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Feeding

Chihuahua Food and Feeding

Understanding Food Needs

Correct feeding is very important for your dog. Chihuahuas are 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 carbs essential, you may need to do a little experimenting to see what type of food ingredients your Chihuahua enjoys best and which are best tolerated by the digestive system. 
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 must occur slowly. It is dangerous to your dog's health if you make a fast change. Therefore, when wanting to switch, do the following:

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 to Often to Feed a Chihuahua - Meal Schedule
 
Dogs must eat enough to be healthy yet not too much so they become overweight. 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. 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 you may choose to offer 2 meals (morning and night) or 1 meal at dinner. Ideally, this breed does best with 2 meals spaced apart.
As time goes by, you will be able to see how your puppy or dog's body handles the intake of food. For many puppies, ingesting a meal will trigger a response to have a bowel movement. 

Additionally, the evening meal will affect the timing of morning bathroom needs. Therefore, the exact timing of meals can be adjusted in order to find a good schedule in regard to meals and bathroom trips.
Funny Chihuahua in dog food dish
How Much to Feed a Chihuahua

Many owners want to know exactly how much food to give their Chihuahua. We will go over this, however it must be noted that the type of food will affect the amount given. Wet commercial food and home cooked meals are much more calorie dense than dry kibble.

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.

For this reason, it is best to decide how much to feed a Chihuahua based on calories. The amount of calories that this breed needs will be based on 3 things:
  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Individual metabolism
Note: The health of the puppy or dog will also come into play if there are any medical issues.

We can safely judge the first 2 elements; however since each dog will have a unique metabolism, guidelines will vary 20% lower or higher.
Calorie Guidelines
  • 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
What to Feed Your Chihuahua
  
Keeping your Chihuahua healthy begins with offering the best of food. It is important to know that the main element that separates a high quality or poor quality dog food is the amount of fillers. A dog's digestive tract is designed to process large quantities of proteins, some carbohydrates and certainly not fillers.
 
The majority of commercial foods have fillers. They are ingredients which have zero nutritional value and simply "bulk up" the dog food to make it appear as if there is more.

For example, if you are looking at a cup of dog food, what you are really seeing is about 3/4 to 4/5 of actual food (depending on the brand) and the rest is fillers to plump it up. These are very cheap ingredients, thrown in to not only fill up your Chi's bowl but also to fill his stomach.
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. 

In addition, you will want to keep away from brands that contain:
  • Artificial coloring - a trigger for allergies
  • By-products - Legally, by-products can be hooves, snouts, ears, animals that have died on route to facilities and road kill.
  • A high preservative count - Chihuahua digestive systems are sensitive to these types of chemicals.
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. 

Home Cooking- The Best Food for a Chihuahua

We highly suggest home cooking food for your Chi. By doing so, you are in charge of the ingredients, you know that you are not giving your dog any fillers and you can offer your Chihuahua the best of nutrition. You will be ruling out coloring, by-products and preservatives.

Meals are simple, nutritious and easy to make. When you take out all of the merchandising, fancy labels and debate about meat vs meat meal, feeding a puppy or dog high quality meals is relatively easy and stress-free.

Home cooking can also save you money. Many of the ingredients are those which you would normally purchase. For example, if you will be buying chicken to make a meal for your family, you can set aside a certain amount for your Chi's dinner. 

You can make a large amount and then refrigerate or freeze servings. In this way, you can prepare your dog's dinners once per week and not need to be cooking every day (Unless you love the kitchen!)

Feeding your Chi in this way is not the same as allowing your dog to eat table scraps. It is important that each meal be prepared correctly and with the proper ingredients.

Some of the best ingredients that you will want to use are:
  • Organs - such as liver, kidney and brain
  • Lean meats - such as lean hamburger, white breast chicken meat and fish
  • Vegetables - Chihuahuas usually love potatoes (either regular potatoes or sweet potatoes), baby carrots, spinach, broccoli, and zucchini. Corn is not recommended.
  • Fruits - Fruits are an important ingredient and some are super healthy for dogs, providing vitamins and with some, anti-oxidants.  Blueberries, raspberries and apple (without any core) are great choices. 
  • Carbohydrates are very important as well as it fuels the body. This does not need to only rice (white or brown).; though dogs do love this and it is easy on the stomach. Chihuahuas generally also love pasta and there are many ways that you can incorporate this into meals.
Meat should be the # 1 ingredient. Dogs must have this protein as their main food source. Vegetables. a bit of fruit and then starch will round out the meals.

