What’s the best dog food for small dogs? And do small dogs need special food, or is any good dog food OK? Here are 5 top questions about dog food for small dogs like Morkies.
1. Is kibble or canned better for small dogs?
Just like us, dogs can get bored eating the same thing, day after day. So switch it up with different brands, and don’t hesitate to use both kibble and wet food together.
If you’re buying commercial dog food, look for quality ingredients, whether you’re buying kibble or canned (wet) food.
What makes up “quality ingredients?” Pick food with a ‘real’ source of protein in the first 5 ingredients. For example, beef, chicken or salmon. AVOID food that is labelled “meat” “poultry” or “fish.” AVOID meat by-products (named or not).
AVOID: bone meal, meat meal, corn high up on the label, and food that includes a ‘flavour.’ Why? Because that flavour is usually added to disguise the poor quality of the main ingredients. If a dog food is made with chicken, why would you need to add chicken flavour?
How are ingredients ranked on a dog food label?
Ingredients in dog food are ranked by weight
All ingredients must be listed in order of predominance by weight, including the ingredient’s water. So without a complex formula which removes the weight of the water in the dog food, it’s not fair to compare a dry food with a canned food. However, kibbles can be compared to one another, and canned foods can be compared fairly.
First 5 ingredients – make up the bulk of the food, and are most important
Above the named fat – another way to look at it, is the ingredients above the named fat, are what matter.
First 3 ingredients – generally make up the protein of the food
2. Why a high quality food is important for small dogs
Small dogs need all the nutrition a big dog does, but with a difference.
Small dogs actually need to eat more calories for their body weight, than larger dogs. That’s because smaller dogs usually have faster metabolisms and will burn off energy at a faster rate than larger dogs. For example, a Maltese needs more than twice as many calories per pound as a Great Dane.
Since small dogs are, well, small…. they can’t afford to fill up on low-quality ingredients like corn and other grains. Another reason you need the best dog food for small dogs.
3. Are breed-specific foods worth it?
Spoiler alert: Nope. What matters is that the food is species-specific… that is, it’s made for DOGS.
You might wonder sometimes, when you see ingredients like CORN first on the dog food label. When’s the last time you heard of a wolf breaking into a farmer’s field, shucking a few cobs and feasting on corn? Like never.
This doesn’t stop manufacturers from extending their pet food lines with plenty of silly options, like breed-specific food. Let’s look at two dry foods specifically for Yorkies, compared to a premium brand for small dogs.
Two breed-specific, specialty foods – for Yorkies
Eukanuba Yorkshire Terrier Dry Food
- Chicken By-Product Meal
- Corn Meal
- Ground Whole Grain Sorghum
- Brewers’s Rice
- Chicken Fat
Chicken as the first ingredient is excellent. Meal is a concentrated version of the meat named, and so delivers excellent protein value; however, poultry by-products are the really ghastly parts like beaks and feet. Corn meal is the third ingredient, and it’s a controversial one. One thing we do know is, that as a whole grain, corn is not easily digested by dogs.
Sorghum is usually fed to cattle and Brewer’s Rice, or broken rice, are the broken bits of regular rice, which are rejected for people. They’re OK, nutrition wise, for pets.
10 pounds – at Chewy.com – $31.49
All in all, a pretty average food.
Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Yorkshire Terrier
- Brewer’s rice
- Brown rice
- Chicken by-product meal
- Chicken fat
- Wheat gluten
Brewer’s Rice is an odd ingredient to find first in a dog food. (see Eukanuba description, left)
This is a medium quality food, heavy on the carbs which small dogs like Morkies don’t need.
10 pounds – at Chewy – $38.69
My personal opinion is that this ranks well below the just-average Eukanuba, at left.
A much better choice –
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food
12 pounds – $37.99
- Deboned turkey
- Turkey meal
- Chicken meal
- Dried Ground Potatoes
- Chicken Fat
Premium natural ingredients, with no wheat, corn, soy preservatives or artificial colours and flavours.
Provides energy without all the carbs, thanks to high-quality protein. Complete with probiotics, glucosamine, Omega fatty acids for coat health, antioxidants and more.
AND, IT’S CHEAPER PER POUND THAN THE BREED-SPECIFIC FOODS.
4. Should I pick a food that’s specially made for small breeds?
Some kibble comes in smaller sizes for smaller dogs, like the Wellness Core, above. That’s not a bad idea, as long as the food itself is high quality. Other than the size of kibble, there’s no reason small dogs need a different recipe than their big friends.
Pulling the heartstrings of small dog owners
Some foods are specially marketed to small dog owners. Cesar Savory Delights is a good example. Ads feature a single man or woman, alone with their soulmate, a tiny dog. These ads are targeted at the GenX/Boomer pet parent, who is lonely, but thankfully, has his fur baby for company. So naturally he wants the best for that dog – and the implication is, that’s Cesar!
This food is one of the poorest quality on the market. Why?
After water, the top 5 ingredients are:
- beef by-products – which is industry-speak for slaughterhouse waste. This isn’t meat, it’s the leftovers, rejected for hot dogs. Can include lungs, brain, intestines, even tumours!
- animal liver – the animal isn’t named, so it could be anything, including any combination of pigs sheet, goats and horses.
- chicken – good!
- meat by-products – slaughterhouse waste again, but from what animal??? Could even roadkill!
- bacon – the cured fatty meat from the belly of the pig. Hmmm.
5. Can small dogs handle a RAW diet?
Yes they can. But RAW diets are about more than slicing off some sirloin before you toss that steak on the barbie…
It’s important to handle raw meat carefully; especially for YOUR health. Your dog may love it, but raw meat is still full of potentially harmful toxins, bacteria and even parasites. Dogs are more resistant, but they’re not immune to some of these dangers.
A RAW diet isn’t without digestion problems either, especially when you get started. Launching a new feeding regime can be tricky.
And the number one issue: ensuring your Morkie gets the right nutrition. For a RAW diet, this takes a lot of planning and knowledge to balance the ingredients, and ensure all the micronutrients and vitamins and minerals are delivered in a RAW diet.