Small dogs often compensate for their diminutive stature with their big personalities - but that's not all. Their energy requirements are on the large side as well. Smaller dogs have a higher surface area to body mass ratio compared to their larger cousins, which means they have much faster metabolisms and burn energy at a far higher rate. A Pomeranian, for example, needs more than twice as many calories per pound as a Great Dane!
How to get more into less
It's only natural that smaller breeds have smaller mouths and stomachs. However, this makes things tricky when you're faced with cramming in so much energy! Smaller stomachs mean they can't effectively digest a lot of food at one time. Small-breed formulas are nutrient-dense and rich in calories (appropriate to that faster metabolism as well as their smaller stomach capacity), with more protein, more fat for extra energy and easily digestible carbohydrate, plus extra B vitamins to drive the metabolism. Kibble sizes in dry foods are smaller to suit smaller mouths.
Unless advised to do so by your vet, there is no need to give dogs food supplements if you are feeding them a commercially manufactured small-dog food.
Although small dogs burn off a lot of energy, they can still become overweight and, if not fed appropriately, underweight. Therefore keep an eye on your little dog’s body condition score and contact your vet if you are concerned.
How to feed
There are many varieties of small-breed food available - recipes, formats and formulas, wet and dry - nutritionally balanced and complete. Whether you serve wet or dry is a matter of personal preference, yours and your dog’s, or may be influenced by certain medical conditions. Any combination will meet your small dog’s needs.
- Dry complete diets are convenient, easy to measure and use, easier to store and have a longer shelf-life once opened than wet foods. They can also help to remove plaque from the teeth. Small-breed formulas have smaller kibbles to make it easier to chew.
- Wet food often comes in a greater variety of flavours and textures, and offers a higher moisture content. Wet food can still be very convenient with small-breed, single-serve formats ensuring a fresh, easy-to-serve meal each time.
- Many owners add a dry mixer to wet foods, for a bit of extra crunch, or serve a combination of dry and wet. If you choose this route, remember that the quantities of both foods must be adjusted to avoid overfeeding.
Ensure your dog has access to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times, preferably in a large ceramic bowl. Your dog will need more water if he or she is fed an exclusively dry diet, if the weather is warm and after exercise.
Small dogs can become fussy eaters. Keeping to a regular feeding routine throughout their adult lives, and sticking to manufactured foods as the staple diet, is the best way to avoid finicky eating. If your dog does become fussy with food, always contact your vet for a check-up in case of an underlying medical problem.
Toy and small dogs may have large energy needs, pound for pound, compared to their larger cousins, but their stomach capacity is small, so they can’t cope with a lot of food at one time. Therefore, depending on body condition, you may want to feed your dog little, but often - two to four times a day - to meet their specific nutrient and calorie requirements. If you are not sure how often to feed your small dog, consult your veterinary practice.
How much to feed depends on your dog’s breed and lifestyle as well as the food you select. Always read the feeding instructions printed on product packaging carefully. Ranges are given, combining breed sizes with age bands. Your dog is likely to fall within one of these bands. Remember, these feeding guides are only there as a starting point. Packaging recommendations assume you are giving your small dog about one hour of moderate exercise per day. In lively breeds, constant access to a garden can increase this by up to 30%. More sedentary dogs will require a smaller quantity of food. Every dog is an individual, so the most important consideration is to feed enough to maintain a lean, ideal body condition. If you are unsure how much to feed, consult your veterinary practice for advice.
Your dog should be fed in a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Choose a surface that can be cleaned easily, such as a tiled floor or a feeding mat. Always serve the food in a clean bowl; ceramic or metal bowls are preferable. If you have other dogs in the household, feed them separately to avoid bullying and fighting.
Try to serve wet food at room temperature, as it smells more attractive and is easier to digest. This could take some time if the food is kept in the fridge, or you can microwave wet food for a short time until it’s warm (never hot) to the touch. Avoid leaving out wet food out as it can quickly go stale. Dry food can be left out during the day and won’t spoil. Most dogs like to crunch on their dry food, but if yours prefers it moistened, or there is a medical reason to avoid hard food, leave the food in a bowl of water for up to 30 minutes before serving. If you do moisten dry food, consider feeding a regular dental treat to help remove the plaque some dry foods work to combat, but remember that regular brushing of your dog’s teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease.
It's not advisable to exercise your dog an hour before or after feeding. Some dogs are susceptible to a twisting of the gut and blocking of the stomach, which can be very dangerous.
Young and old
One of the beauties of small dogs is the fact they mature more quickly and age more slowly. Small-breed puppies start the weaning process at around three to four weeks old and are considered mature by their first birthday. Their larger counterparts, by contrast, can take twice as long to reach adulthood. Large breeds also tend to age much quicker - some as early as five years old - whilst some small breeds won't reach their golden years until they are ten. So in this case, less can mean more!
Purina brands for smaller dogs
Several leading Purina brands offer adult and puppy food formulas specifically developed to meet the needs of smaller.
Find out more about PURINA® dog foods.