What’s The Best Grain-Free Dog Food For Small Breeds?

We all want to give our dog the best food that we can, and with small dogs, proper nutrition is even more important.

Here’s why:

Toy and small dog breeds have different nutritional requirements than their bigger brothers, and they’re known to have higher energy levels (I know that for a fact).

Small dogs also have a higher metabolic rate, which means they need to consume more calories.

Another thing to keep in mind is that smaller breeds often outlive large dogs. So thinking long term, your dog’s food should be of high-quality to avoid allergies and related health issues.

In this review, I’ll share my best grain-free dog food for small breeds.

I’ll also talk about the differences between puppy and adult dog food, and explain how to pick the right food for small breed dogs.

Quick Comparison: Best Grain-Free Dog Food For Small Breeds

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The Top 4 Best Grain-Free Dog Food For Small Breeds Reviews

BLUE Freedom Grain Free Dry Dog Food Review

Top 5 Ingredients:

  • Deboned Chicken
  • Chicken Meal
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Pea Starch

The family behind this product had a dog who struggled with a health problem, which inspired them to take action and create their own dog food (along with holistic veterinarian and animal nutritionist) with an emphasis on natural and high-quality ingredients.

As you can tell, BLUE Freedom #1 ingredient is real meat, so it’s no surprise this dog food is rich in protein, and in fact, the whole FREEDOM series is completely free of any grain. So no gluten, corn or soy.

There are also no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and the food is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for general health.

You’ll also find Omega-3 from flaxseeds for cognitive development, glucosamine for joints health and probiotics for better digestion.

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There aren’t any chicken or poultry by-product meals which are basically lower quality meat, and I also love the fact that they use berries and garden vegetables in their original form.

You can choose between chicken, beef and lamb recipes but I was kind of hope to find salmon as well. If your dog doesn’t look prone to poultry allergies, then it’s probably okay.

This dog food also has bite-sized kibbles recipe that fits better in small dog mouths. Also, These little kibbles have a shape that should help get rid of tartar and keep your dog’s oral hygiene intact.

PROS

  • #1 ingredient is meat
  • Natural ingredients only
  • No meat by-product meals

CONS

  • Omega-3 from flaxseed

Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food Review

Top 5 Ingredients:

  • Deboned Salmon
  • Salmon Meal
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peas, Potatoes
  • Whitefish Meal

I should start by mentioning that my dog didn’t care for this dog food for some reason, but your dog may think otherwise.

Merrick uses real meat as its first ingredient, although the protein level is a bit high for adult dog food in my taste. The main ingredient of carbohydrates is sweet potato, and there are no grains whatsoever.

This dog food also contains Omega-3 fatty acids from sources like flaxseed and salmon oil for better skin and coat (as well as Canola oil), glucosamine to maintain healthy hips and joints, a bunch of vitamins/minerals for general health, and probiotics to aid digestion.

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All the ingredients are 100% natural and cooked in the USA. I also loved seeing farm-fresh fruits like apples and berries in their recipes.

There are nine flavors to choose from, so test them out before you commit to a large bag. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this product in small kibbles.

PROS

  • #1 ingredient is meat
  • 100% natural
  • Omega-3 from salmon

CONS

  • Protein content may be high
  • Canola oil seems unnecessary
  • No small kibbles version

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food Review

Top 5 Ingredients:

  • Dried Sweet Potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Fish Meal
  • Potato Protein
  • Canola Oil

This is the food I used to buy for my dog until recently, and his coat was always in top shape.

Although salmon is the #2 ingredient, this product still has a solid amount of protein. As the name suggests, it uses a limited list of premium protein and carbohydrate sources, which mean no grains that can cause itchy skin and dull coat.

This is a minimal formula, but it’s a good one, and I used to buy the salmon to avoid poultry allergies. The rest of the ingredients include high potent Omega-3 from salmon oil and flaxseed sources, Canola oil, essential minerals and of course, vitamins.

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On top of that, this food doesn’t include harmful filling like artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

You can find this product in many other flavors. I usually feed my dog once a day, and it seems like enough with this type of dog food. If you’re transitioning from another food, make sure to do it gradually over the course of a week or so.

This dog food also has bite-sized kibbles recipe that fits better in small dog mouths. I should add that my dog seems to enjoy the smaller kibbles and they’re supposedly easier to digest.

PROS

  • Premium food source
  • No harmful fillings
  • Omega-3 from salmon

CONS

  • Salmon is the #2 ingredient
  • Canola oil seems unnecessary

Taste of the Wild, Canine Formula Review

Top 5 Ingredients:

  • Salmon
  • Ocean fish meal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peas

Recently, I switched to this food because I’ve decided it’s time to freshen things up (also, my dog got a little picky).

