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Help, My Chihuahua is Fat!


The Chihuahua is such a small dog that even an extra pound can make a huge different in the dog's appearance. it should be noted that it is very rare for a puppy to be considered fat. 

Puppies are supposed to have a rounded body; extra layers of fat are important as fuel reserves. As the pup matures, he will have a sleeker, leaner appearance. Dogs under the age of 1 year old should not be put on a diet unless directed by a reputable veterinarian.

Top 3 Reasons for Weight Gain

1) Eating too much. Many owners want their dog to eat what seems to be a good amount of food. 
The problem is that what seems like a decent serving is actually too much for this breed. With adults being only 2 lbs. (.9 kg) to 6 lbs (2.7 kg) the amount of calories that an adult Chihuahua needs per day will range from 70 to 270.

Depending on whether you feed dry kibble, a wet commercial brand or home cooked meals, this will vary from 1/2 cup to 1 cup per day. Compared to what humans eat (it is recommended we eat 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, not to mentions proteins and carbs).

2) Not enough exercise. It is hard to find a good balance. Puppies should not be over-exercised as this can cause problems with growth plates. Chihuahua of all ages should be walked 1 to 2 times per day. 

Owners with very busy schedules may find themselves stuck in a pattern of taking the dog out for bathroom needs and then heading right back inside. In addition, foul weather plays a factor in how much outdoor activity a dog receives.

Here are a few tips to make sure your Chi burns off enough calories:
  • It is best to create a routine that works best for both owner and dog. Twenty minutes in the morning and another twenty after dinner may work best for many households.  There are dogs that are more willing to go for walks at certain times of the day.  One Chihuahua may be rev'd up when he first wakes up; for another, a mid-day outing works better.
  • Prepare in advance for days that are rainy, cold or snowy. This is certainly one breed in which clothing is not a fun accessory, but a genuine method for protecting a Chihuahua from biting cold and soaking rains. Being so tiny, this breed can have a hard time regulating body temperature; donning a sweater, coat or other protective gear will help a Chi tolerate being outside when the weather is less than idea.
  • Make outdoor activity fun for both of you. Chose new walking routes to go on. Designate the weekends to be days of exploring new areas and parks. Take on the challenge of teaching your dog a new game (fetch, hide n' seek) or a new command (hurdles, weaving around poles, etc.)
3) Allowing the dog to eat off of your plate. It can be tempting to share a bit of your food with your pet. However, table scraps are not healthy for dogs. Many human foods are just too high in calories, fat and sodium for a Chihuahua to safely eat on a regular basis. 

And many owners who feel that they only offer scraps once in while may be in denial about just how often this is done. Additionally, if there are four members of the household and all are giving in to those 'puppy dog eyes', it can be enough excess to make a dog fat, even if he is receiving daily exercise.

Senior Chihuahuas

As this breed ages, there will be a gradual decrease in metabolism. Seniors (8 years and older) will need approximately 5 to 10 less calories per day - per pound of body weight. Depending on the size of the dog, this will range from 10 to 60 less calories needed while maintaining activity levels.

When older, senior dogs are less active - either due to medical issues or an intolerance for long walks - you have a situation where a normally healthy dog can become heavy and fat within a relatively short amount of time.

Effects of Carrying Too Much Fat

Being heavy is damaging for any breed, however the Chihuahua has a particularly difficult time with this. Here are some things to take note of:
  • A Chi may become out of breath when walking. This creates a problem as owner want the dog to be active and receive proper exercise but concerns over his ability to do so seem limiting
  • Excess fat will put stress and strain on the body. This will most often affect hips and knees; there can be damage to bones, joints and ligaments. In some cases, a Chihuahua may begin to have back problems.
  • One of the most common complications of obesity in canines is the onset of diabetes
  • There is an increased risk for heart disease

Health Issues that can Cause Weight Gain

Thyroid - Weight gain in a Chihuahua can be caused by a thyroid problem. Just as with humans, the thyroid controls metabolism and when it is off kilter, this can cause a dog to become fat in a short amount of time. 

Other signs include lethargy, a dulling of the coat, cold intolerance and excessive shedding. 

Once diagnosed, a dog is often prescribed a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone.

Cushing's Disease - This is a dog medical issue which affects the adrenalin gland. 
Other signs beside weight gain are: increased panting, a pot-bellied abdomen, fur issues including a thinning of the coat and bald spots, weakness, blackheads developing on the skin and white scaly skin patches. 

Treatment may involve the removal of adrenal tumors and medication that works by stopping the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands.

Diabetes - While being fat can cause diabetes, the disease itself can cause a dog to become too heavy. Therefore it may be a cause or an effect. While this disease can lead to many health problems, having your veterinarian catch this early will help to control it. Proper feeding, exercise and possibly medicine will help to control this. Leaving this untreated can lead to blindness, lame limbs and eventual death.

How to Help a Chihuahua Reach Reduce Levels of Body Fat

If all possible medical causes have been rules out, it will be time to make adjustments to both food and activity level. Here are some tips to help this toy breed gradually lose weight:

1) Switch out snacks - You do not necessarily need to reduce the quantity of food that you feed your Chi if a change is made regarding the quality. Substituting raw baby carrots or apple slices (be sure to not feed any parts of the core) for manufactured treats can very helpful.

2) Fill out meals with vegetables - Adding baby peas and string beans to the Chihuahua's main meals is a great way to offer the same amount of food but with fewer calories. If you are feeding a dry kibble, add some warm water or a bit of low-salt chicken broth to aid in blending the ingredients.
3) Increase exercise in a slow gradual way that a dog carrying extra fat will be able to handle. Expecting a sedentary dog to suddenly walk twice per day may be unrealistic and can cause injury to a stressed body. Begin by adding 5 minutes to what routine the dog is accustomed to. Increase by 5 minute intervals each week. 

The end goal should be two walks per day, with each lasting 20 to 30 minutes at a moderate pace. The pace should be brisk without being overtaxing. A dog should be breathing well without excessively panting. In hot weather, take a break halfway through in the shade and offer fresh water.

Don't allow the cold or snow to stop you; protect your dog with clothing and find a safe route to walk on.

There are also ways to help a heavy dog move more when inside the home. Even something as simple as jogging from room to room and having your dog chase you can get him in motion.

You may also play a game of hide and seek, where you train him to look for a toy that you have hidden. Most dogs enjoy the engagement and interaction that games bring; it is preferable to watching from the sidelines.

4) Keep expectations reasonable. If you think your Chihuahua is fat, discuss with your veterinarian the goals and how long it will take to reach them. With this breed, even a loss of a couple of pounds can make a huge difference.
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