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Does the Size of Dog Kibble Matter?

Choosing a Kibble Size for Your Dog

By Lauren Leonardi . February 07, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Does the Size of Dog Kibble Matter?

These days, dry dog foods come in a dizzying array of sizes. You’ll see small kibble, extra small kibble, medium kibble, extra large kibble, and just about everything in between. Here's why the size of kibble you feed your dog really does matter.

These days, dry dog foods come in a dizzying array of sizes. Looking at your supermarket shelf, you’ll see small kibble, extra small kibble, medium kibble, extra large kibble, and just about everything in between. But although all these choices may seem like only a marketing ploy by dog food makers, the size of kibble you feed your dog really does matter.

Why it Matters

Think of it this way. When your family sits down to dinner and you serve your small children their food, don’t you cut it up into smaller pieces for them? Of course you do! Not only is it difficult for a child to eat larger pieces of food, the danger of choking also becomes much greater when kids try to eat adult-sized chunks of food.

In the same way, smaller dogs need a smaller-sized kibble. A Toy Poodle will be much more comfortable eating a small piece of dog food than will a Great Dane. Meal time will be more enjoyable for your pet if you choose a food that fits well in their mouth.

Many dogs speed through mealtime as if a predator is lurking in the shadows. Smaller breeds may choke on large pieces of food if they’re in too much of a hurry to chew their food into manageable bits. Large dogs may clog their own throats with fistfuls of too-small kibble as it hits the back of the throat.

Changing Size Needs

As your dog grows from puppy, to adult dog, to older dog, their kibble size needs can change as well.

Puppies need smaller food sizes for comfort. Given a puppy’s still developing digestive system and the need for a very high calorie intake for growth, the easier a kibble is to break down the easier it will be passed from the stomach to the intestines.

As dogs mature and develop their adult teeth, they are also better able to chew their food into safely sized bits. This chewing is actually good for your dog’s teeth, helping to keep them clean and decreasing plaque build up.

As your dog advances in years, digestion issues may once again become an issue. In addition, many dogs experience some amount of dental problems in later years. Both of these conditions can signal that it’s time to return to a smaller kibble that will be easier to consume.

Feeding Time and Kibble Size: Keeping an Eye Out

One thing dog owners should do is keep an eye on pets at feeding time to see how well they are handling their food. If your dog seems to be struggling with their food, either gagging on too large a piece or choking on one too small, this may signal the need for a change. Also, look for chewing discomfort in your dog, which can let you know not only that you need a different sized kibble but also that your dog may need dental attention.

If you notice that your dog just eats way too fast regardless of kibble size, you can buy food bowls designed to keep your furry friend from eating so fast.

Most dogs love to eat. Buying the right sized kibble will make your dog even happier during mealtimes, and maybe even healthier all of the time.

Back to Your Dog Food Questions Answered
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Next: What Are "Natural" Dog Food Flavors?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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