Do small dogs need special food?

Do small dogs need special food?

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?

pick this not that for your dogJust 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 Food

Eukanuba Yorkshire Terrier Dry Food

First ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • 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 – $31.49

All in all, a pretty average food.

royal canine yorkie food - kibble

Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Yorkshire Terrier

First ingredeints:

  • 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
      • Potatoes
      • Peas
      • 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.



      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.

      cesar dog food commercial

      A frame from the latest Cesar Dog Food commercial.

      Pulling the heartstrings of small dog owners

      cesar dog foodSome 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.

        Next: 'Prescription' or Veterinary Diets - Scam or Solution?

        Best dog food brands for your Morkie

        Best dog food brands for your Morkie

        What are some of the best dog food brands you could pick for your Morkie? It’s important that you get the best dog food for small dogs, because there’s no room for fillers and empty calories. Morkies are tiny, so every bite they eat should be nutritionally sound and balanced.

        But deciperhing reports, labels and marketing B.S., is a lot of work. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you, with a list at the bottom of the post, that you can download. It features 10 best dog food brands for your Morkie and 10 really horrible choices – and why.


        When you’re shopping for commercial dog food for your Morkie, check the label — at least the first 5 ingredients.

        PICK THIS

        Food that has lots of real, named protein at the top of the label – things like beef, chicken, salmon, lamb and so on.

        Food whose source of fat is named – beef fat, poultry, fat. etc.  Unnamed fat can be anything, including used restaurant grease



        NOT THAT

        Definitely AVOID any food with what’s just called “meat” or just called “poultry.”

        AVOID meat by-products (named or not); and AVOID generic fat, such as “animal fat.” Instead, opt for a NAMED fat such as “beef fat.”

        Don’t pick a dog food that has added sweetener listed on the label. This includes sugar, sucrose, molasses, corn syrup and fructose. It’s only in the food to disguise the putrid flavour of the food itself.

        Avoid foods that include corn, corn gluten, wheat, and other cheap fillers, in the first 5 ingredients.

        Beyond the first 5 ingredients, reject food that contains:

        • preservatives like BHA, BHT, TBHQ, propyl gallate, ethoxyquin
        • sugar, corn syrup, propylerne glycol, sucrose, sorbitol, cane sugar
        • artificial colourings, flavourings, MSG, caramel colour

        Here’s the label from popular Kibbles ‘n Bits

        Is this a leading dog food, or cattle feed? Corn is the main ingredient, which has little useful nutrients to dogs. Soybean meal is a by-product of the soy oil industry. And beef & bone meal is processed and dried slaughterhouse waste!

        Ingredients: Corn, soybean meal, beef & bone meal, whole wheat, animal fat (BHA used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, peas, caramel color, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), choline chloride, sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, biotin), dl-methionine, calcium sulfate, carrots, green beans, wheat flour, titanium dioxide (color), yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, BHA (used as a preservative), blue 1

        The first 5 ingredients:

        1. corn
        2. soybean meal
        3. beef & bone meal
        4. whole wheat
        5. animal fat (BHA used as preservative)


        And #6 ingredient is corn syrup!

        Is this a leading dog food, or cattle feed? Corn is the main ingredient, which has little useful nutrients to dogs. Soybean meal is a by-product of the soy oil industry. And beef & bone meal is processed and dried slaughterhouse waste!

        Download the one-pager

        Get this handy summary for shopping:

        • Top dog food brands and horrible dog food  brands.
        • Why some foods are not recommended.


