Chihuahua Healthcare and Wellness
by Robert Hudson
Chihuahuas are one of the most popular dog breeds because of their undeniable cute factor and small size. Their playful personality and loving nature make them a wonderful companion. While the breed is not riddled with health problems, there are some Chihuahua healthcare issues you should be aware of. First, if see anything out of the ordinary in your dogs behavior or health, consider bringing your pup to see your vet:
- Weight loss
- Bloody urine
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty or inability to walk
- Difficulty breathing
Common Chihuahua Healthcare Issues
A luxating patella, also known as patellar luxation, is the dislocation of the kneecap. It is a hereditary disease that usually appears about four months after a puppy is born. Their small legs and kneecap are rather fragile because of the size and is prone to injury.
Signs include limping and holding the leg above the ground for several minutes at a time.
Treatment may be physical therapy or surgery for extreme cases.
Low blood sugar, (Hypoglycemia), will cause your Chihuahua to look weak, dizzy, disorientated, unusually drowsy, or even lose consciousness.
Hypoglycemia can be a symptom of a larger disease, such as diabetes or liver disease which only a veterinarian can diagnose.
Missing one or two meals is enough for these little dogs to have a drop in blood sugar levels.
The tube that connects from the mouth and nose to the lungs is called a Trachea. When is collapses the dog has difficulty breathing and develops a honking cough. If it is severe the gums will turn blue and the dog may even faint. This requires an emergency visit to the hospital. Often it’s attributed to a hereditary disorder that weakens the lining of the tracheal rings, causing them to flatten over time. As this continues, the airways thin, and it becomes progressively harder for the dog to inhale oxygen. If severe enough, it can begin affecting other organs. There are preventative measures and surgery available for this condition.
Collapsed tracheas are a very common chihuahua healthcare Issue and has a good prognosis when treated proactively. Your vet may prescribe cough suppressants or a steroid to open your Chihuahua’s airway as much as possible.
Tooth and Gum Disease
All dogs of any breed or mix breed that have small mouths are more prone to have dental problems as they get older. Any Chihuahua that comes from a background of neglect is bound to have dental problems. Just ask Harley’s Dream that rescues Chihuahuas from puppy mills. Just about every dog they rescue has virtually no teeth.
Chihuahuas, especially males, have a genetic predisposition to developing bladder stones.
Chihuahuas are known to shiver. It is not the result of a physical condition but it is because of their small stature that they have very little body fat to insulate body heat. Their hyperactive metabolism expels heat quickly. In cold weather keep the dog away from drafts and put a shirt or sweater on your dog. Not a Chihuahua Healthcare issue exactly, just common sense.
Chihuahuas tend to have heart murmurs. There is no need to worry because the majority of the time they are benign. It is possible in some cases it may be a Chihuahua Healthcare concern for cardiovascular disease. Your veterinarian will determine that and do an EKG.
This is the most common Chihuahua Healthcare condition for Chis and in all dogs. This happens when there’s displacement between the thighbone and hip joint. Symptoms include difficulty walking, lameness in the leg(s), pain, and an abnormal gait. Similar to patellar luxation, the severity ranges from mild to severe. It is more common in large breeds but because of their frail body frame, Chihuahuas are prone to it.
This is a congenital heart disease which occurs when blood doesn’t properly flow through the Chihuahua’s heart. The reason it’s called ‘pulmonic’ is because that’s the valve which doesn’t form properly, causing the heart to work twice as hard to pump blood throughout the body.
The severity of this Chihuahua Healthcare issue vastly differs from case to case, with some needing no more than a dietary change, and others requiring heart surgery. This condition can be fatal if undiagnosed, as eventually the heart will wane and fail beneath the stress.
Hydrocephalus- water on the brain
This Chihuahua Healthcare condition generally affects puppies in their first 2-6 months, and is generally fatal. It occurs when cerebrospinal fluid clumps in the brain due to obstruction or trauma during birth, which pushes the brain against the skull. The canine’s head will swell rapidly, and in an attempt to save the pup veterinarians will sometimes use a shunt to displace the fluid from the brain to the abdomen.
Hydrocephalus occurs when fluid builds up inside the skull, putting pressure on the brain. This condition is most common in breeds with dome-shaped heads, like your Chihuahua.
Signs of hydrocephalus include seizures, dulled mental function, circling, and a spastic gait. Owners of affected pets report that training is also more difficult. Hydrocephalus is usually diagnosed early in life, but is occasionally diagnosed in adult dogs as well.
They’ll also sometimes use steroids to help reduce the pressure. But puppies with bad cases of hydrocephalus will die before reaching 5 months. Some people recommend waiting on making a Chihuahua purchase until they’re that age, although this condition is very rare.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
This condition directly affects the eyes, and it occurs when the photoreceptors at the back of the eye begin to fail. Symptoms first begin with night blindness—the Chihuahua will have a particularly difficult time seeing in the dark. But as it progresses, it eventually begins to affect their daytime vision as well.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this Chihuahua Healthcare issue and as it develops, it leads to complete blindness. However, veterinarians can diagnose the condition early on and allow the proper time for both owner and canine to prepare for blindness. Except for the loss of vision, PRA doesn’t have any other physical effects on a Chihuahua’s body.
