7 Best Foods to Feed a Toy Breed Dog

If you have a Toy breed or mix, find out what your dog needs in his diet so he’ll live a long, healthy life. Keep reading to learn what kind of food your Toy breed dog needs.

With more and more people living in urban areas, Toy breeds have become wildly popular. Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, the Maltese, the Papillion, and other tiny dogs are favorites all over the U.S. These little dogs can have big personalities but they can also have some special nutritional requirements. They need the best Toy breed dog food you can give them.

Nutritional Needs for a Toy Breed Dog

Every dog needs basic nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but Toy dogs do have some special nutritional needs.

Puppies

Despite their small size, Toy breeds usually need more calories per pound than their bigger doggy cousins. They have a faster metabolism so they burn more calories even when they are resting. This is especially true with Toy breed puppies who use up lots more calories than other puppies.

Many Toy breed puppies can have some early problems with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. These puppies have high metabolic rates and no fat reserves in their bodies. When their blood sugar levels fall too low, they can exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

Toy breed puppies need to eat multiple small meals each day. They should be fed a good quality, nutrient-dense puppy food. They may require small snacks between meals. You may need to keep some Nutrical or Karo Syrup on hand to provide some quick sugar calories if your puppy shows signs of hypoglycemia. These tiny puppies usually outgrow this condition after they are a few months old, when their bodies are able to regulate their blood sugar levels.

Puppy foods that are formulated for Toy breeds should have the appropriate nutrients. These foods usually have smaller-sized kibble pieces so they are easier for tiny puppies to chew and they won’t be a choking hazard.

Unlike larger breeds, Toy breed puppies generally reach maturity faster. It can take some large and giant breeds 2-3 years to fully mature. Their bones keep growing … and growing. Toy breed puppies usually reach maturity between 6 and 12 months of age. This means that by the time your Toy puppy is a year old (or sooner), you will need to switch over to an adult food.

Adults

Toy breed adult dogs also have a faster metabolism than other dogs. They may use about 40 calories per pound/per day, compared to 30 calories per pound/per day for medium-sized dogs; and about 20 calories per pound/per day for large dogs.

Despite the fact that your Toy breed dog needs more calories per pound, you need to be careful not to overfeed your dog. Obesity is a problem for Toy dogs just as it is for bigger dogs. Arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and cranial cruciate ligament injury are all associated with obesity in dogs. Toy and small breed dogs generally live longer than bigger dogs but this trend can be negated if your dog is obese. Obesity in dogs is estimated to shorten a dog’s life by up to two years.

Good quality adult foods for Toy dogs usually have smaller-sized kibble pieces that are easy for Toy dogs to chew. They have more calories and nutrients per ounce of food than other dog foods. Toy dogs can’t eat a lot of food at each meal. It’s important that they get plenty of nutrition in each small meal they eat.

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What to Look For in a Good Toy Breed Dog Food

In many ways a good Toy breed dog food is similar to other good quality dog foods but there are a few differences. Along with having smaller-sized pieces of kibble to make chewing easier (and avoid choking), look for the following when choosing a food for your Toy dog.

Protein – Like other dogs, Toy breed dogs need good protein from good sources in their diet. Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are all good sources of protein. While AAFCO recommends 18 percent protein for an adult maintenance diet; and 22 percent protein for a growth and reproduction diet (puppies and pregnant dogs), Toy breeds can benefit from high protein percentages. With their faster metabolism, they need a little more of everything. This is true for both Toy puppies and adults.

Look for good named sources of animal protein for your Toy breed dog such as whole chicken, chicken meal, lamb, fish, and beef. Dogs are able to digest animal protein more easily than plant protein. Small amounts of plant protein (peas, lentils) are acceptable but they should not make up the bulk of the protein in your dog’s food.

Fat – Because of their faster metabolism, Toy breeds need more calories per pound – about 40 calories per pound/per day. This means that a 6-pound Chihuahua needs about 240 calories per day (plus/minus, depending on your dog’s activity level, health, and other factors). By comparison, a dog that weighs 30 pounds only needs about 900 calories per day. Look for good named sources of fat on dog food labels such as chicken fat.

