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Feeding (Main page)

Chihuahua Food and Feeding


You'll want to put care into what you feed your Chihuahua. This breed is very sensitive to what they are being fed, how often they eat, and in which manner their food is offered to them. In fact, the food that you choose for your Chihuahua for both meals and snacks will directly affect your puppy or dog's health status, both now and as he/she matures.

Toy breeds burn calories faster than larger breeds. As they grow older, their needs will change in regard to both food and physical activity.

With a very low tolerance for chemicals (artificial coloring and preservatives) and the right balance of proteins, healthy fats and essential carbs, you may need to do a little experimenting to see what type of food ingredients your Chihuahua enjoys the most and which are best tolerated by the digestive system. 
Don't need all the details, and just want to know exactly what to feed your Chihuahua? Jump to: The Best Foods for Chihuahuas

Changing Dog Foods

There may be some times when you wish to change your Chi's food:
  • When you 1st bring your puppy home. In many cases your preference of feeding will not be the same as the breeder's (or the person whom you obtain your puppy from)
  • If you notice that your little dog is giving you signals that a change is needed:
1) A Chihuahua may become finicky about meals

2) The puppy or dog does not seem to be thriving on their current diet

3) There are signs of a food intolerance. This usually manifests as diarrhea, constipation and/or vomiting.

Making a switch is just fine, in fact it is certainly recommended in order to get your dog to the point of being on a really great diet.

What you must keep in mind is that changes should occur slowly. Associated problems with a quick changeover include stomach upset and finicky eating in regard to the new, better food. 

Therefore, when wanting to switch, you may find that the following works best:

Week 1: 3/4 old food, 1/4 new food - mixed together well

Week 2: 1/2 old food, 1/2 new food - mixed together well

Week 3: 1/4 old food, 3/4 new food - mixed together well

Week 4: 7/8 old food, 1/8 new food - mixed together well

Week 5: Your Chihuahua can now enjoy only the new food

How Often to Feed a Chihuahua - Meal Schedule

Toy breeds like the Chihuahua do best with small, frequent meals. The amount of dog food and the feeding times will vary depending on the age of your dog and activity level. In regard to timing:
  • Puppies under 3 months or under 2 pounds should be free-fed. This means that the dog food is left out at all times, so that it is accessible any time the pup wishes to nibble away at it. Be sure to swap out food so that it does not become too dried out or stale.
  • From 3 months (and at least 2 pounds) to 6 months: 3-4 scheduled meals should be given.
  • From 6 months to 1 year: 2-3 scheduled meals should be provided
  • From 1 year on: Ideally, this breed does best with 2 meals spaced apart. In some cases, 3 feedings will still be appropriate. 
Most often, if you find that you offer your Chihuahua snacks, and there are several good reasons to do this, that two meals are appropriate. 
Meal Schedule Tips:

1. When you are feeding 3 meals per day, and again this is best for most Chihuahua puppies and many adult Chihuahuas, there is a good chance that you will not be home for the mid-day feeding. You can leave food in a dish for your Chi, though do keep in mind that this may be played with instead of eaten, or it can be tipped over and scattered. 

So, another great alternative option is to leave a meal's worth of food in a treat dispensing toy. This serves two purposes: It ensures that your Chihuahua will indeed have access to his food, but it also works to keep a dog busy. And when a dog is home alone, keeping your dog busy is a great goal.

While Kongs are the traditional method to do this, even the smallest one is a bit too large for most Chihuahua puppies, and even adults can struggle with it.

A better option is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Barnacle Dog Toy - Extra Small which is a cluster of 3 tiny balls that dispense food. This works very well for most Chihuahuas.
And another great choice is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Twist 'n Treat - Extra Small . This looks like a tiny flying saucer and you can adjust how loose or tight the holding compartments are for an easy release or one that your Chihuahua has to really work for (to stay busy longer). 
2. You will find that the timing of the evening meal affects the timing of your Chihuahua's morning bowel movement. So, you may want to adjust this earlier or later by an hour or so, depending on your Chi's bathroom needs in the morning. 

How Much to Feed a Chihuahua

The right amount to give depends on a Chihuahua's calorie requirements. 