Heart failure is a leading cause of death among senior Chihuahuas. In dogs it is caused by the weakening or slow deformity of heart valves. Because they no longer close tightly, blood leaks , putting a strain on the heart. Outward signs may be mild or severe, including coughing, fatigue during exercise, weight loss, shortness of breath, and weakness in the hind limbs. Your vet will listen for a specific type of heart murmur to diagnose this problem during your pet’s examinations.
In dogs, allergies manifest in the form of skin reactions. This skin allergy is called “atopy”, and shows up in Chihuahuas routinely. The feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most commonly affected. It typically begins between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs of allergies. There are various treatments available depending on the severity.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Chihuahuas are more likely than other breeds to have problems involving the first two neck vertebrae (called the atlantal and axial vertebrae). This condition can cause sudden spinal-cord injuries in the neck. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump or go up stairs, if he cries for no apparent reason, or if he tries to turn or lower his head when you pick him up, he most likely is in severe pain. To prevent injury, use ramps or steps to prevent your dog from jumping and stressing the neck. Do this starting at a young age instead of waiting until the dog is in it’s senior years. Weight plays a big factor.
Mange is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles of all dogs. Normally a dog’s immune system keeps the mites in check, but some breeds, like your Chihuahua, may develop an overabundance of these mites. In mild cases, pet owners may notice a few dry, irritated, hairless lesions. These often occur on the face or feet and may or may not be itchy. Secondary skin infections may also occur. Prompt veterinary care is important to keep the disease from getting out of hand. Many pets seem to outgrow the problem, while others require lifelong management.
Chihuahuas can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful!
- Glaucoma, an eye condition that affects Chihuahuas and is extremely painful. Leads to blindness if not treated. Symptoms include squinting, watery eyes, bluing of the cornea (the clear front part of the eye), and redness in the whites of the eyes. Pain is hard to notice by the dog owner. The eye may look enlarged or swollen like it’s bulging. Glaucoma is a medical emergency.
- Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, is common in Chihuahuas. KCS reduces the amount of fluid produced by the tear glands such that they are no longer able to keep the eyes moist. This results in sore, itchy eyes and infections. Symptoms of KCS include a dull, dry appearance or thick discharge from the eyes, squinting, and pawing at the eyes. KCS is a painful condition.
- Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in senior Chihuahuas. The lenses of the eyes become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may be an option.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Chi live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Watch your pet as you would your own infant. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep the dog out of trouble and away from objects that could cause harm by swallowing or chewing.
- Brush the coat at least weekly to prevent matting and to look stunning.
- Brush your dogs teeth at least twice a week
- Clean the ears weekly
- Keep the dog warm in cool or cold weather
- Provide a daily walk and regular inside play, but don’t overdo it at first
- Not recommended for homes with small children.
- Keep the diet consistent
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for age.
Obesity is a major health problem in Chihuahuas. It is a leading cause of joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain, and heart disease. Resist the urge to treat frequently and do not share your plate.
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Chi’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest the skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into the dog’s system from drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is preventive medication/treatments that your vet can advise you on.
How to Handle Your Chihuahua
The most important edict is to always handle your Chi gently and with care. Do not play roughly as you might with a much larger dog. Exercise is critical but should be done with moderation. Daily walks should be short and in addition to “zoomies” in your house. Do not use choke collars on a Chihuahua as their necks can easily get hurt. A good option is to use the flat buckle collar or harness to protect its trachea.
In the summer do not walk your dog during a heat wave and only in the morning and during the winter keep your dog in a sweater. Never allow your Chi to jump from a high place because the landing could cause serious and expensive injuries.
Social Media Chi Stars
Tiny Tony aka Chicken
Little Boogie Shoes
Senior Rescue cancer survivor living large in NYC. No Teeth No Problem. Mervin on FB
Tuna is one of the most well known Chi on social media with over a million followers. We interviewed Tuna’s Mom on our podcast in 2017. Tuna is a 10 year-old Chiweenie with an exaggerated overbite, recessed jawline and a magnificent shrivel neck. He was rescued by his mom, Courtney Dasher, in December of 2010 at a Farmers Market in LA, and now he lives a very happy life traveling from city to city with his parents. He now has over 1.9 million followers on Instagram and over 2 million on all of his social channels combined.
Sparkle will shine when you visit her. She is part of Burt’s Brigade on Facebook.
“From what I remember, I was walking the streets with no where to go when a human took me to a safe place called Yuma Humane Society. ” Chewie is hilarious and the cutest Chi you will ever see. Known for his fine fashion sense! Chewie on Instagram 4 pound rescue dog with an underbite. Our interview with Chewie.
Enjoy your bond with these little bundles of joy. Coming soon: Training for Chi