Chihuahua Diet & Meal Plan Advice
By Hungry Bark | September 25, 2021
One of the most iconic dogs in North America, the Chihuahua is tiny in size and large in personality. Weighing less than 6 pounds fully grown, the Chihuahua is terrier-like in demeanor, loyal, energetic, and has a “big-dog” mentality.
Due to their small size, Chihuahuas are one of the most popular dogs for small apartments to large homes, and without enough training, their dominant attitude will rule the house.
A Chihuahua needs regular exercise to explore its surroundings, develop confidence, learn proper behaviors, and understand its role within the family hierarchy.
Special care needs to occur during colder months, and a holistic approach toward their overall wellbeing and health is ideal for your Chihuahua to live a long, happy life.
A holistic approach takes into consideration how all the smaller components of something incorporate into a larger whole.
The best approach to take with your Chihuahua’s health is to factor in their overall activity level, age, and weight, as well as the type of foods they are eating.
Another consideration is that dogs at different ages have different nutritional needs, and a balanced meal plan should address those specifics for the age of your Chihuahua.
High-quality food sources will provide the essential macronutrients needed for overall health and bolstering the immune system to minimize any potential health concerns that stem from food-borne issues such as allergies and food intolerance.
Food-borne allergies may stem from unnecessary fillers and additives in some dog food types, while food intolerance is something that your pup cannot digest.
Think about a shellfish allergy that some people suffer from and the reaction can be a mild or severe health concern, so to prevent food-borne allergies in dog food, you need to find the highest-quality ingredients.
Another consideration is that some Chihuahuas are prone to being overweight, so portion size is also something to focus on, and as a best practice, portion size should follow the guidelines (see table below):
Puppies and lighter dogs should weigh 3-5 pounds should have a serving size of ¼-⅜ a cup.
For an adult weighing 5-6 pounds, a serving size should be ⅜-½ of a cup.
Table scraps and snacks may only heighten weight concerns and the possibility of food-borne allergies, so as cute as they may be while begging, avoid giving too many treats or too much human food.
The Importance Of Getting Enough Exercise
It’s a misunderstanding that Chihuahuas don’t require a lot of exercises. As opposed to larger breeds who need more vigorous activity, Chihuahuas should get at least 30-minutes of vigorous exercise every day, but they can do it in much smaller spaces than a larger breed.
Exercise combined with a great meal plan and regular veterinarian visits are ideal for a long healthy life, and vigorous exercise will aid your Chihuahua’s health in several areas.
Like people, your Chihuahua will benefit from exercise as it’s one way to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Exercise will help digestion, improve appetite, build muscle, strengthen bones, improve mental function, alleviate anxiety, and increase moods.
The benefits of daily exercise also have an added bonus.
Daily activity with you and your Chihuahua will strengthen the bond between pet and parent and provide you the opportunity to reinforce proper behaviors and roles.
7 Major Benefits Of Exercise
- Aids In Digestion: Daily exercise can aid in digestion and waste, especially with older dogs.
- Strengthens The Cardiovascular System: Raising the heart rate will improve the cardiovascular system, strengthen the heart, and improve overall energy and body performance.
- Maintains Healthy Weight: Burning off excess calories will help maintain the ideal weight for your Chihuahua.
- Enhances Bone Strength: As daily activities tax the muscles, those in turn force the bones to harden, strengthening the bone structure to prevent injury.
- Improves Flexibility: Activity helps loosen muscles and joints, alleviating any possibility of injury or lower quality of life.
- Tones And Strengthens Muscles: An active dog is going to have stronger muscles, which puts more long-term positive stress on the cardiovascular. The benefit of strong muscles is that the body works longer, as a result, making weight maintenance more manageable.
- Heightens Moods: Exercise has an added benefit to mental function. Post-exercise the brain releases endorphins which are natural mood-boosting chemicals that will elevate their mood.
Finally, find an activity that is appropriate for your dog. Not all dogs want to play with others, run, hike, or swim. Understand that your Chihuahua has individual likes and dislikes, so devise an activity that will engage their interests as much as getting them the exercise they need.
The Type Of Nutrition Your Chihuahua Needs
Your Chihuahua is as different from other Chihuahuas as you are from other people. You have a distinct personality, likes and dislikes, and so too does your dog.
But just because you want to sit back and eat chips on the couch all day doesn’t mean that you should.
And what you feed your Chihuahua is just as important as what you choose to eat for your nutritional benefits.
Not all dog foods are manufactured with the same attention to detail that ensures your Chihuahua’s optimal health. And as we discussed earlier, at different stages of your pet’s life, they have different nutritional needs as well.
