When you have such a tiny toy breed like the Chihuahua, it’s common for elements regarding food to come into play. We’ve gathered up all of the most common questions that are emailed into us, and have answered them all here in one place. We will go over:
- My Chihuahua never eats/doesn’t eat enough
- Picky eaters
- Only eating if you hand feed your Chihuahua
- Preference towards just one particular food
- Hiding food/bringing it to a different spot
- Eating too fast
- If a Chi is underweight & you need to get him to eat more
- My Chihuahua Eats Everything
- Overly hungry – the 7 main reasons
- Eating things while out on walks
My Chihuahua never eats/doesn’t eat enough!
While it may seem that your Chihuahua never eats, if your puppy is gradually growing or your adult Chihuahua is maintaining, this means that your Chihuahua is indeed eating exactly as much as he needs to.
Remember, Chihuahuas do not need a lot of calories at all.
An estimate, which can be higher or lower by 20%:
- 1 lb. (0.45 kg) = 40 to 60
- 1.5 lbs. (.68 kg) = 64 to 96
- 2 lbs. (0.90 kg) = 80 to 120
- 2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) = 111 to 165
- 3 lbs. (1.36 kg) = 120 to 180
- 3.5 lbs. (1.58 kg) = 154 to 232
- 4 lbs. (1.81 kg) = 160 to 240
- 4.5 lbs. (2.04 kg) = 198 to 298
- 5 lbs. (2.26 kg) = 200 to 300
- 5.5 lbs. (2.49 kg) = 243 to 363
- 6 lbs. (2.72 kg) = 254 to 396
So, what may seem like a very small amount of food to you, is actually appropriate for this tiny toy breed. If your Chihuahua puppy is not growing or if your adult is losing weight, there may be a serious health issue at play. Loss of appetite is a sign of many health conditions; do have your Chihuahua checked by the veterinarian ASAP.
Another issue of why a Chihuahua may be reluctant to eat is if the bowl is not incorrect proportion to a Chihuahua’s body. Sometimes if the bowl is too deep, the dog can bump his forehead on the edge of the bowl or have a hard time eating in a comfortable position. This can cause a dog to avoid eating or he may carry the food to a different area and eat it there.
My Chihuahua is picky. I can’t find food my Chihuahua likes.
While all owners have an urge to give their Chihuahua something that the dog finds to be absolutely scrumptious (the canine equivalent of lobster in butter with a side of steak sirloin), the most important thing is that the food is healthy for the Chihuahua. We suggest trying no more than 2 manufactured brands (4 or 5 stars) and then stick to your guns.
With home cooking, you can experiment with the ingredients; perhaps your Chihuahua prefers carrots to peas or pasta to rice. You can make kibble more appealing by adding low-sodium chicken or beef broth (stir well, so that the Chihuahua does not just eat off the top) and warming it in the microwave (just until it is warm, do not over-heat).
And remember, if your adult is maintaining, he is eating enough.
My Chihuahua only likes freeze-dried food, is that okay?
Yes, as long as it is a 4 or 5-star food.
My Chihuahua only eats if I hand-feed him.
This can become a trap for many owners. You hand-feed your Chihuahua just a few times and he expects it all the time. In fact, he demands it and refuses to eat unless you do this. Of course, you must stop this habit and get things back on track.
Do reassess your Chihuahua’s bowl to make sure it is one that he is comfortable with. Many Chihuahuas that love being hand-fed do better with raised bowls. If his bowl is raised, he may prefer a floor bowl or a flat plate. Than, place his food in/on his bowl/plate. While he will resist at first, at some point he will become so hungry that he will eat the food. You will need to wait him out. It is a canine instinct to survive. No dog will refuse to eat when it comes down to it.
NOTE: If a Chihuahua has collapsed trachea or another health issue in which moving his neck causes pain, this can be one rare but possible explanation for a Chihuahua only eating when hand-fed. If you suspect any such thing, bring your Chihuahua to the veterinarian ASAP
My Chihuahua literally only eats one food (just chicken, nothing else, etc.)!
If you find yourself in a cycle of your dog only eating one certain food and nothing else, this can be a matter of an owner giving in too quickly. You gave your Chihuahua one particular food and now, he refuses to eat anything other than that.
An owner will the Chihuahua’s ‘real’ food to him, the dog will sniff it and back away… and within a minute the owner will say, “Well, my dog is a picky eater, I guess he refuses to eat this!” But, this only reinforces the behavior.
Barring any health issues, when a dog is hungry, he will eat. If you want your Chihuahua to eat a certain food or a mix of food, offer it and leave it there. If he is used to you caving in quickly, he’ll test you a bit. He’ll expect you to sigh and offer that one food he loves the most.
But if you hold steady, he will eat the ‘real food’ you offer, if there is no other choice.
Also, mix food ingredients well so that they are blended. Picky eaters also do best with warmed food and with food that has low-salt chicken or beef broth drizzled over it.
My Chihuahua hides his food/Brings it to a different spot.
It is not uncommon for a Chihuahua to test you when it comes time for dinner. They can be a bit stubborn or want to just see how much they can get away with. A dog may hide or run away with food because:
1) If the dog was the runt of the litter (the smallest puppy) this could have reinforced this type of behavior. The smallest dogs are almost always pushed aside. Without someone keeping a very close eye, the runts of the litter can die from starvation or dehydration. A puppy that had to fight for food may have an urge to hide and run with their food to ‘protect’ it.
2) Rescue dogs are also known for this behavior, as many have gotten used to always being hungry and when given food, they feel that they need to protect it.
3) Dogs that do not feel secure that their food is safe will move it to another room, one where they feel that their food is protected. This can happen if the kitchen is a very noisy room if there are other dogs in the home and the Chihuahua feels as if they need to compete for food or if people sit or walk too close to where the dog food dish is.
