Can You Feed Small-Breed Dog Food to a Large-Breed Dog? [And Vice Versa]

Can You Feed Small-Breed Dog Food to a Large-Breed Dog

Many dog parents need help to figure out whether it is wrong to feed small-breed dog food to large-breed dogs and vice versa.

Everyone’s done it. You may have bought the wrong dog food. Mistakes happen.

So, can you feed large-breed dog food to a small dog or small-breed dog food to a large dog?

Let’s figure out everything together through this complete guide.

You can use the table of contents feature to jump over to your relevant section. Every section can be read standalone.

What Are the Specialties of Small and Large Dog Foods?

What Are the Specialties of Small and Large Dog Foods?

Understanding the differences and specialties of small- and large-breed dog foods is essential if you’re concerned about mixing them up.

So, let’s go through the essential points you need to know.

Meal Planning for Small Dogs

Here are some things you need to know when preparing a meal plan for a small-breed dog.

  • Small dogs tend to have a much faster metabolism rate
  • Their diet should contain calorie-dense foods
  • Overfeeding makes small dogs overweight fast
  • Food should be small and able to be consumed
  • Small-breed dogs are prone to dental and gastrointestinal issues
  • Some small breeds require more frequent feeding

Meal Planning for Large Dogs

We must consider the following things when preparing a meal plan for a large dog.

  • Large dogs are generally heavier and require stronger and healthier bones. So, their foods must contain ingredients that do this
  • Large dogs’ food should be less energy-dense than smaller-breed dogs foods
  • Foods for large breeds must contain enough glucosamine, prebiotics, fiber blends, minerals, vitamins, and protein
  • Since large breeds are more prone to joint problems, the diet should focus on supporting healthy joints

This information covers only some of the specialties of small- and large-breed foods. But I intended to emphasize to you that there are many differences between these two categories of dog breeds.

Can You Feed Large-Breed Dog Food to a Small Dog?

This is a common question among parents of small dogs. After all, maybe large-breed food is cheaper in your supermarket. However, it depends on the situation.

By and large, large-breed formulas aren’t appropriate for small breeds.

However, in the short term, large-breed food won’t hurt your small dog (assuming your dog is completely healthy). But long-term consumption of the wrong breed-type food will certainly cause troubles.

As mentioned earlier, ingredients in both dog formulas are responsible for specific tasks. However, the ingredients are almost identical in small- and large-breed dog foods.

The main difference is the nutritional content.

Things to Consider When Feeding Large-Breed Dog Food to Small Dogs

You cannot just feed large-breed formulas to a small dog. There are certain things to consider first.

1. Kibbles Are Larger

Usually, the kibbles in large-breed formulas are considerably larger; therefore, these kibbles can be too large for small breeds and increase the likelihood of choking.

However, small dogs can still bite into these kibbles if they aren’t too big, as smaller bits of food are easier for them to chew and eat.

If you can ground or cut large kibbles into smaller pieces, that will aid the eating. Fragmented kibble can better mix with saliva, which will help with digestion. So, no gulping attacks.

2. Less Calcium & Phosphorus Levels

In general, if dog food is labeled as a large-breed formula, this means it has a lower amount of phosphorus and calcium, which is intended to slow down the growth of large breeds.

The more calcium and phosphorus dense, the faster the joint growth in large breeds. Having a small amount of those two components cause a lower growth rate, so they won’t develop joint problems.

There’s not only less calcium and phosphorus per gram, but also often the fat content is lower. Overall, large-breed formulas tend to be less nutrient dense.

Suggested Readings: Why are some Miniature Schnauzers picky eaters?

3. Lower Calorie Content in Large-Breed Formulas

This is another huge difference. The calorie content is much lower in large-breed dog foods compared to small-breed formulas.

A lower calorie content is essential for weight management in large breeds.

So, you will end up feeding more large-breed food to your small loving pooch to fill him up.

Although small dogs can eat large-breed dog food for a short time, it may cause troubles in the long run due to the low calcium and phosphorus content and the difficulty of eating large food pieces. Crumbling or softening the food before feeding, exchanging it with someone, returning it, or donating it are solutions.

Dog Breeds Experts

What Should You Do If You Accidentally Buy Large-Breed Dog Food?

We all buy the wrong thing at the store from time to time.

It is common for dog parents to accidentally buy large-breed dog food instead of small-breed dog food. Or, you may own both small and large dogs and wonder which type to buy.

No matter what the reason is; here are some things to consider when you buy large-breed dog food.

1. Crumble It

As I mentioned earlier, large-breed kibbles are much bigger, and there is an increased possibility of choking.

So, use a rolling pin to crumble the food into small pieces. Even though the nutritional content is slightly different, it won’t do any harm in the short term (assuming your dog is healthy).

2. Soften It

Another possible thing you can do is soften the food. Add hot water to the bowl, then mush it up using a fork. Crumbling isn’t necessary here.

However, one thing to note is that boiling water tends to damage the nutritional content of the food. So, consider only adding warm — not boiling — water to add moisture.

Usually, the hotter the water is, the quicker it will soften the food. But, ensure to cool the food down prior to serving.

3. Exchange It with Someone

Exchanging large-breed dog food for small-breed dog food with someone who owns both large and small dogs is another thing you can consider.

