Best Dry Food for Small Dogs

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In a rush and just want my recommendation?  I think the Nulo Small Breed Dry Dog Food – Grain Free, Small Size Kibble with Bc30 Probiotic is a great choice.

If you are a small dog owner, you will know that they are power-packed little hounds. They have boundless enthusiasm and energy, I found it impossible to wear out my Yorkie’s and Border Terriers. They were always up for a game of chase, or a hike.

It can be hard to know just how to feed your small dog. How do you make sure they’re getting optimum nutrition for their needs?

I’m an advocate of mixing wet and dry foods for ALL my dogs, regardless of size. There are benefits of both. Dry food adds lots of crunch to their diet for variety. It may generally be more cost-effective, even for an excellent quality product. Wet food helps to keep moisture in your hound’s system. Small dogs such as Yorkie’s can have a predisposition to kidney problems, so the extra fluid in wet food is helpful.

Mixing wet and dry foods also makes dinner time much more tempting and interesting for your dogs. Variety is the spice of life!

In this article, I’m reviewing the following dry foods for small dogs.

5 Best Dry Foods For Small Dogs Reviewed

Pedigree Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken & Steak

Pedigree is now a company based in the US, but it has been a popular brand in the UK since 1957. They started life as a food manufacturer specifically for dog breeders, and for owners who put their dogs in shows.

First three ingredients: Corn, chicken by-product, corn meal.

Made for adult hounds, this kibble features whole grains, protein, and accents of vegetables to help support digestion.

There’s no question that dogs love Pedigree food. It has a delicious chicken and vegetable flavor that provides antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Many customers are highly satisfied with this dry food, saying their dogs prefer it over many other brands. There are others who claim that their hounds became ill after eating it, and some refuse to eat it at all.


  • Affordable
  • Value for money
  • Good packaging
  • Many dogs love it


  • Main ingredient is corn
  • Other main ingredients are animal by-products and grain meal
  • Colors and flavorings are used
  • May cause illness in dogs after consuming

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small Paws for Small Breed Dogs

First three ingredients: Chicken meal, brewers rice, whole-grain wheat.

This is a highly trusted brand, with an excellent customer satisfaction record.

Made with natural ingredients, this kibble contains cranberries. Antioxidant berries which help keep your dog’s immunity strong. 

The first ingredient listed is chicken meal, so this is a high quality protein made from chicken muscle and bone. Flaxseed is included which provides omega 6 fatty acids and vitamin E to help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. There are green peas, apples, and broccoli, so you know there’s at least some vegetable matter for your hound.

This is a highly digestible, small kibble which is packed with calories, ideal for a small dog.


  • Excellent quality ingredients
  • Value for money
  • Veterinary recommended
  • Dogs love it


  • Kibble size very small
  • New formula not as popular

Taste of The Wild Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food Appalachian Valley Small Breed – Venison

First three ingredients: venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans. This kibble has high quality meat protein, including fish. 

It is packed with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants containing fruits and vegetables for cell health, and probiotics for the gut. 

Guaranteed grain, corn and wheat free, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The slightly higher price point reflects the excellent quality ingredients in this dry food.

Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.


  • Excellent quality ingredients
  • Meets AAFCO standards
  • USA made with known source of ingredients
  • Smaller kibble for little mouths
  • Dogs love it
  • Value for money


  • Slightly higher price point
  • Some dogs need to transition slowly to this brand

Nulo Small Breed Dry Dog Food – Grain Free, Small Size Kibble with Bc30 Probiotic

First three ingredients: Salmon, turkey meal, fish meal. This kibble is a high-quality, 84% animal-based protein food. It is a low-carbohydrate option, using lentils, sweet potato and chickpeas. Low-carbohydrate diets help dogs to maintain a healthy body weight.

The patented probiotic helps to support the gut flora, and the kibble contains fibers from miscanthus grass to help digestibility. The Omega content supports healthy joints and skin.

Nulo small breed dry food comes in four bag sizes, 4.5 lb, 6 lb, 11 lb and 14 lb. That means you can buy smaller quantities if you need, to keep the food fresh.


  • Meets AAFCO standards
  • Protein rich recipe
  • Grain free
  • Fully balanced
  • Quality ingredients
  • Highly digestible
  • High in Omega oils


  • Higher price point

Instinct Small Breed Dry Dog Food, Original Recipe Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

First three ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas. Chickpeas are packed with protein, so added to the real chicken ingredients, this dry food ticks all the energy boxes.

‘Instinct’ is a trusted USA company, who include important minerals like calcium and phosphorus to maintain strong bones and teeth. Coming in a 4 lb or an 11 lb bag, this dry food is grain and corn free, and includes probiotics to support healthy digestion, and omegas for skin & coat.


