Our Dr. Treat team can help you address your Chihuahua’s breed-specific health concerns through genetic screening and individualized health planning. Read our ultimate guide to Chihuahua health.
Chihuahuas are the smallest American Kennel Club- (AKC-) recognized breed—weighing in around 6 pounds. This diminutive-sized pooch, with their inexhaustible spunk, is a popular pet the world over. Most purebred dogs have a laundry list of health problems perpetuated by years of appearance-focused breeding, but the Chihuahua breed is plagued by relatively few problems, making them more desirable as pets. Many issues Chihuahuas face are related to their small size and stature, along with a few genetically linked, less common diseases.
Although they have few genetically inherited health conditions, Chihuahuas do require specialized care and attention to help them flourish behaviorally, and to prevent the breed’s common physical maladies. Our Dr. Treat team can help you address your Chihuahua’s breed-specific health concerns through genetic screening and individualized health planning. Read our ultimate guide to Chihuahua health.
Common health issues in Chihuahuas
A recent Chihuahua health study performed in the United Kingdom notes that the most common concerns are dental disease and obesity—largely preventable problems. Other frequently occurring Chihuahua health issues include behavioral issues, heart disease, and luxating patellas (i.e., dislocated kneecaps). In addition, the U.S.-based Chihuahua breed club states that the breed is prone to eye disease and idiopathic epilepsy. Learn about the following Chihuahua health concerns:
Because the Chihuahua is small, they have crowded teeth that are prone to decay, and they are generally less interested than larger dogs in chewing—an activity that can help keep teeth cleaner and healthier. Diligent at-home preventive care with daily toothbrushing can slow dental disease progression, but to maintain this breed’s oral health, dogs must receive frequent anesthetized dental cleanings beginning at an early age.
Overfeeding a six-pound dog is incredibly easy, because their calorie requirements are miniscule compared with a larger dog. Chihuahuas are also relatively calm dogs who prefer to lounge near or on their people rather than engage in constant activity, so they are not calorie-burning machines, as are the more active dog breeds. Proper nutrition and diligent food measurement are vital for keeping Chihuahuas at a healthy weight.
Aggression ranked high in the U.K. Chihuahua health study, but this may be a result of poor socialization rather than because of truly breed-specific causes. Chihuahuas can be headstrong and extremely protective of their owners, so persistent training and careful, lifelong socialization are key to their behavioral health.
To correct patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)—a developmental heart condition—requires specialized surgery. In addition, older chihuahuas are also prone to mitral valve disease, a common heart murmur cause that can progress to heart failure.
Kneecaps (i.e., patellas) are meant to glide up and down in a groove on the femur, but these grooves are too shallow in many small breeds, including some Chihuahuas. The kneecap can easily pop out of place, usually painlessly, but over time this dislocation (i.e., luxation) causes arthritis and limping. Surgery to fix the groove depth can correct the luxation in severe cases.
Chihuahuas have rounded heads, large eyes, and shallow eye sockets, which predispose the breed to eye injuries, such as corneal ulcers. In addition, head trauma can proptose (i.e., pop out) an eye more easily than other breeds. Chihuahuas are also predisposed to cataracts and lens luxations.
Epilepsy causes seizures starting in young or middle age. However, veterinarian-prescribed medications can usually control epileptic seizures. Brain damage can develop if a dog’s epilepsy is not controlled.
Injury risk in Chihuahuas
Chihuahuas’ small size makes them especially prone to accidental injury, and less likely to survive severe trauma. Dropping or stepping on this diminutive breed can cause them to easily sustain broken toes or legs, or head trauma. Keep in mind that Chihuahuas are also especially susceptible to bite trauma from other dogs. A large dog’s bite can cause a Chihuahua brain or eye trauma, spinal cord damage, broken bones, or death. Some Chihuahuas have an open soft spot in their skull, so their brains are not completely protected from injury. Because of their relative fragility, Chihuahuas do best with adults or older children who can recognize the breed’s limitations. You should closely supervise your Chihuahua around other pets. Chihuahuas also don’t stand a chance against coyotes or large birds of prey, and you should never leave your Chihuahua unsupervised outdoors.
Although Chihuahuas do experience health issues, the incidence of serious problems is relatively low, especially when these dogs are responsibly bred. The Chihuahua is one of the hardiest and longest-lived breeds. If you’re looking for a Velcro canine companion, and you can offer the firm—yet gentle—training this breed requires, you may find your soulmate in the Chihuahua.
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