4 Vet-Approved Recipes for Homemade Dog Food for Small Dogs

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In my career as a veterinarian, I’ve been amazed by the number of little dogs who just don’t want to eat. I’ve seen many who have no apparent health problems but absolutely refuse to eat regularly, whether they’re offered dog food or human food. 

Then there are those who will only eat hot dogs, according to their owners (yikes). It’s not a simple problem to solve, but properly formulated homemade dog food for small dogs might be just the ticket.

[JUMP TO RECIPES]

Best Food for Small Dogs

The best food for your healthy small dog is the one he loves that also provides complete and balanced nutrition. That might be a homemade recipe, canned food or kibble. If your dog won’t eat it, it doesn’t matter how awesome the food is supposed to be.

The nutritional needs of healthy small dogs are the same as for medium and large dogs. The reason pet food manufacturers make “small breed” food has more to do with marketing than health. Other than the fact that kibbles are smaller in size, most small breed dog food is no different than standard adult dog food. 

Still, some small dogs are finicky eaters. If he’s not eating as much as he should, a dog’s diet needs to be more calorie-dense so they get all their nutrition in a smaller volume of food. 

And since low-grade chronic pancreatitis is common, some small dogs might benefit from a lower fat, highly digestible food

Tan Chihuahua thinking about homemade dog food for small dogs
I’m not picky. I just have very discerning taste.

When, What & How Much Should Small Dogs Eat

Experimentally, dogs with unrestricted access to food tend to eat 2 to 3 times a day (2). I’ve found most pet dogs seem to prefer two meals a day, too.  

As for the perfect ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate, there is no perfect ratio that will satisfy every dog. The National Research Council’s recommendations for feeding healthy, small adult dogs is as follows:

“Scientific research has shown that an adult dog’s daily diet can contain up to 50% carbohydrates by weight, including 2.5-4.5% from fiber. A minimum of approximately 5.5% of the diet should come from fats and 10% from protein.” (5)

Those are minimums and generalizations. I’ve found that midrange popular kibble dog food often has around 24% protein, 33% fat, and 43% carbohydrate. 

A healthy, adult 10-pound dog generally needs to eat between 200 and 500 calories a day. Some dogs may need more and some may need less to maintain a healthy body condition. 

If your dog is overweight she may need fewer calories to lose weight. Get your vet’s help creating a weight-loss diet recipe. And don’t forget to monitor her weight weekly to see if your plan is working!

Homemade Dog Food Recipes (Vet Approved) for Small Dogs

It’s super important to feed a complete and balanced diet. If you’re making homemade meals a long-term thing, you absolutely need to make sure your pup is getting all the amino acids, minerals, fats and vitamins he needs to stay healthy. 

Balance IT® was started by Dr. Sean Delaney, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. They make home cooking for your dog easy by providing FREE recipe creation software and selling a supplement to make each recipe complete and balanced. Trust me, it’s way easier than buying 12 different human supplements and measuring out tiny amounts of each!

At BalanceIT.com, you can make recipes for one day or up to three week’s worth of homemade food. I recommend making one week’s worth of food at a time. It’s a reasonable amount to prepare and store and this approach keeps you from having to cook every day. 

I created these four homemade food recipes in about 15 minutes using easy-to-find ingredients. My basic approach is to choose a lean protein, a starchy vegetable or grain and another vegetable for flavor. You can add many more ingredients to the recipe-maker, but I like to keep things simple.

I loosely modeled the macronutrient ratio on popular dry dog food brands for small breed dogs. The protein and fat levels are moderate in every homemade meal recipe presented here.

Each homemade diet recipe below was made to feed one 10 pound dog for 7 days. These are sample recipes only–if your dog weighs more or less than 10 pounds, YOU CANNOT JUST FEED MORE OR LESS OF MY RECIPES. 

Free recipe creator at BalanceIT.com
Make your own recipe at BalanceIT.com

Go to the Balance IT® website and make your custom recipe (it’s easy and FREE). You can look at my recipes here for inspiration or try your own combinations using anything from kidney beans to ground chicken to butternut squash.

Or if you want an easy option, customize one of the complete recipes they list under “popular selections” for your dog’s weight.

Please note you must cook the ingredients separately, then measure them into one big bowl to mix them. You can’t cook the raw meat, veggie and starch in one big pot or slow cooker or it will be unbalanced. Don’t worry, though, it’s still easy to make all the recipes.

