What Is The Best Dog Food For A Chihuahua?
The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog, with the breed standard calling for males and females to weigh a mere 4 to 6 pounds, though many Chihuahuas outside the show ring are larger. Feisty, loyal, and intelligent, Chihuahuas have been one of the most popular breeds in the United States for years. The breed does need to be fed carefully to help manage a tendency toward hypoglycemia. Dental problems are also common in the breed.
While the breed standard for Chihuahuas calls for dogs to weigh 4 to 6 pounds, this mostly applies to dogs from show bloodlines. Many pet Chihuahuas, even some from show breeders, will weigh more than 6 pounds. Some Chihuahuas weigh up to 20 pounds, especially if they are overweight. Chihuahuas will generally weigh somewhere between these two sizes. The breed doesn’t require much exercise, but you do need to watch how much you feed your Chihuahua since they do have a tendency to overeat and become overweight. Even though Chihuahuas don’t need a lot of exercise, it’s still a good idea to see that your dog gets daily walks and some exercise every day. Being a purse dog and living a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for any dog, even a pampered Chihuahua.
According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, an active adult Chihuahua weighing 10 pounds requires an average daily caloric intake of about 404 calories. Dogs that have been spayed/neutered, or that are older, may need fewer calories. Some dogs may need more calories depending on their level of activity and their individual metabolism. Growing puppies, for example, consume more calories than adult dogs and so do young adult dogs. A young adult Chihuahua weighing about 10 pounds, for example, and getting lots of exercise would need about 436 calories per day. However, if your Chihuahua tends to lie around the house all day, he would probably need fewer calories.
Protein is very important for your Chihuahua’s diet, just as it is for every dog. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends a minimum of 22 percent protein for growth (puppies) and 18 percent protein for maintenance in adult dogs. These percentages are recommended for dogs in general. Most good quality dog foods will exceed these percentages. Fat is an important source of energy for dogs and should comprise at least 8 percent of the diet for Chihuahua puppies and 5 percent of the diet for adults. Most dog foods today have more fat than these percentages. Fat also adds flavor to dog food and makes it very appealing to your dog.
Hypoglycemia is a special concern for many Toy breeds, including Chihuahuas. Young puppies, in particular, can experience low blood sugar. For this reason many breeders and owners keep some honey, Karo syrup, or Nutri-Cal supplement on hand so they can give a tiny amount to any puppy (or dog) that seems to show signs of starting to experience low blood sugar. Symptoms to watch for include low energy, lethargy, uncoordinated gait, unfocused gaze, fainting, and seizures. Young puppies, very small dogs, and dogs that are very lean can be especially at risk for hypoglycemia.
The Chihuahua Club of America recommends that puppies should be fed 4-5 times per day after weaning and that owners should feed a puppy food instead of an adult dog food. Feeding a puppy this often should help to allay potential problems with low blood sugar. You can also make dry kibble available for your puppy at all times so he can eat when he gets hungry. This is another way to help prevent problems with hypoglycemia. (Note that free feeding is not recommended for larger breeds or puppies that don’t have problems with hypoglycemia.) After the puppy reaches his adult size and age, you can put him on an adult feeding schedule and feed him two meals per day.
Toy and small breed dogs use up more energy per pound of body weight than bigger dogs yet they have small stomachs so they can’t eat a lot of food at one time. For this reason it’s often a good idea to buy a dog food that is specifically made for Toy and small breeds. These foods are often calorie and nutrient-dense. They contain more calories and nutrients per ounce than dog food made for other adult dogs.
Ingredients To Look For
As with most dogs, Chihuahuas need protein and fat in their diets. However, not all protein and fat are the same. Protein and fat need to come from good quality ingredients. For example, both shoe leather and steak contain protein but there’s a big difference in the nutrition they provide.
Ideally, a good dog food will feature a couple of meat proteins in the first five (or so) ingredients. Both whole meats and meat meals are good sources of protein. Whole meats refer to ingredients such as whole chicken, lamb, fish, and beef. However, whole meats also contain lots of water. Animals are made up of about 70 percent water, just as humans are. If the water from these meats were removed, they would be found lower on the ingredient list. This is because dog food companies are required by law to list ingredients by weight before cooking in the ingredient list. Some people don’t like meat meals as much as whole meats but they are a concentrated form of the meat in which the moisture has already been removed. They contain several times as much protein as a whole meat. Meat meals are usually very good as one of the first ingredients in a premium quality dog food. They are used by many good dog food companies. Less desirable are the terms “digest” or “by-products.” If you see these terms on the label of a dog food, you should ask some questions.