Be sure to offer a nice quiet area for your Chihuahua to eat. This should be an area with no one walking by, without loud noises and without people talking to your Chihuahua or trying to pat or play with your dog while he eats. This will help make your Chihuahua feel that his eating area is indeed a place where his food is safe.
When your Chihuahua takes any food out of the dish, immediately take the food and put it back into the dish. Get ready for your dog to test you; he may try to move it 10 times before giving in to your request. It will be worth it.
While this can seem like a game, it is not. Keeping a very close eye on your dog and not allowing your Chihuahua to eat outside of the designated area will show your dog that if he wants his tummy full, he must eat where you ask him to.
Never give in and always stay consistent. Also, think about snacks. Do you give your dog treats in other areas of the home? In order for this training to work, a dog must learn where he is allowed to eat. If your Chihuahua has this behavior of taking food to a new area, then even small dog treats should only be given in the designated eating area.
My Chihuahua eats too fast!
Some dogs do wolf down their food as if they think it’s their last meal and this is not good for the stomach or the digestive system. It can cause a dog to have gas and in some cases, even vomiting right afterward.
This can be resolved by using a slow-feed dog bowl (be sure to choose stainless steel) or by placing slow-feed stainless steel balls into the dish that you already have. Both work to displace food so that it takes longer for a dog to eat his meal.
My Chihuahua is underweight, how can I get him to eat more?
There are a lot of owners that are concerned about their dog being underweight. The good news is that in most cases the Chihuahua is actually at his correct weight; this is a small toy dog and is not supposed to weigh a lot nor have an appearance of being heavy and sturdy.
With that said, if a Chihuahua has lost weight or if a veterinarian has told you that your dog is underweight, you’ll have a valid reason to be concerned and take some steps to encourage some weight gain.
So, let’s first keep in mind:
1) The Chihuahua is a small dog, with a small frame. Adults do not have a ‘beefy’ look and should look lean.
2) There is a vast array of medical issues that can cause weight loss. The #1 most important step before helping your Chihuahua gain weight is to have any and all medical issues ruled out.
3) Once any and all health issues are ruled out, there are some steps you can take.
With health issues ruled out and your vet’s approval for at-home weight gain, you can then do the following:
1) Keep up with the exercise. Through daily walks do burn some calories, it will be the food intake that matters here and you don’t want to cause additional health issues that will arise from being sedentary while you are working to help your Chihuahua gain a bit of healthy weight.
Exercise can also trigger the appetite to kick in.
2) With your vet’s approval, aim to add about 150 calories more per day. This can be accomplished by having your Chihuahua ingest 1 tablespoon of fish oil (123 calories are in a tablespoon of Salmon fish oil) along with 1/4 cup of whole cottage cheese (there are 55 calories in 1/4 cup of whole cottage cheese) per day.
So, 123 calories of fish oil + 55 calories of cottage cheese = 178 calories more per day. Both foods are easily tolerated by most Chihuahuas and are healthy additions.
The fish oil can be blended into meals (1/3 tablespoon if you feed 3 meals per day… 1/2 tablespoon in each meal if you feed twice per day). The cottage cheese can be blended into meals as well, or fed off a spoon if your Chihuahua prefers it that way.
Weigh your Chihuahua once per week to check for an increase. For very small Chihuahuas this can be done on a kitchen scale. For larger Chihuahuas, you can place a basket on a scale, place your Chihuahua in it and then check the increase. With the plan we have discussed, if there is no weight gain after 3 weeks, check back with your veterinarian.
My Chihuahua Eats Everything!
There are 2 elements at play here.
1) If your Chihuahua literally eats or tries to eat everything, including non-food items, this can be a blend of boredom, chewing obsession and/or curiosity.
You will want to:
- Puppy proof the house no matter WHAT the dog’s age. Mouthing items, chewing on them and potentially swallowing them is exceedingly dangerous. You’ll want to do a serious sweep of the interior and exterior of the home. Pick up anything and everything that you possibly can, that can be moved to a new stop, up higher. This includes but is not limited to shoes, clothes, remotes, books, bags of any sort, etc. The floors and all areas that the Chihuahua can reach should be as bare as possible with new locations (counter-tops, closets, hangers & hooks) being the new home for those things.
- For things, you cannot move – Tie up loose electrical cords and keep them out of sight. Run cords through purchased spiral cable wrap, cord concealers, or even PVC pipe to keep them safe from your puppy. For furniture and other such large items, if the Chihuahua chews on those, use a quality deterrent spray.
- If your Chi is eating everything (but actually just chewing) and is teething, take some time to carefully choose quality teething toys. If your Chihuahua is under stress, for example, due to separation anxiety, look for ways to alleviate this.
2) If your Chihuahua by ‘eating everything’ you mean that he eats food non-stop, this is a whole other issue.
My Chihuahua Eats Everything On Walks
Dogs mouth things to find out what they are, they will mouth them first and then decide if it’s worth their time. Also, a Chihuahua may actually eat tiny pebbles and such due to them tasting salty. If a puppy or dog eats all sorts of things while out on walks, this can cause an array of issues. Here is what you can do:
- You are in charge. Have your dog on a leash and harness (NOT leash and collar). When on the harness, you can have full control over your Chihuahua, keep the leash taut and quickly move him away before he eats anything by moderately tugging on the leash, without fear of injuring him (because the harness prevents neck injury).
- Anytime that you prevent your Chihuahua from trying to eat something, give the ‘Leave it’ command. Even though you will be the one to force the dog to ‘leave it’, give praise (and once in a while a tiny treat). Practicing this all along the walking route will be a great opportunity for him to understand the command. In time, he should listen to it without any intervention on your part, other than giving the command.
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