Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Small Breeds

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best grain-free dog food for small breeds

Grain-free dog food has been around for a while, and since it can have many benefits, including lowering the risk for allergies in some breeds, this diet has become extremely popular.

While quality food is necessary for all dog breeds, for those who keep small dogs, proper nutrition is even more important.

Generally, toy dogs and other small breeds have different nutritional requirements than their bigger brothers.

For example, they tend to have higher energy levels and a faster metabolic rate, which means they need to consume more calories.

Small breeds also often outlive larger dogs. Therefore, thinking in long-term, your dog’s diet should be of high-quality to avoid food-related allergies and related health issues, such as ear infections.

Below is a list of the best grain-free dog food for small breeds.

What’s the Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Small Breeds?

Warning: The FDA is currently investigating a possible link between canine heart disease and grain-free dog foods. Consult your veterinarian before moving to a grain-free diet.

1. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Small Breed

Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Recipe for Dog, Small Breed Chicken Recipe, 4 lb

Top Ingredients:

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Pea Starch

The family behind this product was inspired to create their own food brand after their dog has struggled with health problems. Which is why they place such a heavy emphasis on using only all-natural, high-quality ingredients.

As you might suspect, this dog food’s number one ingredient is real meat, so it’s no surprise it’s highly rich in protein.

By the way, the whole FREEDOM series is completely free of grains, so you don’t have to worry about gluten, corn, or soy.

Additionally, there are 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, which helps encourage cognitive development, as well as glucosamine for promoting healthy joints, and probiotics for better digestion.

This product doesn’t contain any chicken or poultry by-product meat, which is lower quality meat and generally used as a filler.

Plus, I love the fact that they use berries and garden vegetables in their original form, which provides your dog with a well-rounded diet.

Keep in mind that these are “bite-sized” kibbles so they should fit better in small dog mouths. Also, their shape should help your dog get rid of tartar and keep his oral hygiene intact.

Unfortunately, you can only get it in chicken. However, as long as your dog isn’t sensitive to poultry, then it’s probably okay.

Pros

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Primary ingredient is real chicken
  • Contains glucosamine
  • No by-products meals
  • Bite-sized kibbles

Cons

  • Only chicken flavor

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2. Castor and Pollux Organix Small Breed Recipe

Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Small Breed Recipe Recipe Dry Dog Food 4Lbs

Top Ingredients:

Organic Chicken, Organic Chicken Meal, Organic Sweet Potatoes, Organic Chickpeas, Organic Peas

Made by people who recognize the value of all-natural foods, this is a great choice for dogs of all breeds and sizes.

The number one ingredient in this dog food is organic, free-range chicken. While this is an excellent, high-quality protein source that’s 100% grain-free, it’s not the best choice for dogs with a poultry allergy.

Aside from the real meat, your dog gets a dose of superfoods in his diet as well. Not only it includes flaxseed and coconut oil, but there are also additions such as sweet potato, chickpeas, and blueberries for added antioxidant properties.

The product is cooked in the USA and is also USDA Organic certified, which means it’s free from any kind of growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, artificial preservatives, and antibiotics.

Plus, these kibbles are bite-sized and suited for even the smallest dogs. That said, this recipe is only available in chicken flavor, and even though it comes in small sizes (4 pounds and 10 pounds), it should last your small dog for a while.

Pros

  • Primary ingredient is organic chicken
  • Contains super foods
  • Cooked in the USA
  • USDA Organic certified
  • Bite-sized kibbles

Cons

  • Only chicken flavor
  • Small packages

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3. CANIDAE PURE Small Breed Grain Free

CANIDAE PURE Small Breed Real Chicken, Limited Ingredient, Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients:

Chicken, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas, Lentils, Potatoes

If you have a dog that’s particularly sensitive to wheat, corn, and other common dog food ingredients, this is a wonderful option to try.

With chicken and fish as the first ingredients, this dog food is high in protein while also retaining a simple mixture of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates such as peas, lentils, and potatoes.

What’s better is that this product only has 9 key ingredients that anyone can easily read and understand, as well as probiotics and important vitamins and minerals that your dog needs.

