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The quintessential “purse dog,” the Chihuahua is a toy breed known for his energy and personality. These little dogs are ideal for apartment life and you can take them just about anywhere. Though the Chihuahua’s spunk and energy can take time to tame, it is well worth the effort.
In addition to patient training, Chihuahuas require a balanced diet to stay at their best. Learn everything you need to know about your dog’s nutritional needs and how to choose the best dog food for chihuahuas to meet those needs.
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.
As a puppy, your Chihuahua needs plenty of protein to fuel his growth and development. As an adult, protein supports his lean muscle mass. Throughout his life, fat provides a concentrated source of calories for your Chihuahua to maintain a healthy metabolism and optimal body condition.
To meet these requirements, feed your Chihuahua a high-quality dog food 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 food products to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements. You’ll probably agree, however, that your Chihuahua deserves 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.
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 at once. While this may be true, Chihuahuas actually need 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?
Because toy and small breeds have a much faster metabolism. 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 for you?
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.
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, so 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, but the older he gets 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 and may develop dental health issues as well as bone and joint problems. Switching to a softer canned food is a good idea and you should 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.
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 to 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.
Choosing the right dog food can be tough with so many options out there, but we’ve done our best to help you through the process. Here are our recommendations for the best dog food for Chihuahuas.
Made with 85% high-quality animal ingredients, this recipe more than meets your Chihuahua puppy’s requirements for protein, fat, and calories to sustain healthy growth and development.Buy Now on Amazon
Using fresh, regional ingredients, this recipe delivers highly digestible nutrition formulated specifically for the unique needs of growing puppies like your Chihuahua.Buy Now on Amazon
Formulated to deliver complete and balanced nutrition in all life stages, this canned food recipe contains more than enough protein and fat to meet your Chihuahua’s unique nutritional requirements.Buy Now on Amazon
Rich in protein and fat to support your Chihuahua’s high energy needs, this recipe also contains guaranteed levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health as well as omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.Buy Now on Chewy
Made with a trio of premium proteins and a nutrient-rich blend of superfoods, this toy breed recipe delivers highly digestible nutrition for your Chihuahua.Buy Now on Chewy
With three high-quality animal ingredients in the top three, this recipe is packed with protein and natural flavor, not to mention wholesome, natural sources of key nutrients.Buy Now on Amazon
Made with USA-raised beef as the main ingredient, this recipe is formulated specifically for small breeds and contains wholesome fruits and vegetables to balance the protein and fat content for complete and balanced nutrition.Buy Now on Amazon
Formulated for high meat and low carbohydrate content, this recipe features 84% animal-based protein to deliver the amino acids your Chihuahua needs to build and maintain healthy muscle.Buy Now on Amazon
Rich in moisture and real meat flavor, this toy and small breed formula is high in protein and supplemented with superfoods to provide plenty of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.Buy Now on Chewy
Though not formulated for small breeds, this senior recipe canned food more than meets your Chihuahua’s needs for protein and energy while also supporting his nutrition as he ages.Buy Now on Chewy
This wet food formula is easy for senior Chihuahuas to chew and digest, plus it is made with 95% animal ingredients including fresh chicken and turkey as well as duck and mackerel.Buy Now on Chewy
With proper care, you can enjoy your Chihuahua’s company for 15 years or more. Adjusting your Chihuahua’s diet through his life is essential for keeping him healthy and it doesn’t have to be complicated! Take what you’ve learned here to choose the best dog food for your Chihuahua.
Read on for more about this small but spunky breed, as well as for more information about healthy dog food and treats.