        Blue Buffalo – all canned and dry
        Eagle Pack (beef) – canned
        Freshpet (rolls and pouches)
        Fromm Family Gold (canned)
        Fromm Four Star Nutritionals (canned)
        Go! Daily Defense (dry) and Go! canned
        Horizon (dry) call sub-brands
        Orijen (dry and canned) all sub-brands
        Primal Raw Frozen Mixes (Raw Frozen)
        Simply Nourish Source (Dry)
        Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixer Superblends (Freeze-Dried)
        Wellness Core (all dry and canned)
        Whole Earth Farms (canned and dry)

        Alpo (dry)
        Beneful (dry)
        Cesar Savory Delights (wet tubs) – includes Angus Beef Flavor , Filet Mignon Flavor, etc. Cesar (dry)
        Gravy Train Dog Food (canned and dry)
        Hills Science Diet (canned and dry)
        Kal Kan Dog Food (dry)
        Kibbles & Bits (dry)
        Ol’ Roy (canned and dry)
        Pedigree Dog Food* (dry)*This label includes 11 sub-brands such as Pedigree Small Dog Complete Nutrition Grilled Steak and Vegetable Flavor (plus other flavors)
        Purina Dog Chow (dry)
        Purina Moist and Meaty (semi-moist) 
        Purina One (canned and dry)
        Royal Canin Lifestyle Health Nutrition Urban Life (Dry)
        Science Diet – see Hills.

        The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on the website represent the views and opinions of the author.

        How to pick the best dog food

        How to pick the best dog food

        You want your Morkie to have the most nutritious diet possible, but how to decide, with literally thousands of choices in commercial dog food? Here’s a great resource for rating commercial foods. It’s reliable and unbiased.

        b&w and red dog bowl


        An invaluable resource is the website Founder and editor Mark Sagman has made it his mission to help you make an informed decision when buying commercial dog food. Since 2008, Mark and his team have reviewed almost 5,000 products.

        Mark was moved to start the site when he and his family lost their beloved rescue dog, Penny, in the massive 2007 pet food recalls. You might remember, there were tens of thousands of pet deaths, mostly due to poisonous fillers in the food. Fillers like melamine – yes, the same stuff that is used to make kitchen counters.

        Read more about this heartbreaking disaster on Wikipedia.

        Reliable, honest and unbiased

        Here’s Mark’s basic advice about picking dog food:

        Don't buy any dog food brand that is advertised on TV

        Many commercial dog foods are well known, thanks to heavy advertising by the manufacturers. But their popularity has nothing at all to do with their nutritional value. Popular brands like Purina, Alpo, Beneful, Hills Science Diet and Pedigree dog foods all earn just 1 star out of 5 on the contents when analyzed by

        Why? From harmful additives to mystery ingredients, these foods are made up of cheap fillers (corn, soybeans) that your dog can’t digest properly, or doesn’t need. They have “animal fat” from unidentified sources, such as dead, dying and diseased livestock and even euthanized pets!  And they’re processed at such high temperatures that much of the nutritional value has been cooked out.

        Get alerts of dog food recalls

        At you can sign up for free alerts about dog food recalls. No cost and no obligation.

        Even quality foods can run into problems from time to time, with batches of food that are contaminated, so these alerts are well worth getting.



        Rethinking Nylabone, thanks to

        In a recent post, I wrote about the dangers of rawhide sticks. They can be a choking hazard and are manufactured with a lot of toxic chemicals.

        I recommended alternatives, including a good quality nylon bone such as Nylabone. However, thanks to the website, I learned that even Nylabones can be recalled.

        nylabone recall

        In April 2015, the Nylabone puppy starter kit was recalled because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

        Plus, if your Morkie can chew any bits of the Nylabone off, he could easily swallow these tiny plastic pieces, causing serious digestive problems.

        Nutrition 101: What do dogs need?

        Nutrition 101: What do dogs need?

        To stay healthy and happy, your Morkie needs protein, a good source of fat, some carbohydrates, and critical vitamins and minerals. And of course, these ingredients must be in the right ratio – too much of one or the other can be unhealthy.

        Protein provides mass, muscle, and bone strength. It builds and repairs body tissue. Protein should make up about 18% of your dog’s diet.

