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Bigs and Littles; A Guide to Nutrition in Different Sized Dogs

Choosing the right diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to owning a strong and healthy dog. There are many factors when it comes to dog diets, many of which can actually be affected by size and breed differences of different dogs.

Every dog has different nutrient requirements based on their age, activity level and size. When comparing small dogs to big dogs, small dogs actually require more energy dense diets. This is due to the different metabolic rates of small dogs versus larger dogs. Although larger dogs eat more than smaller dogs, the number of calories per pound that is required for a small dog is greater. Due to their size, small dogs also have smaller stomachs. Therefore, they must eat more energy rich foods to meet their requirements before filling up their stomach capacity! The difference in nutrient requirement in diets is especially notable when we are dealing with puppies. Small breed puppies need different amounts of calcium and phosphorus than large breed puppies. If purchasing dry kibble, make sure that you are buying the right puppy food depending on breed size.   

Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing the right food for your dog is the kibble size. There is no doubt that a Chihuahua’s jaw is much smaller than a Great Dane’s. For this reason, it is important that smaller breed dogs are offered smaller kibble to accommodate the size of their teeth and jaws. If you prefer feeding your dog dry kibble, there are many companies that offer small-sized kibble specifically made for smaller breeds. Smaller sized kibble also provides less of a choking hazard to smaller dogs, especially puppies. Small breeds are also usually more prone to dental problems as well, due to their small jaws. Dental diets are made available for breeds of all sizes to help remove tartar and plaque buildup with specially formulated kibble.

When it comes to breed specific diets, there is no harm in feeding your dog an all-breed diet. When it comes to breed-specific diets, they are formulated based on researching traits that make the breed unique. There may be differences in the size, shape, calorie composition of the kibble. A great example of a breed-specific diet is for Labrador Retrievers. Labradors are known to be fast eaters, and many tend to be overweight. Donut-shaped kibble for this breed is optimal to slow down their pace when eating, and their kibble should be formulated to control their weight to avoid becoming overweight. When choosing a diet, it is important to observe your pet and work around their eating behaviour and health status.

Food allergies can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, as well as itchiness of the skin and paws. Some dogs may be allergic to different types of protein sources, while others may have a reaction to certain types of grains. There is no solid evidence from science that has confirmed that there are links to specific dog breeds being more prone to food allergies. It seems that genetics plays a role more so than the breed. With allergies, there is also no link with age or sex of the dogs either. Allergies or intolerance can be developed throughout their lifetime. Some dogs may also have sensitive stomachs, resulting in episodes of vomiting and diarrhea if they’ve been given new foods or gotten into foods not meant for them. Stomach sensitivities are also not specific to any breed. However, puppies and older dogs, as well as small dog breeds tend to have more problems with stomach upset.

The best thing to do when you are unsure of what to feed your dogs is to consult a veterinarian, especially if you have noticed any changes that your food has had on your dog. The veterinarian can go through questions such as how much your dog needs to eat based on their weight and age, whether or not they require a special diet, and answer any other questions that may follow. Dog owners should also educate themselves on what they should feed their dogs by reading from reputable sources.

Based on nutritional requirements, dogs of different sizes have different needs. Factors such as kibble size, diet formulation based on age and breed, as well as any allergies are some things to consider before purchasing the right food for your dog. It is always recommended to consult with your dog’s veterinarian to ensure you’re feeding the right diet for a happy and healthy pup!

Yorkie and Shih Tzu eating Kabo beef meal surrounded by kibble on white background
Yorkie and Shih Tzu eating Kabo beef meal surrounded by kibble on white background

View Sources

Coates, Jennifer. “Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy, and Large Breed Dogs.” PetMD, 2 Feb. 2012, example, a ten pound,needs only 22.5 calories/pound.

“Does My Dog Have Sensitive Stomach?” Animal Planet, 15 May 2012, stomachs can have several,dogs are also more susceptible.

“Dog Food Allergies Causes and Cures.” Nom Nom,

Eckstein, Sandy. “Dogs With Food Allergies: Symptoms, Common Triggers, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, 27 Apr. 2012,

Heinze, Cailin R. “Breed Specific vs All Breed Diets.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 28 Aug. 2019,

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February 20, 2024
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