help ensure healthy stools. 

Pros

  • Formulated for puppies up to 10 months old
  • Extra-small kibble size 
  • Supports fast growth rate 
  • Contains digestible proteins and prebiotic ingredients for digestive health 

Cons

  • Higher price point 

Best Small Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

Our pick: Blue Buffalo Basics Skin and Stomach Care Small Breed Adult Dog Food

Does your small dog have a sensitive stomach? If so, you may want to try a food like this one from Blue Buffalo. The extra-small, single-protein kibble starts off with turkey and features ingredients like peas, potatoes, and pumpkin to promote digestive health. A specific blend of veterinarian-selected antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals makes this natural food a great choice for immune system support, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids help keep your pup’s skin and coat healthy. 

Pros

  • Formulated for dogs up to 30 lbs
  • Small kibble size
  • Natural, highly digestible ingredients for sensitive stomachs 
  • Antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral blend specially selected by holistic veterinarians
  • Omega fatty acids aid in skin and coat health
  • Contains no chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Only one flavor option (turkey)
  • Higher price point

Most Affordable Small Dog Food

Our pick: CESAR Small Breed Dry Dog Food

CESAR Small Breed Dog Food is a popular choice if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option for your pup. Available in a few different flavors (including filet mignon, chicken, and porterhouse), this small kibble contains a mixture of crunchy and tender pieces for more variety. The food is crafted with 26 important nutrients to support the wellbeing of your small dog> And the bags are resealable, making it easy to store and keep fresh. 

Pros

  • Made for dogs up to 30 lbs
  • Available in three flavors
  • Contains a mix of crunchy and tender small kibble pieces 
  • Resealable bag for freshness
  • Great price point

Cons

  • Some owners say their dogs don’t like the taste 

Best Fresh Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: Freshpet Vital Complete Meals Grain-Free Chicken Fresh Small Breed Dog Food

The Freshpet Vital Small Breed Dog Food is a top choice if you’re looking for fresh food for your pup. Ideal for all life stages, including puppies and adults, this food comes ready-to-serve and is packed with real chicken and chicken liver, natural fruits and vegetables, and other wholesome ingredients. It’s fortified with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health, and it doesn’t contain any grains, making it suitable for dogs with sensitivities. Just keep in mind that there are no preservatives in the food, so it needs to be refrigerated. 

Pros

  • Designed for dogs up to 30 lbs
  • Ready-to-serve fresh food 
  • Contains pieces of chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cranberries
  • Suitable for all life stages 
  • No preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Must be refrigerated and used within seven days of opening 
  • Only available in small packages 
  • Higher price point

Best Limited Ingredient Dog Food for Small Dogs

Our pick: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Dogs with food sensitivities often benefit from a limited ingredient dog food, and this one is a great option. The smaller kibble is available in several flavors, including salmon & sweet potato, chicken & sweet potato, and duck & potato. All flavors contain a single protein source – ideal if your dog is sensitive to a particular protein – as well as easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Plus, it’s free from grains, soy, gluten, and artificial colors and flavors. 

Pros

  • Several flavors to choose from 
  • Single protein source
  • Easy-to-digest carbohydrates
  • No grains, soy, gluten, or artificial colors or flavors
  • Brand tests every batch of food 

Cons

  • The smaller bags are more expensive than some other foods; you can save money by buying a 12 lb bag, but you may run the risk of losing freshness if your dog doesn’t eat it as fast

Small Dog Food Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for the best small-breed dog food for your pup can be daunting. That’s why we’ve put together some helpful tips to make it a bit easier for you. 

Weigh in On Weight

Be sure to take note if a food is designed for dogs within a certain weight range. This can indicate that it is formulated to provide proper nutrition for pups of a specific size and will help ensure you’re offering your furry friend a well-balanced meal.

Small-Dog Specifics

It’s important to consider what makes a small-dog specific food option better for smaller breeds. As mentioned above, the right balance of nutrition is important, but remember to look at the kibble size and texture for dry food and consistency for wet food to ensure that your petite pup can handle it.

Look for the AAFCO Statement

I always recommend making sure any pet food is AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) certified before purchasing it,” says Dr. Savageau. This statement, which is found on the back of every dog food package, should indicate that the food is a “complete and balanced” source of nutrition. It will also indicate what life stages the food is designed for: adult, puppy, senior, etc. 

Consider Life Stages

On a similar note, it’s especially important to select a dog food that’s approved for your dog’s current age. “If your dog is under a year old it should be on puppy food,”  Dr. Savageau recommends. “When it is 1 to 8 years old, it should be on adult food, and when it is over 8 years old, it should be on senior food.” This ensures your pup is getting the nutrients and calories needed.

Brand Matters

There are lots of dog food brands out there selling food for small dogs – with more popping up every day – but in general, it’s best to stick with well-established brands that do thorough testing on their products. “I recommend companies that have board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff and that do research on their products to ensure they are safe and effective,” explains Dr. Savageau. “The most well-known companies that have been around for decades and have a plethora of published studies are Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, and Purina.”

Check Ingredients

You may want to look at the ingredients in small-breed dog food to see the main protein source and any supplementary ingredients – this is especially important if your dog has a food sensitivity. While there are a lot of grain-free options available today, most veterinarians don’t recommend feeding grain-free dog food unless your dog has a grain allergy or sensitivity. 

“Recently, grain-free diets have been linked to an increased incidence of a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs,” says Dr. Savageau. “This disease used to only be seen in certain breeds, particularly large-breed dogs, but in the last decade cardiologists have started to see this disease in small-breed dogs who were exclusively fed grain-free diets.”