Before discussing the type of optimal nutrition that your Chihuahua needs, let’s discuss other essential factors in making a meal plan decision.
How Active Is Your Dog
The first thing you need to evaluate is your Chihuahua’s overall level of fitness and activity levels. As a breed, some Chihuahuas are prone to being overweight, so determining your pet’s caloric needs based on activity level will help alleviate weight issues as a concern.
Keep in mind that active dogs need much more protein than sedentary ones, and a good meal plan should prioritize a single-source of protein such as chicken in the labeling before any carbohydrates or fats are listed.
Now that you know the benefits of exercise, let’s discuss a couple of safety considerations.
First, you need to be aware of your Chihuahua’s overall health, age, and conditioning level. Don’t expect to take a sedentary pup on a 3-mile run and expect it to be beneficial.
Second, consider the outside temperature and terrain. Too hot or too cold, and your Chihuahua can injure its paws, making it painful for even casual walking. Also, certain weather conditions can affect different Chihuahuas in different ways.
If you need some suggestions of things to do with your pup, we have suggestions that will allow you to bond, train, and get exercise together.
Walks: Dogs love walks. Instinctually, they like to explore their surroundings to find out what has been in their immediate environment and discover any food sources or threats.
Daily walks allow your Chihuahua to catch up on all the comings-and-goings of the neighborhood, get much-needed exercise, as well as provide you with an opportunity to train, educate, and reinforce proper social behaviors.
Runs: A quick way to get vigorous exercise in less time, running is an excellent alternative to daily walks but should not be done for a very long or regular basis.
Fetch: As a game, fetch serves two primary purposes. The most obvious is getting exercise, but the underlying feature is that it allows you to teach behaviors you’d like your Chihuahua to adopt. It will strengthen the bonds between you both as a result.
Hikes: If walks and runs around the neighborhood are becoming stale, consider going somewhere new. Drive out to the mountains, desert, or beach and go for a hike.
Exploring new territories is an excellent way for your Chihuahua to explore and discover, and the new sensations and smells will more than tire them out.
This new environment will stimulate your Chihuahua’s sense of curiosity and wonder about the environment and is a great activity to use as a break from your usual activity.
Just be aware of the terrain and your surroundings to prevent unwanted predators as you take your Chihuahua out into the wild!
Dog Park: A day at the dog park is an adventure for your Chihuahua. Not only will they be able to get much-needed activity and exercise, but they’ll be able to socialize with other dogs, learning important pack behaviors and social skills.
Not all Chihuahuas want to socialize with other dogs. Try to integrate your pup into the routine slowly, but if it's not an activity they enjoy, consider one of the different opportunities discussed for exercise.
These socialization skills will help your pup understand the role of hierarchies in a pack, and with proper guidance, will be a great learning opportunity for your Chihuahua to learn about their place in your family pack
Is Your Dog Allergic Or Intolerant To Types Of Foods
Dog’s that develop a food-borne allergy are more susceptible to other types of allergies than ones that don’t. This is because the immune system becomes over-stimulated from an allergic reaction and aggressively treats other potential allergens within the body.
Symptoms of allergies may be digestive issues or excessive itching. Excessive itching is a nasty cycle as your dog may scratch its skin, allowing for bacterial infections to occur, heightening the itch response.
To avoid any potential food-borne allergies, you should select only the highest-quality dog food that is clearly labeled.
Your Dog’s Age And Weight
Finding a meal plan that matches your dog’s activity levels with the appropriate age and weight is crucial. Another factor is that if your Chihuahua struggles with weight, the type of foods and quantities will vary as well.
Why Your Chihuahua’s Food Ingredients Are Important
There’s a saying in the scientific community, garbage in, garbage out. That saying also applies to what your Chihuahua eats. Proper nutrition should focus on a priority of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, known as macronutrients.
A macronutrient is a primary energy source for your pet, and any ingredient list should have higher percentages of proteins to carbohydrates and fats than any other ingredient.
High-quality food plans will balance skeletal-muscle development with enhancing the digestive and immune systems.
Benefits of good nutrition for your Chihuahua include:
- Stronger muscle tone
- Healthy bones and teeth
- Maintains the skeletal-muscle system
- Improved digestion and waste production
- Enhanced the immune system
- Higher energy levels
- Better sleep
- Healthier coats
Product labels should clearly state where the food originates from and eliminate any additives or confusing terms.
An example of this is a food label that says “Chicken Dinner For Dogs WIth Beef Flavor.”
