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The Best Canned Dog Food for Small Dogs

If you’re looking for the best canned dog food for small dogs, you (or your dog) won’t be disappointed with these options.

Impatient (like me)?  🙂

Jump directly to current prices & more information about the best canned dog food for small dogs:

  1. Nutro Small Breed Adult
  2. Blue Buffalo Family Favorite Canned Dog Food
  3. Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Small Breed
  4. Halo Grain Free Chicken and Salmon Small Breed
Despite your (insert your small dog’s breed here _______) Yorkie’s tiny stature, his personality is definitely larger-than-life.

Fluffy may be the smallest dog at the dog park, but he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s just a tiny bit smaller than the gallivanting golden retrievers and dashing dobermans that surround him.

He’s one-of-a-kind, so would you be surprised to discover that his nutritional needs are unique too?

Small dogs aren’t just miniature versions of their larger counterparts (e.g., a toy poodle is not a tiny standard poodle).

Small dogs’ metabolisms tend to run higher so they require more food per pound of bodyweight than a large breed dog.

At the same time, they tend to be pickier (a more refined palate perhaps?), so it can be more difficult to find a food that meets their nutritional needs and satisfies their taste buds.

Canned, or wet, dog food can be a good option for small dogs because it’s tasty, and packed with protein to keep their speedy metabolisms humming along.

What puppy food should I buy? Wet dog food
Canned (wet) dog food is a great option for small dogs because it’s tasty & packed with protein. Click To Tweet

So What is the Best Canned Dog Food for Small Dogs?

I’ve researched four popular canned foods for small dogs to give you the low-down on which one will best meet your small dog’s needs.

1. Nutro Canned Small Breed Dog Food

Nutro is the first contender for best canned dog food for your small four-legged friend.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with many aspects of Nutro’s formulation.

Nutro pet food logo

As a reminder, small dogs can be sensitive so any unnecessary additives and fillers can really take a toll on their delicate digestive systems.

Although Nutro claims that their formulation is free of artificial colours and preservatives, they neglect to mention the addition of caramel colour. Caramel colour is added primarily to make the end product look more appealing, although I doubt your dog cares whether their food is a rich dark chocolate or a light chestnut.

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The caramel colour wasn’t the only additive I found though.

The inclusion of wheat gluten was used as a binder, but it’s also likely to bind your small dog’s digestion into knots. Wheat is very inflammatory, and by isolating the gluten, Nutro has also isolated and amplified wheat’s binding properties in your pet’s intestines.

Lastly, Nutro could have used a better source than sunflower oil for your pet’s fat requirements.

Yes, small dogs have higher fat requirements compared to large dogs, but it’s about quality not just quantity!

Sunflower oil is cheap, but it’s also an unstable inflammatory omega-6 fat that can easily turn rancid.

This product does have some redeeming qualities though.

Sunflower oil in dog food ingredients

I did appreciate that the first four ingredients were some form of chicken or beef, which is great for meeting your small dog’s energy requirements.

Unfortunately, the first ingredient was chicken broth and not actual chicken. Because the first ingredient is a liquid, your Yorkie is getting something more akin to chicken soup than a hearty chicken meal.

Overall, I wouldn’t say this is the best canned dog food choice for your small dog, but it is the most affordable option in this selection!

Good for:

  • Penny-pinchers
  • Dogs with strong constitutions (no allergies or digestive problems!)

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2. Blue Buffalo Homestyle and Family Favorite Recipe – Canned Dog Food for Small Dogs

Blue Buffalo definitely provides more of a whole-foods approach to your small dog’s nutrition than the previous brand.

If you remember from our first lesson, it’s very important your small dog get’s an abundance of protein to fuel his daily adventures, whether that be chewing on your favorite shoes or chasing the cat.

Blue Buffalo logo

In terms of protein content, the first ingredient in Blue Buffalo’s formulation is chicken rather than a watery substitute.

Another plus?

Inflammatory wheat gluten is not used as a binder in this recipe.

Blue Buffalo opted for carrots and sweet potatoes as a source of starch.

Both are great non-allergenic alternatives that also provide nutritional value.

I do have a concern about some of the other starches that have been used such as barley and oatmeal.

Yes, these starches are definitely an improvement from wheat, but there are still some downsides to including these grains in your dog’s canned food.

Sweet potatoes and carrots dog food ingredients

Barley and oatmeal, although delicious in a soup or as a breakfast porridge, may not be the best choice for your dog. Some dogs with sensitive digestive systems could experience issues with grains.

