Small dog breeds vary greatly in size and shape and it will take a little time to develop the best feeding plan for your small dog. Very small breeds, such as the Pomeranian and Chihuahua, have different feeding needs to larger small breeds, like the Fox Terrier and Bichon Frisé. All small dog breeds usually burn calories much faster than large breeds, though, so it’s important not to underfeed them.
Small dogs are considered to be fully grown ‘adult’ dogs around the age of 10 months, and they remain an adult until 8 or 9 years old, when they become a ‘senior’ – unlike some large dog breeds that may be considered a ‘senior’ dog as young as six. Once you have a clear idea of what weight and shape your small dog should be at his current life-stage, it’s your responsibility to establish a feeding routine that keeps your small dog healthy and happy. Your vet can provide more tailored advice.
Many small dogs are happy to eat either wet or dry complete recipes, both of which are nutritionally balanced. However, it is very important to manage your small dog’s portion size, and it’s also a good idea to choose a small breed dog food – the smaller chunks or smaller pieces of kibble are much easier for little mouths to chew and swallow.
Dry complete diets are easy to measure, and usually last longer when open, which makes them convenient to use. Wet complete diets are often preferred by small dogs who enjoy a moist tasty meal, and single serve sachets make portion control simpler. If you decide to add a dry kibble mixer to a wet recipe, don’t forget to adjust the quantities of both types of food to make sure you’re not overfeeding your small dog.
In fact, overfeeding your small dog is easier than you might expect. Once you know how much your small dog should eat in a single day, carefully divide that total into two or three portions. Try not to feed your small dog more often than that or you could find he is constantly seeking food. If you give your small dog any treats or snacks, the equivalent weight should also be subtracted from that day’s total food allowance. It’s important that treats should never equal more than 10 per cent of your small dog’s daily energy needs.
Some small dogs can be fussy eaters, even when given very small portions, and still live a healthy life. But if your small dog is losing weight, or his coat lacks shine, contact your vet. In the meantime, give your small dog fresh water to drink at mealtimes – especially if he’s eating dry complete food. And if you’re feeding wet complete food, try gently warming it up before serving – this releases the aromas and can help entice your small dog to tuck in. Finally, serve your small dog’s meals in a quiet, calm place, with no other distractions.
If your small dog still leaves his meals unfinished, try a new recipe instead. Make any changes to your small dog’s diet gradually, replacing one dry food meal a day with wet food (or vice versa), for the first two or three days. If he enjoys the new food, serve it up twice a day for another three days, and so on, until your small dog has switched over completely. Small dogs often have big personalities, and your small dog is showing you exactly what he likes and dislikes!