Let's face it, there is plenty of information out there of what to feed and what not to feed your chi. It can get very frustrating. So in this article we will take a broad approach and will give you easy to follow guidelines on how to pick the right food for your little one.
So why don’t you just walk into a pet store, pick up the first bag of dry food and leave it at that? Why do things need to be complicated?
Well, just like us humans, chis are "what they eat", their nutrition directly affects their health. So, simply put, the best food for a chihuahua is that which doesn't cause allergies and doesn't contribute to the development of any diseases. It's the food that helps your chi stay healthy.
Here we are mostly interested in the food allergies, but since the symptoms can easily overlap, let's quickly run over the following:
While a food allergy has an internal cause, meaning that you chi has ingested something, and other types of allergies may have external causes, including environmental allergens or fleas, the symptoms are often similar, so before jumping to conclusions on whether your chi is allergic to food, check out these easy tips for how to differentiate between the most common types of allergies.
Okay, now that we learnt how to figure out what type of allergy your chi might have, lets dive right into the food allergies. There are two main types: an acute food allergy (which is what technically should be called an allergy) and a food sensitivity (which is mistakenly called an allergy). What's the difference?
An acute food allergy involves an immune response, it is usually a severe reaction to an allergen that can lead to an anaphylactic shock - anyone with a bad peanut allergy knows what it's like. This can be fatal, but, thankfully, it is a rather rare response most likely to occur as a reaction to vaccinations, drugs or bee stings. So keep an eye on your chi after exposure to a new drug, vaccine or food.
Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are what most people would commonly refer to as food allergies. A sensitivity is usually a response to a food ingredient, the reaction is more gradual than in the case with an acute allergy and could be accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting or itchiness, inflamed skin or swelling as well.
First things first, go to the vet, make sure the symptoms are not part of a more serious condition. Your vet might prescribe an antihistamine to help with the symptoms and order an allergy test.
Usually, the best way to understand what your chi is allergic to when it comes to food is the elimination diet: you feed your chi only one new source of protein and one new source of carbohydrate for at least 6 weeks.
They got to be something your chi has not had before just to eliminate the possibility of your chi having a "leaky gut syndrome", which can occur if you keep feeding your little one the same food for a long period of time. So food rotation is something to consider. No treats and snacks, for at least 6 weeks it should be exclusively a 2 ingredient diet.
The goal here is to find what combo of proteins and carbs is safe for your chi, and use it as a base to later slowly add in all the other ingredients. If you add something new and see the allergic reaction come back - you know what to eliminate completely out of your chi's diet.
So, what foods should you steer clear of to prevent food allergies? According to the AKC:
Beware that, most commonly, allergic reactions are caused by dairy, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, wheat, as well as beef, chicken and pork.
Lastly, a common question is whether or not you should feed your chi raw food. It is perfectly fine to cook homemade dog food for your chi, especially is you little one is allergy-prone, but watch out for salmonella when it comes to raw meat. Unfortunately, the Canadian Veterinarian Journal found that 80 percent of diet of dogs who eat raw food contained salmonella. The easiest way to kill the bacteria is still cooking it up…that's something to remember.
Finally, if your chi is prone to allergies, you can cook homemade food using the same guidelines we mentioned earlier: start with an elimination diet; refrain from foods that commonly cause allergies; include vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, carb and protein sources that your chi tolerates well. And switch things up once in a while to avoid any leaky gut symptoms.
Chis are known to have hypoglycemia, or sugar drop. The smaller chis are especially prone to this condition. It can happen if a chi has been over exercised or overstimulated, or left without food for over 6 hours. To prevent that, it is recommended to feed a chi small frequent meals that will keep its blood sugar levels steady (3-4 times/day).
Hopefully, you found these tips handy, and your next visit to the pet store will be a seamless experience now that you have an idea of what to avoid and what to look for. If you are looking for more Chi tips, check out our article on chi house-training. Best of luck!