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Every Chihuahua owner wants what’s best for their miniature friend, but not everybody knows what nutrients a Chihuahua really needs. Just because they are small, it does not mean their needs are smaller than those of other dogs, and they, too, need a quality kibble or wet food to live long and healthy lives. Finding the best food for a Chihuahua may seem easy, with so many options available, but there are a few things to think about since not every dog food brand – no matter how inviting the packaging looks – has your dog’s best interest at heart.
Learning what to look for and what to avoid is essential when trying to give your best fur friend the dog food they deserve, and it is important to remember to look beyond a chunk of meat printed onto a bag at the supermarket.
The Nutritional Needs of the Chihuahua
The Chihuahua is a tiny dog when it comes to their physical size, but their nutritional needs and requirements are just as big as those of a larger dog. Due to being so small, they burn more calories than their bigger fur friends, which is something many dog owners are not aware of. Just look at how fast their tiny legs move as they walk; trying to keep up with you, and how they take multiple small steps where a larger dog might only take one. When choosing dog food for a Chihuahua, it is crucial that it has enough protein and carbs to fuel them with energy and keep them going for a whole day.
Have you ever noticed how you can tell right away when a Chihuahua didn’t finish their breakfast? You can almost see them being instantly skinnier after missing a meal, which has to do with their stomach being so small (meaning you can see and feel when there is food in there, and when there isn’t), and with them burning of their calories a lot quicker than their big dog companions. This should make it easy to understand why it is important to find a dog food that does more than just fill them up, and that provides them with the carbs and protein they need for their bodies to function properly.
A Chihuahua needs healthy fats, fatty acids vitamins, minerals, fibers and more, since many small breeds are known to have sensitive stomachs, food allergies and/or just be picky eaters. Hypoallergenic dog food can be a good option here. A good diet will also help keep their bones strong, something that can prevent a broken leg after an unsuccessful jump from the couch or the bed.
Signs Your Chihuahua Needs a Diet Change
Most signs of a dog needing a better diet might not be visible until it is already too late, which is why the best thing you can do for your dog is to feed a quality dog food already from the start, but there are a few subtle signs you might want to keep an eye out for – signs that could indicate that your Chihuahua needs a food change. Remember to always bring health concerns up with your veterinarian first, to rule out any serious illness or health emergency, before starting to experiment with food.
Poor coat quality can be a sign of a lack of nutrients. Perhaps your Chihuahua sheds excessively all year round, despite having such short fur? Or maybe you have been noticing bald spots, redness and/or rashes? These could be indicators of an existing food allergy (which is rather common in small dogs) or an insufficiency of a nutrient that aids in growing a healthy coat. Flaxseed oil, fish oils and amino acids are known to provide care for a dog’s coat, and to relieve skin problems and itchiness.
Another sign that perhaps you should reconsider the dog food you are feeding your Chihuahua is loose stool or diarrhea. Stomach problems are commonly occurring in small bred dogs, loose stool is often a sign of a digestive issue. Fiber can help fix this, so make sure the food you are supplying your Chi with contains enough fiber.
Fatigue is a health concern and should be discussed with your veterinarian, but if no obvious cause is found, it could also be a sign that your Chihuahua’s diet is not providing him or her with enough energy. Remember that Chihuahua’s burn calories fast, and that a cheap supermarket kibble might consist of more fillers (with little to no nutritional value) than actual nutrients.
What to Look for in Chihuahua Dog Food
The primary ingredient you want to find in a dog food for your Chihuahua is meat. A named meat source should be listed among the first three ingredients (preferably the first two or even three should be meat or meat meal), since ingredients’ lists are written in order. The first ingredient is what the dog food has the most of, meaning that a high-listed meat product indicates that the dog food has a high enough protein content. Don’t be fooled by animal by-products; as it is not considered a quality protein source. Animal by-products are left-overs from slaughterhouses, deemed unfit for being sold for human consumption.
Instead, you want to find for example beef, duck, turkey, chicken, lamb or salmon listed among the top ingredients, but meat meal (like chicken meal) are also considered quality meat sources thanks to their high protein content. In meat meal, the water weight has already been removed, which means that the protein content is still high enough to place it among the top ingredients. Deboned chicken, for example, contains a lot of water, which means it might not place quite as high once that water is removed (making some content lists somewhat misguiding). For this reason, it is great to look for a product with fresh meat followed by a meat meal product.
A healthy mix of vegetables, fruit and legumes is another thing to look for in a quality dog food apt for a Chihuahua. Fiber is a miracle worker for digestive issues; which are common in small dogs, and you find fiber in green beans, pumpkin, bananas, apples and more.
What to Avoid
Corn is a commonly found ingredient in cheaper dog food, and while it is not harmful for dogs – their bodies are unable to process it, which means that there are virtually 0 nutrients they can get from it. Many low-quality brands use corn as a filler since it is cheap for them to purchase, and it saves them from having to add more expensive products to their kibble or wet food. A corn-based food might fill your Chihuahua up and have them feel satisfied for a while, but it probably won’t fulfill the nutritional needs of their small yet demanding bodies.
As mentioned above, you also want to avoid animal by-products, since these can be anything from bird beaks to bone, which may or may not contain sufficient protein. Again, it would probably not be harmful to your dog, but one thing is something being safe; and another is it providing your Chihuahua with what he or she needs to live a long life.
Artificial flavors, preservatives and colors is another thing to stay clear of when shopping for food for your Chihuahua! Dog food can easily be flavored by using quality ingredients like meat, egg and more, so there is no valid reason for using artificial flavors in food for dogs. Artificial food dyes like Blue 2, Yellow 5 and Red 40 may be harmful, and should also be avoided at all costs.
It is recommendable to look for a kibble made for small- and toy breeds, or a kibble with a small kibble size. Not only will it be easier for a small and sensitive Chihuahua jaw to chew, but the correct kibble size will also aid in keeping the teeth and gums clean – something that helps prevent teeth loss, bad breath and other oral diseases.
All small breed dog foods will usually have a kibble size that works well for Chihuahuas, and other kibble types tend to have it written on the bag if the kibble is small. A tip is to feel the bag and try to feel the kibble through the packaging, especially if you are unsure, as it is usually fairly easy to recognize small-sized dog food.
How Much to Feed?
Depending on the food brand you choose, there may be a slight difference in how much food you should feed a small dog. When fed a quality diet, your Chi will usually need a smaller quantity than when fed a grocery store brand with fillers, but it is important to always double check the feeding recommendations printed on the packaging. Excess weight in small dogs can cause several health issues; such as bone and joint pain, difficulty breathing and more.
Looking to get a Chihuahua? Check out our guide on buying Chihuahua puppies.
The Balanced Chihuahua
A healthy Chihuahua is a happy Chihuahua, and a happy Chihuahua is a wonderful addition to the family. By providing a nutritious and balanced diet, you are setting your miniature friend up for a long and healthy life, and a lot fewer emergency visits to the vet. The saying “You are what you eat” also applies for dogs and Chihuahuas, because even though they are tiny – they have the same need for- and right to quality dog food as any other dog.
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