The amount of calories that a Chi needs depend on his age, activity level, and individual metabolism. While we can safely judge the first two elements, the third - metabolism - will vary; each dog is unique, so guidelines will vary 20% lower or higher.

And the type of food offered will affect the amount given because of this. Different types of food contain vastly different calorie amounts. So, depending on whether your give your Chihuahua wet, dry, or home cooked food, the amounts will be different. 

For example, a cup of wet homemade food may contain 200 calories and a cup of dry, cheap kibble may only contain 100 calories. In a case such as this, recommending to give a Chihuahua one cup would not be very helpful.

Also, the quality of the food matters. Cheap dog food may have a larger serving size than one of the better dog foods. Though, some inferior foods will be so due to chemical ingredients, which do not contain calories, and in this case serving size may be comparable. 

In addition, the quality of food affects calories as well. For example, a cup of wet homemade food may contain 200 calories and a cup of dry, cheap kibble may only contain 100 calories. In a case such as this, recommending to give a Chihuahua one cup would not be very helpful.

This all said, Chihuahuas that range in size from 4 to 10 pounds will eat 1/2 to 1 and 1/3 cups per day. 

You didn't read that wrong; this is a very tiny breed that needs to be fed a high quality food, but does not eat a lot. There are very few Chihuahuas that eat over 2 cups per day; and those that do tend to be the ones that are larger than standard size. 

Your best bet is to follow the guidelines on the feeding instructions of your chosen brand; these serving size suggestions are pretty spot on. 

Quick Overview of Calories

While there is a more detailed section regarding Chihuahua calorie requirements, a summary is as so:
  • A growing puppy under the age of 1 year old - healthy and having daily exercise - needs approximately 50 calories per pound of body weight.
  • An adult Chihuahua , age 1 to 7 years old - healthy and receiving a daily bout of exercise-  needs roughly 35 to 40 calories per pound of body weight
  • A senior Chihuahua age 8 and older that is less active and may have some health issues needs just about 30 calories per pound of body weight.
Again, do keep in mind that this will vary by 20% and really does depend on activity level, metabolism and any existing health issues.
Chihuahua looking at food

How Food Quality Affects a Chi

Keeping your Chihuahua healthy begins with offering the best of food. Though Chihuahuas do not eat very much due to their size, the quality of the food matters very much. It is all relative. 

Some points to keep in mind:

1. What a Chi puppy or dog eats correlates to many aspects. Food is energy; the presence or lack of healthy proteins, carbs, and healthy fats will affect energy levels, and maintenance of muscles.

2. His overall diet will have an effect on both short and long-term health. Healthy fats, for example, will help keep both skin and coat healthy. 
In addition, nutrition is found to affect 3 canine health conditions: pancreatitis, bladder stones, and heart disease. It also affects canine obesity; however, this is rarely found with the Chihuahua breed.  

How Low Quality Food is Detrimental

There are a lot of different dog foods on the market, and only a small percentage can be considered to be the best. The rest cut many corners in order to mass-produce food that will sell a lot, and sell quickly. 

Some of the worst offenders are brands that you are well aware of; they are seen stacked in local supermarkets and pet supply stores, and many air lots of commercials.

Unknowing owners believe that since the food has a recognizable name, it must be popular, and therefore a good food. But, this is one mistake you want to avoid. 

What inferior foods most often contain are:
  • Artificial ingredients. This includes chemical preservative, coloring, and flavoring. These can cause a lot of problems including gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting.  
These are also the cause of many allergies. Dry skin, itching, poor coat health, and other allergic reactions can often be attributed to inferior foods. 
  • Fillers.These substances quickly pass right through the body (since they have no nutritional value and the body does not absorb them). This can lead to nutritional deficiency and also behavioral issues such as eating grass or eating feces. 
These are such things as corn bran, cellulose, oat hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean mill run, and wheat mill run.
  • By-products. These are parts of animals that are deemed unfit for human consumption. This can include beaks, bone, lungs, fatty tissue, spleens,hooves, snouts, ears, and more. 
  • Generic meat sources. Perhaps one of the scariest ingredients found in inferior foods,it's amazing this is legal. This means any animal at all, including road kill, those that died while being transported, and cats and dogs that were euthanized at shelters.
Take you time in choosing which food you will offer for main meals. A Chihuahua's main diet will almost immediately change his activity level and will have long lasting health effects, for the rest of his life. 