And if you believe what the raw foodists are saying these days, there really is no place for grains in your dog’s diet.

So, although Blue Buffalo does use ‘better’ starches, the question is what starches should be used and how much should really be in your dog’s food? If you’ve noticed your four-legged best friend has an insatiable need to itch all the time or you’re noticing a bit of doggy dandruff, then these are signs your pet may have a food allergy.

Simplifying his diet by eliminating all grains may be a good first step to alleviating your dog’s inflammation.

Speaking of inflammation, Blue Buffalo does provide some great support for your dog if he’s getting a little long in the tooth and creaky in the joints.  The inclusion of glucosamine and salmon are excellent for supporting your dog’s joints, so this might be a good option for senior dogs.

Good for:

  • Senior dogs and dogs with joint problems
  • Dogs with strong constitutions (no allergies or digestive issues!)

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3. Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Small Breed Canned Dog Food

The buzz word is grain-free when it comes to Nature’s Variety Instinct’s formula.

Nature's Variety dog food logo

I do love the fact that this brand has decided to nix all grains, which is an excellent way to ensure your pup is getting optimum nutrition without the potential inflammatory impact grains could have on your dog’s digestion.

Unfortunately, when grains are given the boot, another potential troublemaker enters the picture. In this case, grains are replaced by peas.

Peas are not completely harmless as they do contain lectins that can block the absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract and cause damage.

But before you become paranoid about peas, I would like to clarify that this little legume is unlikely to give your dog as much trouble as grains, especially wheat. It really all depends on how sensitive Fido’s digestion is.

Overall, I do think there is a bit too much starch in this formulation.

Remember how important it is that your little dog optimize his protein and fat intake because of his super speedy metabolism?

With peas being the fourth ingredient on the list, and chicken broth being number one, I’m not sure your small friend is getting everything he needs.

On another note, there are some great little extras this product includes such as kelp for minerals, and a host of fruits and vegetables such as cranberries, pumpkins, and blueberries.

Unfortunately, these dog superfoods are at the very end of the ingredient list, meaning they may be more for label padding than anything else.

Good for:

  • Dogs with allergies
  • Dogs with digestive issues
  • Dogs with inflammation

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4. Halo Grain Free Chicken and Salmon Small Breed Dog Food

Halo’s canned food is a potential ‘top dog’ in my estimation of the best canned dog food.

Again, I love the fact that they left out the grains because it is becoming more and more obvious that our furry best friends were not really designed to digest them (heck, even a lot of people are going grain-free these days).

And just like Nature’s Variety Instinct, Halo has supplemented peas as the main starch in this tasty meal.

Halo dog food logo

Most canned dog foods use some form of starch to bind the food, so if you’re still noticing a lot of health issues with your fur buddy, you may have to switch him to a more restrictive diet (e.g., raw) to see an improvement.

Did I also mention that Halo includes whole salmon as an ingredient? This is an excellent inclusion to give your dog that soft and silky coat that no amount of brushing can seem to replicate. Plus, salmon and l-carnitine are excellent for supporting aging joints.

A potential downfall of this formulation is the lack of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that some of the other brands have included.

Unfortunately, there is a ‘healthy’ ingredient that was probably added with good intentions, but is a ‘no-no’ in my book of good pet nutrition. Although everyone and their grandma seems to be taking flaxseed oil these days, I’m very hesitant to agree that adding flaxseed oil is a good idea in a shelf-stable product.

Flaxseed oil is extremely delicate, which is why you’ll only ever see it refrigerated in dark bottles at the grocery store. It can turn rancid very easily, and eating rancid oil is never a good idea. It is a ‘high-quality ingredient’, but can be very detrimental if consumed when it’s not fresh.

Overall, Halo dog food is good for:

  • Senior dogs and dogs with joint problems
  • Dogs with digestive issues
  • Dogs with allergies

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Conclusion

Picking a canned dog food that is just right for your small dog can be a tricky business.

Notoriously picky eaters, you may have thought you’ve found the perfect food until Fido turns his nose up and refuses to eat even a single morsel. In this case, you may have to experiment a bit until you find the perfect balance of nutrition and taste.

The preceding four foods are all good choices depending on what your needs are (price, grain-free, inflammation-fighter). Your small dog’s Napoleon complex isn’t the only thing that makes him different from your typical lab or boxer.  Always prioritize protein and healthy fats to ensure your little one is getting everything he needs!

Best Canned Dog Food for Small Dogs

Nutro
Blue Buffalo
Nature's Variety
Halo

4 Great Options!

(click to learn about each)

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