        Fat provides concentrated energy and makes food taste good. It’s vital for healthy skin, coat, nose, and paw pads. The best sources of fat are “named” animal fats – for example, “chicken fat” or “beef fat.” NOT “animal fat.”  About 10% to 15% of an adult dog’s calories should come from fat.

        Carbohydrates, composed of sugar, starches, and dietary fiber (grains and vegetables), do provide energy and help digestion; however, they’re not a natural energy source for dogs. 30 to 70% of your dog’s calories should come from carbs.



        One thing that’s important to know – dogs don’t NEED carbs.

        That’s right. There’s no real requirement for carbohydrates to keep a dog healthy. But carbs make us (and dogs) feel full. So we eat less food that has high calories. It can be a weight control measure.

        Commercial dog food manufacturers will add plenty of carbohydrates to their formulas for one reason:  it’s cheap.  Do they add too much? Sometimes, especially for a small dog like a Morkie.

        Many small dogs have finicky or fussy appetites, so you want to be sure they get enough protein and essential fats first, then an adequate supply of carbohydrates.

        Just like us, dogs need vitamins and minerals to keep everything functioning. A proper diet should supply all the vitamins and minerals your Morkie needs, without the need for supplements.

        Too many choices!

        It can be difficult to try to decide what’s the best way to feed your Morkie. And the more you read, the more confusing it can get. In this special report, you’ll find a balanced view of all the options available and my recommendations. With this knowledge, you can decide what works best for your Morkie and your lifestyle.

        Three Paths to Follow in Feeding Your Morkie

        Each has its pros and cons.

        To ensure you’re giving your Morkie the best nutrition possible (at a reasonable price too) you need to decide which type of diet works best for your Morkie and your lifestyle.

        holistic dog food

        Canned dog food and kibble – the PROS AND CONS


        • Convenient and reasonably priced.
        • Dry food especially has a long shelf life even when it’s been opened.
        • Modern food processing techniques help to sterilize food during the preparation of both canned and dry types of food – avoiding contamination you may find in raw food.


        • Extreme heat destroys most of the nutritional value, to the point where vitamins, minerals, and enzymes have to be added back – usually by spraying the nutrients on after the kibble is produced.
        • Most dry food is made up of nearly all grain products; not ideal foods for dogs.
        • Particles from dry or canned commercial food stick to teeth, allowing bacteria to grow, causing sore gums, bad breath and bacterial poisons in the dog’s system.


        Natural, holistic, raw (BARF diet) diets


        • RAW foods match their biology; the dog has evolved over many million years on a natural raw diet. *
        • Raw food leads to better oral health, mental stimulation through the processing of the carcass and higher activity level.
        • Holistic foods are 100% natural and 100% nutritious and contain human-grade ingredients.


        • Opponents of raw feeding say it can cause dental damage, airway obstructions, intestinal perforations, food contamination, and social aggression.
        • A natural diet may not always be as healthy as imagined.
        • Humans risk exposing themselves to bacteria like Salmonella (can be in their dog’s poop) if the dog eats raw.
        • Detractors say there is no actual proof this is the better way to feed.


        Homemade Dog Food


        • With a good recipe, homemade food can be nutritious and less expensive than commercial food.
        • It’s free of additives, preservatives, and chemicals because you make it fresh at home.
        • No worry about pet food recalls.
        • Flexible: choose from cooked food diets, raw diets, and combination cooked and raw diets.
        • Homemade dog foods usually cause fewer allergic reactions than commercial ones.


        • The nutritional balance of a homemade diet can vary greatly depending on the recipe.
        • It’s harder than you think to make good quality dog food – detractors will say it’s almost impossible therefore you should rely on commercial foods.
        • Your Morkie will get used to your diet, and that will make things like travel more difficult.

        Free Report about Morkies

        7 Things You Need to Know Before You Get a Morkie

        FREE REPORT by small dog expert Deb Gray.

        Click to order your free report. Instant download, so you can read it right away on your computer, smartphone, tablet, iPad or laptop.

        read this free report on any device

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