Keeping your Chihuahua healthy
- 6 lbs or less
- Height – 6” to 9”
- Color – various
- Coat – long hair and short hair
- Average life expectancy – typically 14 to 18 years
Some common Chihuahua health issues to watch for
- Low blood sugar
- Excessive barking
- Change in urination or painful urination – this may be caused by bladder stones
- Coughing – this may be due to tracheal collapse or heart disease
- Cowering or anxiety – this may be due to stress or physical abuse
- Snapping if cornered – they may do this if they feel threatened, especially by young children. Remember, the Chihuahua is a small dog and it is easy to make them feel cornered or overwhelmed without actually meaning to.
- Limping or signs of arthritis, especially in knees or hips
- Reverse sneeze – sounds like snorting or honking
Soft spot on puppies
Apple-head Chihuahuas especially are born with a soft spot on the top of their heads, similar to a human infant. It will typically grow shut by the time they reach adulthood. But extra precautions should be taken with puppies and young dogs to make sure they’re not hit in the head on this spot – this could be fatal.
This condition is common in Chihuahuas. The cartilage rings that hold open the airway are fragile. It’s important to use a harness with a Chihuahua, rather than a collar. This will prevent putting undue pressure on your Chihuahua’s throat. A sign of a collapsing trachea is a cough. A supplement with glucosamine will help keep the lining of the airway smooth and in a healthy state. These supplements also help keep the joints healthy.
Chihuahua obesity is common. I know that it’s easy to overfeed my Chihuahuas – they like to beg and when they look at you with those huge eyes, they’re hard to resist! But obesity can shorten their lives, as well as set them up for diabetes and other diseases. Make sure your pet gets some exercise and feed it properly. Limit the amount of treats, and make sure you’re feeding them healthy treats! Raw vegetables and fruits are good for your Chihuahua. Here are some examples of those you can feed your Chihuahua as treats:
Vegetables, raw or frozen: Carrots, broccoli stems, green beans, fresh peppers, peas, lettuce stems
Fruits: Apples, pears, bananas, strawberries and watermelon.
Chihuahuas are prone to several different health issues, one being heart disease. If your pet develops a cough, make sure to see a veterinarian. A common cardiac problem is an inherited disease called PDA (patent ductus arteriosus). Watch for a bluish color in your dog’s gums. Dogs with PDA can show bluish gums because blood doesn’t follow the normal route through the heart and lungs, so it contains more carbon dioxide than is normal.
Chihuahuas can also have mitral valve disease, known as endocardiosis. This is the most common heart disease in dogs, and is caused by a degenerative process that is thought to be genetic. The only warning sign may be a low grade heart murmur.
This disease is made worse if your pet has dental problems because bacteria in the mouth will circulate through the blood and grow on the heart valves. Oral care is very important for Chihuahuas – you should brush their teeth regularly. I know this can be difficult, but here are some tips:
- Get a tooth brush designed for dogs. They come in different sizes and types. There are some available that will fit over your finger with nubs on one side to brush the teeth with.
- Make sure you get toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs. Toothpaste for human use contains fluoride, which can make a Chihuahua sick to their stomach. Toothpaste for dogs is made with ingredients that are safe for dogs and come in a variety of flavors, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find one that your Chihuahua will like. Some available flavors include beef, chicken, and salmon.
- The main thing to remember when trying to brush your dog’s teeth is to make them as comfortable as possible. Sit down with them on your lap and talk to them and praise them.
- Put a small dab of toothpaste on your finger or on the brush, and hold it near their mouth. Hopefully the smell of the toothpaste will encourage them to open their mouth.
- Carefully hold their mouth open and inspect their teeth for signs of tartar and tooth decay. If you see signs of these, it would be a good idea to get them to the vet for a dental cleaning.
- Brush carefully along the line where the gum and tooth meet.
- The ASPCA has a good article for grooming tips that includes dental care here: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-grooming-tips
Reserve sneeze or honking
All of my Chihuahuas that I have ever had or known do this. When I first heard one of my little guys doing this, I was scared! It sounds so uncomfortable for them. This is a common condition for dogs with heads that are broad and short, like the apple-head Chihuahua. Some other breeds this is common in include the Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese. There can be several causes for the condition. Eating, drinking too quickly, playing, collars (you should use a harness for your Chi), or sometimes they’ll just start honking for no reason. It can be alarming to hear this, but there is really nothing to worry about. You can help the attack pass by massaging their throat – I used this method many times. I would hold Leo on my lap, take one of his front paws in my hand and hold it up, and then massage his throat. For some reason, this seemed to help. I have read where this condition can be associated with the fact that they have such a small trachea.
Chihuahuas actually require very little grooming. Long hair Chihuahuas should have their coat brushed a couple of times per week.
Some Chihuahuas will experience tear staining around the eyes, and will need the folds below the eyes cleaned and kept dry. There are a couple of different products that can be used for cleaning the eyes. Do a search for “eye cleans”.
For Chihuahuas that spend most of their time indoors, their nails will not wear down and will require regular trimming. Personally, I take my Chihuahuas to the vet to have their nails trimmed, because mine don’t respond well to this. It’s generally inexpensive to have a groomer to do this, but there are several tools available on the market that you can buy and do it yourself if your Chihuahua is easy to handle. Nail trimming should be done every four to six weeks.
The anal sacs can develop problems if your dog has allergies, or itchy bottoms and they scoot on the carpet. If you notice redness and they are having discomfort, visit your veterinarian.
Chihuahuas make wonderful companion pets. If you’re looking for a small dog, easy to carry, one that comes in a variety of coats and colors, look at a Chihuahua. Chihuahuas are very loyal and entertaining. They travel well and need minimal exercise. They love to cuddle and be warm and they have a long life span. I’ve had Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes since I was five years old. My first dog, Tina, lived to be 15. Tigger, my second Chihuahua, passed away at 16. My next little guy, Leo, lived to be 15 as well. And I currently have four rescue Chihuahuas, Katy, who is 13, Ike and Roscoe, both four, and Kissy, who just turned eight.
However, if you’re concerned about fragility, be wary of choosing a Chihuahua. These little dogs are very fragile and can be seriously injured or even killed by stepping on them if curled up beneath a blanket and you don’t know they’re there. They love to snuggle underneath blankets to stay warm. And they can seriously hurt themselves by jumping out of your arms, or off the back of a sofa. You have to be careful when your Chihuahua is around larger dogs. An aggressive large dog can grab your Chihuahua and break his neck with a shake of his head. You must be vigilant when your Chihuahua is around other dogs.
Lastly, Chihuahuas are not suited to young children. Of course your toddler or young child wouldn’t purposely hurt your dog. But children can be clumsy, and they run and jump and typically are very active. Chihuahuas can be accidentally stepped on by an active child. And Chihuahuas typically are overwhelmed by loud voices and quick movements that children can’t help making. This will lead to stress and fearfulness in your Chihuahua – and may even lead to defensive biting.
So choose carefully when deciding on a Chihuahua. They have many great qualities, but they do bring challenges as well.