Chihuahua Health Info & Issues
Chihuahuas, like many toy breeds have health problems. Below is some information on the more common issues with the breed. While some are genetic/congenital, others can be easily avoided with a bit of help from their human families, helping to insure a happy and healthy life.
Because chihuahuas are so small, they can be prone to hypoglycemia, especially when they are very young. Hypoglycemia is usually caused by stress, illness, lack of food, or by using up stored energy without it being replenished. It is important to make sure that young puppies and very tiny Chihuahuas eat regularly throughout the day. Another preventative for hypoglycemia is daily dose of a high calorie supplement like Nutri-Cal, which you received in your puppy pack.
Signs of Hypoglycemia
- lack of energy
- head tilting
- “drunkenness” (unbalanced and walking funny)
- lack of muscular control, mostly around head and neck area
- convulsions or seizures
A molera or soft spot on the top of the head is similar to a human baby’s fontanel and is considered a breed characteristic not a defect. Most Chihuahuas have an open molera that is there for the life of the dog.
It will not be a problem as long as you’re gentle when petting or handling their head. In rare cases, the molera remains quite large and can be a sign of a serious problem called hydrocephalus.
A fit of sneezing, snorting, honking and wheezing are not necessarily a collapsed trachea. Pulling on a leash (which a harness should always be used), Drinking too fast or excitement can cause reverse sneezing. This is usually caused by an elongated soft palate that is thought to become temporarily misaligned. It is a common trait in toy breeds. Although this may appear to be scary, it only lasts a few seconds and can be ended by massaging the dog’s neck and throat and encouraging the dog to swallow. Other ways to slow the reverse sneeze is to clap your hands, blow on his face, distract the dog or close off the dog’s nostrils with your fingers, simply forcing them to breathe through their mouths and to swallow
Coat Thinning or Bare Spots
When Chihuahuas are between 8 and 12 weeks of age, you may notice a sudden thinning or splotchy pattern in their coat. Think of a human baby’s thin hair that changes to a thicker version once they are older. Your Chihuahua puppy is blowing their puppy coat and their adult coat is coming in.
This has very often been misdiagnosed as mange of one kind or another. Please note that this is a very normal condition that usually only lasts a couple of weeks to a month and will completely clear itself up with time. It is caused by the changing of their coat.
Smooth coats (especially on chocolate and blue colored coats) look like they have bare places and some long coats will shed off their coats until they are nearly smooth. It will grow back and is perfectly normal. It will sometimes occur again when they are about a year and a half old.
You should only be alarmed if the shedding is also accompanied with some sort of rash or what appears to be pimples on the skin. This is usually a sign of demodectic mange mites or some sort of allergy.
Because the Chihuahua is so small, they also have very small mouths. This can cause problems with the mouth being too small for the teeth. Overcrowding of teeth can cause food to be trapped between the teeth, resulting in plaque and tarter buildup, as well as premature tooth-loss. Keeping the teeth clean is essential to keeping the mouth and the rest of your dog healthy.
Keeping The Teeth Clean
You can help keep the mouth clean by offering dental biscuits, dental chew toys, including edible chew toys (Greenies & DentaBones), feeding dry food instead of semi-moist or canned food, brushing their teeth (do not use human toothpaste, it has fluoride. Canine toothpastes are available at most pet supply stores), as well as taking your dog to the veterinarian for a dental cleaning. As your Chihuahua gets older, it is almost inevitable that they will need a minimum of one dental cleaning by a veterinarian.
Retained Puppy Teeth
Another issue is retained puppy teeth. Toy breeds are more prone to this problem, and it is caused by the adult tooth growing beside the puppy tooth, instead of the puppy tooth falling out. Usually the long canines and the small incisors in the front of the mouth are those that are retained.
