How to Care for a Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are a popular breed among pet owners, mainly because they have so much personality packed into a tiny body. They are not meant to live outdoors, since they are easy prey for large birds, other dogs and other predators. They also can overheat quickly in high temperatures or become sick quickly in cold ones.

Proper Diet

Since Chihuahuas are prone to hypoglycemia, it is best to feed them twice daily to ensure their sugar level stays stable. Free feeding, leaving food out at all times, is not recommended as it can lead to obesity. Avoid feeding table scraps for the same reason.

When feeding a commercial dog food, choose one specifically formulated for smaller breeds. Chihuahuas have trouble chewing larger kibble. Read the ingredients of all food carefully to ensure that it contains real meat as a main ingredient, as well as vegetables. Avoid cheap fillers such as grains and meat byproducts and dyes.

Since Chihuahuas burn calories faster than larger dogs, they require a diet high in protein. For this reason, many Chihuahua owners choose to feed a homemade diet. Meals can be cooked daily, or made in larger portions and stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. Use meat as the primary ingredient, and add smaller amounts of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and peas. Avoid corn as it is hard for dogs to digest. Fruits such as bananas and berries can be added but be sure to remove any seeds from fruit before adding to the food. Be sure to check with your vet before changing your dog's diet to ensure you're feeding a balanced diet.

The amount of food needed each day will vary depending on each dogs age and activity level. A general guideline is 50 calories per pound for puppies and 40 calories per pound for adults. Seniors and dogs who are sedentary require less calories per pound.

Health Care

Because of their diminutive size, a Chihuahua gets sicker faster and has a more difficult time recovering from illness. It is vital that your dog be vaccinated as a puppy and continue to receive yearly boosters. Spaying and neutering needs to be done as well, not only to prevent unwanted litters but also to avoid many health issues of the reproductive system, including cancer. Yearly health checks are important as well, to catch any potential problems before they become severe. Watch your Chihuahua for symptoms that may signify illness. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Disorientation
  • Lethargy
  • Bloody stool or urine

Training

Begin training as early in age as possible, since an older Chihuahua may take longer to grasp what behaviors are required. When leash training, it is recommended by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons that a harness be used rather than a collar, since such a tiny trachea can be damaged by a collar.

Housebreaking is best done by confining him in a crate or small room when he is not being supervised and taking frequent trips outdoors, especially after meals. Praise him and give small treats when he potties outdoors, but do not yell or hit him if he has an accident. Keep him on a leash, or in sight when indoors with you until training is complete.