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Is It Bad to Feed Small Dogs Large Breed Food?

Is It Bad to Feed Small Dogs Large Breed Food?

13 minute read

It’s tempting to think that all dogs are the same. Dogs are dogs, right? They love to go on walks, play with their toys, guard their territory, and excitedly greet you when you get home. We even know that dogs have the same ancestral background. After all, they descended from wolves that hunted for their food in the wild. 

So with all these similarities, does this mean that all dogs can eat the same food? Is it bad to feed small dogs large breed food?

Here’s what you need to know: If you have a small dog, you need to feed it kibble that is specially formulated for small dog breeds. Similarly, if you have a large dog, you need to purchase food for large breeds. 

You see, every breed and size of dog has its own unique dietary needs. Active dogs, for example, need 25% more protein than sedentary dogs. Puppies need more vitamins and minerals since they are still growing into adulthood. And older dogs need special food to keep their bones strong and to promote a long, healthy life. 

In other words, there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to dog food. 

For some people, this might come as a surprise. After all, you’d think that since all modern dogs descended from wild wolves, their dietary needs would at least be similar, right?

Not necessarily.

what's the difference between large breed and small breed food

What’s the Difference Between Large Breed and Small Breed Food?

Let’s answer this question beginning with a pop quiz!

Who needs more calorie dense foods? Smaller dogs or larger dogs?

The answer might surprise you…

If you answered “smaller dogs,” you are correct! Small dogs, including toy dog breeds, need more calorie dense foods compared to their larger counterparts. 

Based on their size and appearance, it might not appear this way, but small breeds have extremely fast metabolisms. This is especially true for active toy breeds, such as Jack Russell Terriers, as well as puppies. In fact, their metabolisms are so fast that if you gave them food formulated for large dogs, they would feel tired and lethargic. Why? Because they wouldn’t be getting the calories, nutrients, and vitamins that they need – and that right there is key to understanding the difference between large breed and small breed food. 

The major difference between large breed and small breed food is calorie density, but that’s not the only difference. Because larger dogs weigh more, they experience more stress on their joints. This means that bigger dogs also need more calcium compared to smaller dogs. Calcium helps keep the bones and joints healthy, helping prevent arthritis and other causes of bone pain.

In other words, in addition to calorie density, you also have to consider the vitamins and minerals in dog food. If a small dog ingests too much calcium, they may have symptoms such as weakness, listlessness, increased drinking and urination, and loss of appetite.

So if you’re wondering if it is bad to feed small dogs large breed food, the answer is a resounding yes! There are considerable differences between small breed food vs. large breed food. 

But let’s flip this question around. We now know that it’s bad for small dogs to eat food that has been specially formulated for larger dogs. But can a large breed dog eat small breed food?

Yes… it is also bad for larger dogs to eat food formulated for smaller dogs. 

Due to the dense calories in the food, big dogs would be at risk of gaining weight if they ate food meant for toy breeds. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be receiving the vitamins and nutrients they need, such as calcium, to support bone health and a long, happy life. 

Think of it this way: Even among humans, we all have completely different dietary needs. Some of us have allergies to nuts and gluten. Other people need to take fiber supplements for gut health. And patients in the hospital have meals prepared to promote recovery and healing.

Our pets are unique, just like us. They have their own personalities, characteristics, and yes, even their own dietary needs. 

So it’s important to choose dog food that is just the right fit for your dog. 

how to choose the best dog food

How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Your Pup

Now that we’ve answered the question of whether it is bad to feed small dogs large breed food, you might still be wondering how to choose the best food for your dog. After all, there are so many options on the market. 

How do you know which dog food is best? 

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How old is your dog? Because they are still growing, puppies have different nutritional needs compared to older dogs. Puppies need calorie dense food not just for their metabolisms, but to foster healthy growth. So if you have a young dog, it’s important to purchase dog food that indicates that it is made for puppies. Beyond that, you can even get puppy food specifically for toy breeds, as even puppies have different dietary needs from each other.
  • What’s the activity level for your dog breed? If your small dog is known for having a more sedentary lifestyle, then you won’t want to get food formulated for active dogs. Why? Because food for active dogs means that it’s dense in calories. If a sedentary dog were to eat that food without the corresponding level of activity, they would likely gain weight. This would be unhealthy for your dog’s heart, joints, and overall health.
  • Do you give your dog a lot of treats? Do you like to spoil your dog with treats? Maybe you give your small dog a treat after a long walk. Or perhaps you give your dog a chew bone to stay busy when you’re away at work. No matter the situation, if you give your dog a lot of treats, it’s important to factor this in when you’re choosing dog food. Again, it comes down to making sure your dog is getting enough calories – but not too much!

The best dog food for small and large dogs doesn’t have to do with brand. Instead, you’ll want to answer these questions when choosing what’s right for your dog. You can find quality dog food at your local grocery store or at a pet specialty store. You can even order dog food online. Regardless of which brand you choose, it’s the nutrition that matters. 

The reality is that all dogs are different. Even within the same breed, two dogs might have two wildly different personalities because of their upbringing. So it’s important that we don’t treat all dogs the same.

Consider this: training collars are one of the most popular ways to prevent and stop unwanted behavior in all dog breeds.

