Unique Needs of Small Breed Dogs

Small Dogs: Digestive and Nutritional Needs


Small breed dogs are lovable companions who enjoy being by your side day and night.

And while your pup might feel like one of the big dogs—the truth is, their smaller digestive tract and unique metabolism carry different nutritional needs than big dogs.

Read on to learn why selecting a food designed just for them is beneficial to your pup’s wellbeing!

The Unique Dietary Needs of Small Breed Dogs

Dogs in the small breed category can range from “toy” and “teacup” sized at two to three pounds, up to about small breeds weighing in around 25 pounds.

If your pup falls into this category, their digestive system and metabolism have some important differences compared to larger dogs.

How Can Small Dogs Benefit From a Small Breed Diet?

Small Mouths

Petite dogs have small mouths. This is especially relevant if we’re talking about a short-nosed breed, such as a French Bulldog. Their teeth are also smaller compared to big dogs.

So, small pups are usually more comfortable eating a smaller kibble size—it’s easier for them to pick up their food and bite into it.

Stomach Size

The smaller the dog, the smaller their stomach, and they can’t fit a lot of food into their stomach at any given time.

Small breed diets are calorie-dense and nutrient-rich. That way, everything your pup needs is available in a smaller volume.


With smaller body size comes a faster metabolism. That means small breed dogs often require more calories per pound of body weight than their larger breed cousins.

Diets for small breed dogs meet this need because they are more energy-dense than diets for large breed dogs.

Digestive Transit Time

Small dogs have shorter digestive transit times—which means their metabolism requires less time to digest their food.

For that reason, their diets must be highly digestible.

High-quality protein and other wholesome ingredients in a small breed diet will:

  • Maximize a small dog’s digestive efficiency
  • Promote lean muscle development
  • Prevent constipation and other upset tummy symptoms
  • Ensure nutrients get used by the body rather than passing through unused into the stool

Other Feeding Considerations for Small Dogs

Avoid Overfeeding

Just because small pups require more calories per pound than big dogs—that doesn’t mean they should eat too many calories.

Overfeeding can cause obesity, a common dog health problem that leads to arthritis, diabetes, heart and lung problems, hypertension, certain cancers, and more.

So, feeding the right amount of food each day is important, and that includes factoring in any treats your pup eats.

Have a Plan for Treats

Just because your petite dog has a smaller tummy, that doesn’t mean they’ll instinctively fill their limited stomach space with healthy options!

On the contrary, small pups often beg for extra nibbles—whether that’s a favorite dog treat or table scraps.

In addition to obesity, malnutrition is also a risk of too much treat intake, because there is less room in the stomach for nutritionally balanced food—just like a child who “spoils their dinner” by eating too many cookies first.

Giving treats can be a special way to bond with your pet but, it’s important to do it in a way that isn’t detrimental to their health.

Try these tips for safe treat-giving:

Think proportionally. Though that little piece of chicken finger looks small to you, a small dog only weighs a fraction as much as a full-grown human. A snack that seems small to us may actually be way too many calories for a small dog.

Have a set limit. Nutritionists recommend that no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calorie intake come from treats.

Treat intelligently. Use low-calorie treats, whether that’s a packaged dog treat, or veggies like no-sodium green beans, diced carrots or pieces of lettuce (yes, some pups love lettuce!). Some people foods (even some fruits and veggies) are toxic to dogs—so double check before you give any new treats to your pup.

Avoid fatty, creamy, and spicy foods. Rich foods can cause not only vomiting and diarrhea, but also pancreatitis—inflammation of the pancreas that can be fatal and often requires hospitalization to treat.

Blood Sugar Considerations

Due to their faster metabolism, small breed dogs are at risk for developing low blood sugar—which can cause weakness, wobbly walking, trembling, and even seizures, collapse, or death if severe.

To prevent this problem, divide your pup’s daily food ration into several smaller meals throughout the day. That helps their blood sugar stay stable.

Low blood sugar is more of a risk for very small dogs (especially those under five pounds) and young puppies. If your pup is an adult and at the larger end of the “small dog” scale (over 10 pounds), low blood sugar is less likely to be a concern.

That said, it can still be beneficial to divide your small dog’s food into several smaller meals—that makes digestion easier, and prevents your pup from feeling hungry.

What about Small Breed Puppies?

All growing puppies should be on a puppy food until the animal is done growing and it’s time to switch to an adult diet. Puppy food has higher levels of certain nutrients to promote healthy growth.

Small kibble sizes are ideal for your puppy’s small mouth—and multiple meals per day may be best to avoid low blood sugar, as described above.

By feeding a diet formulated for a small breed, you’re taking an important step in making mealtime more personalized to their unique needs.

Each time you fill the food bowl, you’ll know you’re contributing to a happy stomach and good overall health.

From our family to yours,
Fromm Family Pet Food

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