The Best Dog Food for Small Dogs (Puppy, Adult, Senior): Ranked and Reviewed

Written by Katie Melynn Wood
Updated: December 31, 2022
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Key Points

  • The #1 Best Overall dog food for small dogs is Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed.
  • Small dogs have a faster metabolism and special nutritional needs.
  • The best dog food for small dogs should contain small kibble which is easier for small dogs to chew and promotes good dental health.
  • Because their stomachs are so small, petite pups need to eat more often.
  • The best dry dog food for small dogs should contain real meats, whole grains, and vegetables.

Small dogs are cute, cuddly, and have their own unique nutritional needs. Small dogs tend to have faster metabolisms than larger dogs. This means that the energy from their food is absorbed and used quickly. Because their stomachs are small, small dogs often need to eat more often, although they will almost certainly have a smaller portion size than their larger canine friends. It can be a quandary to figure out: What is the best dog food for small dogs?

For our review, small dogs include all pups that are 20 pounds or less. Some breeds are almost always in this category, including Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, shih tzus, and others. Some breeds, such as terriers or French bulldogs, can weigh less than 20 pounds and benefit from dog food made for small dogs.

We know that you want the best for your pet, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the best dog food for small dogs. Whether they are puppies, senior dogs, or anywhere in between, we have an option that will keep them healthy and happy. We have included both the best dry dog food for small dogs and a wet food that’s better for senior dogs. Each dog has unique tastes, too, and these reviewer-approved choices will keep your dog’s taste buds happy as well.

  1. Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed
    • Contains high-quality natural ingredients
    • Made with the needs of small dogs in mind
    • A well-rounded diet
    • High-protein food
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  2. Hill's Science Diet Small Paws Puppy Food
    • Made with natural ingredients
    • DHA from fish oil helps with eye development
    • Uses a balance of minerals to promote strong teeth and healthy bones
    • Contains a proprietary antioxidant blend
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  3. BLUE BUFFALO Life Protection Small Breed
    • Contains natural ingredients that provide outstanding nutrition
    • Specially formulated for the nutritional and dental needs of your small dog
    • High protein and carbohydrate content
    • Lifesource bits that help your dog's immune system
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Senior
    • High in protein to help your aging dog stay active
    • Supports joint health
    • Grilled turkey and chicken flavor
    • Makes a delicious treat
    Check Chewy Check Amazon

Top Picks for the Best Dog Food for Small Dogs: Ranked and Rated

#1 Overall Best: Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Dry Dog Food

In our review, the best dog food for small dogs is Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed dry dog food. This formula meets all of the nutritional needs of smaller pups and uses high-quality natural ingredients. It is a high-protein food. Real meat comes from venison, duck, lamb, and ocean fish. Eggs, added nutrients, and amino acids help provide the fats, vitamins, and minerals that your dog needs to stay healthy and active.

The small breed formula was made with the needs of small dogs in mind. It also has smaller kibble that is easier for small dogs to eat and allows for easier digestion. Smaller teeth and smaller stomachs mean that small dogs have to work that much harder to chew and digest large kibble bits. They might not get the same well-rounded diet when they have to chomp down on large bites. Smaller kibble, such as that in the Taste of the Wild Small Breed food, is perfect.

One of our favorite aspects of Taste of the Wild is the wide range of foods, both wet and dry, that they offer. You can start your small puppy on their puppy formula and easily transition to the small breed adult formula when they are ready. Anytime you transition between foods, it can take time for their digestive system to adjust. This doesn’t happen as much when transitioning between Taste of the Wild foods because their systems are already used to the basic components.

This is expensive dog food and may need to be purchased from a pet supplies retailer. Look for a subscription discount to schedule resupply shipments and save a few dollars on each purchase.

Some reviewers reported that their dogs experienced gastrointestinal issues or allergic reactions after eating this food.

