Chihuahuas are small dogs with big personalities. The ASPCA considers them seniors once they reach the age of 7, but a little number doesn't faze this breed, which generally has a long lifespan. Feed your Chihuahua a good senior diet to keep him feeling spry throughout his golden years.
Choose an adult or senior commercial dog food -- dry, canned or a combination of both -- that contains beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or another meat as the first ingredient and is labeled as "complete" or "balanced" by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Steer clear of low protein or low fat dog foods unless recommended by your veterinarian because Chihuahuas require nutrient dense foods because of their low food intake. In addition, senior dogs require 50 percent more protein than younger dogs, according to the 2006 "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats" report by the National Academies. Your little guy's diet should consist of at least 25 percent protein. He needs protein to maintain muscle and fats are important sources of energy for canines.
Entice your senior Chihuahua to eat by adding chicken broth, beef broth or a small amount of finely chopped chicken to his food. Chihuahuas are notorious picky eaters and senior Chihuahuas can be even fussier. Don't be surprised if your little guy starts snubbing his once favorite food. Alternatively, if you want a tastier diet for your Chihuahua's picky palate, prepare a home-cooked diet using a recipe that is approved by your veterinarian.
Talk to your veterinarian about adding supplements to your Chihuahua's diet. If your Chihuahua has patellar luxation (a common genetic knee defect in these little dogs), glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may help slow the development of painful arthritis. Your senior Chihuahua might also benefit from omega-6 fatty acids to relieve itchy skin problems, antioxidants such as vitamin E, which help stimulate his immune system and fructooligosaccharides to encourage the growth of good intestinal bacteria.
Offer your Chihuahua a daily dental treat to minimize or prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Chihuahuas have small mouths that are prone to tooth crowding, creating tight spaces between the teeth that are perfect for tartar buildup. Crunchy dog biscuits or enzyme chew treats available from your veterinarian can help keep your Chihuahua's teeth clean and remove tartar building.
Determine the amount of food your Chihuahua needs to eat daily by reading the dog food label or by asking your veterinarian. Divide your Chihuahua's daily food amount into two or three daily meals. Because Chihuahuas are so small, they don't have the energy reserves of larger breeds, so several small meals a day versus one large meal help to keep their blood sugar levels stable.
- ASPCA: Feeding Older Dogs
- National Academies: 2006 Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats Report
- The Chihuahua Handbook; D. Caroline Coile Ph.D.
- If your Chihuahua has missing teeth or teeth problems that make chewing difficult, switch to canned or other soft foods and consult with a veterinarian.
- Senior Chihuahuas are prone to weight gain due to slowing metabolisms and decreased activity levels. Increase or decrease your Chihuahua's daily food intake if needed to keep his weight at a health level. You should not be able to see his ribs, but you should be able to easily feel them.
- Your Chihuahua appreciates food treats, but keep them minimized to no more than 10 percent of his daily diet.
Rose Kivi has been a writer for more than 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.