Chihuahua Health Problems and information
Of all the toy dog breeds, only a few can get close to how entertaining and comical the chihuahua is. You will often find these diminutive dogs burrowing under your blanket to wake you up, standing up on their hind legs and dancing, all while waving their paws.
The popularity of this breed skyrocketed in the mid-2000s, when famous Hollywood celebrities became the proud parents of these tiny bundles of energy. They were also featured in many feature films and TV shows. Now, even though their popularity has waned quite a bit, chihuahuas still remain as one of the most sought after dog breeds in the world.
Chihuahuas are often generalized as being noisy and fiercely overprotective of their humans, but that is not always the case. The chihuahua is an extremely variable dog breed. You can find dogs that are lively or calm, brave or shy, and many more different trait combinations. The temperament of a particular dog will depend on their parents and grandparents; this means that entire family lines of chihuahuas are either social or antisocial.
It is a good thing though that chihuahuas are quite intelligent and easy to teach. There are plenty of cases where chihuahuas that came from temperamental lines turned out to be quite calm and obedient thanks to the way they were raised. However, if the prospective pet owner has no prior experience in obedience training, it is not a good idea to get a chihuahua with a temperamental lineage.
Chihuahuas are usually six to nine inches tall (measured from the ground to the shoulder) and weigh anywhere from three to six pounds. However, it is not unusual to find chihuahuas that are fifteen inches tall, but breed standards (these are the standards recognized by dog shows and the dog breeding community in general) do not recognize full-grown dogs that are more than six pounds as true chihuahuas.
Chihuahuas do not breed true to size. You will find that the puppies that belonged in the same litter to have drastically different sizes. Pet-quality chihuahuas, which are those that are most suitable for most homes, are on the larger scale of the spectrum and they also have larger bone structures. Show-quality dogs, on the other hand, are much smaller.
There are plenty of dog breeders out there who offer teacup size chihuahuas; these are dogs that are so small that the puppies can actually fit inside a teacup, hence the name. However, as adorable as these dogs may look, they are also a lot more delicate than the average sized chihuahua, in fact, most of them suffer from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, so they need to be fed multiple small meals throughout the day, making them very high maintenance despite their size. Teacup size chihuahuas are also a lot more fragile, they are more at risk of getting injured when their owners hande them roughly, or when they get into rough play with other dogs.
Chihuahuas, despite their size, are often described by people as having the same personalities as terriers. They are naturally very alert and suspicious of strangers, which make them excellent watchdogs. Chihuahuas are also very affectionate and deathly loyal to their humans.
Chihuahuas, when not properly socialized, will only bond with a single person. However, they can still make new human and dog friends, they just need to be given enough time and space to adjust. If not properly socialized early on while they are still puppies, chihuahuas can become very timid and always on edge.
Just like all dog breeds, you need to socialize your chihuahua pup early so they will not be overly aggressive towards everything that moves. They need exposure to many people, different environments, all kinds of sounds (especially loud sounds like the vaccuum cleaner or car engine starting), and many different kinds of experiences. A well-socialized pup will grow up to become a well-rounded adult dog.
The chihuahua is somewhat of an enigma when it comes to dog breeds. This is one of the smallest dog breeds, but chihuahuas have almost the same energy levels as medium and large dog breeds.
Even though chihuahuas can thrive in just about any kind of living environment (they are especially suitable for small apartments since they do not take that much space). They need ample amounts of daily exercise so they stay healthy. Because they tend to become overly-hyperactive, they need to have enough daily exercise and outdoor activity so that they have a chance to release all the energy that they have pent-up inside their small bodies.
Because of the chihuahua’s diminutive size, you need to be aware that they have very strict exercise restrictions that their owners need to follow.
While they are still puppies, chihuahuas can be quite a handful (literally and figuratively), so they need a safe environment where they can stretch their tiny little feet. If your home has a large backyard, take him out for a bit of exercise. You should not take your pup out for walks or to public dog parks until he has completed all of the required immunization shots as they are very vulnerable to different kinds of diseases.
Take note that overexercising is not good for young growing puppies, especially for chihuahuas. This is why they should not be forced or encouraged to engage in more physical activities than they can handle. If the pup is showing signs of tiredness, the exercise should stop.
There are many clinical studies that found numerous connections between overactivity and growth impediment in chihuahuas. In addition, many veterinarians believe that too much exercise could lead to elbow dysplasia, which is a condition where the dog’s joint suddenly slips out of its socket, or if the socket gets too worn out. Puppies are especially prone to this kind of condition as their bones are still forming.
With all this said, you need to allow chihuahua puppies to be active. Not only does a proper amount of exercise allow them to release any pent up energy, it also helps strengthen their muscles, which are still developing, and sets them up with a healthy foundation for the rest of their lives. A growing puppy needs to build up their muscles and endurance so they can walk and run properly, and so they can participate in physical activities that require a lot of running around, like playing fetch.
Between one to six years old, and when in good health, a chihuahua will require at least one 30-minute walk every day. It is alright to go out once more, as long as the walks are properly spaced apart to allow the dog to rest properly before heading out.