Taste of the Wild has real meat at the top of the ingredients list, and it’s entirely grain-free, with sweet potato as its primary energy source.

Other than that, you’ll find Omega-3 from real smoked salmon, Canola oil, and all the minerals and vitamins your dog needs. This recipe also includes prebiotics and probiotics for healthy digestive and immune system.

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As befits natural food, it doesn’t contain fillers, nor artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. I was also glad to find superfoods such as blueberries and raspberries that act as natural antioxidants.

You can choose between five other meat sources, and try them out until you find the one your dog prefers. I usually go for the salmon as my dog has a lot of love for fish.

This dog food also has bite-sized kibbles recipe that fits better in small dog mouths and should help in cleaning your dog teeth and support healthy gums.

PROS

  • #1 ingredient is meat
  • Natural dog food
  • Omega-3 from salmon

CONS

  • Canola oil seems unnecessary

Puppy vs Adult Dog Food

Small breed puppies (In fact, all puppies) need to have a lot of protein in their diet to grow. Fat should also be on the higher side as small dogs tend to use more energy.

Adult dogs still need a solid amount of protein in their food along with moderate fat to avoid unhealthy weight gain.

For small breed dogs, you should begin switching to adult formula dog food somewhere between 9 to 12 months old. Always follow the feeding recommendations found on the label.

How to Choose a Small Breed Dog Food?

You already know that a small breed dog food needs to be higher in calories and nutrients than other dog foods. You can check any dog food by looking at the label (or the company website) to see how many calories it has per cup.

As for the daily energy requirements for your dog, you can calculate your dog RER (resting energy requirement) and then multiply it by different factors to get a calorie estimation.

You can also use this basic calorie calculator.

The other option would be to simply check the label of your dog food and use the recommended feeding guidelines. This way is more of a general suggestion, and you’ll want to adjust it according to your dog’s age, activity level and such, but it’s a good start.

The fact that these foods are highly dense means they also quite filling so you don’t have to worry about feeding your dog more than two times a day at the most.

Serving your dog just one meal can be fine but it can also be too much food for him, and he won’t finish his plate in one sitting, so try both ways and see what’s work best.

In case you’re feeding your dog two meals a day, you’ll need to divide the feeding guideline. Say you have to feed your dog one cup every day, that means half a cup in the morning, and another in the evening.

Puppies, however, should be allowed to eat whenever they want.

Macronutrients

Now, this is the interesting part. The ingredients in your dog food will determinate if this is a high-quality dog food you should go for or a poor one you should avoid at all cost. For starters, you need to make sure it has at least 20% protein which will help build and preserve muscle and also protect your dog from obesity.

That way, you know that your dog doesn’t get most of his calories from fat and carbs. This is also an indication of good protein sources like meat and fish. As a matter of fact, you’ll want to make sure these protein sources show at the beginning of the ingredients list.

The next thing you need to look for is 10%-20% fat content as these fatty acids are responsible for healthy skin and coat. You’ll want to have Omega-3 inside but try to limit Omega-6 consumption. Fat is also an energy source and is important for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Both protein and fat should come from animal-based sources.

As for carbs, a grain-free dog food is your best bet since small dogs have a higher risk of food allergies. It also has a better effect on blood glucose levels so they won’t rise and fall so quickly, especially if it’s high in fiber.

Foods that tend to cause allergies usually include chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. If your dog suffers from itchy skin or digestive issues, I suggest you look into his food and search for a known allergen.

I started to feed my dog with grain-free dog food to improve his tear stains and guess what? It did. On top of that, I seem to notice his coat got even whiter and a little bit softer.

Micronutrients

Your dog food should contain at least some vegetables, fruits, and antioxidants. This is extremely important for dogs with long lifespans like the small ones. You can also buy foods that include glucosamine that protects the joints, although usually, that’s not necessary for smaller breeds.

In Conclusion

Taste of the Wild has an impressive list of premium ingredients and a good ratio of macronutrients and micronutrients, making it easily the best grain-free dog food for small breeds.

As for which flavor to choose from, it’s a matter of preference, and you’ll have to go through trial and error to see which one your dog will like. As a rule of thumb, fish and rabbit are the least allergic meat sources.

Check Taste of the Wild current price

As you start feeding your dog new food, you will notice his poop isn’t as firm as before, that is common, and it should go back to normal in a matter of days.

Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and adjust the food intake if you need to. Also, watch out for his skin and coat condition and make sure the new food agrees with him.

Your dog eats just one type of food, so it better be good. Proper nutrition will ensure your dog’s health for years to come.

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