The 8 Best Dog Foods for Cairn Terriers

Originally referred to as Scotch Terriers, Cairn Terriers were responsible for patrolling Scotland’s game preserves and farms. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized Carin Terriers as a separate breed in 1913. However, they grew in popularity around 1939, when a Cairn Terrier named Terry appeared as Toto in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Cairn Terriers are curious and alert dogs, which makes them good watchdogs. They are affectionate with close family members and loyal companions.

When it comes to nutrition, Cairn Terriers need a protein-rich diet to fuel their high-energy lifestyle. These dogs love to explore and dig, so they need plenty of calories. Cairn Terriers do well on a high-quality small-breed formula.

After carefully reviewing the options available, we have compiled a list of the best dog foods for your Cairn Terrier.

The 8 Best Dog Foods for Cairn Terriers

Best ProductsRatingsTop Ingredients
1. Natural Balance: L.I.D. Small Breed Bites Grain-Free Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula4.8Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes…
2. Diamond: Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula4.7Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice…
3. ACANA: Wholesome Grains Small Breed Recipe5Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oat Groats…
4. Solid Gold: Wee Bit Bison & Brown Rice Recipe with Pearled Barley4.7Bison, Ocean Fish Meal, Oatmeal…
5. Blue Buffalo: Life Protection Formula 4.7Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice…
6. Wellness: Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey & Oatmeal Recipe4.6Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal…
7. Taste of the Wild: Appalachian Valley 4.6Venison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans…
8. ORIJEN: Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food4.7Deboned Turkey, Deboned Chicken, Quail, Eggs…

1. Natural Balance: L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Small Breed Bites Grain-Free Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Cassava Flour, Potatoes

This grain-free kibble by Natural Balance uses limited ingredients to reduce food-related allergies and sensitivities. The protein source in this recipe is farm-raised chicken, while sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates. This food has the right balance of nutrients in the right size. The added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants provide immune support.

This recipe contains no fillers and uses only the finest local ingredients. It is crafted using the combined experience of a team of board-certified clinical veterinarians, animal nutritionists, research scientists, design engineers and pet feeding analysts.

2. Diamond: Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Cracked Pearled Barley

This recipe by Diamond contains a great deal of protein (32%) from real chicken and chicken meal. Superfoods including blueberries, pumpkin, and kale provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for superior nutrition. This kibble’s added proprietary probiotic blend makes it easy to digest, while DHA supports brain and eye health. Diamond’s kibble is filler-free and crafted in state-of-the-art facilities with exceptional food safety protocols.

3. ACANA: Wholesome Grains Small Breed Recipe Gluten-Free Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oat Groats, Whole Sorghum, Whole Millet

Acana is a premium pet food brand that only uses the best local ingredients. This gluten-free kibble contains real chicken as the primary source of protein. Along with the chicken, catfish meal, and turkey, add flavor to this recipe. Your pet will find this kibble easy to digest since it is rich in fiber from quality grains such as sorghum, millet, and oats. The Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids keep your Cairn’s coat healthy, while DHA and EPA contribute to brain and eye health.

4. Solid Gold: Wee Bit Bison & Brown Rice Recipe with Pearled Barley Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Bison, Ocean Fish Meal, Oatmeal, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)

Solid Gold’s Wee Bit Bison recipe uses protein from bison meat and ocean fish meal. This kibble contains a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and wholesome grains for a complete meal. The twenty superfoods in this recipe enrich it with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune support. This kibble also contains taurine, L-carnitine, omega fatty acids, and DHA to ensure holistic wellness.

Solid Gold believes gut health is linked to immunity and delivers 90 million probiotics per pound of kibble.

5. Blue Buffalo: Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley

Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection formula uses lean proteins from chicken and chicken meal. Low-glycemic brown rice, oatmeal, and barley provide rich sources of carbohydrates and fiber. This recipe contains added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune support. Additionally, Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits offer many essential nutrients to your pet. This kibble promotes overall health by boosting immunity, strengthening joints, and keeping your pet’s coat healthy.

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6. Wellness: Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Brown Rice

Wellness’ Complete Health recipe is high in protein (28%) from turkey, chicken meal, and salmon meal. This kibble supports whole-body health by boosting energy levels, as well as immunity and coat health. Brown rice, oatmeal, and barley in this recipe provide sustained energy and digestive support.

