Chihuahuas hold the prominent position as the smallest dog, just edging out Yorkshire Terriers. Do you love the round apple-headed chis? Or do you favor the more delicate deer-headed chis? Either way, these little dogs pack a lot of personality into a tiny body. And while the chihuahua lifespan reaches the top of the spectrum, it comes with a list of health concerns you’ll want to monitor.
Chihuahuas live an average of 15 to 20 years when they receive proper care. Females tend to get an extra year or two over males.
Megabyte holds the current record at 20 years and 265 days. He passed away on January 1, 2014, just 100 days shy of 21 years.
That’s a long lifespan, even for a small breed dog! However, the longer a dog lives, the greater the chance for health problems to crop up. Both that lifespan and their tiny size contribute to the list of health concerns:
- Diet influences problems at both ends of the spectrum:
- Chihuahuas are prone to dental issues
- That delicate skeleton presents several problems:
- Their heads may present concerns:
- Chihuahuas frequently develop cardiac disease
- They have a higher risk for:
- Bladder stones
- Collapsing trachea
Feeding a Chihuahua
Everyone loves a chi’s adorable appearance. They fit in your pocket, while their personalities fill the entire house. Unhappily, those contradictory traits cause a lot of problems when it comes to feeding a chihuahua. Striking the right balance will keep your chi healthy.
The average chihuahua weighs around 2-6 pounds. However, they require the same regular feedings as any other dog. Failure to feed your chi can result in hypoglycemia. This condition occurs when your dog’s blood sugar drops too low. You may observe the following signs:
- Sluggish behavior
- Excessive sleepiness
- Shaking or trembling
Immediately get to your vet for emergency treatment. So long as you feed your chi a high-quality dog food, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Of course, chihuahuas are famously picky eaters. This makes passing them some of your food tempting. (Particularly when those big eyes look up at you) NEVER feed your dog table scraps. An overweight or obese chihuahua is a chihuahua with a shortened lifespan. Obesity increases their risk of diabetes, cardiac disease, and osteoarthritis.
Skeletons and the Chihuahua Lifespan
The average chihuahua stands 6-9 inches tall. However, the average chihuahua THINKS they’re 6-9 feet tall. While that Napoleon complex is cute, that attitude poses a risk to your little chi. Trauma is one of the most significant hazards to the chihuahua lifespan. These small dogs take on dogs, cats, and wildlife that overshadow them, resulting in severe injuries. Even worse, owners forget to check for their tiny canines, often stepping or sitting on them!
Chihuahuas need to stay on a leash and harness when walked outside. If in your backyard, never leave your chi on their own. Always check around corners and turn on lights in the house to avoid potential accidents. Owning a chihuahua means being hypervigilant at all times.
A long lifespan means osteoarthritis will eventually catch up with your chihuahua. The sooner you start them on a glucosamine supplement to help protect their joint health, the better. Providing steps and ramps to aid with getting on and off the furniture will also help.
The Special Case of Chihuahua Skulls
Apple-head chihuahuas, in particular, have a molera. The molera is a soft spot on the skull where the bones don’t fully form. This is a natural occurrence that allows the large head to pass through the birth canal. However, you need to be extremely careful around the molera until your chi is six-months-old. (The hole should close at that point) You DON’T want to injure the delicate tissue beneath!
Chihuahuas are prone to a congenital condition (a condition they’re born with) called hydrocephalus. Spinal fluid builds up within the brain, resulting in a swollen head. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for the condition. Most chis die by the age of four months.
Lengthy chihuahua lifespans bring another not-so-joyous fact: cardiac disease. While you find chis with congenital conditions such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDAs), it’s more common for your chi to develop age-related cardiac disease.
- Mitral Valve Disease: The mitral valve sits on the left side of the heart. As chis age, the valve develops scar tissue, and it fails to close correctly. A heart murmur results. The biggest concern of valvular disease is the risk of congestive heart failure.
- Congestive Heart Failure: Heart failure is a complicated process resulting in fluid build-up in either the lungs, abdomen, or both. This is an emergency. If your chi has not already started therapy for their valvular disease, they will.
- Arrhythmias: Advanced stages of heart disease develop arrhythmias, or irregular beatings of the heart. There are medications to help control arrhythmias, but they are not guaranteed.
Once your chihuahua receives a diagnosis of cardiac disease, you need to pay attention to their respiratory rates and effort. You’ll start a relationship with a Cardiologist, and your chi will receive regular visits for follow-up care.
Your Control of the Chihuahua Lifespan
As sad as it sounds, many of the most significant impacts on a chihuahua’s lifespan come from decisions made by the owner. Because these dogs are so small, people opt to skip routine care such as vaccines and spaying or neutering. As such, up to 10.5% of chihuahuas succumb to infections that could have been prevented:
Neutering your male chihuahua not only helps reduce some of his aggressive tendencies (so he doesn’t attempt to take on the Rottweiler down the street), it reduces his chances of contracting testicular or prostate cancer. Spaying your female chi before her first heat cycle cuts down her risk for uterine and ovarian cancer. (And it might keep her from challenging your grumpy cat)
Routine visits to the vet will keep you on track with your chihuahua’s dental health. The longer your chi lives, the more you’ll need to pay close attention to their teeth. Tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease frequently pop up in chis.
Long Live the Chi
Your attention contributes to your chihuahua’s lifespan in a big way. Proper diet, brushing their teeth, ensuring daily exercise, and keeping up with routine health care will see your chihuahua stay at your side for a long time to come. These tiny dogs have prominent personalities, and as long as you keep an eye out for them, you’ll get to enjoy every minute.