According to vets 80% of dogs are overweight. It’s a canine health epidemic that is causing serious health problems for our dogs. Chihuahuas, and other toy dog breeds, are very easy to overfeed because they are so small. A tiny chihuahua may only need 150 calories a day, so just a tiny overfeed can start to lay down as fat. A small treat here and there and before you know it, they’ve had an extra meals worth of calories.
A tiny chihuahua may only need 150 calories a day, so just a tiny overfeed can start to lay down as fat. A small treat here and there and before you know it, they’ve had an extra meals worth of calories.
Being overweight can have lasting health consequences for dogs like; heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Being too heavy may put pressure on an existing luxating patella. It can also aggravate problems with anal glands because, if the glands are covered in fat they will not easily express.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests over the longer-term, being overweight can contribute to cancers.
Some chihuahuas are highly food motivated and will scavenge relentlessly. Minnie is one of the greediest dog’s ever and is an expert at hoovering up scraps and crumbs. Keeping her weight under control requires diligence, we must monitor her weight regularly.
It can be a daunting task to try and get your chihuahua back into shape, especially if you have got into bad habits.
It requires a shift of thinking, and owners need to realise that the treat or little extra that you give them because you love them, could be shortening their life, contributing to poor health and huge vet bills.
The reality is, we all need to toughen up. Instead of using food to show affection play a game, give a belly rub or go out for a walk.
How to turn it around.
The good news is it’s easier than you think, and you don’t need to buy expensive prescription foods to get weight under control.
It goes without saying that good habits start from puppy hood and it requires the whole family to co-operate.
First of all, it’s a good idea to have only one person responsible for feeding.
No one gives the dogs treats, and if training treats are being used then it must come out of your chis daily food allowance.
Keep the dogs away from the table when the family are eating, teach them to go and lie down or put them into another room. The sad face as they watch you eat is very effective at getting titbits.
Weighing out food rather than just chucking in the bowl is key. Especially as feeding guidelines on commercial dog food are often so vague. Knowing the amount you are feeding will help you make measured adjustments.
Weigh your dog on a regular basis. If he starts to put on weight, then you can reduce the amount you are feeding down by a few grams. Just a 10gm reduction in her food helped Minnie lose 500g and get down to her target weight of 5kg.
Assess your chihuahua’s body condition
Vets use a table of body condition to assess if a dog is overweight or malnourished, looking at where your chihuahua is on the scale will give you a good idea of how overweight they may be. For instance:
- Does your chi have a pot belly?
- Can you see his waist or tuck? (The part that goes in after the ribs)
- Are their ribs easy to feel under their fur? If they are cushioned and you need to dig for them, then he is carrying extra fat.
But if you are not sure ask your vet. Most vets are keen for dogs to lose weight and will be happy to help.
How you feed can make it easier to monitor what they are eating.
Free feeding is when you put down the food and your chihuahua can eat when he likes. But, if you have cats who can be partial to dog food, or more than one dog it can be difficult to monitor who is eating what.
Meal feeding is when your chi is given dinner at set times. This does make it much easier to monitor the amount. Both methods have pros and cons. You can read more about this here.
What you should feed.
Feeding dry food (kibble) can contribute to weight gain as it contains carbohydrate as part of the cooking process. Carbohydrate turns to sugar and dogs find it difficult to process it and the sugar lays down as fat.
We cook for ours, but this is not always practical for everyone so, if you are feeding kibble, feed a good quality one. We like Macadams (available in the UK)
How you assess a good quality dry food can be difficult, the images on the front of the packet will bear very little reality to the actual ingredients. You can get more info about understanding dog food labels in this article.
It is easier to go with meal feeding if you are serving wet food. When Arlo was a pup, we gave him Canagan and Lillie’s Kitchen. Both seemed to go down well.
How much to feed your chihuahua?
Counting calories can be difficult with a dog as, at time of writing, there is no obligation to put calories on pet food products. But, having a target weight in mind will help you plot how much your chihuahua is losing.
Dogs need different amounts of food depending on their life stage.
For example, a complete dog male or female will need to eat more than a neutered dog, an older dog will need to eat less than a young dog. As a guide line Healthy Pets Mercola gives us this formula.
Daily calories (canine) = Body Weight (kg) x 30 + 70
To use this formula, first you need to convert her weight from pounds to kilograms. One kilogram = 2.2 pounds, so divide her ideal weight (not her current weight) in pounds by 2.2. 50/2.2 = 22.7, so your dog’s ideal weight in kilograms is 22.7. Now our formula looks like this: Daily calories = 22.7 (kg) x 30 + 70. And finally, it looks like this: Daily calories = 751. If your dog eats 750 calories a day, she should drop steadily to her ideal weight of 50 pounds and maintain it.
Books by Chihuahua Power
If counting calories is too complicated and time consuming, then just follow these simple steps for a steady weight loss.
- Stop or significantly reduce treats.
- Weigh your dog so you can plot progress.
- Weigh out food
- Feed for her ideal weight not her current weight.
It’s best to check with your vet if you are not sure how much your dog needs.