Nutrition Basics for Small Dog Breeds
Some of the best things in life come in small packages, especially when it comes to small breed dogs. Small dog breeds, including toy/miniature breeds, may have an attitude the same size as their larger breed cousins, but their nutrition needs are much different. Small and toy/miniature dog breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Pomeranians, need a healthy, balanced diet that’s formulated for their breed size.
There are a few important things to remember as you start your research on dog food for your small breed dog:
- Small breed dogs have small mouths and stomachs. Look for a dog food formula with a small kibble and dog treats sized just right for your small breed dog. These are easier to chew, and therefore easier on their small mouths.
- Despite their size, smaller dogs may need more calories per pound than large breed dogs due to their higher metabolism and faster growth rates.
- Certain breeds have their own nutritional needs. Talk to your veterinarian about what you should be feeding your dog based on breed, age or existing medical conditions.
Small Dog Breed Health Concerns
Keeping your small dog healthy from its puppy to adult stages will ensure its quality of life and the many memories you will create together. But, their small size doesn’t mean that they are low maintenance or easy to feed. It’s important to be mindful of your small dog’s diet and feeding schedule to prevent health problems, such as hypoglycemia and obesity.
Hypoglycemia in Puppies
Like humans, small breed puppies can develop hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, due to their high metabolic rates and low sugar and body fat reserves. Symptoms of hypoglycemia can be severe, and even life-threatening. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice any of the following in your puppy:
- Muscle tremors
To prevent hypoglycemia, make sure your puppy is taking in enough calories, which may mean more frequent meal times with controlled portions. Follow the feeding guidelines on the back of their puppy food package to ensure they are getting the proper nutrients.
Obesity in Small Dog Breeds
Per pound, toy and small breed dogs may require more daily calories, and it’s important to learn just how much food they need so as not to overfeed them. Your veterinarian is an excellent resource for your dog’s nutritional needs. He or she can recommend a dog food formula tailored to your small breed dog’s needs, as well as a feeding schedule.
To avoid overfeeding, try any of these tips:
- Create a mealtime schedule with controlled portion sizes – use the back of the food bag as a guide.
- Instead of leaving food out all day, clean up leftovers 10 to 20 minutes after they finish eating so they don’t eat out of boredom.
- Human food can throw off a balanced diet and irritate their stomach. Avoid feeding them table scraps or letting them eat food that falls on the floor.
Finding the Right Formula for Your Small Breed Dog
You can help improve your small dog’s quality of life every day with a balanced diet that is specially formulated for their size and life stage. A small dog’s diet should include an optimal amount of proteins and fats to meet their higher energy needs and metabolism.
But, small dogs are also known for being finicky eaters. That means they are more likely to refuse a meal and can be inconsistent in the amount of food they eat. Try a dog food formula you choose with high-quality animal proteins, such as chicken or lamb, so they enjoy the taste as much as their body will enjoy the nutrients.
Consider Life Stage and Breed
Toy and small dog breed puppies will typically need more calories and more frequent feeding, while mature, less active dogs require more protein and fewer calories. As you’re shopping for a new dog food formula, talk to a veterinarian, like one at your local Banfield Pet Hospital about specific nutritional needs for their breed, especially in the puppy stage.
As your dog ages, you might also notice that they have new food sensitivities, flaky skin or that their coat isn’t as shiny as it once was. To help slow the signs of aging, look for a mature adult dog formula or senior dog food includes the following:
- High-quality protein sources to maintain muscle mass
- Fiber sourcesto help maintain intestinal health
- Omega-6 and 3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Antioxidants to help support their immune system
Weight Control Specialty Diets
For overweight or less active dogs, veterinarians might recommend a weight control dog food. These specialized formulas will often feature reduced fat and calorie levels You might also look for a lite dog food for toy and small breed dogs that contains essential nutrients for skin and coat health, such as fatty acids and zinc.
Contact your veterinarian before starting your dog on a new formula or exercise regimen. Sudden changes to their diet or daily routine can cause stress, and your veterinarian can advise you on how to make the transition as easy as possible for your pooch.
Gradually Introduce Your Dog to a New Formula
Once you find the right dry dog food or canned dog food for your small breed dog, follow the feeding guidelines on the back of the package. Most brands will recommend slowly introducing the new food to their current recipe, but it’s important to remember that every dog is different. Ask your veterinarian about the best way to start feeding your dog a new food if they have had issues in the past.
Also monitor your dog’s behavior and stool during and after the transition to make sure they are tolerating the new recipe.