  • Excellent quality ingredients
  • Good size kibble
  • Customers report increased energy levels of their dogs
  • Dogs love it
  • Trusted company


  • Higher price point
  • Some reports of causing diarrhea

Guide To Buying Dry Food For Small Dogs

What is Considered a Small Dog Breed?

There are so many toy, and small dog breeds that it’s not practical to list them. Generally, dog’s weighing up to 20lb, or 9kg, are considered small.

Do Small Dogs Need Special Food?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), small dogs have higher metabolic rates than larger dogs, which means they may need more calories per pound of weight. Metabolic rate is related to total body surface area. Small hounds have a higher ratio of surface area to body weight than large breeds. All dogs have similar nutritional needs, regardless of size, but the higher metabolism of small dogs means they burn energy  much quicker than bigger dogs. The foods formulated for small dogs are much higher in calories so they can maintain their health and well-being.

Small dogs have high energy demands, and they use more energy to stay warm, too. They also have lower levels of antioxidants and are able to digest protein more efficiently than larger dogs. The other practical factor is that small dogs need smaller kibble. 

If your small hound has any health issues, always talk to your vet first, about their dietary needs.

What Human Foods Can Little Dogs Eat?

All dogs can eat many human foods, and can gain nutritional advantages from doing so. Check out this guide, which covers this important subject in more detail.

Remember though, that small dogs have lower levels of antioxidants. Because of this, they will benefit hugely from the occasional addition of some blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cooked yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, spinach, kale and green beans to their diet. Try a little at first, just to make sure they can tolerate it.

What Do I Look For on a Dog Food Label?

It can be daunting to look at any food labeling, but it’s always worth checking for good quality products. I always think that the longer the ingredient list, the more chance there is of having chemicals and other undesirable things in the food. Learning how to compare and analyze dog food labeling will help you to know exactly What’s In Your Dog’s Food.

I like to keep it as simple as this.

  • Real meat as the first ingredient
  • No by-products
  • No artificial dyes or sweeteners
  • Vegetables and fruit towards the top of the ingredient list

What To Look For in Small Dog Foods

Small dogs have small stomachs, so the amount of food it takes to fill them needs to pack a big energy punch. A higher density of nutrients are needed to keep them in good health. The kibble must be small enough for them to eat, but still have enough size to help clean their teeth.

Small hounds need to digest their food easily, so the cellular-respiration conversion that happens after eating supports their energy and health. That means a high quality protein is top of the list of must-haves. Also, dogs don’t digest grains very well and it causes them to bloat and be uncomfortable. Keep an eye on ingredients such as corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and ground whole wheat. It can be hard to find affordable dog food without these, but try and keep them to a minimum.

How Much Food Should I Give My Dog?

Once you’ve found the right food for your hound, always start by following the feeding guidelines on the packaging. To do this, you’ll need to know your dog’s weight. If you’re combining dry and canned food, make sure you calculate the daily amount of both foods combined. Once you get them into a routine with that particular diet, you can tweak the amounts you feed if needed.

A healthy dog should have a waist. If you look at them from above, they shouldn’t be oval shaped. If they are, they may be eating too much. Also, you should be able to feel their ribs without pushing too hard, but you should never be able to see their ribs sticking out.

Why Are Antioxidants Important in Dog Food?

Antioxidants are just as important for dogs as they are for humans. They are found in many fruits and vegetables, and help to neutralize free radicals which may harm the body. It’s a big subject to discuss, and if you want to learn more, check out this article.

What are AAFCO Dog Nutrient Standards?

AAFCO is an acronym for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. In order for a dog food to be marketed as ‘complete and balanced’, it must meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO.

What’s The Difference Between Animal Meal and Animal By-Product?

Animal meal is a good quality source of protein. It’s made from the ground muscle and bone of the animal, or bird. Animal by-product is undesirable as it could be any part of an animal, whether there is any nutritional value or not. An example of by-product is chicken feet.


Dog food manufacturers are catching on that we insist on good quality ingredients for our beloved hounds. All these dry dog foods have excellent features. I’d be happy to feed all of these foods to my hounds. As with all food items though, quality and cost go hand in hand.

This is a difficult choice, but there is a clear winner for me, and that’s the Nulo Small Breed Dry Dog Food – Grain Free, Small Size Kibble with Bc30 Probiotic. 

Nulo covers all the bases for your little dog’s nutrition. High protein and low-carbohydrate food means more energy, for longer. The vegetables, fruits and vitamins in this recipe help support the immune system, and the food is highly digestible. This means that every bit of goodness is absorbed into the body, plus probiotics to support gut flora. 

I really like the different bag sizes too. It’s important to have dry food stay fresh.

As you know, I’m a proponent of feeding a mix of dry and wet food. Head over to find out about my reviews of Best Wet Food for Small Dogs.

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