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.

        Don’t be impressed with AAFCO “approval”

        Don’t be impressed with AAFCO “approval”

        The Association of American Feed Control Officials, called AAFCO, is a private organization of volunteers in the animal feed feed industry — including people from the pet food industry itself.

        It is not mandated by any laws; it does not write laws or change them.

        AAFCO sets standards for nutritional adequacy for a wide variety of animal feed, including cattle feed, feed for commercially raised rabbits, pig feed, dog and cat food, etc.
        In my personal opinion, AAFCO regulation falls FAR short of protecting the welfare of our pets; here are some reasons why I say this.

        1. How AAFCO tests pet foods

        Food is either analyzed in the lab, or AAFCO runs feed trails.

        • the feed trial includes 8 dogs minimum, or more
        • 25% can be removed during the test – so the test could be conducted with just SIX DOGS
        • as long as the remaining animals don’t lose more than 15% of their body weight during the 26 week trial, the food is approved

        AAFCO states clearly in its mandate, that it is setting standards for adequate nutrition. Not good nutrition, not particularly healthy. Adequate to keep the animal alive.


        AAFCO food trials


        2. FEED and FOOD is very different

        There’s a big difference between FEED and FOOD.

        AAFCO is mostly comprised of Feed Control Officials. These are state department of agriculture representatives who work together on feed that livestock eats. It’s nothing like our FOOD or what we think of as our pet’s FOOD. AAFCO is all about FEED.

        Feed is all about fattening commercially raised animals for slaughter with the minimum resources possible; food is about building and maintaining good health.

        One difference alone – FEED is allowed, per FDA, to contain euthanized pets and pesticide-laden grains and vegetables that wouldn’t be allowed for human consumption. (www.truthaboutpetfoods)


        3. AAFCO doesn’t actually approve pet food

        AAFCO does not approve, certify or reject pet food. Wording on pet food actually says that it MEETS the nutritional requirements established by AAFCO. Those standards, as mentioned, are what’s needed for adequate nutrition, in highly processed pet foods.


        What does AAFCO really mean


        4. These are the people who brought you the Label Laws

        Remember these rules? You can read about them in detail on my blog, What’s on Your Dog’s Menu, but basically it’s a serious of weasel statements that tell manufactures what to call their products when they don’t contain a lot of meat.

        For example, let’s look at Cesar Classics Filet Mignon Flavor, made by food giant Mars. 


        It contains no filet mignon; it contains nothing like what we think of as beef.

        Instead, this Cesar Classics flavour contains:

        • beef by-products – this is leftover, non-meat which can include lungs, stomach, and intestines (required to be freed of feces) from slaughtered mammals. It is not the flesh or ‘meat’ which has been removed for human food or other animal feed products.

        It’s not even the ‘acceptable’ kinds of slaughterhouse leftovers like gristle, pieces of fatty tissue, meat from the animal’s head and feet; connective tissue – all of this goes into hot dogs and processed meat for people.

        • animal liver – liver is a good source of protein; the problem here is, what kind of animal?
        • meat by-products – again, the leftover waste from the slaughterhouse, but what kind of animal(s) are we talking about?
        • chicken by-products – this is not chicken ‘meat;’ it is the scrap, and can include feet, backs, livers, lungs, chicken heads, undeveloped eggs, etc.

        ….along with artificial colouring, sodium nitrite and more.

        The total protein content of this food: 8%.

        Remember, it’s the food name that counts


        More reading on AAFCO and its role

        Dog Food Advisor –

        Truth About Pet Food –

        AAFCO official site –

        How to read a dog food label – Part I

        How to read a dog food label – Part I

        First in an informal series on commercial dog foods.

        When you’re shopping for commercial dog food – canned or kibble – here is an important place to start: the first 5 ingredients listed on the label.

        Even though dog food labels may list dozens of ingredients, it’s the first 5 that matter.

        That’s because dog food ingredients are listed in order of weight, so the closer to the top of the list, the more of that ingredient in the dog food.

        Let’s look at one notably horrible dog food and one notably good commercial dog food.

        Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition (dry food)

        Ol’ Roy is the store brand, or private label brand, of Walmart. It’s manufactured by Doane Pet Food, which is owned by Mars Pet Food Division. Virtually any website that compares commercial dog foods rates this one at the bottom of the list. (Mars makes other cheap pet foods like Pedigree, Cesar and Nutro.)


        The first 5 ingredients in Ol’ Roy

        1. Ground Yellow Corn
        2. Meat and Bone Meal
        3. Soybean Meal
        4. Poultry By-Product Meal
        5. Animal Fat


        Are dogs corn eaters? No, but that’s the first ingredient and it’s CHEAP filler.

        Meat and bone meal is a nasty mix of waste animal tissues, including bone. Very hard for dogs to digest. And what kind of animal does the meat and bone meal come from? Could be any combination of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats…

        Soybean meal does contain 48% protein. It’s probably included to boost the overall protein content of this food but it’s much lower quality than protein from meat.

        Poultry by-product meal is made from slaughterhouse leftovers like chicken feet, backs, lungs and heads. If these leftovers are edible, they’re added to people food like bologna, sausage and hot dogs.

        Not edible? Then add it to dog food, where it’s rendered (cooked at very high temperatures) until it is a dry meal.

        Animal fat – again, what kind of a animal are we talking about?? If it doesn’t say, you don’t know.

        And that means it can be spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle (the Three Ds of the meat world); road kill and even euthanized pets!!! It’s all legal.

        AND, generic animal fat is often preserved with BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole). BHA is a suspected cancer causing agent. It’s also used in making rubber and cosmetics.


        Mystery Meat

        MEAT is great for dogs because it’s a source of protein that’s complete. It contains all all ten essential amino acids — nutrients dogs cannot live without. Plus, dogs can easily digest it, especially compared to inferior protein sources like corn or grain. But if the meat is not named, it can be literally anything, including


        Whenever a pet food does not name the TYPE of animal, but just says “animal” or “meat” instead of, for example,  “beef” or “chicken,” your guard should go up. That’s because the meat can be almost anything, and changes depending on what’s the cheapest in the marketplace.

        MEAT BY-PRODUCTS are even scarier – by-products are slaughterhouse waste. The stuff that they won’t even put in hot dogs! The stuff they sweep up off the floor at the end of the day.

        Purina calls this –

        “nutrient-rich organ meats”

        Sorry, but the rest of the world calls it crap! For example… “deboned chicken” is  literally chicken meat that we’d eat. “Poultry by-products” can be what’s left after the ‘real’ meat is stripped off. Stuff like the head, the feet, neck and internal organs that no other food processor wants.




        In summary, AVOID –

        • commercial dog food that has “meat”
        • instead, go for a named product, like beef, chicken, lamb, etc.
        • and avoid poultry, and go for chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
        • avoid by-products, meat or otherwise


        Here’s an example of a label that you can understand, and that actually looks good.

        Blue Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice

        Blue Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice

        Top 5 ingredients:

        1. Deboned Chicken
        2. Chicken Meal
        3. Brown Rice
        4. Barley
        5. Oatmeal

        Now THAT sounds like something you’d want to feed to your Morkie!


        To see how your dog’s food compares, check out Blue Buffalo’s web page Take the Test.

        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.

        Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)