The Chihuahua's Special Dietary Needs

Proper nutrition keeps these little dogs fit, healthy and happy.

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Overfeeding a Chihuahuawith scraps or a dog foodcan lead to problems in puppyhood that carry over into adulthood, such as abnormal bone development (bone weakening and bowing), obesity, skin problems and rickets.

Particularly, overfeeding a pup disrupts its normal fat composition by increasing the size of fat cells during growth, which in turn increases the chances of the pup becoming an obese adult dog.

According to Whittle, though, the overfeeding issue is taken right out of some owners hands. Some dogs seem to regulate their diets all by themselves. Some are indeed little piglets, she says, but my dogs will eat a piece of kibble here and there throughout the day. They never chow down, so to speak. However, Whittle recognizes that many owners aren't endowed with such light eaters.

Part of the problem is that owners fail to recognize the signs of obesity or how much is too much. Many new Chihuahua owners tend to keep their dogs a little too fat, says Dr. Carey. Even an extra 6 ounces makes them fat. So what does a Chihuahua in good condition look like? According to Dr. Carey, its easy to determine whether your Chichis weight is over or under.

The dogs ribs should be barely visible, with a slight ripple over the ribs. You should be able to feel the dogs ribs without applying pressure, and the dog should have a little waist (the sides of the stomach cavity should cave in a bit) visible when the owner is standing over the dog looking down. From the side, there should be a visible tummy tuck that slopes upward from the chest cavity and toward the hindquarters. This is the look you want to maintain throughout the dogs life, Dr. Carey says.

What Constitutes a Good Diet?
The key to this ideal proportion is to maintain a lean body composition throughout the dogs life. Proper maintenance begins with a quality diet of foods that are nutrient dense.

If you feed your dog a food that is dense in calories and protein, they eat less of it, and its usually a higher quality food, says Dr. Carey. A less-dense food has fewer calories, and the dog has to eat twice as much to get the same amount of nutrition.

Also take into account the dogs life stage and activity level. Puppies require plenty of calories and protein for growth, adult dogs require a maintenance diet, and senior dogs need not only maintenance nutrient levels but also increased protein to retain muscle mass that can be lost as the dog ages. Senior foods also should include antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta carotene, which help improve an older dogs immune system.  

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janet   bethlehem, PA

3/21/2012 4:20:09 AM

good article, thank you

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