a dog tries to get food from a kong

“Oh, just pick his meal up and give it back to him the next time. He’ll eat.”

“You’re just feeding her too much.”

“He thinks you’ll give him something better if he waits.”

All these well-meaning comments come from people who either don’t own chihuahuas or have never had a true picky eater. When we say a chihuahua is a picky eater, we mean that they will gladly put themselves in the hospital for low blood sugar than eat the food you put in front of them. (Ask me how I know.)

A true picky eater is not full. They’re not being fed too much. They’re not picky due to a health condition. This article is aimed at chihuahuas who are picky eaters. We will address what is not a picky eater first, so if you know your dog is a picky eater, skip down to the picky eating tips here.

Picky eating, or just full?

For most dogs, picky eating comes about because they are full. Their day might start with a load of treats, browsing the floor for the toddler’s dropped goodies, and perhaps looting the cat’s litterbox. By the time you drop their plain jane kibble in front of them, they’re not hungry, so they don’t eat.

You don’t want to encourage your pet to eat more if they are full, so it’s best to examine their food budget before you deem them a true picky eater.

A 3-6 pound dog should eat between 1/3 and ½ cup of food per day. That includes all meals and treats combined. That’s a very small amount of food! If your dog is within this weight range, is that how much they are being fed? If you piled all the treats and snacks they get through the day into a 1/3 cup measure, how much of it would fill before they get their food?

If you think the amount of food, treats and scraps included, would spill over the measure cup, it’s likely they’re just not hungry. Here’s a table that estimates food amounts for chihuahua weights, so you can pick the appropriate amount for your dog as a measuring tool. If your dog gains too much weight at 1/2 a cup, that means he needs less food. If he loses too much weight, he’ll need to eat more.

The range is fairly wide because weight will change depending on your dogs health, level of activity, and age.

AgeWeightAmount
Puppy1-2 pounds¼ to ½ cup per day
Adult3-5 pounds¼ to ½ cup per day
Adult6-10 pounds½ cup to 1 1/3 cup per day
Senior3-5 pounds¼ to ½ cup per day*
Senior6-10 pounds½ cup to 1 1/3 cup per day*

Senior dogs may need a little bit less or more, depending on their weight.

a fat dog getting measured

Is your dog fat?

A chubby chihuahua is a clear indicator that if he isn’t getting his nutrition out of the food bowl, he’s getting it somewhere else. Sometimes our dogs can be pretty sneaky about snacking, so weight can be a good way of judging whether it is diet time.

If your dog is obviously chunky, you have your answer, but don’t be so sure if you think he’s fine. According to a study done by Purina, 1/3 of dog owners don’t notice their dog is obese. Ask your vet for a body scale, and if they tell you your dog needs to lose weight, cut down on food. It may fix the ‘picky’ problem.

Is your dog sick?

Pickiness can be a sign that your dog is unwell. Even if he has a sleek coat, bright eyes, and seems active and healthy, it’s possible there’s something going on. The most common ailment for chihuahuas who are picky is dental related.

Broken teeth, gingivitis and baby teeth that never fell out can all cause mouth pain. If your dog is picky about eating, it may well be because his teeth hurt—and that may be the only sign.

Everything from a doggy cold all the way up to cancer can make your pet feel unwell and therefore unwilling to eat. If your pet is picky, the first thing you should do is take them to the vet to make sure it’s just being a picky eater.

The True Chihuahua Picky Eater

When your dog is in good health, has good teeth, and isn’t overweight—chances are he’s probably genuinely picky. This actually isn’t all that uncommon in chihuahuas, so if you’ve rushed down to this section, you’re not alone.

You probably already know this, but you’re not going to win the war with a picky eater. You can give them only that food forever, and they’ll only take just enough bites to survive. They would rather go out in the lawn and search for cat poop to eat than what’s in their bowl.

If you are dealing with a picky eater, here are a few tricks you can try:

  • Wet it Down
    Dogs depend on their noses to help them decide what they want to eat. Dry food is not very smelly. Adding some warm water can help release the smell of the food and make it more appealing.

    If your dog gets wet food already, try warming it up to enhance the smells.
  • Add a fresh food topper
    Sometimes, just adding a pinch of cheese or other smelly food to the top of their dog food can convince them it’s worth eating.
  • Handfeeding
    Chihuahuas love to be babied. A ho-hum bite of canned food in a bowl is so much more enticing when it is offered on a spoon.
  • Try a different flavor of food
    Maybe your dog just isn’t a fish kind of guy, or maybe he can’t stand lamb. It’s also possible he can smell chemicals in the food that isn’t particularly desirable. Canned food and fresh type foods are also usually more appetizing to dogs than kibble, because they have a smell.

    Your dog may also find they prefer stew type dog food over patte, or the other way around. You may want to see if it is a texture or size issue.
  • Try cooking their own food
    If your dog is keen to have fresh, human looking food, you can try making food at home. This should never be simply cobbling together some rice, chicken and vegetables. Dogs need a balanced diet, and many homemade recipes lack calcium among other nutrients.

    The best way to guarantee your dog gets all their needs is to book an appointment with a board-certified nutritionist to get a recipe from them. Failing that, Balance IT Canine has a free tool to help you pick the ingredients, their supplement will balance the rest.
  • Walk your pet first
    A brisk walk can help stimulate your dog’s appetite. If your dog is truly picky, try taking them for a 15-minute walk before feeding them. You may find the fresh air is all they need to feel hungry.
  • Reduce stress wherever you can
    Unfortunately, picky eaters are very sensitive to their environment. Stranger visited today? Definitely not eating. Fireworks? Not eating. Vet trip? Not eating. You can help reduce their stress by playing soft music, cuddling them, and giving them a private place of their own. (Kennels with the door left open are great for this.)

Picky eaters are common in little dogs, especially chihuahuas. If your pup is a picky eater, try these tips to help stimulate their appetites. If you have a great suggestion, please share your tips in the comments below.

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5 thoughts on “Help! My Chihuahua is a Picky Eater!”
  1. I just got a Chihuahua and she don’t really like eating dog food much she likes human food like chicken pork chops pepperoni pizza Vienna sausages but I wish she would eat dog food any tips on how she could start eating dog food

    1. Great question! When I first got Leia, she also believed human food was the only way to go. I’d start with a really tasty dog food. Weruva for example is made with real shredded chicken, so it looks and smells like something a human might eat. Sprinkle a small amount of food she likes (chopped vienna sausages etc.) on top. Once she’s used to eating dog food you can drop the toppers or switch to a different dog food from there.

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