All of my sample recipes are formulated for adult dogs only. If your dog is less than 12 months of age, you will have to make your own special recipe with your vet’s help from Balance IT®. Don’t risk your pup’s long-term health by feeding an unbalanced diet!

Finally, you MUST ADD BALANCE IT® SUPPLEMENT to make the homemade dog food diet complete and balanced. Like nearly every homemade dog food recipe, these have serious nutrient deficiencies without the added supplement!

I recommend using Balance IT® Canine Plus because it allows you to reheat the food one time after the supplement is added. You can’t do that with the non-Plus supplement.


All recipes were generated from BalanceIT.com Autobalancer EZ 



homemade dog food for small dogs-chicken and pasta recipe

Simple Chicken & Pasta

Serving Size:
Feeds one healthy, adult 10-lb. Dog for 7 days
Time:
Time: 60 minutes total, 20 minutes active
Difficulty:
Easy

Macronutrients: Protein 24%, Fat 32%, Carbohydrate 44%

Calories: 2453 total in recipe, 175 per meal

Ingredients

  • 10 ⅜ oz Chicken breast, skinless/boneless, roasted 
  • 5 ⅝ cups Spaghetti, cooked, enriched without added salt 
  • 15 ¾ tsp Olive oil
  • ¾ cup Frozen peas (green peas), boiled & drained, without salt
  • 8 ¼ tsp Balance IT® Canine Plus

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Optionally, slice the raw chicken breasts lengthwise (like butterflying) so they’re half as thick–they’ll cook faster. Place raw meat chicken breasts on a foil-covered baking sheet. Do not add any oil. Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until juices run clear and the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees F. Remove from oven, discard juices and allow to cool. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  3. While chicken is roasting, prepare and cook the pasta as directed on the label. Remember the amount called for in the recipe is the cooked amount which is approximately double the dry pasta amount. After cooking, drain and allow the pasta to cool.
  4. Boil frozen peas according to package directions and allow to cool.
  5. Measure all ingredients according to the recipe using a kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. 
  6. Portion equally into 7 sealable storage containers. Balance IT® recommends only storing food in the fridge for 3 days, so refrigerate 3 and freeze 4. 

Feed ½ of each container for your dog’s meal twice a day. 

Each day, move one container from the freezer to the fridge so it has a few days to thaw before feeding. 


ground beef and sweet potato dog food recipe

Hearty Ground Beef & Sweet Potato

Serving Size:
Feeds one healthy, adult 10-lb. Dog for 7 days
Time:
About 60 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy

Macronutrients: Protein 23%, Fat 32%, Carbohydrate 45%

Calories: 2478 total in recipe, 177 per meal

Ingredients

  • 13 ⅞  oz Ground beef, 95% lean, 5% fat, cooked, pan-browned
  • 6 ¼ cup Sweet potato, baked in skin, without salt, flesh only
  • 12 ⅜ tsp Corn oil
  • 2 ⅜ cup Green bean (frozen) boiled and drained, without salt
  • 8 ¾ tsp Balance IT® Canine Plus

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 
  2. Rinse sweet potatoes, poke the skin a few times with a fork and place them on a foil-covered sheet pan. Roast in the oven until they’re slightly soft when pressed, about 40-50 minutes. Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. Remove skins and discard.
  3. While the sweet potatoes roast, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat on the stove. Add ground beef, stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through (no pink showing). Remove meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard juices. Set aside to cool. 
  4. Boil frozen green beans according to package directions and allow them to cool.
  5. Measure all ingredients according to the recipe using a kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.
  6. Portion equally into 7 sealable storage containers. Balance IT® recommends only storing food in the fridge for 3 days, so refrigerate 3 and freeze 4. 

Feed ½ of each container for your dog’s meal twice a day. 

Each day, move one container from the freezer to the fridge so it has a few days to thaw before feeding. 


egg whites and oats recipe for homemade dog food

Quick & Easy Egg Whites & Oats

Serving Size:
Feeds one healthy, adult 10-lb. Dog for 7 days
Time:
About 30 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy

Macronutrients: Protein 25%, Fat 33%, Carbohydrate 42%

Calories: 2463 total in recipe, 176 per meal

Here’s a recipe with an ingredient list straight from your pantry and fridge. It features high-quality egg protein, easy-digesting starch and a sweet veggie for flavor while still being cheap homemade dog food!

