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Chihuahuas are toy breed dogs who have specific nutritional needs and are prone to quite a few health problems.
My 4 top picks of the best dog food for Chihuahuas in 2020:
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How many calories does my Chihuahua need?
While there are different types of Chihuahuas and some may be larger than others, but the average Chihuahua weighs just 5-6 lb.
Here are the calorie intake suggestions* for a 5 lb Chihuahua:
*Calculated using Dog Food Advisor’s useful dog calorie calculator. You should consult with your vet to get an exact amount for your dog.
While they may need few calories in a day compared to large dog breeds, toy dog breeds need more calories per pound of body weight than larger breeds. A typical Chihuahua needs 40 calories per lb (200 / 5), while a bigger dog like the German Shepherd needs just 21 calories per lb.
This is because Chihuahuas burn off energy much faster due to their higher metabolic rates. However, their small stomachs don’t allow them to eat large amounts. This means it is important to look for a dog food specifically designed for toy breeds, as these are usually calorie-dense.
Common health problems in Chihuahuas and how choosing the right food can help
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur in Chihuahuas, and most commonly in puppies up to 10 weeks old. This is because they have trouble regulating their blood sugar due to their small size. It can happen if she misses meals or does too much exercise.
Mild symptoms include muscle spasms, dizziness, lethargy, and shivering. These can easily be treated if taken to a vet straight away. If not, they may become severe within a matter of hours. In this case, you must keep warm and administer corn syrup or some sugar water, and call the vet immediately if she doesn’t improve.
To avoid these scenarios altogether, set up a feeding schedule for your Chihuahua puppy and stick to it. I suggest letting her have access to her food at all times up to 10 weeks old, then, until 3 months old, you should feed her 4 times a day. After this, you can cut it down to 2-3 meals daily.
Make sure you feed her small pieces of kibble, as Chihuahuas can easily choke on large pieces.
Chihuahuas have soft teeth and are prone to dental problems, including tooth decay and infection, which can lead to her losing teeth. Also, if an infection is left untreated, it can spread to other organs like the heart and become severe. Common signs that something is wrong include bad breath, bleeding, and unwillingness to eat.
You should feed your Chihuahua dry food, as the hard texture cleans her teeth while she eats. You should also get into a daily teeth-cleaning routine with her from a young age with a canine toothbrush and canine toothpaste. It only takes 2 minutes to do this.
Chihuahuas often become obese, and like any dog, this can be very detrimental to her health. Here are some dos and don’ts on caring for your Chihuahua:
Don’t let her eat scraps at the table.
Do give her the exercise she needs - at least half an hour a day.
Don’t overfeed her - 5 lb Chihuahuas don’t usually need more than ½ a cup of food a day.
Luxating Patella (Kneecap dislocation)
This is a common condition in Chihuahuas, in which the kneecap slides out of place. It is usually hereditary, and can be triggered by a certain action like jumping from a height.
The joint will swell, and you may notice her limping, holding up her rear leg, or whining when putting weight on the affected leg.
An X-ray will confirm the condition, and usually, bed rest and some anti-inflammatory medication will help her heal. In some severe cases, surgery is required. If left untreated, it can result in arthritis or even lameness.
Chihuahuas are at risk of this disease, which occurs mainly in toy and small breed dogs. It happens in the dog’s hind leg, where the head of the femur bone begins to degenerate. This causes the hip joint to disintegrate, as well as inflammation of the bone and joint. Unfortunately, the cause of this condition is unknown.
In both conditions, you can help your Chihuahua by controlling her weight, as any extra weight will put a strain on her joints.
There are also two nutrients that can help with bone, cartilage, and joint health which you can look out for in dog food. These are called chondroitin and glucosamine.
Calcium is also very beneficial for your Chihuahua’s bone and joint health.
Mitral valve disease is a heart condition that occurs in Chihuahuas. It involves the thickening and degradation of the heart valve and progresses slowly over time. Therefore, it usually occurs in older dogs.