But one thing to note here is. If you don’t fully trust the person, never attempt to exchange your food for an opened bag.

4. Check Your Dog’s Stools

Once your small dog continues with large-breed formula, take a moment to check if their stools are unusual.

You need to observe the color, content, coating, and consistency to tell if the stools are entirely healthy.

5. Return It

If you are still unhappy with the idea of feeding your pooch the wrong dog food after reading this, consider returning the product and requesting a refund.

6. Donate It

Donate the food to a shelter if you are reluctant to feed it to your dog.

Yes, it will cost you some money. But it is a good sign of humanity, and in the end, you will quench the hunger of a poor dog. That feels good!

Suggested Reading: Does Dry Food/Kibble Make Dogs Thirsty?

Can You Feed Small-Breed Dog Food to a Large Dog?

Now let’s discuss feeding small-breed formula to a large dog. Is it okay to do?

Feeding small dog food to a large dog isn’t a problem in the short term. However, it does cause trouble in the long run.

Therefore, doing this occasionally is only a minor issue and not worth fretting over too much (assuming your dog is healthy).

Things to Consider When Feeding Small-Breed Dog Food to Large Dogs

Certain things need to be considered before doing this. Please take a look at the following.

1. Differing Nutritional Content

As I mentioned earlier, small-breed formula contains a higher content of calcium, phosphorus, fat, and several other essential constituent nutrients.

Some of these nutrients are the lead triggers of growth in dogs, especially calcium and phosphorus.

Since large breeds tend to grow rapidly with the high content of these ingredients, large-breed formulas have taken this into account and produced appropriate formulas tailored just for large-breed dogs.

The higher the growth rate in large dogs, the likelihood of joint issues will increase.

So, that’s why it’s risky to feed small-breed food to your large dog for a long time. Only rarely doing so is okay, but not in the mid- or long-term.

If you own a Doberman, please read this article to understand what foods Dobermans can and can’t eat.

2. They May Eat or Swallow Too Fast

Big dogs have more prominent teeth (bigger canine means bigger canines!) and use them to chew and crunch kibbles while keeping tarter from forming quickly.

Regarding small kibbles, your large dog may swallow whole without taking time to chew (“woofing their food down” as we call it in my house). This might cause many problems.

Here are some of the problems that may arise from swallowing kibbles too fast:

  • Bloating
  • Taking in excess air could cause stomach twisting or swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Choking
  • Hiccups
  • Regurgitation
  • Increased food aggression

Although large dogs can eat small-breed dog food, the high calcium and phosphorus content may cause health issues, like joint issues, in the long run. Besides that, they will eat fast and swallow too much, causing an increased likelihood of bloating. Slow down your dog’s eating, and change the food type.

Dog Breeds Experts

What Should You Do If You Accidentally Buy Small-Breed Dog Food?

What do you need to do if you accidentally buy small-breed dog food for your large dog?

Here are several things worth considering:

1. Slow Down Your Dog’s Eating

As I mentioned earlier, large dogs and swallow small kibbles very fast. So, try to slow down this eating.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Put a tennis ball in the food bowl, which will force your dog to move it around in order to eat
  • Use a slow-feeder food bowl
  • Increase the frequency of meals
  • Provide chew toys

2. Call the Vet

As mentioned earlier, eating small-breed formulas may rapid, unhealthy growth in large dogs. So, if your large dog isn’t healthy, overweight, or suffers from joint issues, please consider calling your vet before feeding them.

3. Exchange It with Someone

If you accidentally got small dog food for your large dog, consider exchanging it with someone who owns both small and large dogs.

As mentioned before, never exchange your food bag for an opened one.

4. Return It

If you feel feeding small-breed food to your large dog isn’t appropriate, consider returning it and asking for a refund.

5. Donate It

If you decide not to use this small-breed food bag, please donate it to a shelter.

Things to Be Aware Of

In addition to all of the information and facts described above, there are a few things you need to know.

Buy high-quality food: The most critical takeaway from this article should be to buy high-quality food. Moreover, look at the reviews if you’re buying food online.

Look at the calorie content: If you accidentally buy the wrong dog food, please look at its calorie content. Then look at how many calories you were feeding your loving pooch before this. Then, use simple math to balance the daily calorie intake because you cannot simply measure this from the food bowl. Indeed, you won’t be able to control the amount of other constituent nutrients. So, don’t repeat this mistake.

Observe your dog: Don’t forget to observe your dog after feeding them the wrong breed formula because dogs cannot immediately adapt to an entirely new formula. It’s a gradual process and requires some time. Moreover, keep your eye on your dog to see if they exhibit unusual pooping habits.

Call your vet: We all want to avoid meeting the vet but consider giving a call to your friendly veterinarian or animal nutritionist.


In conclusion, selecting the right dog food formula can be a daunting task, and even the most experienced pet owners may make mistakes (including me!). In this comprehensive guide, we’ve tackled the common question of whether small-breed dog food is suitable for large dogs, and vice versa. By shedding light on the key differences between these two types of food, we hope to have provided you with valuable insights into your dog’s nutritional needs. We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you toward making informed decisions about your furry friend’s diet. Cheers!

Friendly Reminder: Please take a movement to share your thoughts and experiences on this topic in the comment section, as it will undoubtedly help future readers.

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