Many of the companies offer special dog foods for every stage of a dog’s life. And that’s a good thing. Dogs have different nutritional requirements at different times, just like people. The following sections break down the different stages or options and their nutritional requirements.
Whether you choose dry food, canned food, or a combination of the two, your Chihuahua needs to eat a diet formulated for puppies (often called a growth formula) until she’s 1 year old. Growth formulas contain more protein and fat than adult diets. Puppies need extra protein for growth and extra fat to keep up with their energy levels.
After your Chi celebrates her 1st birthday, you can switch gradually to a commercial adult (maintenance) food. You can use it until she’s an oldster, provided that it keeps her healthy inside and out. A poor coat usually is the first sign that your dog’s diet is letting her down. And depending on her activity level, you may want to adjust amounts a little bit over the years to keep her from gaining or losing weight.
Provisions for performers
If you decide to enter your Chihuahua in dog shows or train her for high-energy events such as obedience or agility competitions, consider feeding her a performance formula. Most performance foods have higher protein and fat percentages than maintenance foods, making them similar to puppy food. In fact, some exhibitors simply keep their dogs on top-quality puppy food as long as they’re competing.
When it comes to weight issues, prevention is the best policy. Make sure your Chihuahua exercises enough, eats a regular diet of dog food (not table scraps), and doesn’t get a treat each and every time she begs. If she starts getting pudgy anyway, a variety of reduced-calorie dog foods are available to help her slim down. Most of them contain lower percentages of protein and fat and higher amounts of fiber than normal maintenance formulas.
Although the fiber helps your dog feel full on less food and a lower fat content helps her lose weight, other weight-loss options usually are healthier. The best option is increased exercise. If that doesn’t do it, try feeding her a little less of her regular food at each feeding. Start by giving her 90 percent of her normal ration for a month. After that, if you don’t see any improvements, talk it over with your veterinarian and consider a low-calorie cuisine.
Diets for geriatric dogs contain less protein than maintenance foods, which may or may not be a good thing. If your Chi is a healthy oldster, changing chow may not be necessary. But if she suffers from an ailment such as kidney disease, your veterinarian may recommend a senior formula because less protein puts less stress on her kidneys.
Prescription dog foods
If your Chihuahua has a specific health problem – such as diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, pancreatitis, or certain skin ailments – your veterinarian may prescribe a diet formulated especially for dogs with that issue. Prescription diets are available only through veterinarians, because the formulas are so different that they aren’t good for healthy dogs.
If your veterinarian puts your Chi on a prescription diet, he or she wants to monitor her progress – at least during the first few months.