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Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in good proportion, are also important for your Toy dog’s health. Omega-3, from animal sources such as fish, are generally superior to plant sources such as flax seed or flax seed oil. Ideally dog foods should have omega-6 and omega-3 in the ratio of somewhere from 10:1 to 5:1.

AAFCO recommends just 5 percent fat for a maintenance diet for adult dogs; and 8 percent fat for puppies. Virtually all dog foods today have higher fat percentages than these recommendations. Your Toy dog or puppy should have more fat in his diet than these percentages. You don’t have to buy a food with enormously high fat percentages but a fat percentage of around 17 percent for Toy breed puppies would be good. (Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Puppy has 17 percent crude fat. Their foods are known for having low/moderate fat percentages compared to many other good quality foods.)

Carbohydrates – It’s up to you whether you choose a food that is grain free or which includes grains. If your Toy dog isn’t allergic to grains, there’s no particular reason to avoid all of them. Many dog owners choose to avoid corn, wheat, and soy in foods today because these are common allergens for some dogs. However, there are other less common grains and cereals which most dogs can eat without any problems such as rice, oats, and barley. Some of these grains and cereals provide good sources of fiber.

Carbohydrates are not all bad but you should be careful about feeding foods that are very high in carbs. This can include foods that are grain free and that have grains. Many grain free foods use ingredients that are high in carbohydrates as substitutes for grains – such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, and tapioca. So, check the carbohydrate content of any food you are considering.

Avoid fillers – While carbohydrates have their pros and cons, there are some ingredients that are fillers or which boost a food’s protein percentage without adding much (or any) nutrition. Corn and wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and some other ingredients are added to dog foods for these reasons. Note that corn and even corn “gluten” do not contain gluten in the same sense that wheat has gluten. It doesn’t have the same effect on the digestive system as true glutens. Corn “gluten” is food industry jargon. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s generally used in pet foods to boost the protein percentage of foods. The same can be said to a certain extent about peas in dog foods which is why you should avoid foods that use huge amounts of peas. They boost the protein percentage of foods. While peas do add more nutrients to dog food than corn, they should not be used as a substitute for animal protein.

Avoid generics – Try to avoid dog foods that use unnamed or vague ingredients. For example, “meat” could come from any kind of animal. “Chicken” or “lamb” is more specific. “Chicken fat” is more specific than “animal fat.” Vague or generic terms leave a lot of wiggle room for dog food companies so the ingredient could be something unsavory that you might now want your dog to eat.

Avoid additives – As with other good quality dog foods, when choosing a good quality Toy dog food you should avoid added artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Artificial flavors can include artificial sweeteners. Artificial colors include dyes. Artificial preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin. Look for foods that use natural preservative such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and vitamin C. These ingredients have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

AAFCO – There are currently not any guidelines or regulations for Toy breed dog foods from AAFCO. You should look for foods that are “complete and balanced.” Dog foods can be “all life stage,” “maintenance,” or for “growth and reproduction.” Puppy foods will be labeled for growth and reproduction. Adult dog foods can be labeled for all life stage or for maintenance. The only hard and fast rule is that you should never feed a maintenance dog food to a puppy. These foods do not have the nutrients that puppies need to grow and develop.

4 Best Toy Breed Adult Foods

Wellness CORE Grain Free Small Breed Formula

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas

Wellness CORE Grain Free Small Breed Formula

Wellness CORE Grain Free Small Breed formula has 36 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat, with 396 kcal/cup. The first five ingredients are: deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, potatoes, and peas. It has fiber and probiotics for digestive health and omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. No meat by-products, fillers, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors. Wellness CORE has other dry and wet formulas if you like something different for your Toy dog.

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Real Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Real Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe

Merrick makes several lines of popular dog foods and now their Lil’ Plates line is becoming popular with people who have Toy dogs. The first five ingredients in this food are deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes. This is an all life stage formula with 38 percent crude protein and 17 percent crude fat, with 430 kcal/cup so it should provide plenty of energy for any Toy dog. It’s grain free with no corn, wheat, or soy, and no ingredients from China. Merrick’s Lil’ Plates kibble also comes in other formulas, as well as wet foods in the form of dog food trays.