This kibble is free of any fillers, by-products, and artificial additives to ensure the safety of your pet. The added vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and taurine guarantee overall health.

7. Taste of the Wild: Appalachian Valley Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Venison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Lentils

Taste of The Wild’s Appalachian Valley recipe is high in protein from premium meats such as venison and lamb. This grain-free kibble is rich in protein and healthy fats which promote lean muscle development. Additionally, this recipe has added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune support. Proprietary K9 strain probiotics help ensure gut health and boost immunity.

This kibble promotes easy digestion and a healthy heart and coat. It is free of fillers and artificial additives to ensure the safety of your pet.

8. ORIJEN: Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Deboned Chicken, Quail, Eggs, Whole Blue Whiting

Orijen is a premium food brand that uses a “Wholeprey approach” to include the most nutritious and delicious parts of the prey. This recipe by Orijen is great for a highly active Cairn Terrier since it is high in protein (38%) and fat (18%). Organ meats and bones provide for a biologically appropriate diet that is rich in nutrients. This kibble is easy to digest due to added probiotics, while DHA, glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids promote whole-body health.

Buyer’s Guide

Many pet parents struggle with finding the best food for their pets. While other needs are important, nutrition is key in ensuring your pet’s health in the long term. You are what you eat, and the same goes for your pet, who could suffer from a lack of necessary nutrients in its diet.

Many things could affect your pet’s nutritional needs, such as age, activity level, and preferences. However, all dogs need a diet that is rich in meat-based protein and healthy fats. When you are buying food for your pet, look for the following characteristics.

1. Balanced Nutrition

Look for a quality product that provides balanced nutrition. A well-balanced recipe includes meat as the first ingredient, easy-to-digest carbohydrate sources, fruits and vegetables, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids.

A big concern with smaller dogs is accidentally overfeeding them since they beg for treats and nibbles often. If they are not getting enough nutrients from their food, they will beg for more food. A balanced and nutrient-dense formula provides sustained energy and keeps your pet full for longer.

2. Check The Ingredients

Often, reading the ingredients can be intimidating because you can’t be sure what chemicals with complex names are doing in your pet’s food. It is important to do your research to understand the label on your pet’s food. Similarly, it is just as important to know what should not be in your pet’s food.

The ingredients that you see in your pet’s food all play certain roles. Sometimes pet food brands may include ingredients that serve no purpose just to bulk up your pet’s food. These ingredients have no nutritional value and are called filler ingredients.

Ingredients to Look For

Below is a list of certain ingredients you will find in your pet’s food and the roles they play:

  • Added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (for immune support)
  • Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids (play many vital roles such as keeping the brain, eyes, and skin healthy)
  • Probiotics (ease digestion)
  • Glucosamine (lubricates joints and reduces inflammation in joints)
  • Chondroitin (promotes healthy joint function)
  • Taurine (promotes a healthy heart)
  • L-Carnitine (aids fat metabolism)
  • L-Lysine (anti-inflammatory and speeds up healing)
  • DI-Methionine (acidifies urine to prevent odor and stone formation)
Ingredients To Avoid

The following ingredients do not belong in your pet’s food. They may cause allergies in many pets, while some of them can even lead to severe health issues with long-term use.

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Soybean Meal
  • Corn Gluten Meal
  • Corn Syrup
  • Meat By-Products
  • Artificial color

  • BHA
  • BHT
  • Carrageenan
  • Unnamed Ingredients (for example, “meat meal”)
  • Ethoxyquin

3. Omega Fatty Acids are Essential

While other nutrients are very important, Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids are the most essential. They play many vital roles and contribute to the health of the brain, eyes, and skin. While your Cairn is in his puppy years, these nutrients are even more necessary for development. There are three main Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
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Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Cold-water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, and herring)
  • Fish oil
  • Flaxseed oil

While Omega 6 Fatty Acids are of the following four types:

  • LA (Linoleic Acid)
  • ARA (Arachidonic Acid)
  • GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid)
  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

LA and ARA are the most important Omega-6 Fatty Acids. These contribute to cell function, growth, and reproduction.

Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
  • Canola Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil

4. Life-Stage Appropriate Nutrition

Look for the label that states “complete and balanced meal,” an indicator that the pet food in question meets the AAFCO requirements for life-stage appropriate nutrition.

Puppies, adults, and seniors all have different nutritional needs. The set of requirements at a particular life stage should match the food appropriate for that stage. For example, feeding your puppy food intended for adults can cause rapid growth and stress their bone structure.

5. Health Issues and Dietary Preferences

Your pet’s health issues and preferences will also impact his diet choices. If your pet does not like fish, it is not likely they will enjoy fish-flavored food. Similarly, if your pet has an allergy to chicken, feeding them food with chicken is simply out of the question.

While most healthy pets can eat various types of food, they may not enjoy everything equally. Understanding your pet’s dietary preferences is key to determining the meals they enjoy.

With Cairn Terriers, you have to be even more careful about what you feed them because they are prone to allergies. Additionally, you also have to watch their calories since they are very susceptible to weight gain. While larger dogs may be fine with a few extra pounds, small dogs can suffer a lot even with a pound extra.

Cairn Terriers also suffer from certain health issues such as hypothyroidism and diabetes which will require certain dietary changes. Due to the risk of your Cairn Terrier developing eye issues, heart problems, and musculoskeletal problems, it is recommended you feed them a diet rich in these particular nutrients:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • DHA
  • Beta-Carotene
  • Vitamin C
  • L-carnitine
  • Taurine


What foods are likely to cause allergies in my Cairn Terrier?

Most allergies in dogs are food-related and can develop through gradual exposure to a certain ingredient. The most common allergens are:

  • Beef
  • Dairy products
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy

What treats are best for my Cairn Terrier?

Most commercial treats tend to be high in calories, so it is better to opt for healthier options. The most nutritious treats you can give to your Cairn Terrier (in moderation) are fresh fruits and vegetables (without seeds if needed), freshly prepared lean meats, baked sweet potatoes, unsalted almonds, and peanut butter.

How can I switch my Cairn Terrier to a new food?

Start by mixing the new food with old, with a 3:1 ratio between the old and new. You should start adding more of the new food gradually. Your dog may experience an upset stomach initially, but most healthy pets can transition to a new food within two weeks. If digestive discomfort persists, consult your vet.

What kibble size does my Cairn Terrier need?

Cairn Terriers are small-breed dogs, so they can only chew on a small-sized kibble (7×8 millimeters). If the kibble is too big, they will find it difficult to chew and swallow. A bigger kibble can also lead to choking and indigestion. A Small-breed kibble is right for your pet.

How many meals does my Cairn Terrier need in a day?

The number of meals you feed your Cairn Terrier varies based on age. Cairn Terrier puppies need at least four meals a day to support proper growth and development. Cairn Terrier adults and seniors need feeding twice a day.

Is wet food better than dry food for my Cairn Terrier?

While dry food is easy to store and more affordable than wet food, your Cairn Terrier might take a liking to wet food since the textures and flavors are closer to their original state. Wet food is also beneficial since it contains more moisture than dry food.

Can I feed a home-prepared diet to my Cairn Terrier?

You can certainly feed your Cairn Terrier home-prepared food, but after consulting your vet. It is necessary to ensure a balance of nutrients, so your vet can guide you about what to include in your pet’s food. In general, dogs need meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber in their diet.

Can I feed my Cairn Terrier raw meat?

While some animal nutritionists believe a raw diet is the best for your pet, a vast majority believe that the salmonella and other bacteria present in raw meat can cause bacterial infections. It is better to feed your pet freshly prepared meat instead of raw meat.

Do I need to feed a small-breed formula to my Cairn Terrier?

A small-breed formula can accommodate for the difference in nutritional needs. Small dogs need more calories per pound and a smaller kibble. Small-breed formulas are nutrient-dense and the right size for your pet’s mouth.

What health are common in Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers are generally healthy dogs and live long, happy lives. However, like any other breed, they are prone to certain health issues. These include:

  • Craniomandibular Osteopathy
  • Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy
  • Heart Defects and Murmurs
  • Renal Dysplasia
  • Liver Disorders
  • Blood Disorders
  • Eye Problems
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Have your Cairn Terrier screened for these health issues before starting the adoption process.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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