The first sign of this condition tends to be a heart murmur, and as it develops it can lead to further symptoms, such as coughing, lethargy, fainting, and intolerance to exercise. In severe cases, the weakness in this valve can lead to heart failure.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help in preventing this disease, as can regularly brushing and checking your Chihuahua’s teeth. This is because a dental infection can spread to the valves of the heart if left untreated.
For optimum heart health, your dog needs a low-sodium diet that is rich in antioxidants, especially Vitamin C and E, as well as nutrients like omega-3 oils, and taurine and L-carnitine, which support heart function.
Taurine and L-carnitine are both found in meats such as beef, lamb, and chicken.
Macronutrient needs in Chihuahuas
Since Chihuahuas are pretty teeny, and not very muscular, they have different nutritional needs to larger, more active dogs like Huskies who needs a high-protein diet.
I would say that Chihuahuas do well on a diet of about 25% protein.
It may still sound like a lot for a toy breed, given that 18% protein is the minimum for any adult dog, but since Chihuahuas need a lot of calories per pound, protein is an important calorie-rich nutrient and will provide them with the energy they require.
Fats are a highly concentrated source of energy, which makes them very important in a Chihuahua’s diet since they burn off energy much more quickly than larger breeds.
I recommend between 15 - 20 % fat for a Chihuahua from good sources, such as fish or flaxseed oil or chicken fat.
A low-carb diet is a good idea to keep your Chihuahua putting on too much weight. The carb content shouldn’t be over 20%.
The first ingredient in your dog’s food should be a protein, not a grain like corn or soy. These two ingredients are often used as fillers in lower-quality dog foods, so if you see these first or second on the ingredients list, avoid!
Large amounts of these grains don’t give your dog the proper nutrition she needs, plus it probably means that the protein content is low.
Vitamins and minerals
Chihuahuas can live to up to 18 years old, providing you with years of companionship.
Since they live such long lives, it is important to try to prevent free radicals, which are damaged cells. These free radicals speed up aging and can lead to illnesses like joint disease, heart disease, and cancer.
To prevent free radicals, your Chihuahua needs to have a healthy immune system. You should feed her a high-quality dog food that contains a good amount of antioxidants, as these counter the effect of free radical damage, and support her immune system.
Preferably, they should come from whole food sources in the form of varied fruit and vegetables. Some fruit and veg that are rich in antioxidants include:
Most varieties of red berries
Leafy green vegetables
Note: never give grapes to your dog. While they may be an anti-oxidant rich fruit, dogs cannot eat grapes.
Best dog food for Chihuahuas
So, now I'm sure you want to know about my recommendations. I narrowed it down to 4 of what I think are best choices of high-quality for Chihuahuas.
Here they are:
#1 Wellness Complete Health Toy Breed Chicken & Rice
Wellness prides itself on natural dog food, meaning no by-products, artificial preservatives or colors.
This recipe is great for highly active or working Chihuahuas (who exercise for an hour or more a day), as it contains a high level of protein (30%), and a fairly high fat content (17%). The protein is sourced mainly from deboned chicken and chicken meal, which is a good source of those heart-healthy nutrients taurine and l-carnitine.
It is also good for Chihuahuas with joint problems, as it contains additional glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
This recipe has great whole food sources of antioxidants in the form of sweet potatoes, blueberries, and spinach. There are also vitamin supplements to further support your Chihuahua’s health over the years. Vitamin C and E are added, which are good for your Chihuahua’s heart health.
Many customers have commented that this small-bite kibble is easy to chew for tiny mouths, as well as for dogs with missing teeth.
Good-quality dog food
Great for active Chihuahuas
Contains ingredients that help with joint problems
Rich in antioxidants to support her overall health
Contains nutrients to support heart health
Easy to chew kibble
- Protein and fat content may be too high for typical Chihuahuas
#2 Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Toy Breed Chicken & Brown Rice
Usually this dog food costs more than compared to others. But if you can afford it it’s totally worth getting this food for your Chihuahua, as, in my opinion, it ticks all the boxes for an average Chihuahua.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection is a top dog food brand, providing high-quality ingredients free of corn, wheat, and soy, as well as by-products, and artificial preservatives or colors.