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Health Extension Little Bites Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

First 5 Ingredients : Organic Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Chicken Fat, Lamb Meal

Health Extension Little Bites

Health Extension has a complete line of foods for dogs and cats including dry dog foods, canned dog foods, and grain free foods. Health Extension Little Bites is one of their most popular foods. It’s made especially for the smallest of Toy breeds – both puppy and adult dogs since it’s an all life stage formula. This formula has no by-products, no rendered animal fats, no corn, gluten, soy, wheat, artificial preservatives, BHT, ethoxyquin, added sugar, artificial flavors, colors, or dyes. The first five ingredients in Little Bites are: organic deboned chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and ascorbic acid), and lamb meal. It has 24 percent crude protein, 18 percent crude fat, and 418 kcal/cup. We think this is an excellent for Toy breeds.

Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula with Venison & Garbanzo Beans

Fan Favorite

First 5 Ingredients : Venison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Lentils

Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula

Taste of the Wild – always a popular brand – has recently added new formulas, including a small breed formula. Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula with Venison & Garbanzo Beans is grain free with 32 percent crude protein and 18 percent crude fat. It has 370 kcal/cup so it should provide good energy for small breeds. The first five ingredients are: venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils. And the kibble pieces are small so they’re easy for Toy dogs to eat. This is a maintenance formula so it’s not suitable for growing puppies, but it looks like it would be a very good food for many Toy and small dogs. TOTW has lots of other great formulas in both dry and canned recipes if your dog likes something different.

3 Best Toy Breed Puppy Foods

Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy

First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Salmon Meal, Ground Barley

Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy

Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy formula is one of the most popular foods for Toy puppies. It has DHA for healthy brain development; antioxidants; microbials for good digestion; and a good mix of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. The first five ingredients feature deboned turkey, chicken meal, oatmeal, salmon meal, and ground barley which are easy to digest. It has 28 percent crude protein, 18 percent crude fat, 4 percent crude fiber, with 480 kcal per cup, so there are plenty of calories for Toy puppies. Wellness also makes a Complete Health Grain Free Puppy formula.

Canidae Grain Free Pure Foundations Puppy Formula

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lentils, Peas, Potatoes

Canidae Grain Free Pure Foundations Puppy Formula

Canidae Grain Free Pure Foundations Puppy Formula is a good puppy food for lots of puppies, not just Toy breed puppies. It’s a limited ingrediet food that’s good for puppies that have sensitive digestion or if you simply want to be careful about ingredients. It’s grain free with antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3 and omega-6. The first five ingredients are: chicken, menhaden fish meal, lentils, peas, and potatoes. It has 30 percent crude protein, 12 percent crude fat, and 520 kcal/cup,  so it should provide plenty of calories for growing Toy breed puppies. Canidae also has several adult foods formulated specifically for small dogs.

Victor Grain Free Active Dog & Puppy

First 5 Ingredients : Beef Meal, Sweet Potato, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat

Victor Grain Free Active Dog & Puppy

Victor is no longer a secret these days. At one time Victor was a local Texas brand but today the company is known nationally. This grain free recipe has 75 percent meat protein. The first five ingredients are: beef meal, sweet potato, chicken meal, peas, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). No corn, wheat, or soy. This food has 33 percent crude protein, 16 percent crude fat, and 397 kcal/cup, so it should provide plenty of energy and nutrition for Toy breed puppies. Victor’s Nutra Pro for Active Dogs & Puppies is made with 90 percent meat protein and has 475 kcal/cup if you would like more protein.

Conclusion

Toy dogs are special – we all know that. From the time they are tiny puppies to their older years, they can rule your heart. It’s important to choose the right food for your little ball of fur. Feed Toy puppies multiple small meals for the first few months to avoid hypoglycemia. Choose foods that are higher in calories to meet your Toy dog’s metabolic needs – but be careful not to overfeed. Obesity is a real concern with Toy dogs just as it is with other dogs. Remember that Toy breed puppies mature quickly so you will probably need to switch to an adult dog food by the time your puppy is a year old.

We hope the information provided here is helpful for you. If you need other recommendations about the best foods for your dog, check our reviews here on Pawster!

Carlotta Cooper

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