In addition to walking, other activities that adult chihuahuas can participate in includes swimming (this is good for them because it does not put pressure on their joints), or playtime with the owner and other dogs in the backyard or other spaces that are deemed safe.
If you need to leave your chihuahua during the day while you go to work, they will need exercise and human interaction more than ever; they have so much pent-up energy inside of them that they need to release through exercise and play. If you are always too tired from work to take your chihuahua for a walk or play, they will find other, more destructive ways to get rid of all their extra energy, like chewing on your furniture and doing all sorts of shenanigans in the house.
As the chihuahua ages, they will start slowing down considerably, so you need to appropriately scale back the amount of exercise they receive.
It can be an enjoyable task, training a chihuahua, but you do need a bit of time and a lot of patience as well. If you will be training them for the purpose of competitions, you might be surprised to learn that they are contenders in agility and obedience events. If you are only looking for a companion, it is still important that you enroll your pup in puppy kindergarten and basic obedience classes. There are many advantages that obedience classes have over your self-teaching your dog, for one thing, your pup will be surrounded by lots of different people and other dogs, thereby allowing them to socialize properly too.
Though they might seem rambunctious, chihuahuas are quite easy to housetrain; you just need to take them outside frequently, and always do it consistently at a set schedule. For instance, chihuahua puppies must be outside as soon as they wake up in the morning, after every meal, after they wake up from their naps, after exercise or playtime, and just before they go to sleep at night. You can crate train your chihuahua pup will teach them to control their bladders so that they will not pee or go number two inside the house, just do not leave them inside the crate for more than two to four hours at a time, except at night. If you will not be using the crate method, just take your pup out every hour or two.
You need to use positive reinforcement, like giving food rewards, praise, belly rubs, and play. You will find that he will learn faster that way rather than using negative reinforcements.
Just like with so many other dog breeds, the exact origins of the chihuahua’s are murky at best. There are two popular theories on their origins though, one is that their descendants were an ancient South American dog breed locally known as the Techichi, and the other is that they came from the inter-breeding of the small, hairless dogs from China (brought into Mexico by the Spanish traders) with the local dog breeds.
Regardless of which of the two theories are correct, the modern short-haired Chihuahuas were first discovered back in the 1850s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, hence the name of the breed. American tourists, enamored with the charming little dogs, brought them home with them. In 1890, chihuahuas started to become mainstays in dog competitions. Until in 1909, one chihuahua aptly named Midget became the very first of his breed to be registered and recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The origins of the longhaired variety of chihuahua is also unclear, but experts speculate that they came about after crossing the dog breed with other miniature dogs like Papillons or Pomeranians. The chihuahua rose to fame later between the 1930s and the 1940s when the breed became associated with Xavier Cugat, a famous Latin music bandleader and dancer. Since the 60s, the chihuahua has always been one of the most popular dog breeds according too the registry of the AKC. The breed currently ranks as 11th overall in regards to popularity among the 155 other dog breeds recognized by the AKC.
Chihuahua Health Problems
The Chihuahua doesn’t have any major health problems, but like all breeds he can be born with or acquire certain conditions. Not all Chihuahuas will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Chihuahua’s life.
Here are some of the diseases that are known to affect chihuahuas:
Also called “slipped stifles”, this is a common problem that occurs in many small dog breeds, not just the chihuahua. This happens when the patella, which is composed of the femur, patella, and the tibia, is not lined up properly. When left untreated, this diseases can cause lameness, or a permanent limp. Serious cases of patellar luxation might even need serious surgery.
Also known as low blood sugar levels, this disease is a possible issue with all small dog breeds, not just the chihuahua. When treated early on, hypoglycemia can be remedied, but when left unchecked, this disease can be fatal. As an owner, you need to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in chihuahuas as many veterinarians misdiagnose this disease as encephalitis or as viral hepatitis.
Chihuahua puppies with hypoglycemia will suddenly slow down, become listless, and then they will start trembling. If this happens to your puppy, immediately give him a teaspoon of honey or sugar and then take him the to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible. If you just let your chihuahua convulse, he will eventually collapse, and fall into a coma, when it comes to this point it is likely that the puppy will die as there are very few cases where they pull out of the coma.
This is caused by a disturbance in the flow of blood inside the chambers of the dog’s heart. This is usually indicative of another heart disease that most likely needs monitoring and immediate treatment. If the heart murmur is loud enough, it might mean that the dog has a heart disease, which can be confirmed and diagnosed using X-rays and ECGs.
To more or less make sure that the chihuahua pup you get is in the healthiest condition possible, you should get it from a reputable breeder who is recognized by the AKC. Reputable breeders will first make sure that the puppies have received their complete vaccinations and are dewormed before they are placed for re-homing.
Care for Chihuahuas
The first thing that you should know about caring for chihuahuas is that they shed. The amount of fur they shed will depend mostly on whether the dog is single-coated or double-coated; the double-coated variants shed much more than single-coat varieties.
