Mix it up
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Another way to ensure that your small breed pup gets the nutrition he needs is through rotational feeding—basically, varying protein sources, formulas, and styles instead of sticking to the same thing day in and day out. “This can be especially beneficial for small breeds to obtain more quality protein,” says Danielle Bernal, DVM, a veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food. Dr. Bernal recommends varying the protein source each day. If that seems too frequent, you can do it each week. “Also, feed both wet and dry food to provide different textures,” she adds. “Wet food can come in flakes, shreds, and pâtés.” Here are some of the best dog food brands that veterinarians feed their own pets.
The people-food problem
Your food is not nutritionally appropriate for dogs, no matter how pitiful those puppy eyes are. In fact, some common foods can be toxic to dogs. So while it may seem harmless to give your Shih Tzu a nibble of fried chicken, don’t. “Although sometimes sharing whatever you’re eating with your dog is tempting, it isn’t really in their best interests,” says Rachel Barrack, DVM, a veterinarian at Animal Acupuncture in New York City. “People food is often too rich and seasoned and can wreak havoc on canine digestive tracts. Unfamiliar foods can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or even inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening.”
Aside from the health concerns, it can be a hard habit to break. Your Westie may be super cute, but his relentless begging every night won’t be.
The best dog food for your small-breed dog
So, with all that in mind, what should you be buying? There are lots of options on the market that will work well, but the veterinarians we spoke with definitely have a few favorites. In fact, Dr. Carlson gives his dog a variety of them. “For my eight-pound Yorkie, I feed a combination,” he shares. “I really like Ziwi, which is a great addition to a small dog’s diet and is very naturally made. Of the packaged kibble options on the market, I’m a huge fan of Farmina Non-GMO, a raw, dehydrated kibble that comes in a mini bite-size.”
Antje Joslin, DVM, a veterinarian for Dogtopia, is a fan of Royal Canin’s breed-specific formulas for healthy pets. “I like them because they are backed by nutritional science and are palatable. I feed my own dogs the Royal Canin skin-support formula,” she says. “Purina Pro Plan and Science Diet both have some great foods as well. I would stick with a brand that has nutritional research behind it.” And just FYI, she wouldn’t recommend choosing a grain-free formulation unless your vet has officially diagnosed your dog with a grain sensitivity. If that’s the case, one good option is Just Food for Dogs, which is handmade in small batches.
Eukanuba is also worth taking a look at, according to Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinary consultant for DogLab.com. But currently, she’s giving Royal Canin to her 9-year-old Schnoodle, Ruby. “Their breed-specific foods are the easiest way to make sure that your dog is getting the correct amount of nutrients for [each] breed,” she says.