Ingredients

  • 31 ⅛ oz Egg whites (cooked), weigh before cooking (whites from about 22 eggs)
  • 5 ½ cups Regular, quick-cook or instant oats, unenriched, cooked with water, no salt (about 2 ¼ cups dry oats)
  • 14 ⅞ tsp Corn oil
  • 2 cups Sliced Frozen carrot, boiled and drained, without salt
  • 8 ½ tsp Balance IT® Canine Plus

Directions

  1. Place egg whites into a bowl using a kitchen scale to measure the right amount. If you’re using whole eggs, each one will provide 40 grams or a little more than 1 ounce of egg white.
  2. Cook and stir egg whites in a non-stick pan with no oil until they’re no longer liquid and cool. 
  3. Prepare oats according to package direction and cool. Remember to measure oats after cooking. 
  4. Boil frozen carrots according to package directions, drain and allow to cool.
  5. Measure all ingredients according to the recipe using a kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. 
  6. Portion equally into 7 sealable storage containers. Balance IT® recommends only storing food in the fridge for 3 days, so refrigerate 3 and freeze 4. 

Feed ½ of each container for your dog’s meal twice a day. 

Each day, move one container from the freezer to the fridge so it has a few days to thaw before feeding.


turkey and rice recipe for dogs

Cheesy Ground Turkey & Rice

Serving Size:
Feeds one healthy, adult 10-lb. Dog for 7 days
Time:
About 40 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy

Macronutrients: Protein 24%, Fat 32%, Carbohydrate 44%

Calories: 2473 total in recipe, 177 per meal

I have opted to use white rice rather than brown rice based on the idea it might be a bit easier to digest.

Ingredients

  • 6 ¾ oz Ground turkey 85% lean, 15% fat, pan-broiled crumbles
  • 18 ¾ cups Cottage cheese, low-fat, 2% milkfat
  • 5 ½ cups Rice, white, long-grain, regular, cooked
  • 9 ⅞ tsp Coconut oil
  • 7 ¾ tsp Balance IT® Canine Plus

Directions

  1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat on the stove. Add ground turkey, stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through (no pink showing). Remove meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard juices. Set aside to cool. 
  2. Prepare rice according to package direction and cool. Remember to measure rice after cooking.
  3. Measure all ingredients according to the recipe using a kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.* 
  4. Portion equally into 7 sealable storage containers. Balance IT® recommends only storing food in the fridge for 3 days, so refrigerate 3 and freeze 4. 

Feed ½ of each container for your dog’s meal twice a day. 

Each day, move one container from the freezer to the fridge so it has a few days to thaw before feeding.


Why Is My Small Dog a Picky Eater?

Not all small dogs are picky, but it seems to be more common than it is in larger dogs. Let’s discuss some of the possible reasons your little guy (or girl) might be extra choosy…

Who Wants to Eat When Your Belly Hurts?

Underlying low-grade chronic GI disease/pancreatitis? A large percentage of dogs of all sizes have this. Many small breeds are more prone to pancreatitis. 

Dogs can develop an aversion to foods associated with a negative experience. Feeling pain after eating could be associated with a particular kind of food. 

Other Hidden Diseases that Destroy Hunger

There are so many health problems that crop up in little dogs. A few of the more common ones I see include:

  • Dental disease-tooth root abscesses aren’t always apparent without Xrays
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Liver problems including portosystemic shunts (more common in small breeds)
  • Blood system abnormalities
  • Endocrine disease-especially Addison’s disease

Look for other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. But some small dogs only have a poor appetite as a symptom even though they have a serious underlying problem. 

You probably know what I’m going to say… If your dog has a chronically poor appetite plus or minus other symptoms you need to check into it. Don’t waste weeks trying different foods! See your vet and make sure you consent to running lab tests like bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays and abdominal ultrasound imaging.

Yorkie with rope toy
I’m actually very intelligent and I know good food when I see it!

Pickiness or Learned Preferences?

Strong food and eating preferences could be an evolutionary advantage. These behaviors could keep them safe from eating bad food.

And since small breeds have been developed as human companions, it could be that people prefer dogs with preferences similar to their own. 

