There are so many dog foods on the market, finding one that is right for your small dog can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, there is no one dog food that is best for every dog. Here are a few ways to narrow down your choices and select the food that is right for your dog.
Check the label
When you are looking for a healthy food for your dog, reviewing the list of ingredients on the back of the bag is a good place to start. By law, pet food labels must list their ingredients by weight. The ingredients and the guaranteed analysis (amounts of protein, fat, fiber, and other nutrients) are included on the food label.
Dog foods labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ must meet standards established by AAFCO, either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. Pet owners should check labels and look for a nutritional adequacy statement from AAFCO — the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This will insure the formula at least meets minimal nutritional requirements.
Look for whole food sources of protein.
Just because the label says “natural”, “organic” or “holistic” does not necessarily mean it is better for your dog, The source and quality of protein in the formula is crucially important for your pet’s health. Look for whole food sources at the very top of the ingredient list like ‘beef,’ ‘turkey,’ ‘lamb’ or ‘chicken’ — one-word descriptions.
Know what other ingredients are included.
Other included ingredients should be vegetables (avoid corn, wheat or beep pulp) and a whole grain source like brown rice or a grain-free source such as potatoes. Avoid pet foods containing artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, especially those known to be carcinogens. In dog food, these usually go by the names BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and propyl gallate.
Investigate the Recall History
Dog food recalls can provide some valuable clues about a brand’s manufacturing habits. Most recalls typically involve only a limited number of product runs and batches. Just because a particular recipe has been recalled doesn’t mean the entire brand is defective. However, if a brand has several recall events, it may be one to avoid.
So what are the best brands?
Everyone will have their own opinion on what brands of dog food are best based on their experience, or something they’ve seen online. Sometimes it will come down to what they feel is economical. When you have a small breed dog, however, you have to remember that your dog will not eat a lot of kibble throughout an entire year and so that seemingly expensive dog food may only run you, realistically, about $6-7 per month – so your dog gets the best kibble, and it isn’t hard on your wallet.
Dry Dog Foods
Because of their low cost and unbeatable convenience, dry kibbles are the most popular dog foods in use. Here are our top 3 picks.
- Orijen: Orijen is made by Champion Foods and is an award-winning, biologically appropriate dry dog food (Pet Food of the Year, Agriculture & Consumer Products Award, Award of Distinction, Food Innovation Award). From orijen.ca: “We focus on local ingredients that are sustainably raised, passed ‘fit for human consumption’, and then delivered to our kitchens FRESH EACH DAY, so they’re bursting with flavor and goodness to nourish dogs and cats completely.” According to www.dogsbynina.com, “Biologically Appropriate… simply means that it is the food that your dog should be eating based on the needs they developed before being domesticated“. Runs approximately $85 per year.
- Acana: Acana is also from the makers of Orijen, but there is a definite difference between the two: Acana runs a little cheaper than Orijen, however the biggest difference is that Acana uses a slightly higher in low-glycemic carbohydrates (low glycemic carbs enters the blood stream more slowly which helps to avoid hypoglycemia (which is a common and dangerous concern for all small dog breeds) and slightly lower in protein (small dog breeds require less protein to avoid bone issues and other problems later in life). For small breed puppies, the Acana Puppy Small Breed also offers a smaller sized kibble which is easier for your puppy to chew (our pup preferred the smalled kibble all throughout her puppy months). Runs approximately $70 per year.
- Hills Science Diet Adult Advanced Fitness: Provides quality proteins, Omega-6 fatty acids and a balanced blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The formula is easy to digest. The first ingredient is always fresh chicken or salmon, and there are no preservatives or artificial flavorings. Runs approximately $40 per year.
Wet Dog Foods
Canned foods can be some of the best (and most overlooked) choices available. With cans, meat ingredients are closer to their natural state. Here are our top 3 picks
- Canidae Life Stages canned formulas such as Lamb and Rice cater to a variety of breeds, ages and tastes. It offers a mix of probiotics, antioxidants and healthy omega oils combined with high protein for optimal nutrition. Even dogs with allergies and sensitive systems do well on this food. Runs approximately $ 23 for 12 13-oz cans. ($1.91 per can)
- Nature’s Balance Fresh Dog Food Rolls: Comes in Chicken, Turkey, Salmon and Ocean Whitefish flavors. Grain Free and contains 41% protein. Contains spinach, cranberries, blueberries, natural flavors, probiotics and Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. Runs approximately $8 for a 3.5 lb roll.
- 4Health Dog Food: Comes in Lamb, Chicken, Salmon, Beef, Turkey and other flavors.41% protein. Contains brown rice, eggs, vegetables and vitamin supplements and minerals. Runs approximately $12 for 12 13-oz cans
III. Raw Dog Foods
Most people consider dogs to be carnivores and a raw dog food diet is based on that carnivorous tendency. A raw dog food diet consists of the meat, bones and organs of an animal with vegetables and vitamin and mineral supplements. While many pet owners prepare this diet fresh, it is also sold in raw frozen or freeze-dried form.
- Bravo Balance Homestyle Complete Freeze Dried Dinners: They are natural dinners with added vitamins and minerals. Just add water and stir to make a healthy, highly nourishing meal. Gluten-free dinner No added hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors Complete and balanced for all life stages. Runs approximately $31 for 2-lb bag that makes up to 10 lbs of food.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Freeze Dried is a freeze-dried raw food that comes in a variety of flavors like Lamb, Chicken, Beef, Turkey and Salmon. 43% protein. Contains fresh meats and organ parts as well as ground beef bone , broccoli, carrots, lettuce ,omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and vitamins and minerals. Runs approximately $27 for a 14 oz bag of nuggets.
- Stella & Chewy’s Raw Freeze-dried dinners: Comes in a wide variety of proteins like turkey, duck, beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, venison, rabbit and pheasant. Contains organic fruits and vegetables such as cranberries, carrots, apples, spinach, broccoli and beets, probiotics and essential vitamins and minerals. Runs approximately $27 for a 16 oz bag of patties.
Remember, each dog food will offer a variety of different things to your small breed dog. Remember to choose a food appropriate for your dogs age and breed, keeping in mind the health concerns that are common within your particular breed.
In the end, cost, availability and how much your dog likes or does not like a particular food will steer you toward one brand. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.