Pros and Cons of Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Dry Dog Food

ProsCons
This high-protein dry dog food formula includes real meat from venison, duck, lamb, and ocean fish.This dog food is expensive, and you may need to purchase it from a pet supplies retailer.
It also includes eggs, added nutrients, and amino acids to provide the fats, vitamins, and minerals your dog needs to stay healthy and active.Some reviewers said that their dogs experienced gastrointestinal issues or allergic reactions from eating this food.
The kibble is designed to be easier for small dogs to chew and digest.
Overall Best
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed
  • Contains high-quality natural ingredients
  • Made with the needs of small dogs in mind
  • A well-rounded diet
  • High-protein food
Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. Best for Puppies: Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

Small dog puppies are tiny! Their teeth, stomachs, and digestive systems really need special care to make sure that they get the nutrition that they need to grow into healthy adult dogs. The Hill’s Science Diet puppy food is formulated to meet the needs of a growing dog and takes into account that they are a small dog breed.

Protein comes from chicken and barley. Fish oil supplies natural DHA to make sure that your puppy’s brain and eyes develop through their puppyhood. Calcium encourages strong bone growth, a key health need of dogs as they grow and age. The antioxidant blend is specially made to help build your puppy’s immune system.

This is a slightly cheaper and more readily available dog food as well. You may need to look at a pet supply store but it can be found at most mainstream retailers and online.

Some pet parents said that their puppies didn’t like this dog food.

Pros and Cons of Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food

ProsCons
This recipe is specially formulated to ensure that small dog puppies get the nutrition they need to grow into healthy dogs.Some reviewers reported that their puppies didn’t like this food.
The protein comes from chicken and barley.
Fish oil provides DHA to promote healthy brain and eye development.
Calcium supports strong bone growth.
A special antioxidant blend builds puppies’ immune systems.
Best for Puppies
Hill's Science Diet Small Paws Puppy Food
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • DHA from fish oil helps with eye development
  • Uses a balance of minerals to promote strong teeth and healthy bones
  • Contains a proprietary antioxidant blend
Check Chewy Check Amazon

3. Best for Adults: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

We are big fans of Blue Buffalo for its commitment to natural ingredients that provide outstanding nutrition at a great price. They have wet and dry food options that will work for almost every dog but the small breed variety is specially formulated for the nutritional and dental needs of your small dog.

The protein and carbohydrate content of the Small Breed dog food is higher than most to meet the high energy needs of these dogs. It also has Lifesource Bits that help your dog’s immune system. The small-sized kibble helps removed tartar buildup on your small dog’s teeth as well.

Blue Buffalo can be found at pet supply stores, online, or even in the pet aisle at your grocery store. It is one of the best options that can also be found easily and at a budget-friendly price. Your dog will spend the majority of its life eating adult dog food, which means that finding one that is easy to get and affordable is very important.

Some buyers said that their dogs won’t eat the Lifesource Bits.

Pros and Cons of Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

ProsCons
This dry dog food has a higher protein and carbohydrate content to meet the energy needs of small dogs.Some buyers said their dog’s won’t eat the Lifesource Bits.
It includes Lifesource Bits to support dogs’ immune systems.
The small-sized kibble helps remove tarter from dogs’ teeth.
It’s widely available at pet supply stores, online, and in grocery stores..
Best for Adults
BLUE BUFFALO Life Protection Small Breed
  • Contains natural ingredients that provide outstanding nutrition
  • Specially formulated for the nutritional and dental needs of your small dog
  • High protein and carbohydrate content
  • Lifesource bits that help your dog's immune system
Check Chewy Check Amazon

4. Best for Seniors: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey and Chicken Grill Senior Canned Dog Food

It’s no surprise that our top pick for senior small breed dogs also comes from Blue Buffalo. This canned wet food is also high in protein to help your aging dog stay active and maintain their high energy even as they accumulate more birthdays. It also supports joint health to make sure your dog stays mobile and active as they age.

