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:
- what is a food allergy and what is food sensitivity,
- how to take food allergy apart from other types of allergies,
- what causes a food allergy,
- what to feed your chi if he or she does have an allergy or intolerance,
- how to choose chihuahua dog food that won’t cause allergies.
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.
- The skin allergies are perhaps the easiest to differentiate and the most common as well. If you notice any redness and inflammation on the skin, or see that you chi gets extremely itchy, particularly at the base of the tail, check for the signs of fleas. If you see any fleas or flea dirt - your chi most likely is allergic to fleabites.
- If, on the other hand, you chi is itching ears and paws more, and especially if you notice any diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, its most likely a food allergy.
- And if your chi's allergies seem to be seasonal, then its most likely an environmental allergen such as pollen, dust or mold.
Acute Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity
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.
What To Do if You Notice Food Allergy or Sensitivity Symptoms?
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.
The Worst Food for a Chihuahua
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.
Now, when choosing dog food for your chi its best to follow these practices:
- Watch out for any food additives such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), ethoxyquin, propylene glycol, propyl gallate, monosodium glutamate (MSG / E621), artificial dyes and trans fat.
- Fillers are next on the no-no list, these are low quality manufactured ingredients that add nothing but empty calories to your little one's diet. The rule of thumb would be - if you see an ingredient you can't pronounce on the list - stay away.
- Check for salt content. It's commonly used in commercial food as a preservative, but it promotes water retention and is hard on the kidneys, so in large quantities it can be rough on a tiny chihuahua's body.
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.
Best Food for a Chihuahua
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.
How Often Should You Feed Your Chi?
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!