While it sounds healthy, what is included in the dinner and why “beef flavor?”
We’ll discuss how to understand the ingredient list later on, but in general, you want to find a meal plan that states exactly what your Chihuahua is eating.
The right meal plan will consider all the various factors that may affect your Chihuahua’s health.
You need to consider these factors: age, weight, activity level, food intolerances, and more. A balanced meal plan will provide better energy levels and provide a higher quality of life over the long term.
Superfood proteins from a single source, paired with natural carbohydrates like brown rice and fats from the protein source, are all signs of high-quality dog food.
How To Read The Ingredients Label
We know that selecting the correct type of dog food can be stressful and tricky.
Understand that dog food is a highly regulated industry with some strict standards for the recipes.
However, there is some room for cutting corners, and if you don’t understand the terms used, you may misbelieve what it is you’re feeding your Chihuahua.
One thing to understand is that food labels list the ingredients in the percentage included in the recipe. For example, if you see “chicken” listed as the first ingredient, you can have confidence that it is the primary ingredient in dog food.
Next, you need to know what different terms used in the food label mean and how it may affect your Chihuahua’s health.
There are four main terms to look for and understand what each means. Those terms are known as
The 95% Rule
The 95% rule means that for a product to be listed, such as “salmon,” then it must make up 95% of the recipe as detailed. When water is calculated into the mixture, the percentage must not be less than 70% of the total product.
The 25% Rule
When food labels claim something like “chicken platter, turkey dinner, or salmon entree,” there are three terms that hide what is being produced.
“Entree, dinner, and platter” are terms that the FDA requires food manufacturers to include when a product such as chicken only comprises 25-94% of the total ingredients had. It's a way of sounding like a healthy option without saying that it may include fillers and additives.
The “With” Rule
The term “with” such as “dog food with lamb” means that the product is only required to have 3% of lamb in the ingredient list. This tactic is one that high-quality manufacturers will not follow and should be a clear sign of dog food quality.
The “Flavor” Rule
Much like the “with” rule, any ingredient list that uses the term “flavor” doesn't have much of the protein they claim in the labeling.
The “flavor” rule is that if it is a term that is used to describe a product, it only needs to have enough of the protein source to be traceable. It doesn’t even need to have been included!
Now that you know how food labels are written, there are a few other things to avoid:
- High-Grain Counts: Grains are used as sources of carbohydrates but also may be included as a filler. Some types of popular grains such as soy, corn, and wheat may be allergens for many dogs, so avoid them when you may.
- Preservatives: There are some types of preservatives derived from herbs like Rosemary that may also have added health benefits, but in general, avoid meal plans that rely on preservatives, especially ones with long chemical names.
- Fillers: Fillers can originate from grains or other sources, and the term “meal” is often a hint that fillers are included. As you may be unclear what the filler’s origin is from, you need to avoid them as much as possible.
- Unclear Protein Sources: Too often, terms like “with or flavor” are used to obscure the ingredient’s source. Instead, look for items that are clearly listed, such as “chicken and brown rice,” to have confidence that what is stated is what your Chihuahua is eating.
Selecting The Right Meal Plan For Your Chihuahua
Now that you know how food labels are written and what specific terms you used mean, you can turn your attention to deciding on the best meal plan you can find for your Chihuahua.
The best meal plan should prioritize pure protein, transparent sources of carbohydrates, and fats in that order. Some added vitamins and minerals are a bonus but should not make up a large portion of the ingredient list.
Proteins serve as the primary energy source for your Chihuahua and are the primary building blocks for muscle growth. They offer quick burst energy sources and should be listed clearly on your meal plan’s food label.
Carbohydrates act as delayed energy sources that “kicks-in” as soon as protein energies start to burn off. They break down as sugars in the body and are the primary energy source for mental function.
Fats are the energy reserves. They can act similar to carbohydrates and, in small quantities, have some benefits outside of just providing energy, such as helping the body absorb essential vitamins and minerals.
High-quality ingredients that include superfoods like chicken, salmon, turkey, and lamb are the best sources of pure protein for your Chihuahua, and you need to read the ingredient label carefully to be sure of the sources.
You want to avoid products that include terms like “flavor, entree, or meal” as those terms are vague, and the sources of items included may be a combination that may not be beneficial to your dog’s health.
If you’re still confused about the best meal plan for your Chihuahua, the Hungry Bark Custom Meal Planner is a great place to start!
In 1-2 minutes, the meal planner will customize your Chihuahua meal plan to consider characteristics such as breed, age, weight, and activity level to provide a custom meal plan for your Chihuahua to live a long, happy life.