If there are any retained puppy teeth, try to wiggle them gently to loosen them. This also allows you to help get them get comfortable with your fingers being in their mouth for when you are brushing them – another chance for a puppy lesson! If this doesn’t loosen them, I suggest that the puppy teeth be removed at the time of the puppy’s spay/neuter. That way they only have to go under anesthesia once.
Patella luxation is probably the most common defect in the Chihuahua breed. It can either have genetic causes, or environmental causes from injury. If patella luxation shows up at an early age (under 7 months old), it is probably due to genetic causes; however, injury might also cause patella luxation to show up in the first seven months.
Sources of injury could include being overweight, too much jumping (jumping off furniture), or too much stress on the patella and surrounding ligaments (dancing on its rear legs). These causes are especially dangerous when a Chihuahua is in the developmental stages – from a young puppy to 1 or 2 years of age.
Chihuahuas might also damage their kneecap by hitting it, and even an unskilled veterinarian might cause permanent looseness if they are forcibly trying to see if the patella is loose. As a Chihuahua ages, slight looseness might be seen, especially in dogs that are very overweight and have continued pressure on the ligaments/patella.
One of the Chihuahua’s most distinguishing features is their ears. As cute as they are, they also can be the source of issues for your dog.
Cleaning The Ears
Waxy build up and distinctive foul odors will require a trip to the vet but regular cleanings can prevent ear infections and other issues. Ears should be cleaned a minimum of once a week. To clean your Chihuahua’s ears, you’ll need cotton balls and dog ear cleanser, available at any pet supply store.
- Moisten a cotton ball (not a cotton swab) with dog ear cleanser.
- With the cotton ball, clean only the visible area inside the ear. Do not stick anything deeply into the ear.
Also, when bathing your Chihuahua, try your best to keep the water from collecting inside their ears. We recommend using a product like Vet Solutions Swimmer’s Ear Astringent to dry up any water that may gather in the ear.
One way to reduce the frequency of ear cleanings is to get a second Chihuahua! They love to clean each others ears. You are guaranteed to see a reduction in wax build up and odor – plus your Chihuahua will have a new playmate!
Teething Pup and Their Droopy Ears
Puppies’ adult teeth begin to appear around the 3 month mark and will continue popping through until they are 6 months old. Human babies drool while teething – Chihuahua puppies’ ears droop.
You many see them with one ear up and one ear down. Tomorrow it can be the other ear up and the mate down. It is not uncommon to see one or both ears actually roll up backwards like shades. This is all perfectly normal and if given enough time the ears will stand erect again all by themselves.
This is an “opportunist protozoa” that lives in the bowels of all dogs. ALL DOGS carry coccidia. Something has to weaken the immune system of an animal for the protozoa to have an opportunity to take hold and start multiplying. That “something ” is usually stress of one kind or another.
Coccidia is usually accompanied by a loose, stinky stool that can even have streaks of bloody mucus in it. Some Vets will explain coccidia to their clients by saying the animal is loaded with parasites. Coccidia is not exactly a parasite but can be just as hard to get rid of . So long as good bacteria exists in an ample supply in the gut, coccidia can not grow.
Coccidia is shed in the stool like a virus. If the animal is not shedding it when a stool sample is taken, the animal can be misdiagnosed as being free of the protozoa. If your puppy is put on antibiotics of any sort, feed yogurt to replenish the good bacteria that is killed off by the antibiotic. It will in no way affect the antibiotic from completing it’s job but may save your animal from secondary infections caused by an imbalance of good bacteria.
When coccidia does exist in the G.I. tract of your puppy, it can easily spread up through the system and into the lungs and if unchecked, it can cause pneumonia and eventually death. The first signs of coccidia is usually a lack of eating properly accompanied by a loose stinky stool and sometimes escalating into bouts of hypoglycemia. Coccidia can be transmitted to humans if hands are not washed and contaminated utensils are handled improperly. Coccidia should never be allowed to progress to a point that the puppy’s life is threatened. If your puppy shows signs of this disease, immediately seek professional advice and treatment.