Small-breed dogs tend to have higher metabolism rates than their larger counterparts, which means they need a puppy feeding diet specifically designed for them. "Small-breed dog food formulas are created to give your dog the right balance of nutrients," says Debra Eldredge, DVM, a veterinarian in upstate New York and coauthor of The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook (Howell House). Here's what you need to know to feed your small-breed pooch.
The guidelines on the package are a great starting point, Eldredge says, but "you have to customize [them] for your dog." For instance, her family has three dogs who all weigh almost the same. But, one is getting twice as much food as the other two, and she's thin. "She just burns it up," Eldredge says. Your dog's breed and activity levels will affect how much food she needs.
Small-breed puppies, especially toy breeds, can be prone to hypoglycemia. To keep your dog’s blood sugar levels up, you might have to feed her more frequently and up the calories, Eldredge says.
Small-breed puppies grow quickly, so during the first six months, they need to eat more food and eat more frequently, generally three to four times a day. After six months, feeding two meals a day is usually sufficient. As your dog gets older and less active, her nutritional needs change, and she may need a formula for mature dogs. Her new food will generally have more protein and fewer calories.
Smaller dogs have smaller mouths and teeth, so their food is usually made in a smaller bite size, which is easier for them to chew and swallow.
Don't leave your dog's food out all day. Instead, pick it up after 10 or 20 minutes, Eldredge says. If food is available all day, she may eat out of boredom.
With dog food, your pet is on a balanced diet. Feeding her human food may throw off that balance. The occasional taste of chicken or eggs is okay, but don't make it a daily habit.
Does your mature dog sniff at his bowl and walk away instead of digging in? You may think he’s just being picky, but it’s important to keep an eye on how much he’s eating — especially if he’s a senior. While age-related diminishment of the senses of smell and taste may account for some of his disinterest in food, appetite loss can also indicate a serious medical problem.
“It’s important to give your dog enough calories because weight loss can be debilitating to senior pets,” says Wendy Brooks, D.V.M., who warns that a loss in appetite should be mentioned to your vet. A good rule of thumb: If your pet hasn’t eaten in a day, make a visit to the vet. Here are six ways to entice your canine friend with a nourishing meal.
Many animals find canned food more palatable because they like the taste and texture, Brooks says. You can top their favorite dry food with room-temperature wet food.
Dogs like a warm or room-temperature (not hot or cold) meal. Avoid serving him day-old wet food from the refrigerator, and keep his food away from heat. Another reason he might not be eating: It's too hot outside.
Dogs prefer consistency when it comes to their food. Don't change every day, but try a new flavor, such as lamb or chicken, and see if he responds (it may trigger his sense of smell). To avoid an upset stomach, introduce a new food by mixing it with his old food in equal increments each day.
Common mature-dog health issues, such as arthritis or joint pain, can make it difficult for him to access his bowls. Keep food and water where he spends most of his time. Put a water bowl on all floors of the house, too.
Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times. It will help prevent disease, such as a kidney condition, and aid in digestion.
Dogs are people pleasers. If you see him eating, give him a little verbal reward. He'll know it makes you happy and will repeat the behavior.