Long coat chihuahuas will need regular grooming, like brushing and combing of the fur to prevent them from matting and tangling; the longer the fur, the more grooming it will need. They also need to have their fur trimmed every couple of months, focusing mostly on the long-ish hairs around the genitals.
You also need to trim the toenails after a couple of months. As a rule, when you hear your chihuahua’s nails scraping on the floor then they are already too long.
Nutrition and Feeding for Chihuahuas
You need to think carefully about what foods you put into your pet chihuahua’s bowl. The chihuahua is sensitive with the foods that they eat, how often they eat, and how their food is given. This dog breed has a very low tolerance against harmful chemicals, like artificial colors and certain food preservatives, and they also require a good balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. You might need to experiment with a couple of food brands to find out what your chihuahua’s digestive system can tolerate, and most importantly he actually likes to eat.
Toy dog breeds like chihuahuas are better off with frequent small meals. The schedule and amount of feedings will depend on the age of the dog:
Puppies 3 months old and below will need free-feeding, which means there should always be food available for the pup to feed on. You need to refresh the contents of the feed bowl to ensure that the food will not go stale.
Chihuahuas older than 3 months, and at weighs at least 2 pounds do best with three meals every day, with small snacks in between meals.
Coat Color and Body Types
The different sizes of chihuahuas were already discussed earlier, but there are other characteristics that differentiate the different “kinds” of chihuahuas.
Head Size and Shape
- Official chihuahua clubs will tell you that there is just one proper head shape for the breed, and that is a large, round skull called an “apple head”. These chihuahuas also have shorter, and broader muzzles.
- The other head shape that the clubs wish didn’t exist, but is actually quite popular still, is called the “deer head”. This head shape has a flatter, rather than rounded top, and a sloping forehead instead of dropping almost straight down to the muzzle. This type of chihuahua also has a longer, pointy muzzle.
Chihuahuas also come in two body types: the cobby and the deer build.
- The cobby body build has short, chunky bodies and short legs. These are the kinds that you usually see in dog shows. Great care must be taken when breeding cobby build chihuahuas because if taken to extremes, it could lead to dogs that are bow-legged and are riddled with joint problems.
- The deer build chihuahuas have longer, slender bodies and longer legs. When taken to extremes, these kinds of chihuahuas can resemble miniature greyhound dogs with spindly legs. Deer type body chihuahuas are usually more athletic and active compared to cobbies.
Chihuahuas can either have a smooth or a long coat.
- Smooth coats are the ones that have short fur that stick close to the body. Additionally, they could come in single and double coated variants. Chihuahuas that have smooth double coats have fur that is a bit fluffier and often sticks out at the ends.
- Long coats are those that have long hair. These could also have a single or double coat. Some double coated long coats have so much undercoat fur that their fur tends to puff up, pretty much like the fur of Pomeranians. The single coats have hairs that fall down and stick close to the body.
Chihuahuas can come in any color, either solid, marked, or splashed.
- Solid colors include cream, fawn, red, white, black, gold, chocolate, silver, and even blue. The blue colors are somewhat troublesome as they usually have different skin conditions.
- Marked means that the coat has a solid color, but with a couple of different colored markings on the face, chest, stomach, legs, and the tip of the tail.
- Splashed means that there are patches or spots of different colors on a mostly white body, this is pretty much like the color of a pinto pony.
Behavior with Children and Other Pets
It is not recommended to have a chihuahua in a home with children younger than ten years old. Young kids cannot help but be clumsy and try to grab the always-on-edge chihuahua. Chihuahuas are also easily overwhelmed by the loud noises and quick, sudden movements done by small kids, which will cause neverending stress and tension to the dog. This might lead to defensive biting.
The good thing is that chihuahuas are often highly social with other dogs and pets. However, if you will be pairing them with larger breeds, they should have a calm temperament. The great thing about chihuahuas is that they love to live with other chihuahuas; they will actually take care of, and keep each other company when you leave them alone at home.
Adopting a chihuahua rather than buying a puppy from a breeder has its advantages. For instance, the rescued chihuahua might already have gotten behavior training and is already housebroken, and he might already have gone through his destructive puppy phase.
There are quite a number of rescue groups that you can inquire with when you are planning on adopting a rescue chihuahua:
Chihuahua Rescue – www.chihuahua-rescue.com
Chihuahua Rescue Canada – https://ccrt.net/how-to-adopt/
Yankee Chihuahua Rescue and Adoption – http://www.yankeechihuahuarescue.org/
If you want to learn more about chihuahuas, and also get some great tips for raising your own chihuahua, you can join any one of the many breed organizations, like:
The Chihuahua Club of America – www.chihuahuaclubofamerica.org
I Love My Chihuahua – https://www.facebook.com/ILoveMyChihuahuaClub
Chihuahua Club – www.chihuahuaclub.org
The Chihuahua Club – www.thechihuahua.club
The American Kennel Club – www.akc.com
Dallas Chihuahua Club – https://dallaschihuahuaclub.com