Food & HealthTips & Facts

Is My Chihuahua Underweight? A Guide to Healthy Weight Gain

As tiny chihuahuas are, they aren’t supposed to be skinny and fragile to the touch. But with this breed’s petite frame, it can be difficult to tell what’s a healthy weight for your chi and what’s not. So, curious owners are likely wondering — is my chihuahua underweight?

Generally, a healthy chi should weigh between 2.5 (a little over 1 kg) and 4.5 lbs (over 2 kg). Hence, if your tiny friend goes below the 2.5-mark, it’s likely underweight — implicating possible health issues.

Read on to confirm if your chihuahua is underweight, the possible reasons, and what you can do to help.

Is My Chihuahua Underweight? 2 Ways to Check

is my chihuahua underweight (infographic)

Checking if your chihuahua is underweight is crucial in ensuring its health. Generally, a healthy chi stands at a weight of 2.5 to 4.5 lbs, and anything below 2.5 can be dangerous. 

Not only will a skinny chihuahua be more fragile, but it will be more vulnerable to many hazards! But it can be challenging to confirm whether your tiny friend is underweight. With its petite stature, it can be difficult to tell what’s healthy and not — especially to inexperienced eyes!

For your convenience and your chi’s safety and health, here are two foolproof ways to tell if your dog is underweight:

Feel Your Chihuahua’s Ribs

Let your chihuahua stand, front legs up, and run your hands over its sides. And a healthy chi shouldn’t have protruding ribs, meaning you shouldn’t feel the bones much. But if you can’t 100% feel your tiny pet’s ribs, it might be overweight and have too much fat!

Meanwhile, it’s underweight if your chi’s ribs are visible and you can feel them with one touch. And this can be as dangerous as not feeling anything, making this tiny dog more vulnerable to many health issues.

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Check for your Chi’s Spine

Like with the ribs check, have your chi stand chump up. But this time, feel your chihuahua’s back instead of the sides. Remember to be incredibly gentle when running your hands, as this tiny dog is fragile. 

Again, you should feel your chi’s spine but not much, and it shouldn’t be protruding. Hence, you can suspect your chihuahua is dangerously underweight if you feel its bones, having little to no flesh on top of its vertebra. 

Generally, you can look for a “tuck” under your chi’s waist or a contour going inward after its ribs for faster checking. These are signs of a healthy body in these tiny dogs. Meanwhile, you can check your chihuahua’s body condition score by bringing it to the vet to confirm whether it is underweight.

Why is My Chihuahua Underweight? 9 Possible Reasons

✔️ Your Chihuahua May Have an Underlying Disease

A sudden or rapid weight loss in chihuahuas may indicate that the dog has an underlying disease. And here are the most common ones often associated with a chi’s unexpected weight loss:

  • Pneumonia. It refers to the inflammation of a chihuahua’s lungs, common in underweight chis. After all, pneumonia in dogs targets the immune system, weakening their immunity. As a result, your chi becomes more vulnerable to more infections as it loses its ability to fight pathogens. 
  • Heart disease. Even skinny chihuahuas can develop heart disease. The reason is that as your dog’s weight plummets, it’ll weaken, promoting its body to work harder. And this, in turn, damages the tiny pet’s muscles.
  • Diabetes. This disease halts your chi’s insulin production, essential in regulating blood sugar levels. With this, your furry friend’s body won’t be able to absorb as many nutrients, leading to severe weight loss. 
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✔️ Poor Nutrition

A sudden weight loss in chihuahuas may indicate poor nutrition. It might not be receiving the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy weight. So, backtrack and see if you’re giving your chi enough food. If not, consider offering your furry friend treats now and then, providing a nutritional boost.

✔️ You’re Dealing with Picky Chi

Chihuahuas are particular with their food, making most incredibly picky with food. And this preference can become so severe that the tiny dog loses weight, refusing to eat! It can be challenging to deal with since no matter how delicious the dog food you give your chi is, it likely won’t eat it. 

The best way to address a picky chi is by switching its daily meal. For instance, alternate between wet and dry food instead of giving it regular kibble every day. Doing this gives your chihuahua something to look forward to during meal times, prompting it to eat more. 

✔️ Sudden Appetite Loss 

A chihuahua’s lack of appetite may come from several reasons. Whether caused by stress or an underlying sickness, getting to the bottom of it ASAP is crucial. After all, the longer you leave your chi, the harder it’ll be to bring it back to a healthy weight. 

Common causes of sudden appetite loss in chihuahuas include the following:

  • Behavioral issues. When your chihuahua is uncomfortable, it might lose its appetite out of nowhere. 
  • Dental problems. Whether your chi has inflamed gums, a broken tooth, or a mouth injury, this can reduce its enthusiasm for food. 
  • Poorly placed food bowls. You might’ve set your tiny dog’s food bowl in a place it can’t reach, prompting it to be less enthusiastic to eat.

✔️ Your Chi Might Have Dental Problems

With their short snouts and fragile teeth, chihuahuas have become vulnerable to periodontal diseases. Hence, your furry friend’s sudden weight loss might come from dental problems. You can confirm this by checking for these common signs in these tiny dogs:

  • Swollen gums
  • Broken teeth
  • Loose or wobbly canines
  • Plaque or tartar buildup
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Inflamed teeth surroundings
  • Bone loss near the molars
  • Reddish gums
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If you spot any of these symptoms, bring your chi to a vet ASAP, as periodontal diseases often lead to more significant issues! And severe cases may even take your precious pet’s life. Hence, when you notice your chihuahua losing weight recently, it might have teeth problems.