The grilled turkey and chicken flavor will appeal to your dog’s canine taste buds. Many reviewers said that their dogs leaped up to eat this food, even when other brands didn’t appeal to them. This is a rich food and some people said that their dogs started by getting it as a treat or as a topper on their Blue Buffalo dry food. This will also make it easy to transition to wet food when they do get older and need something easier to eat and digest.

Senior dogs can begin to have dental issues or lose teeth. The best dog food for small dogs that are aging should address this challenge. Canned wet food is a great way to make sure that they get nutrition while allowing them to stay comfortable as they eat. For very senior dogs who may not have many (or any) teeth, this food is easy to thin with water as well.

A few reviewers said that their dogs got sick after eating this food.

Pros and Cons of Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey and Chicken Grill Senior Canned Dog Food

ProsCons
This canned wet food is formulated to help keep senior small breed dogs active and high in energy.Some buyers said that their dogs got sick after eating this food.
It supports joint health to promote mobility in aging small dogs.
This tasty canned food can be served as a complete meal or used as a topper on dry food.
Like all canned food, this one is easier for senior dogs with dental issues or missing teeth to eat.
Best for Seniors
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Senior
  • High in protein to help your aging dog stay active
  • Supports joint health
  • Grilled turkey and chicken flavor
  • Makes a delicious treat
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Choosing the Best Food: What to Look For

When deciding which food is the best dog food for small dogs, consider how easy and affordable the food is to buy, the quality of the ingredients, and your pet’s individual tastes. Here we look at each of these factors:

Price

High-quality dog food for any breed can get expensive, so consider your budget before you spend hundreds of dollars on dry kibble or canned wet food. You can find affordable food right in your grocery store pet aisle. Even if you opt for a more expensive special order dog food, think about the extra cost of shipping. Buying in bulk or ordering through a retailer that offers a subscription discount can be great ways to save money.

Quality

One of the most important things to look for in the best dog food for small dogs is the quality of the ingredients. Look for real meat, such as chicken, venison, or lamb, as the main protein sources. The company should also be able to tell you where the meat is sourced and how it is raised. Try to avoid dog food made with meat by-products. These can include cast-off parts of animals, such as beaks, talons, or even plastic tags. Not only do these provide no nutritional value, but they can also be harmful to your pet.

Pet Preference

Even the best dog food isn’t great if your pet won’t eat it. Start by buying a small portion of new food to introduce it to your pet. Mix it with their current food to make the transition even easier. Some vets or retailers have samples that you may be able to try as well. Don’t give up if your dog doesn’t go to it right away. You might need to give them more time or try a different flavor.

The Different Types of Food: Pros and Cons Compared

When choosing the best dog food for small dogs, you have two main options: dry dog food or wet dog food. Each has unique pros and cons and may be best for your dog at different stages of its life.

Dry dog food: Affordable, easy to store, and comes in a lot of brands and flavors. Look for one that has small-sized kibble to make it easy on your small dog’s teeth and digestion.

Wet dog food: Often more expensive and needs to be refrigerated after opening. Comes in smaller portions and has plenty of nutrition that dogs, especially senior dogs or those with dental problems, can benefit from. Many dogs enjoy eating wet food, even as an occasional treat.

Our Criteria and Experience

Reviewers really valued dog food that is made with all-natural ingredients that they recognize. Not only does this help them know what is in the food, their dogs often liked the taste better as well. “Instead of being packed with fillers like corn, soy, wheat, and protein meal, it DOES contains loads of great nutrients like whole grains, antioxidant-rich fruit and veggies, and pure protein’s like fresh poultry (in this case, chicken),” one pet owner said of the Blue Buffalo option.

Small kibble size was another factor that small breed dog owners really valued. “The kibble in this food is very small and breaks apart well for them, but does not crumble or generate too much dust in the container,” said one reviewer who tried Taste of the Wild with her dog. This made sure that the nutrition in the food made it to the dog’s bowl and stomach, rather than ending up wasted in the bottom of the bag.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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