Are You Feeding Your Chihuahua an Inferior Food?

Some of the worst offenders, that have the nasty ingredients that we just covered, are some of the most well-known dog food brands. 

They are the ones that you see commercials for and are the ones stacked up in supermarkets and pet stores. They names are so familiar, that you may naturally assume that it's a good food. But, think again. If you are giving any of these to your Chihuahua, it'll be time to look to a better food:

1-star foods (absolutely horrible):

Alpo, Gravy Train, Kibbles 'n Bits, Pedigree, Old Glory, Old Yeller, and some varieties Purina Dog Chow.

2-star foods (really awful): 

Beneful, some varieties of Blue Buffalo, Cesar (Classic, Savory Delights, Sunrise, and Filet),  Evolution, some varieties of Hill's Science Diet, some varieties of Iams, Mighty Dog (wet), some varieties of Purina Dog Chow, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Royal Canin, Seminole,Trader Joe's Kibble.

3-star foods (are 'okay', but your Chihuahua deserves better):

Back to Basics, some varieties of Blue Buffalo, Candae, Diamond, Eukanuba, Halo Vigor, Hill's Ideal, some varieties of Hill's Science Diet, some varieties of Iams, Natural Balance, Nature's Recipe, Newman's Own Dog Food, Nutro, many varieites of Purina, some varities of Rachael Ray, some varieties of Royal Canin, some varieties of Trader Joe's, Tuscan Natural.

The Best Foods for a Chihuahua

The best foods will have the following qualities:
  • No artificial flavors
  • No artificial coloring
  • No artificial preservatives
  • Protein is from specific meats (no generic meat sources) and in substantial amounts. Meats can be whole or meal (meal refers to a condensed meat in which moisture is removed, thus creating a protein dense ingredient)
  • No generic animal fats
  • No cheap fillers (corn, soy, etc.)
  • No grains/wheat
  • Proper protein, carb, fat, and fiber ratios
Our Top 4 Recommended Commercial Foods Are:
Wellness Complete Natural for Toy Breeds

Overview: This is a top rated all-natural, 4-star food, and has varieties for both puppies and adults, and importantly it is formulated for toy breeds. It is made in the USA. 

Ingredients: The main protein is from chicken, a highly tolerated food. And there is white rice, another food ingredient that is easy on the stomach. In fact, when a Chihuahua is having stomach issue, a chicken & rice combo is recommended by veterinarians. Other ingredients include carrots (for beta carotene), peas (great source of fiber), oatmeal (easy on the tummy), spinach (super healthy veggie), apples, sweet potatoes, blueberries (antioxidant), and flaxseed (healthy source of omega 3, for good skin and coat health). 

Ratios: Varying by type, ratios are generally 26% protein, 29% fat, 45% carbs, and 5.8% fiber.

Major pluses: This is a 100% all-natural dog food that is perfectly formulated for Chihuahuas. And, the kibble size is very tiny, which is ideal for this breed. 
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free for Small Breeds - Beef & Sweet Potato 

Overview: This is a top rated all-natural, 5-star food, that is one of our top choices for Chihuahuas due to the fact that it is a super high-quality brand, but also because it is ideal if you are looking for a chicken-free option. 

While chicken is indeed a generally very well tolerated and healthy protein that is given to dogs that have tummy troubles, in some cases a dog can be allergic to poultry. In these cases, Merrick Lil' Plates offers a great beef based kibble.

This is made in the USA.

Ingredients: The beef formula includes beef, lamb, whitefish, sweet potato, peas, potato, apples, and blueberries.  

Ratios: Ratios are 33.3% protein, 33.3% fat, 33.3% carbs, and 5.1% fiber.