Although this can happen in any chihuahua, sudden weight loss due to dental issues is more common for senior chis. A stinging pain or complete lack of teeth makes it harder for these aging dogs to eat. As a result, many chihuahuas become skinnier as they get older.

✔️ Excess Onset of Stress And Anxiety

Chihuahuas are notorious for being nervous dogs, and excess stress and anxiety can prompt unexpected weight loss. It can become so severe that some chis refuse to eat anything, making your furry friend skinnier by the day! Aside from that, you may notice other symptoms like the following:

  • Drooling
  • Sudden aggression
  • Non-stop pacing
  • Destructive and restless behavior

Note that the most common stressors among chihuahuas are sudden changes in environments, owners, or loud noises. And if your tiny dog has no other company, it might also refuse to eat during the mating season.

✔️ A Development of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Chihuahuas with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency won’t be able to digest carbs, proteins, and fats well. And this can lead to several medical conditions like diarrhea and malabsorption. These disturb your furry friend’s capability of absorbing nutrients, leading to unwanted weight loss.

✔️ Contracted Intestinal Parasites

A parasitic intestinal infection can irritate and, when untreated, can be life-threatening to a chihuahua. Common parasites in this miniature breed to watch out for are the following:

  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms
  • Coccidia
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You can confirm if your chi has an intestinal infection or not if it has worms in its excretion. And it might also scratch or rub its rear, battling the parasites’ itchy invasion. When you leave all these be, expect them to ruin your chihuahua’s appetite.

✔️ Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism in chihuahuas can be fatal as it comes from thyroid carcinoma. It’s a type of cancer that forces your chi to produce dangerous amounts of thyroid hormone. As a result, your chi’s metabolic rate will hasten, boosting appetite yet resulting in rapid weight loss.

How to Help a Chihuahua Healthily Gain Weight Back?

Bringing a chihuahua back to a healthy weight is possible, no matter how skinny the tiny dog has gotten. Regardless of your chi’s sudden or gradual weight loss, here are foolproof tips to help it gain weight. 

Keep Your Active Chihuahua Well Fed

If your tiny chi is active and likes staying outside, keep up with its energy lost by increasing its meal portions. Although it may seem abrupt to suddenly expand your pet’s food portions, it shouldn’t be an issue, considering chihuahuas have fast metabolisms! 

These small dogs burn through their food fast, making it essential to guarantee they can recover from the energy and calories lost. 

Pay Attention For Any Health Concerns

Abrupt or gradual weight loss in chihuahuas can indicate that your dog might have an underlying medical concern. And many factors like parasites, illnesses, and anxiety can negatively affect your chi’s health. Even when you feed your tiny pet more, those medical problems can stop it from gaining weight.

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Therefore, remember to rule out all potential considerations as you progress toward a healthier resolution for your furry friend.

Increase Your Chi’s Meal Portions

As you find ways to help, your chi gain weight healthily, assess your pet’s dietary habits first. Check the food you’re feeding your furry friend and look for healthier, more nutritious alternatives to support weight gain. Generally, dog foods rich in essential ingredients such as healthy fats and oil does wonders for a chihuahua’s diet. 

Aside from that, consider feeding your tiny dog heftier snacks and treats, like boiled chicken or one scoop of peanut butter. But only do this now and then, as overfeeding a petite chi can have drastic effects.

But if your chihuahua is a fussy eater, feel free to experiment with various foods to keep it entertained and look forward to the next meal. And this can also let you know what your chi likes, allowing you to incorporate their favorite flavors into its diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is my chihuahua underweight if its ribs are showing?

A: The healthy weight range for a chihuahua is between 2.5 and 4.5 lbs, and it may sometimes have a visible rib cage. Despite having a healthy weight, some chis can have noticeable ribs due to their stature. So, don’t always assume these tiny dogs are underweight due to their rib cage showing!

Q: How can I tell if my chihuahua is dangerously underweight?

A: If you can feel your chi’s rib cage poking at you, this can be a sign it’s dangerously underweight. Moreover, you should be able to notice your tiny dog’s spine and hip, and shoulder bones without effort. And finally, if your chihuahua’s tail bones are protruding, it needs immediate intervention. 

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Q: How to help a chihuahua return to a healthy weight from being skinny?

A: You can encourage your chi to eat more and gain weight naturally by alternating daily meals. Switching the flavors can give your chihuahua something to look forward to, building up its appetite. Besides that, you can entice your tiny pet to eat more by adding more protein to its diet. After all, no matter how small a dog is — it will love meat!

Q: What will a chihuahua look like at a healthy weight?

A: A chi at a healthy weight has a balanced and graceful stature like a terrier. Aside from that, this tiny breed should sport its trademark “apple-shaped head,” with full erected ears and expressive eyes. You shouldn’t spot any bone protruding despite this dog’s tiny stature. 

Q: How much should my skinny chihuahua eat daily?

A: If you’re bringing your severely underweight chihuahua back to a healthy weight, providing it with a nutritionally-balanced diet is essential! Also, carefully portion your chi’s meals and feed them thrice daily. But remember to space these out to avoid overwhelming this tiny dog’s body.

Final Words

Is my chihuahua underweight? Unless your chi is below 2.5 lbs, you don’t need to worry about your tiny friend being underweight. Ideally, this small breed should maintain a healthy weight between 2.5 to 4.5 pounds for smooth mobility and a prolonged lifespan! If your chihuahua has undergone unexpected weight loss, don’t hesitate and call a vet ASAP.