If you had a puppy, would you feel comfortable putting a training collar meant for large dogs on your puppy? Of course not! Instead, you would invest in a shock collar for puppy biting. In other words, you would get something specifically designed for your dog in order to keep it safe. 

Why should dog food be any different? 

Is There Large Breed Food for Small Dogs?

If you have more than one dog, you might be wondering if it’s possible to find large breed food that’s also safe for small dogs.

This is a common question among people who have multiple dogs, which itself is pretty common. In fact, most people who have a dog are likely to have more than one. Statistically speaking, the average number of pet dogs is 1.6 dogs for every family. This means that there are a lot of folks out there with multiple canines under their roof.

With that being said, you might have two dogs that are not only different breeds, but different sizes. You might be wondering if there’s dog food out there that would be good for both dogs. 

Let’s say you have a large golden retriever as well as a smaller chihuahua. Both dogs will have different dietary needs, but it can be hard to keep track of everything. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was large breed food for small dogs? This way, you would only have to buy 1 bag of dog food and be able to feed both dogs from it. How convenient!

While this is a commonly asked question, according to veterinarians, it’s not really an option. 

It’s still better to have specially formulated food for each dog based on their breed, size, age, and lifestyle. 

But what happens if I run out of food? What if I don’t have time to go grocery shopping for a few days? What if my toy breed ate food from the larger dog’s food bowl while I wasn’t looking?

Don’t worry – a few meals of the wrong dog food usually won’t be a major issue, though, of course, you’ll want to avoid this whenever possible. Because the microbiomes in the gut develop based on the ingredients in the food, you might notice that your dog has an upset stomach if they change dog food or eat food that isn’t meant for them. In most situations, this is nothing to be worried about. However, you should always seek a veterinarian if you’re concerned about the situation. 

Yes, a small dog can technically eat large breed food, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it.

For example, if there’s a snowstorm and you’re trapped at home, unable to get to the grocery store because of snow and ice. In most cases, you shouldn’t be worried about your dogs eating each other’s food. After all, it’s better than having nothing to eat! It’s not that sharing the food is “bad.” Rather, it’s not optimized for your dog’s specific needs.

why is my dog eating grass

Why is My Dog Eating Grass Instead of Dog Food?

Dogs need fiber in their diet. In addition to keeping their bowel movements regular, fiber also promotes heart health by lowering cholesterol and helping eliminate waste.

If you notice that your dog is eating grass, this may be a sign that they are not getting enough fiber. Consider looking for dog food that has higher fiber content. For most dog owners, this solves the problem.

However, if your dog still eats grass after you increase fiber intake, then you might want to consider bringing your pup to the vet.

There is a chance, though, that your vet will say your dog is fine. Some dogs simply like to chew. Dogs will chew on bones, sticks, their toys, our belongings, and yes – even the grass.

If you notice your dog is chewing on things that it’s not supposed to even though it has good dog food, then you might want to consider dog training collars for small dogs

While chewing is natural, it can also be a health hazard for your pup. Think about it: something as simple as chewing on a stick can lead to the wood splintering, resulting in painful splinters in your dog’s mouth or throat. Excessive chewing can destroy your valuable belongings or sentimental items that are impossible to replace. And finally, chewing can be harmful for your dog if it swallows something that its body is not meant to digest (such as plastic or leather).

By getting a training collar for small dogs, you don’t have to be by your dog’s side 24/7 to be able to stop or prevent unwanted chewing.

At Wiggle Kingdom, our collars come with a remote control that has up to 1,000 feet in range. Furthermore, our collars have three settings (sound, vibration, and shock) with 9 different levels of intensity (for vibration and shock only). 

So if you find your dog eating grass – or something else it shouldn’t be chewing or eating – simply activate the collar to bring your dog’s attention back to you, then tell it to stop. 

And if you’re wondering are vibration collars bad for dogs, the answer is no! As long as you get a collar designed for your dog’s size and you use the collar safely, then you can have peace of mind using a training collar with vibration. 

From Puppy Chow to Senior Dog Food

Just because you find dog food that works for your pup, it doesn’t mean that your dog will eat it for the rest of its life. In addition to considering small breed food vs. large breed dog food, it’s also important to consider the stages of life for your dog.

Remember the following:

  • Puppies eat more frequently. Because they’re growing, puppies need lots of nutrition to stay healthy and to develop properly. Puppies should usually eat 3-4 times a day. While that might seem like a lot, remember that dogs experience time differently than we do. You may have heard the adage that 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years. Well, if we use this benchmark, then that suggests that 1 human day is equal to 7 dog days. If you think about it that way, then 3-4 small meals per human day doesn’t seem like that much.
  • Adults usually eat twice a day. It’s not uncommon for most adult dogs to eat only two meals per day, usually in the morning and then again in the evening. Of course, if you have a more active dog or a breed that requires more (or less), then be sure to stick to those guidelines.
  • Senior dogs need special dog food. Most dogs are considered seniors by the time they are 7 years old. However, dogs with longer lifespans might not be considered seniors until they are 12, but 7 years tends to be considered the average. Senior dogs need food specially designed for their age in order to keep their bones, joints, and heart healthy!

 Of course, if you have any questions about dog food, we recommend reaching out to your veterinarian for any questions. 

For more insights on raising a healthy, obedient, and happy dog, read our previous posts on our dog blog.  

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