Major pluses: This is an all-natural, grain-free, super high-quality food as a great chicken-free option. It offers a well-rounded diet with extras like glucosamine and chondroitin (for joint health) and probiotics (for digestive health).
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free for Small Breeds - Salmon & Sweet Potato 

Overview: Like the beef option above, this is a top rated all-natural, 5-star food, which is a terrific choice if you are looking for a chicken-free kibble. This is made in the USA.

Ingredients: The salmon formula includes salmon, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, whitefish, apples, flaxseed, and blueberries.   

Ratios: Ratios are 33.3% protein, 33.3% fat, 33.3% carbs, and 5.1% fiber.

Major pluses: Like the beef option, this salmon-based kibble is an all-natural, grain-free, high-quality food for Chihuahuas that do well with a chicken alternative. It's wholesome with no additives, and has added extras including probiotics, glucosamine and chondroitin.
Wellness CORE for Small Breeds

Overview: This is one of the best foods for Chihuahuas and for very good reasons. They make a small breed variety that is a smaller kibble size, packed with 100% all-natural, wholesome foods with optimal calorie levels for small dogs. 

Ingredients: The small breed grain-free variety has turkey, chicken, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, apples, blueberries, kale, and sweet potatoes. 

It also has great, healthy ingredients including flaxseed, salmon oil, rosemary extract, and green tea extract. 

Ratios: 34% protein, 29% healthy fats, 37% carbs, and 6.7% fiber. 

Major pluses: This is one of the best foods for complete and balanced nutrition for small dogs like the Chihuahua. It is protein packed, with no grains, and they've put a lot of thought into what smaller breeds need, even adding in antioxidants and probiotics, for a truly well-rounded diet. 
Below are our top 4 recommended dog food formulas for Chihuahuas. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

Wet Vs Dry

It is suggested to feed your Chihuahua mostly dry kibble since a strictly wet commercial food diet can lead to runny bowls. This said, some Chihuahuas can be a bit picky. If so, you can mix in a bit of wet food, taking care to stir it well so that wet pieces are not picked from the bowl.

Another great option is to drizzle warm low-sodium chicken or beef broth over the food. This is often well received. 

Foods that are Toxic to a Chihuahua

Many people already know that chocolate is poisonous to a dog; however there are a lot of other foods as well. It is never recommended to feed a Chihuahua table food; some may make him very ill.

The following foods can make your dog very sick:
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • The seeds of any fruit
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Coffee or any substance containing high levels of caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners
* Milk is not toxic, but can cause runny bowels and stomach upset. 

Picky Eaters

It's not uncommon for owners to feel that their Chihuahua is not eating enough or doesn't like his food. However, in most cases this is just a matter of a Chihuahua needing very little food compared to their humans. Dogs that are deemed fussy or picky, are often just eating the amount that they require.

As we went over earlier, this breed typically eats just 1/2 to 1 and 1/3 cups per day. And of course, this may seem like a terribly small amount. If your Chihuahua puppy is steadily gaining or your adult Chihuahua is maintaining, and you are sure that you are feeding him a high quality food, this means that he is eating the amount he is supposed to be eating.

A sudden change in appetite, however, can be a sign of health issues. If a Chihuahua stops eating, or if appetite decreases to such an extent that a puppy is not gaining or an adult is losing, this is a clear sign that a vet visit is needed. 

If your Chihuahua balks at his food, this can be a matter of waiting him out. Maybe he is used to you rushing over to offer something different. Or he may enjoy the attention that he receives when he acts stubborn. If you are sure that you have chosen one of the better foods that is a 4 or 5 star brand, simply place his food down, and leave him to it. 
You May Also Like:
Snacks and Treats

Snacks and treats are an important part of any Chihuahua's diet. These not only supplement meals, but should be used to reward good behavior, and are almost always needed for any sort of training.

In addition, at least one treat per day should be one that effectively helps to prevent plaque, since tooth decay is seen quite often with this breed.

chihuahua licking
Raw Food Diets

This can refer to offering raw food that you prepare yourself or manufactured raw food which is sold as freeze dried food. 

This is an overview covering the benefits and pros to this. And some red flags that cause this to not be the best idea for some dogs. Covering safety tips, a sample recipe, and more. 

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