Best Dog Food for Chihuahuas (and Which to Avoid)
Chihuahuas are awesome little dogs. They’re little fiery balls of energy that will love you as much as any other living creature on planet earth. However, because they are so busy, they also have some special dietary needs. As you'll soon find out...
That means that finding the best dog food for Chihuahuas can be really tough. But that’s where we come in! We talked to several registered breeders and trainers to help you find several good dietary options for your loyal little pal.
And I used our dog (this site’s owner and mascot) for taste tests. So we’ve got a lot of good info here, and you should leave with some stellar recommendations.
Quick Picks: Some of the Top Food Options for Chihuahuas
**Below, you'll find our expert's science-backed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Chewy.
Take a Peek at a Few of the Best Food for Chihuahuas
Wellness is one of the dog food brands we tend to recommend quite often. And there's a good reason for that.
Deboned turkey and premium quality chicken is a great source of protein for the little pup. CORE has the perfect protein and calorie balance for the small dogs that need a lot of energy, but not so many calories.
We'll get back to this in a bit...
Another key ingredient in this formula is spinach. And should I even start mentioning how beneficial it is? Just as for humans, it's one of the best sources of iron, magnesium and other vitamins.
Omega fatty acids, coming from flaxseed and salmon oil was the selling point for me, since I look for it in all the dog foods.
Oh and grain free recipe without any soy, preservatives, colors and flavors also sounds appealing. Premium quality products is what our pals tend to love. And they did!
Our pup loved how it tasted. She scarfed it down super-fast!
This is a dog food that truly contains the essentials. And that’s good and bad. On the one hand, the ingredients are really healthy.
On the other, you’re missing out on the great variety of vitamins, nutrients and minerals provided by dog foods with a lot more ingredients.
Essentially, this Nutro Wholesome Essentials formula gets most of its calories from chicken, brown rice and oats, but it’s relatively short on fruits and veggies and fats.
This is a great option for dog owners who want high-quality ingredients but don’t necessarily have the cash to throw down on a premium brand. You can always work those fruits and veggies in other ways.
We love Wellness brand stuff here.
One of the things we really like about Wellness brand products is the amazing variety you get. Here, you get chicken, turkey, brown rice, barley, peas, oatmeal, tomato, flaxseed and a whole gamut of other awesome ingredients.
It really is a taste-the-rainbow kind of situation. Plus, there’s plenty of fat here (chicken fat and flaxseed oil), which helps keep that coat healthy.
There’s also no wheat, corn, soy or animal byproducts, making it a great option for hypoallergenic Chihuahuas.
Chihuahua Diet Needs: Calories & Protein
**Please note: these estimates are based on an average weight for this breed. Every dog is different. Please talk to your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.
As a rule of thumb, toy breeds like the Chihuahua are extremely fuel-efficient critters that burn through calories much faster than larger breeds. That fast metabolism is of course countered by a smaller stomach size. If you own a Chihuahua, this could cause a bit of a conundrum.
Chihuahuas burn absolutely insane amounts of energy (as I’m sure any Chihuahua owner will tell you). Even if they don’t look like they’re burning energy, their tiny little dog bodies are incinerating calories at almost three times the rate (per pound) of a large dog.
That is a lot of calories.
It also leads to problems. For example, some owners don’t understand exactly how much energy their dog is burning, so they tend to underfeed. On the other hand, it’s very easy for some owners to overfeed their pups because they see how active they are and forget they’re still only little dogs.
This is complicated even further by the fact that Chihuahuas have such small tummies. They simply don’t have the capacity for a big hearty meal like a bigger dog would. This makes it easy to lose track of his food intake, as you may be compelled to provide him extra because you don’t think he’s eating enough.
In other words, you’re probably going to need to do some measuring and calorie counting to get used to how much food your Chihuahua actually needs.
And how much is that?
A typical Chihuahua—moderately active and weighing in at 5 lbs—needs 200-250 calories per day.
That’s even more than other toy breeds. To give you some idea of how that compares to other small dogs, a Yorkie only needs about 150 calories per day (about 25% less).
Of course, not all dogs are the same size, so as a general rule, Chihuahuas need 40-50 calories for every pound of bodyweight (I told you you’d have to do some math!).
Additionally, Chihuahuas are built to digest protein. They’re little doggy engines are designed for it. So you want to look for a dog food that is at least 25% protein. If you’ve got an older dog, they’ll probably need even more protein.
And that’s usually the trick with Chihuahuas: finding a food that she (1) likes and (2) has a good protein-to-calorie ratio. This goes for a lot of breeds (e.g. Yorkies, Dachshunds).
Creating a Meal Schedule for your Chihuahua
Putting together a proper meal schedule can be a tough notion for Chihuahuas, but it can be done. This schedule is largely determined by the dog’s age and activity level. Therefore, it’s important that you adjust your tendencies through each stage of your dog’s life.
For example, puppies just starting out in life - think under 3 months or less than 2 pounds - should be free-range eaters. This turns into 3 to 4 dining sessions between the ages of 3 months and 6 months. From 6 months to 1 year, this shrinks down to 2 to 3 meals.
After one year, you should feed your little guy twice - once in the morning, and once at night. It may be tempting to serve him 1 big dinner because of time constraints. However, it is recommended you avoid that temptation and go with the latter route.