This formula is great for typical Chihuahuas, containing 26% protein from chicken and 15% fat from chicken fat and flaxseed. The latter provides a good source of omega 3 oils for her heart health, though not quite as much as Wellness.
Chicken also provides a source of other heart-healthy nutrients, taurine, and l-carnitine, as well as glucosamine, for her joint health. This recipe lacks chondroitin, however, making it less well-rounded compared to Wellness.
What I love about this recipe for Chihuahuas is that it contains a whole lot of fruit and veg, as well as “LifeSourceBits,” which are pieces of kibble that contain potent amounts of antioxidants. This means Blue Buffalo Life Protection provides a wealth of antioxidants to keep her heart and immune system healthy and prevent free radical damage over the years.
Very popular among dog owners
Great for typical Chihuahuas
Contains ingredients that promote heart and joint health
A range of fruit and veg, which provide antioxidants
Might be pricey
Doesn’t contain chondroitin
#3 Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Toy Breed Grain-Free Chicken Meal Formula
Nature’s Variety is dedicated to delivering high-quality, filler-free food to provide your dog with a diet that reflects, well - nature!
This is a grain-free recipe, which sources its carbs form chickpeas. So, if your Chihuahua has allergies to grains, this is the one to go for!
It is a high-protein recipe, containing an impressive 34%, but normal levels of fat, at 15%, making it a good choice for active Chihuahuas, but not working dogs.
It also contains high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
There are a good few fruit and vegetables, providing antioxidants for your Chihuahua’s heart and immune system health, promoting a longer life. These include kelp, broccoli, blueberries, and cranberries. The quantities of these are less, however, compared to Wellness and Blue Buffalo Life Protection.
Many of the customers comment this food is for fussy eaters, so if your Chihuahua is picky, this brand is certainly worth a try!
I highly recommend this product if your Chihuahua has allergies to grains, is a fussy eater or has joint problems.
Good choice for Chihuahuas with allergies to grains
Great for active Chihuahuas
Contains ingredients for joint health
Contains good sources of antioxidants for her heart and immune system health
Good for fussy eaters
Protein content too high for typical Chihuahuas
Lesser quantities of antioxidants compared to top 2 brands
#4 Nutro Toy Breed Chicken, Whole Brown Rice & Oatmeal
Nutro promises to deliver good-quality, great-tasting food that helps your dog’s digestion. Indeed, many customers rate it highly for dogs with sensitive tummies, as well as for picky eaters.
This is another recipe that provides good amounts of protein (25%) and fat (16%) for typical Chihuahuas.
There are quite a few sources of carbs in the first line of ingredients, which brings down this recipe’s overall nutritional rating, plus the fact that it doesn’t contain fruit and veg. There are, however, lots of vitamin supplements to provide some antioxidants and support her immune system.
While there are no additional ingredients for joint health, this product does contain additional taurine, making it a good choice to support your Chihuahua’s heart function.
It is also a good choice to improve your Chihuahua’s dental health, as Nutro designs this kibble specifically to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Good for typical Chihuahuas
Aids digestion - good for Chihuahuas with sensitive stomachs
Good for supporting your Chihuahua’s heart function
Kibble designed to keep teeth healthy
High carb content
No fruit or veg
No additional ingredients to support joint health
All in all, Blue Buffalo Life Protection wins for me, as it provides the right amount and variety of nutrients for a typical Chihuahua.
However, it’s usual high price puts Wellness just in the lead in my rating, which is a great choice for more active Chihuahuas, especially to promote joint health.
Nature’s Variety is another high-quality food, which is another good choice for supporting your Chihuahua’s joint health, as well as being great for fussy eaters.
Finally, I recommend Nutro if your Chihuahua has heart problems, as well as to keep her teeth healthy.
What do you feed your Chihuahua? Leave a comment below!