Rations will change slightly depending on which recipes you use, however you will want to keep it roughly: 40% meat, 30% veggies, 30% starch.  Also see:  The Healthy Home Cooking for the Chihuahua eBook.
Commercial Foods

If you choose to not home cook for your Chi, we would then recommend: Orijen or Health Extension. With commercial brands, we recommend dry over wet. Let's look at an overview of these:

Orijen

Overview: This brand comes in a variety of formulas based on age. All essentially contain the same meats. There is also a fish based formula.

Ingredients: One of the top rated manufactured brands, Orijen contains wholesome real foods that include: chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, herring, turkey, turkey meal, turkey liver, eggs, walleye, salmon, chicken heart, chicken cartilage, herring meal and salmon meal.

Other ingredients which are found in small amounts - but enough to really affect nutrition- are: chicken liver oil, both red and green lentils, green peas, yams, pea fibre, chickpeas, pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach greens, carrots, apples (apples are safe as long as the core is not eaten), pears, cranberries and blueberries.

Rating: Being a meat-based food with 10% fruit and a low level of coloring, this is a good choice. We give this a 4/5.

Whole Earth Farms

Overview: This is a top rated food, and has varieties for both puppies and adults. The main protein comes from notable amounts of concentrated chicken and turkey; both of these are great for Chihuahuas. 

Ingredients: Aside from meats, this rounded out food has healthy barley (both pearled and whole) and some good extras including white fish and dried blueberries for antioxidants. 

Rating: With zero artificial coloring , preservatives, flavoring or corn and being made in the U.S.A. we give this a 4/5 as well.

For low pricing on these top products, check out the Chihuahua Specialty Shoppe.
Wet vs Dry

It is suggested to feed your Chihuahua mostly dry kibble and you can add a bit of wet dog food mixed into the menu if your Chi is resistant to only kibble. Alternatively, drizzling a bit of low salt broth over kibble can encourage a Chihuahua to eat his or her full meal. Eating only wet commercial food may affect the bowels.

Because a dog can quickly come to love wet dog food, you will not want to feed your dog solely wet even for day or two; he will put up a big fuss if you try to switch him back over.

If you are currently feeding your Chihuahua only wet dog food and your dog is having very runny bowel movements, you should plan a slow switch over to dry food. You can begin by providing a mixture of 50% dry and 50% wet. 

Be sure to mix well, so that the wet food covers the dry nuggets. As time goes on, you can add less and less of the wet, ending up with a balanced diet of 80% dry dog food and 20% wet dog food.

Snacks

For puppies, snacks should be reserved to use as rewards when housebreaking or command training.

For adults, snacks can be given to reinforce good behavior.

Here are some tips for giving your Chihuahua health snacks:

1) Keep away from brightly colored treats. Orange or red dog treats contain very high levels of unsafe coloring.

2) Stay away from rawhides. These have been shown to cause quite severe digestive problems with many dogs. These are not digestible and cause blockage problems.

3) Try to offer wholesome, fresh foods for snacks including: raw baby carrots, raspberries and blueberries.

4) Plain white yogurt is a great snack food for the Chihuahua. Trying mixing a 1/3 cup of yogurt (regular -not low fat) with a few fresh pieces of fruit

5) As long as you are giving your puppy or dog a treat, why not have it be one that promotes clean teeth and fresh breath.
What are Toxic Foods for 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.

Beside chocolate the following foods can make your dog very sick:
  • Onions
  • The seeds of any fruit
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Coffee or any substance containing high levels of caffeine
Aside from some human food, plants and grasses can be very toxic to a Chihuahua. To make sure of your dog’s safety, never allow him to chew on any type of grass. And of course, such items and fluids as anti-freeze, hair coloring, detergents, etc would be harmful to a Chihuahua or any dog.
Picky Eaters

Feeding your Chihuahua home cooked food at pre-set times during the day is the best way to ensure your dog is properly fed. As tempting as it is, never feed your Chihuahua food from your own dinner. The fat content, colorings and more can very very detrimental to your dog's health. We have a section for Chihuahuas that won't eat.

If choosing manufactured food, you will just need to experiment a bit. Do not buy large quantities of dog food until you have discovered the flavor or flavors that your dog likes. 

There is always a chance that a dog is not fussy about taste, but rather a certain food causes digestive distress. 
You may also be interested in:

Raw Food Diets for Chihuahuas - Pros and cons, safety tips, sample recipe and more.
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