Dogs also need good sources of fat. Some vitamins are only fat-soluble and your dog needs them in his diet. But fat, like protein, varies in quality depending on the source. You should look for named fat sources such as chicken fat. Other named fats also provide needed nutrients such as fish oil which can provide omega-3 fatty acid to help keep the skin and coat healthy.
All of the foods listed here are good dog foods. We have listed a variety in case your dog has certain issues or you have preferences about what you like to feed. The foods also vary in price.
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Adult Dog Food
The foods listed here are kibbles but you can certainly feed your Chihuahua some canned food if you like. There’s very little truth to the notion that soft food is more harmful to a dog’s teeth than crunchy kibble. No matter what you feed your Chihuahua, you will need to take extra care of your dog’s teeth because of the breed’s dental issues.
Some dogs will like certain foods better than others. And your dog may do better on one food than another. Try a couple of foods and see how your dog likes them and if he seems to do well physically on the food.
Keep in mind that most Chihuahuas don’t get a lot of exercise so try not to overfeed your dog. And watch the snacks, too! Snacks also have calories and they add up.
Best Dog Foods for the Senior Chihuahua
It’s not unusual for many Chihuahuas to live into their teen years. This means that you will probably need to consider what kind of food to feed your Chihuahua as he gets older. As your dog ages it’s a good idea to plan an annual senior check-up with your vet. Many older dogs begin to put on pounds as they become less active. For this reason, most senior dog foods have fewer calories and they can skimp on protein. You should watch your older dog’s weight as he gets older to make sure he doesn’t become overweight. In some cases you can simply cut back on the portions of his regular dog food to help him stay fit or increase his exercise.
Very old dogs can start to lose muscle as they begin to have problems metabolizing nutrients, including protein. If your Chihuahua falls in this category, you may need to avoid senior foods or look for one that is high in good quality protein. As long as your dog does not have have kidney problems there’s no reason to avoid protein as he gets older.
Chihuahuas can be prone to dental problems, especially as they get older, so this is another issue to consider when choosing a food for senior dogs. If your older Chihuahua does have problems with his teeth you may want to consider canned/wet food which should be much easier for him to eat. Many owners of Toy breeds prefer to feed canned foods anyway. Be sure to pay attention to the preservatives used in canned foods. It’s best to avoid canned foods that use carrageenan.
Orijen Senior provides plenty of excellent quality protein for your older Chihuahua. This food features fresh chicken meat (13%), fresh whole eggs (7%), fresh turkey meat (7%), fresh whole herring (7%), and fresh chicken liver (6%) as the first five ingredients. It helps keep older dogs in good muscle even as they become less active. Made of 85 percent poultry, fish and eggs, the food is low-glycemic (important for Chihuahuas) and has low carbs (only 19 percent) to help keep your older dog’s blood sugar steady. The food also contains natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to keep your dog’s joints healthy. The food is 38 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. It has 8 percent crude fiber and 8 percent crude ash. It checks in at 435 kcal per 8 ounce cup. We think this is a very good food for senior dogs who often need extra protein as they get older. Orijen Senior is now made in Kentucky. There have been some changes in the ingredients but we do not see any loss of quality in this food. (We know Orijen is expensive but this food really stands out for senior dogs.) This food is AAFCO-approved for maintenance.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Originals Small Breed Canned Diet For Dogs
If you would like to feed your older Chihuahua a good canned food, we like Nature’s Variety Instinct. They have two canned formulas made especially for small breeds – one in chicken and one in salmon. These canned foods are grain free and gluten free. The chicken formula has 143 kcal/5.5 ounce can. The guaranteed analysis shows 8 percent crude protein, 3.5 percent crude fat, and 3 percent crude fiber, with 78 percent moisture. The first five ingredients in the food are: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Peas, and Cod.
There are lots of good canned foods for dogs. If your older Chihuahua is starting to be finicky about his food, you can try something like Party Animal Cocolicious Organic Turkey & Chicken. First Mate, Tiki Dog, and Weruva also have very good canned foods. First Mate recommends these canned foods for senior dogs.
If you found this article helpful then we suspect you might be interested in learning about similar small breed dog recommendations. Take a look at our suggestions for Yorkie food as well as which kibble we like best for Dachshunds.