This combination of all-natural ingredients not only helps to reduce symptoms of allergies, such as dry skin and dull coat, but it also helps to maintain a healthy weight and digestive tract.

The kibbles are on the smaller side, and here, too, there’s only one flavor to choose from. However, there are various size options in case you want to experiment.

Pros

  • Primary ingredients are chicken and fish
  • Only 9 key ingredients
  • Contains Omega-3
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Small-medium sized kibbles

Cons

  • Only one flavor

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4. Merrick Lil Plates Small Breed Recipe

Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Real Lamb + Sweet Potato Small Breed Dry Dog Food, 4 Lbs.

Top Ingredients:

Deboned Lamb, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes

I should start by saying that we haven’t had much success with Merrick in the past, but who knows? Your dog may think otherwise.

This dog food features real meat as its first ingredient, although the protein levels may be a bit too high for adult dogs in my opinion. The food also relies heavily upon sweet potato, which is a great carbohydrate that offers a range of health benefits.

Additionally, it contains Omega-3 fatty acids from sources like flaxseed oil and salmon oil which support better skin and coat, as well as probiotics for aiding with digestion, and a variety of vitamins and minerals for general health.

All of the ingredients are 100% natural and cooked in the USA. I must I was quite surprised to see farm-fresh fruits like apples and berries inside this product.

Here you can pick between lamb, beef, chicken, and salmon, so be sure to test them out before you commit to buying a larger bag. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in bite-size.

Pros

  • Primary ingredient is meat
  • Contains Omega-3
  • 100% natural
  • Cooked in the USA
  • Contain fruits
  • Various flavors

Cons

  • Protein content may be a bit high for non-active dogs
  • Full-sized kibbles

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5. Natural Balance L.I.D. Small Breed Bites

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Food, Beef Formula, Grain Free, 4 lb

Top Ingredients:

Beef, Pea Protein, Beef Meal, Chick Peas, Peas

This was one of our main dog foods before we started giving our pup homecooked meals, and let me tell you, his health, skin, and coat were always in great shape.

Although in some of the flavors the meat isn’t the main ingredient, this product still has a solid amount of protein, and it only uses a single-source animal protein.

As the name suggests, there’s a limited list of premium protein and carbohydrate sources, which means there are no grains to cause conditions such as itchy skin and dull coat.

Depending on which formula you choose, you may get Omega-3 from salmon oil, menhaden oil, flaxseed, and/or canola oil (which is lower in quality), along with essential minerals and vitamins.

As a bonus, none of the products contain harmful filling like artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

These are also bite-sized kibbles, which are perfect for small breeds, and they’re supposedly easier to digest, too. I used to buy the Sweet Potato & Fish flavor, which was my dog’s favorite, but there are many other flavors available as well

Note: Keep in mind that the Lamb Meal & Brown Rice formula isn’t grain-free.

Pros

  • Single-source animal protein
  • Limited ingredients
  • No harmful fillings
  • Bite-sized kibbles

Cons

  • Primary ingredient isn’t meat (except in the beef recipe)
  • Canola oil is controversial

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6. Taste of The Wild Grain Free Small Breed

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Appalachian Valley Premium Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients:

Venison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Lentils

When our favorite flavor from Natural Balance was out of stock, we decided to give this brand a try. Even though I’m not sure which one my dog ​​liked more, the results were pretty much the same.

This dog food has real venison at the top of the ingredients list, and it’s also entirely grain-free. Aside from real meat, this food boasts garbanzo beans as a primary energy source.

Additionally, it contains ocean fish meal, which is a great source of Omega-3, along with canola oil, and all the minerals and vitamins your dog needs. Last, but not least, it includes prebiotics and probiotics fiber for healthy digestion.

Like any other premium product made in the US, it doesn’t include any fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. I was also happy to find superfoods such as blueberries and raspberries inside, as these are powerful natural antioxidants.

The kibbles are small, which means they’re easy for small mouths to chew, but venison is the only flavor available. If you want to try other formulas, you’ll have to settle for bigger kibbles.

