The Chihuahua is the smallest among the AKC registered breeds, weighing around two to six pounds.
Despite their size, chihuahuas are full of life and energy. They are alert and swift-moving and extremely protective of their own family.
The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed, often achieving 16 or more years of age. However, they are susceptible to several health problems that are common to small breed dogs.
If you are thinking of getting a Chihuahua, you need to know about the common health problems that may affect this dog breed.
Of course, not all Chihuahuas will be affected by the common health problems as described below, but keep in mind that they are more predisposed to these illnesses.
Chihuahua Health Problems – Common Small Dog Problems
The Chihuahua is susceptible to several health problems that commonly affect small breed dogs, such as:
Small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas tend to have tooth and gum diseases – as their mouths are so small, teeth are overcrowded, making it easy for dental problems to arise.
For example, food tends to be trapped between the teeth. This causes plaque and tartar buildup which, overtime if left untreated, can result in periodontal disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis, as well as premature tooth loss.
Keeping your Chihuahua’s teeth clean by daily brushing and regular dental check-ups are essential. Also avoid snacks rich in starch and sugar.
Hypoglycemia, which is a state of abnormally low blood sugar, is one of the most common Chihuahua health problems. Hypoglycemia can cause problems to the nervous system, resulting in seizures and even coma.
A hypoglycemic attack may happen without much warning. Sometimes, a dog with low blood sugar level may show signs of lethargy, weakness, restlessness, and tremors.
Treating a dog with a hypoglycemic attack takes quick action because even a mild case of hypoglycemia can deteriorate quickly and can result in permanent brain damage. The best way of course is to prevent it from happening by taking various precautions.
This condition occurs primarily in older small breed dogs, particularly Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Toy Poodles.
Obese dogs are especially vulnerable to this health problem. Tracheal collapse occurs because the tracheal rings do not possess normal rigidity resulting in the collapse of the trachea wall as the dog inhales. The collapse of the trachea wall leads to a narrowing of the windpipe.
The typical sign of this problem is a goose-honk cough, sometimes accompanied by gagging and harsh breathing, and made worse by stress and exertion. Coughing may also occur when the dog eats or drinks.
Mild to moderate symptoms can be treated by bronchodilator drugs and a low-stress routine that avoids situations that trigger coughing episodes.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. It is advisable to use a harness (not collar) on a chihuahua so that the dog’s throat and airway can be protected.
Chronic Valvular Disease
Small and toy breed dogs (such as Chihuahuas) are predisposed to this common heart disease of unknown cause. Dogs with this heart disease have degenerative changes in their heart valves. Specifically, the leaflets of the valves grow thick and the shape become distorted.
As a result, the free edges of the valves cannot make contact. This causes lowered valve function and cardiac output. The hallmark symptom of chronic valvular disease is a loud heart murmur heard over the left side of the chest.
The disease is chronic and progressive, and if left untreated, can develop into congestive heart failure.
Chihuahua Health Problems – Joint Problem
Luxating patella is a congenital disease in which the alignment of the bones and joints of the hind leg is abnormal. This results in a displacement of the patella to the side of the joint.
The main symptom of luxating patella is an intermittent hopping on the limb when the patella pops out of place. Depending on the severity of the problem, dogs with luxating patella may need surgical correction.
Other Chihuahua Health Problems
Other Chihuahua health problems that we need to pay attention to include:
If you have a chihuahua, you will notice that he has a soft spot on the top of his head. It is called a molera which is not a health problem, just a breed characteristic.
But, Chihuahuas with an exceptionally large molera are prone to a condition called hydrocephalus. This is caused by an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain. Puppies under 9 months old are more prone to this condition, although some dogs may not show symptoms until they get older.
Hydrocephalus causes seizures, partial or complete blindness, dementia, and eventual death, although some dogs with a mild case of hydrocephalus can survive and grow into adulthood.
Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids and diuretics to reduce the production of cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
This is in fact not a health problem but if you have a Chihuahua, you may notice that your Chi tends to shiver or tremble, especially under stress or excitement.
Toy and small breed dogs have a higher rate of metabolism, causing them to lose body heat faster than other bigger dogs. Shivering is a way to help generate body heat.
Chihuahuas should always be protected against the cold, so be sure that your Chi is well supplied with sweaters and blankets in the cold season.