Buying food for toy breeds is not as straightforward as just choosing the most popular at the pet store and taking it home. Small dogs have special dietary requirements as they tend to be sensitive to certain food. It’s also more difficult to feed them due to their small size and high metabolism.
Toy breed dogs can only eat small amounts at a time so they need to eat several times a day to keep their blood sugar within normal range. The food needs to be packed with nutrients and calories to ensure that your little dog is getting enough of the things it needs to stay healthy.
While this may sound daunting, here are some guidelines on what to look for when buying the best dog food for small dogs.
Ingredients To Look For
Quality ingredients are the most important thing when deciding which food to buy. Just like with human food, you want the ingredients to be as natural as possible so that they can provide the best nutrition available. The main things to check for in dog food for small breeds are protein, fat and carbohydrates.
When checking what’s in the food you’re considering, protein is the first thing to look for. Protein should be the main ingredient so it should be first on the list. It should also be a high-quality source of protein and something you can recognize. Look for chicken, turkey, or lamb.
Sometimes, game meats will also be used, such as bison or venison. These are good as they are not usually inflammatory and they can be tolerated by dogs with sensitive tummies.
Anything ambiguous, like “by-product”, should be avoided. This is often what’s left over and considered unfit for human consumption after butchering the best meat off of an animal. It can also be a mix of animals from various sources.
Meat meals are also a good protein source. Meal is meat that has been dried to remove the water but still contains the same protein content.
Dogs are unlike humans in their digestion and they can take a quite high-fat diet and still be healthy. Just like with protein, you should look for reliable fat sources. Chicken fat is a good one but any recognizable source would be acceptable.
Fats that are not defined, such as “animal fat”, can be accumulated from all over the place and from various sources so the quality cannot be verified. Preservatives are often added to them to make them last longer as fat turns rancid when exposed to air.
Along with fat, the food you buy for toy dog breeds should also include fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6. Some of the vitamins small dogs require are fat soluble, which means they need to have these fatty acids in order to absorb them.
As a general rule, there should be 1g of fat for 2g of protein in good dog food for small dogs.
In dog food, carbohydrates are often used as fillers to add bulk and calories. These are often referred to as vague descriptions, such as “grain by-products” or “cereals”. There are also some grains that small dogs, like Shih Tzus, are often allergic to. Examples include corn, wheat, and soy.
However, there are nutrients in high-quality carbohydrates. So, look for lists of vegetables, preferably fibrous ones, like potatoes, squashes, turnips and whole grains like oats.
Things To Avoid When Looking For Food For Toy Dogs
Apart from knowing what to look for in a good dog food, you should also know what should be avoided as much as possible.
As previously mentioned, wheat, soy, and corn are common allergens. They can cause upset stomachs and skin irritations. Along with these, look out for artificial preservatives, like ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA.
Of course, some preservatives are needed or else the food would go off in storage and transport, but these can be in the form of Vitamin E and Vitamin C substrates known as tocopherols or ascorbates.
There are also some ingredients that must not be given to small dogs and Shih Tzu. These are toxic and can cause organ damage and even death in some cases. These include anything with caffeine, such as tea or coffee, chocolate, onions, fruit seeds or pips, grapes or raisins and macadamia nuts.
Size and Shape Of Dog Food For Small Dogs
Small dogs have small mouths and jaws to match. This means that you can’t give them big chunks of food as they’ll struggle to bite and chew properly. A lot of toy breeds also have compressed snouts and flat faces, like the Shih Tzu, and this makes eating messy and not so easy.
There are specialized foods, mainly dry food, that’s made up of small, bite-sized pieces called kibbles. They’re the perfect size and shape to fit into small mouths and small jaws. Size and shape should be a consideration when picking out the best dog food for small dogs.
Snacks and Treats
The recommendations for food should also apply to the treats that you give your small dogs. Since they can only take in small amounts of food at a time, they are often prone to hypoglycemia. You need to give them a couple of snacks between meals to keep their blood sugar normal. These should be small snacks that your dog can eat quickly and are full of nutrients and calories to keep them going. Just like with meals, avoid snacks that have lots of chemicals, preservatives, and allergens in them.
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
For extra peace of mind, look out for the AAFCO stamp of approval. The AAFCO test and monitor animal food to make sure that it has the right composition of nutrients and can provide your dog with everything it needs and everything the food claims to provide. It also ensures that there is nothing harmful in there so you can feed your dog with confidence.
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Author: Adam Conrad
Adam is a parent of 6 Shh Tzu puppies. He spends most of his time looking after them. When time permits, Adam spends time finding the best of things for his fub babies. Some of his research interests are best dog food for Shih Tzu, best clipper and other grooming products like brushes. The 2 dangerous diseases Distemper and Parvo are firmly on Adam's list of things to eradicate from this world.