Tips for Feeding Toy Breed Dogs

Taking a stroll down the dog food isle can be quite overwhelming. There are formulas for varying life stages, medical conditions, and even breed-specific foods. From a nutritional standpoint, does it really make a difference if I have a Maltese or a Mastiff? Actually, it does. Toy breeds in particular have very specific nutritional and feeding requirements due to their tiny size.

Toy Breed Puppies

Toy breed puppies have a very high metabolic rate and must eat three or four times a day to prevent hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemic symptoms can come on very rapidly and can include lethargy, seizures, and at times, even death. If your toy breed puppy is playing rambunctiously one minute and crashes the next, you should be heading for the cupboard for a quick fix of honey to restore his blood sugar before permanent damage is done to the liver or brain.

Calories per Pound

Since toy breed dogs can weigh as little as three pounds, it stands to reason that they will need more calories per pound to get them through the day than a St. Bernard. Veterinarian Jennifer Coates suggests that toy breeds need about 40 calories per pound per day. For my five-pound adult Yorkie, that means about a half cup of high fat (42 percent) kibble every day. He would have to eat 30 to 40 percent more of a lower fat formula to get his required calories, and with his tiny stomach, that would be difficult.

Toy Breed Adult Dogs

On average, toy breed dogs live longer than larger breeds. Because of this, they are particularly susceptible to conditions and diseases that come with older age. One culprit that we hear a lot about these days is free radicals, which can cause a whole host of medical issues, including cancer. Antioxidants have been shown to prevent damage caused by free radicals, so it is particularly important that toy breed dogs eat a diet rich in antioxidants.

Bite Size and Shape

Bite-sized for a Chihuahua is obviously a far cry from bite-sized for a Rottweiler. But there’s more to the size and shape of the kibble than just what fits the mouth. Dry foods play an important role in the dental health of a dog, cleaning the teeth and massaging the gums whenever a dog chews. This is yet one more reason to be sure you are providing your toy dog with a food formulated for his special needs.


Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, et al., “Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in Dogs,”

Jennifer Coates, DVM, “Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy and Large Breed Dogs,”