And don’t forget - when it comes to feeding, timing is everything in more ways than one. Your little guy is going to need to poop the morning after his dinner. Therefore, it’s wise to time your dog’s meal in a way that it doesn’t pull you from your slumber sooner than you’d like.
Best Dog Food Ingredients for Chihuahuas
It goes without saying that you should always strive to provide the most nutritious meal for your dog as you can. However, this seems particularly the case with a Chihuahua or some of his toy and small breed cousins.
Dogs the size of a Chihuahua tends to have a longer lifespan than larger dogs. This is good news because it means our buddy will be around for a while. But it also means you need to really keep your pooch’s long-term health in mind whenever you’re buying food
In the case of a Chihuahua, this means that you need to be diligent about what fuel you’re giving to stoke his fire. The food you provide him at a young age will have good or bad ramifications on his health when he’s old. It’s no different than humans, as some of us may eventually pay for all the cheeseburgers we had in our twenties.
Some of these ill-gotten side effects may be seen just by looking at your dog. For instance, an unhealthy dog food could cause your Chihuahua’s coat to lose some of its sheen and color. Your little guy may even experience stunted growth in some cases.
Your Chihuahua may also experience a weakened immune system if he eats the wrong food. This could leave the little guy more vulnerable to various diseases both in the short-term and in the long-term. This is particularly alarming, since you may not see any outward signs until he starts coming down with anything and everything.
There are a few things you want to make sure to include in your Chihuahua’s diet. The first, of course, is good sources of protein. As with any dog food, you generally want to make sure its protein sources come from meat and meal, avoiding byproducts.
For this reason, lean meats like chicken, bison, venison and fish are all some of the things you want to see on an ingredient label. If you’re making food at home, organ meet (e.g. liver, kidney) are good, too.
When I’m looking at dog food, I make sure meat is the number one ingredient.
Chihuahuas are also prone to hypoglycemia, so good, complex carbohydrates are a must, which means you’ll be looking for stuff like sweet potatoes or brown rice, and you’ll want to avoid stuff like corn.
Most dogs need to be eating some fats as well. This will help maintain a healthy coat, and we all know Chihuahuas are have a tendency to be divas about their coats!
Finally, it’s always good to have a number of fruits and vegetables. Having plenty of fruits and veggies rounds out the nutritional profile and provides your best dog friend with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Can’t have enough of them.
The Road to Feeding Your Chihuahua Right
You might think that the combination of high energy and the need for re-fueling a bustling metabolism may cause your Chihuahua to lay waste to whatever food you put in front of him. Yet this is not always the case.
While there are Chihuahuas that will gobble up anything and anywhere, the dog has a tendency to be one of the more finicky eaters in the canine world. This could be rather frustrating for new owners as they find themselves plundering their wallets in the hopes of getting something their little guy will like.
If you get a Chihuahua that tends to turn his nose up on his chow, it’s important that you don’t relent by consistently serving food that’s bad for him, even if he eats it effortlessly. Doing so may cause a temporary fix, but it could have nasty ramifications - particularly since the breed is prone to longevity.
Some of this finicky behavior may be connected to him coming into your home for the first time. Unless you coordinate with the dog’s breeder what your little guy was eating before he came your way, he’s going to have to get used to new food. Considering how stressful the first days in a new place could be, he may be a bit too emotional to eat.
Of course, if your Chihuahua is showing signs of food intolerance, it’s in your best interest to switch foods immediately. This typically shows up in the form of vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. Your dog may be unhappy of the switch if he likes the taste, but it’s for his - and your - own best interest.
Potential Health Problems & Dietary Solutions
Dental problems. Like other toy breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to teeth trouble. One of the best ways to prevent dental problems is to simply feed your dog dry food instead of wet food.
The texture of dry food can help clean your dog’s teeth while she eats. It’s no substitute for regular cleanings, but it can help preserve those pearly whites in the meantime.
Diabetes. Like other toy breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to diabetes. Specifically, they’re prone to hypoglycemia, a condition that causes the blood sugar to drop.
Obesity. While technically not a disease itself, obesity can be the springboard for a host of other conditions to take root. Chihuahuas are susceptible for weight problems, in part because it can be so difficult to feed them. They can also be prone to obesity as they get older, as their metabolism and physical activity slows down.
To combat this, make sure you feed your little compadre at regular intervals. You also want to make sure her food is full of good, complex carbs, like we mentioned above.
You should also consider getting your vet involved if your little guy suddenly loses interest in eating the food he otherwise likes. Yes, Chihuahuas can be very finicky when it comes to their food, yet if he starts turning his nose up on his favorite kibble, it could be a sign of a medical issue. Don’t mess around here- take him to the vet post haste.
Foods To Avoid
Like we’ve mentioned before, we don’t recommend Hill’s Science Diet or Pedigree brands for small dogs. They’re just not nutrient-dense enough, don’t have enough protein, and contain too much corn.
Please note that, while we've received comments from owners who feed Blue Buffalo to their Chihuahuas, we're reserving our recommendation for this particular breed (and for that particular food) until we have more information in light of their recent class action law suit settlement.
**Disclaimer: Our dog food reviews are based mostly on (1) our expertise and that of the experts with whom we consult and (2) the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods (with our dog's help), but we can't test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and you should consult your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.