Pros

  • Primary ingredient is real venison
  • Contains Omega-3
  • Made in the USA
  • No Fillers
  • Small kibbles

Cons

  • Canola oil is controversial
  • Only venison flavor

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7. Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Small Breed

Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Dry Small Breed Dog Food, Turkey, Chicken & Salmon, 4-Pound Bag

Top Ingredients:

Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Peas, Lentils, Chickpeas

This dog food is produced by a family-owned company that prides itself on providing dogs with tasty, nutritious food made from reputable sources.

The tasty combination of deboned turkey, chicken, and salmon mixed with peas and lentils ensures an ample amount of tasty protein combined with plenty of nutrients and vitamins.

Also, there’s no grain, soy, or corn used in this food, so you don’t have to worry about any sensitivities or allergies.

All of the ingredients are natural and made in the USA, and you won’t find any meat by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives included in this brand.

This product is specifically formulated for smaller dog breeds, so the kibbles are quite small (though larger breeds can certainly enjoy them as well). And while there’s only one recipe, it does include a few tasty protein sources.

Pros

  • Primary ingredient is real meat
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Contains Omega-3
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Only one flavor

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Benefits of Grain-Free Dog Food

While most dogs should have at least some grains in their diet, here are some benefits of going grain-free.

  • Feeling fuller
  • Better digestion (fewer stools)
  • Improved skin and coat
  • Fresher breath
  • More protein and complex carbs
  • Increased energy
  • Controlling weight
  • Less itching and shedding

Feeding Requirements for Small Breeds

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

To know your dog’s daily energy requirement, you should calculate his RER (Resting Energy Requirement), and then multiply it by several factors to get a calorie estimation.

To make it easier, here’s a basic calorie calculator for dogs.

The other option would be to simply check the label of the dog food, and use the recommended feeding guidelines.

This way is more of a general suggestion, and you’ll certainly want to adjust it according to your dog’s age, activity level, and such. It is, however, a good start.

The fact that that grain-free dog foods are highly dense means they’re also quite filling. As a result, you don’t have to worry about feeding your dog more than two times a day at most.

Serving just one meal per day is fine, but it can also be too much food for him. As a result, he may not be able to finish his plate in one sitting, so make sure to experiment and see what works best.

If you’re feeding your dog two meals a day, you’ll need to divide the feeding guideline. For example, if you have to feed your dog one cup every day, give half a cup in the morning, and another in the evening.

Now, here comes the interesting part.

The ingredients in your dog food will determinate if it’s a high-quality dog food you should place your trust in, or a poor one that you should avoid at all cost.

How to Choose Dog Food for Small Breeds?

Macronutrients

Protein: For starters, you need to make sure it has at least 20% protein. This is the basis of the canine diet, and helps to build and preserve muscle, while also protecting your dog from obesity.

With high-quality food, you know that your dog isn’t getting the majority of his calories from fat and carbs. You want to look for good protein sources like meat and fish. In fact, those should ideally be at the top of the ingredients list.

Fat: The next thing you need to look for is fat content between 10 and 20%, as this is what’s responsible for a healthy brain, skin, and coat. Here, you’ll want to have a good amount of Omega-3, preferably from real fish or fish oil.

Fat is also an energy source, and it’s important for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Both protein and fat should come from animal-based sources.

Carbs: As for carbs, grain-free dog food is your best bet since small breeds have a higher risk of food allergies. It also has a better effect on blood glucose levels, especially if the food has a good amount of fiber.

Remember that there are many ingredients that may cause allergic responses in dogs, including chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. If your dog suffers from digestive issues or itchy skin, I suggest you look into his food and search for a known allergen.

Macronutrients

In addition, quality dog food should contain some amount of vegetables and fruits, which provides antioxidants. This is particularly important for dogs with a long lifespan, like the smaller ones.

You can even find foods that include glucosamine, which protects against joint problems. Even though larger breeds are more prone to arthritis, this condition can also affect small dogs such as Pugs, and French Bulldogs.