Access to edible, unspoiled food from humans would reinforce these preferences. Over generations, perhaps these behaviors have become part of some breed standards. 

  • Smell preferences: In one study, the dogs’ meat preferences ran in this order from most preferred to least preferred: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, horsemeat. But when the researchers chemically blocked the dogs’ ability to smell, they had no preference for any particular meat (2).
  • Flavor preferences: Even when they couldn’t smell, laboratory dogs still had a preference for food with sugar over non-sugary food (2. 
  • Texture preferences: Another study found dogs prefer canned or semi-moist food over dry kibble (3).
  • Newness of Food and External Stress: new food can cause dogs to eat more or less.  Both are normal canine adaptive behaviors. Refusal to try new food is more likely when a dog is in a new place or when he’s under some other sort of stress (7). 
  • Past Food Experiences: We also know that puppies show a strong preference to stick with the same type of food they started eating at an early age (4). Puppies are also influenced by their mother’s diet during gestation and nursing (1). 

It’s interesting to note that pet dogs don’t always show the same preferences as laboratory dogs. I think we can all agree that canine feeding behavior is pretty tough to understand! 

picky small dogs

Are Picky Dogs Spoiled Rotten?

How many times have you heard that people who feed their dogs table food are spoiling them? Sorry but I’m not buying this one. 

I refuse to believe that feeding your Chihuahua human-grade food like chicken a few times “spoils” their appetite for commercial dog food. 

I tend to believe there is a stronger motivator at play. Maybe dogs are even smarter than we realize. Maybe their brains realize that human food provides higher nutritional value than processed kibble. 

My personal opinion is that fresh food can provide something processed food can’t. Whether it’s nutrients or just satisfying some primal behavioral itch, I’m not sure.

We should also consider the social aspect of feeding behavior in small dogs. Is it possible our little friends want to eat with their humans? 

Eating the same food at the same time isn’t just cute, it could be part of a dog’s evolutionary behavior that supports survival.

Tips to Get Chihuahuas & Other Small Breed Dogs to Eat

With all the variables contributing to feeding behavior in small breed dogs, it might take a lot of trial and error to find what works for your pup. Get ready to play detective and try some of my ideas for how to get your picky small dog to eat better…

  • Stop (or at least limit) between-meal snacks to increase hunger at mealtime
  • Feed at the same time every day to increase hunger at mealtime
  • Leave homemade dog food down for up to 30 minutes before removing access until the next mealtime
  • Avoid frequent drastic diet changes-no more than every couple of weeks as a rule of thumb
  • Use interactive food toys and puzzles
  • Use meal food as training rewards for learning fun tricks
  • Try clicker training and reward your dog for eating any part of a meal
  • Feed dog at the same time as you eat, sitting nearby
  • Try feeding dog away from other dogs and near other dogs
  • Try warming food and serving it cool or room temperature
  • Add liquid to food-try a little water, beef broth or chicken broth 
  • Sprinkle a small amount of parmesan cheese on food
  • Serve food from different dishes-saucer, shallow bowl, deep bowl, large bowl, small bowl, etc.
  • Try serving two different types of food in side-by-side dishes
  • Elevate serving dish to a height that doesn’t require the pet to stoop to eat
  • Remove distractions during feeding time-no noises or activities
  • Be careful with your attitude-dogs get stressed when you’re stressed!

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References

  1. BOURGEOIS, H., ELLIOTT, D., MARNIQUET, P., & SOULARD, Y. (2006). Dietary behavior of dogs and cats. Bulletin de l’Académie vétérinaire de France.
  2. Houpt, K. A., Hintz, H. F., & Shepherd, P. (1978). The role of olfaction in canine food preferences. Chemical senses, 3(3), 281-290.
  3. Kitchell, R. L. (1972). Dogs know what they like. Friskies Research Digest, 8, 1-4.
  4. Kuo, Z. Y. (1976). The dynamics of behavior development: an epigenetic view. Plenum.
  5. National Research Council. (2006). Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats; and Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs. National Academies Press.
  6. Smith, S. L., Kronfeld, D. S., & Banta, C. A. (1983). Owners’ perception of food flavor preferences of pet dogs in relation to measured preferences of laboratory dogs. Applied Animal Ethology, 10(1-2), 75-87.
  7. Thorne, C. (1992). The Waltham book of dog and cat behaviour. Pergamon Press Plc.

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