Small-breed dogs tend to have higher metabolism rates than their larger counterparts, which means they need a puppy feeding diet specifically designed for them. "Small-breed dog food formulas are created to give your dog the right balance of nutrients," says Debra Eldredge, DVM, a veterinarian in upstate New York and coauthor of The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook (Howell House). Here's what you need to know to feed your small-breed pooch.
The guidelines on the package are a great starting point, Eldredge says, but "you have to customize [them] for your dog." For instance, her family has three dogs who all weigh almost the same. But, one is getting twice as much food as the other two, and she's thin. "She just burns it up," Eldredge says. Your dog's breed and activity levels will affect how much food she needs.
Small-breed puppies, especially toy breeds, can be prone to hypoglycemia. To keep your dog’s blood sugar levels up, you might have to feed her more frequently and up the calories, Eldredge says.
Small-breed puppies grow quickly, so during the first six months, they need to eat more food and eat more frequently, generally three to four times a day. After six months, feeding two meals a day is usually sufficient. As your dog gets older and less active, her nutritional needs change, and she may need a formula for mature dogs. Her new food will generally have more protein and fewer calories.
Smaller dogs have smaller mouths and teeth, so their food is usually made in a smaller bite size, which is easier for them to chew and swallow.
Don't leave your dog's food out all day. Instead, pick it up after 10 or 20 minutes, Eldredge says. If food is available all day, she may eat out of boredom.
With dog food, your pet is on a balanced diet. Feeding her human food may throw off that balance. The occasional taste of chicken or eggs is okay, but don't make it a daily habit.
How much do you know about the food you’re buying for your puppy? When shopping for puppy food, pay attention to these three sections of a dog food label.
This section lists all the ingredients that make up the product. The ingredients are listed in descending order according to weight before cooking. In dry food, look for a source of high-quality animal-based protein: chicken or lamb, for example. Dogs thrive on animal proteins.
Manufacturers who use large amounts of vegetable proteins might be saving money by providing basic — but not optimal — nutrition. You should also avoid artificial colors and flavors, which offer no nutritional benefits.
Near the ingredient panel should be a chart of percentages called the "guaranteed analysis." These figures reveal the basic nutrient makeup of the dog food's formula and protein content. The minimum percentages of protein and fat and the maximum percentages of fiber and moisture (water) should be listed.
This information must be included on the label by law. A toll-free number or web address for the manufacturer may also be listed. Manufacturers who list a phone number, such as IAMS™, generally have a high-quality product and welcome consumer calls and questions. If you would like information about IAMS products, visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-525-4267.