The quintessential “purse dog,” the Chihuahua is a toy breed known for their energy and personality. These little dogs are ideal for apartment life and you can take them just about anywhere. In addition to patient training, Chihuahuas require a balanced diet to stay at their best. Learn about their nutritional needs and our picks for the best dog foods for Chihuahuas to meet those needs.
The Basics of Canine Nutrition
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has determined the minimal requirements for key nutrients in dogs. AAFCO recommendations state a minimum of 22% protein for canine growth and reproduction (puppies and lactating females) and an 18% minimum for adult dogs. For fat, these numbers are 8% and 5%, respectively.
Protein in food for Chihuahuas fuels their growth and development in puppyhood and supports lean muscle mass in adulthood. Fat provides a concentrated source of calories for your Chihuahua throughout their lives to maintain a healthy metabolism and optimal body condition.
To meet these requirements, feed your Chihuahua a high-quality dog foods made with real, whole-food sources of these nutrients. Animal protein like meat or poultry should be the focus with higher than average fat and limited carbohydrate content.
Remember that AAFCO standards exist to encourage commercial pet foods products to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements. You’ll probably agree, however, that dog food for your Chihuahua should have more than the bare minimum. Checking for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label is a good way to weed out the really bad dog foods, but the statement itself isn’t a guarantee of quality.
It’s your job as a dog owner to understand the truth about dog food. Take the AAFCO statement with a grain of salt and do the work to make sure the food you’re considering is of high quality and will do more than just meet your dog’s minimum nutritional needs.
Your Chihuahua’s Specific Needs
All dogs have the same minimum requirements for fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. That being said, there are additional nutritional considerations for dogs of certain sizes and life stages.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard for the Chihuahua states a maximum weight of 6 pounds. As you might imagine, a dog that small can’t eat a lot of food at once. While this may be true, Chihuahuas actually need to consume more calories per pound of body weight than a larger dog.
The average dog needs about 30 calories per pound of body weight. Using a basic formula to calculate canine energy requirements, a 6-pound dog needs a bare minimum of 150 calories. However, if you factor in the average activity level for a neutered adult dog, the estimated daily energy requirement is closer to 240 calories; this averages to 40 calories per pound of body weight.
Why is a Chihuahua’s energy requirement higher than the average dog’s?
Toy and small breeds have much faster metabolisms. A Chihuahua can burn through a meal in a matter of hours. Without adequate calorie intake, toy breeds like the Chihuahua can develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This condition is particularly dangerous for puppies and, without quick intervention, can lead to weakness, lethargy, seizures, and even death.
So, what does all of this really mean when you’re looking for the best dog food for your Chihuahua?
In addition to meeting your Chihuahua’s needs for key nutrients, you also need to make sure his energy needs are met. Chihuahuas need to be fed more often than larger dogs. Choosing a toy-breed formula appropriate for your dog’s age is the best way to make sure his needs are met.
What About Puppies and Senior Dogs?
As puppies, protein is particularly important to support healthy growth and development. In Chihuahua puppies, adequate fat and calorie intake is also essential to prevent hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is most common in Chihuahuas under 5 months old. At this age, they have high brain mass per body weight. This means they need more calories to maintain healthy brain function. Chihuahua puppies also have trouble regulating their body temperature, so a nutrient- and calorie-dense diet is recommended with frequent feedings (four to six per day).
As an adult, your Chihuahua still needs plenty of protein and calories. The older he gets, however, the more you need to be concerned about obesity. Monitor his body condition and make adjustments as needed.
Chihuahuas enter seniority between 10 and 12 years of age. In this lifestage, they are prone to dental health issues as well as bone and joint problems. Switching to a softer canned food is a good idea. Choose a senior-specific toy or small breed recipe to make sure your Chihuahua gets enough glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy bones and joints.
What Should You Look For?
When shopping for Chihuahua dog food, take a quick look at the label to check for guaranteed minimums of protein and fat. This information can be found in the guaranteed analysis. You can also look for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy to show the food is complete and balanced.
Next, check the ingredients list. Here are some things to look for:
- A high-quality source of animal protein as the first ingredient (meat, poultry, or fish)
- Two sources of protein within the first three ingredients
- Higher than average fat content (at least 15% but ideally 18% to 22%)
- Only digestible carbohydrates (like whole grains and low-starch veggies)
- Limited in synthetic supplements (whole foods like veggies are a better source)
- No artificial additives like synthetic dyes, flavorings, or preservatives
Remember as well that the calorie content of dog food varies. Check the number of calories per cup in comparison to the feeding recommendations. This way you can make sure you won’t need to feed your Chihuahua an unreasonable volume of food to meet his daily energy requirements. If you choose to feed dry food, check for small kibble size.
The Best Dog Food for Chihuahuas
Choosing the right dog food can be tough with so many options out there. We’ve done our best to help you through the process. Here are our recommendations for the best dog food for Chihuahuas.
Made with a trio of premium proteins and a nutrient-rich blend of whole foods, this toy breed recipe delivers highly digestible nutrition for your Chihuahua.