Though they are the smallest of all dog breeds, Chihuahuas are known for their big personalities and even bigger hearts. There are few dogs that you could adopt that would be more loyal, more loving and more life-changing than a Chihuahua.
That said, as with all breeds, these adorable small dogs are predisposed to some nasty Chihuahua health problems. But fear not! Most of these conditions are entirely treatable, and many Chihuahuas live long, healthy lives.
What diseases and illnesses should you look out for as a Chihuahua parent? What symptoms are harmless, and what warrants a visit to your veterinarian? Described below are the top 10 Chihuahua health problems that every Chihuahua owner needs to know about.
1. Luxating Patella
A luxating patella, also known as patellar luxation, is the dislocation of the kneecap. It is a hereditary disease that usually starts to present about four months after a puppy is born.
A Chihuahua with a luxating patella may limp or avoid using the affected leg completely. If it affects your dog’s hind legs, you may notice him/her holding their hind legs in the air for several minutes at a time. This is to relax the affected legs’ muscles and ease their kneecaps back into place.
Thankfully, patellar luxation isn’t very painful; your pup will only be in pain when their kneecap first dislocates.
Surgery is used to treat extreme cases of patellar luxation. Most of the time, your vet will just want to monitor the disease to keep track of any future complications.
You can find out more at Pet MD.
Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. Your Chihuahua may act weak, dizzy, disorientated, unusually drowsy, or even lose consciousness.
Always take your Chihuahua to the vet right away if you suspect they are hypoglycemic. They could need a new diet or other measures to keep them healthy. Hypoglycemia can be a symptom of a larger disease, such as diabetes or liver disease which only a veterinarian can diagnose.
Make sure your Chihuahua is eating enough food throughout the day if they are prone to hypoglycemia. Missing one or two meals is enough for small breeds to suffer a drop in blood sugar levels which can result in severe consequences such as seizures.
3. Tracheal Collapse
The trachea is the tube that carries your Chihuahua’s breath from their mouths and noses to their lungs. If it collapses, your Chihuahua will have trouble breathing and develop a chronic honking cough.
When a tracheal collapse is severe, your dog may have blue gums or faint, because they can’t breathe. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment by your vet or local animal hospital.
Collapsed tracheas are very common and have 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.
4. Tooth and Gum Disease
All small breeds have naturally small mouths, predisposing them to overcrowded teeth that are hard to clean. When plaque and tartar build up, a dog develops gum disease as a result.
Food gets trapped in a Chihuahua’s mouth daily, so it is important to brush their teeth thoroughly and often. Dental chew toys and snacks can help keep your Chihuahua’s teeth clean between brushes. You can also provide them with natural chews to which, if they chew, will help keep the teeth and gums healthier. Check out our article on DIY Dehydrated Chicken Feet to find out how to make a low-calorie, healthy, natural chew for your Chihuahua!
Make sugary snacks a rare treat, and always remember to honor your pet’s dental check-ups with their veterinarian.
Have you ever pet your Chihuahua and noticed a small soft spot on their head? That spot is called a molera. All Chihuahuas, like human babies, are born with this, but they usually close up by the time they are a year old.
When a Chihuahua is born with too large of a molera, their skulls may fill with spinal fluid that eventually surrounds their whole brain. This is known as hydrocephalus.
Chihuahuas suffering from hydrocephalus may have seizures, bad coordination, a swollen head, or a slew of other neurological symptoms. This is why it is important to visit your vet at the first sign of illness.
Unfortunately, hydrocephalus cannot be cured, but many Chihuahuas lead long, happy lives with this condition.
6. Spinal Injuries
A spinal injury can happen in the blink of an eye. Chihuahuas have such small frames that one mishap could spell disaster.
Spinal injuries and diseases are almost entirely due to trauma in Chihuahuas. One such disease called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) occurs when a spinal disc moves or slips out of place (this disease is oftentimes genetic and not the result of trauma).
Thankfully, doggy wheelchairs and physical therapy can help manage any pain and mobility issues that arise following the injury.
Keep an eye out for your furry friend, especially around large groups of people and big dogs.
Spoiling our fur babies is hard to avoid, but in the long run, too much food and too many snacks lead to obesity.
According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, if you have a pure-bred Chihuahua, he or she should not weigh more than six pounds.
Obesity in Chihuahuas can cause joint problems, stress on the spine, difficulty breathing, arthritis, and a shortened lifespan.
Try to limit the amount of food you give your pup, and keep an eye on their calorie intake if they become overweight. Your veterinarian can help you monitor your dog’s diet and get you on the right track.
8. Bladder and Kidney Stones
Bladder stones and kidney stones are common in older Chihuahuas, especially males. These tiny stones made of calcium build up in your dog’s urinary tract over time and cause difficulty urinating, bloody urine, and intense pain.
Usually, stones pass on their own. However, if you notice that your Chihuahua is having a lot of difficulty when trying to urinate, go ahead and schedule a vet visit. Kidney stones can cause blockages that quickly turn into medical emergencies.
Scleritis is the result of a parasite. It is the inflammation of the sclera, the white part of a dog’s eyeball. When a Chihuahua gets scleritis, their entire sclera becomes inflamed. It hardens over time when left untreated and can cause a Chihuahua to lose an eye.
Chihuahuas are prone to eye issues even more than other small breeds. Thankfully, most parasites can be prevented with access to clean drinking water and regular check-ups.
If you notice your Chihuahua repeatedly trying to lick or scratch their eye, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
You can get more info and see photos of what scleritis looks like over at veterinary vision.
10. Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing is not dangerous, but it can scare pets and pet owners alike. The sneeze sounds like a snort or honk and can be easy to confuse with other illnesses, like kennel cough or a collapsed trachea.
If your Chihuahua has a reverse sneezing attack, massage their throat until the sneezing subsides. This releases tension from their airways and allows the attack to pass.
Of course you can’t prevent some of the health problems your dog develops, but you can prevent or treat many of them. And overall, chihuahuas are healthy little dogs and they have the longest lifespans of all dog breeds.
This was a guest post by Cathy Bendzunas! Cathy has loved dogs all of her life and has had several jobs working with them including pet groomer, kennel worker, SPCA volunteer, and working in a pet hotel. She acquired her first Chihuahua when neighbors moved away and abandoned their little Chi named Kilo. She fell in love with the breed and started I Love My Chi in 2013.