Can big dogs eat small breed food? All dogs have similar nutritional needs, and in a pinch, big dogs can eat small breed food as it will give them enough calories and mostly adequate nutrition – but it’s not recommended for the long term.
Size is Important
Both small and large breed dogs can benefit from eating high-quality foods that are specifically engineered for dogs their size.
That’s because big breeds and small breeds have slightly different nutritional needs, and they are prone to different types of health problems, so it’s best to base your food choice on the size of your breed.
It’s especially important to focus nutrition on dog size when dogs are puppies. At this time of rapid growth and development having the right nutrition can help stave off long-term health problems.
Ingredients Are Important
Big dog breeds tend to develop problems like hip dysplasia. There is evidence that shows that a diet that has specific calcium to phosphorus ratios developed for large breeds can help to reduce how many orthopedic diseases these dogs experience.
Since hip dysplasia can cut the life of your beloved companion short, you should consider feeding your large breed puppy a food that is specifically developed for big breed puppies. It can potentially lengthen their life span.
Life-Stage is Important
There are many brands of large breed food available, and you should consider buying not only large breed-specific food but also life-stage food. In other words, the best practice for excellent dog nutrition is to give your dog puppy food when they are a puppy under two years of age, adult food at over two years, and senior food as they move into dog old age – usually around age eight or nine for most large breeds.
You can find this type of puppy food in a variety of price points from Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Focus Dry Puppy Food to the Royal Canin puppy foods that are breed-specific.
As your dog reaches two years old, its nutritional needs will change. They need food that is less calorie-dense than when they were puppies. At this point, you should switch their food to an adult large breed dog food.
Mix in the new food with the old food for several weeks to avoid stomach upset.
Finally, as your big breed dog starts to show signs of aging, it’s a good idea to move them to senior food. Senior large breed dog foods tend to focus on the joint health of dogs and work to meet the specific needs of senior dogs.
Can Small Dog Breeds Eat Big Dog Breed Food?
Can small dog breeds eat big dog breed food? Yes. But only if there is no other option. It won’t hurt them in the short term, but in the long-term small breed dogs need food that is more calorie-dense than what is manufactured for big dogs.
Big dog food is also normally made with much larger size kibble and small breed dogs may struggle to eat it due to their small jaw sizes.
Proper diet is especially important when a small breed dog is a puppy. These dogs have extremely high metabolisms and can hold less in their stomachs than larger breed dogs. Their food must be calorie-dense.
Life-Stage Is Also Important for Small Breeds
As is true for large beeds, you should also feed your small breed dogs according to life stage. You should feed them puppy food up until through about three years old, then feed them adult dog food, then as they begin to age senior food.
The reason that you want to combine small breed food with life stage food is that small breeds not only have much higher metabolisms than large breeds and need far more food per pound of bodyweight, but their nutritional needs also change throughout their lifespan.
There are many small breed foods on the market that address lifespan issues and they come in many different price points from Purina Pro Plan Puppy for Small Breeds to Hill’s Science Diet Small Paws Puppy.
Puppy foods focus on nutrition for healthy eye and brain development as well as having enough minerals to build strong bones and teeth. Puppy foods made for small breeds are also quite calorie-dense.
When your small breed dog turns three years old, it’s time to transition them to adult small breed food. It can be a shock to their system when you change dog food abruptly, so mix the new food with the old food for a few weeks to make it easier on your dog.
There are even formulations for adult dogs that consider special needs like sensitive skins and stomachs. Get the food that addresses your dog’s needs and tastes the best.
Finally, as your family friend starts to move into their senior years at age eleven or so switch them to a senior food that focuses on small and easy to eat kibble and healthy digestion. Small breed senior food will also usually contain a special blend of antioxidants.
About Small and Large Breed Metabolism
Outside of other health needs specific to large and small breeds, large dogs and small dogs have very different metabolic needs, which is one of the main reasons they should be fed different types of foods.
This isn’t just a marketing gimmick.
Small dogs burn nearly twice as many calories per pound as their large breed counterparts. Because of this, small breed food needs to be more calorie-dense overall, while large breed food needs to be less calorie-dense.
Even with the difference in metabolisms, you don’t want to let most dogs feed as much as they want. You should measure your dog’s food out per the instructions and keep an eye on their weight to make sure they are getting enough, but not too many calories.
Unlimited food can often result in overfeeding, no matter what the calorie needs of your dog are.
Proper nutrition should be your number one goal in caring for your large breed dog.
In choosing the right food, the two most important criteria are the size of your dog, and the life stage they are in. Make the right choices and you’ll ensure a longer and healthier life for your best friend.