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The ultimate guide with common Chihuahua health problems.
Here you’ll discover:
- 13 common Chihuahua health problems.
- Simple tips to prevent these health issues.
- Fact: These issues can affect senior Chihuahuas and puppies.
- And much more…
Table of contents
- 13 common Chihuahua health problems
- #1: Glaucoma
- #2: Portosystemic shunt (PSS)
- #3: Hydrocephalus
- #4: Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
- #5: Mange
- #6: Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA)
- #7: Patellar luxation
- #8: Hypoglycemia
- #9: Obesity
- #10: Dental disease
- #11: Canine parvovirus
- #12: Rabies infections
- #13: Canine distemper
13 common Chihuahua health problems
The most common Chihuahua health problems are:
- Portosystemic shunt (PSS).
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.
- Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA).
- Patellar luxation.
- Dental disease.
- Canine parvovirus.
- Rabies infections.
- Canine distemper.
Numerous of these Chihuahua health risks can affect dogs of all ages. Many of them can negatively impact your dog’s quality of life.
Many of the common Chihuahua health issues are not unique to older dogs. The puppies can be affected, too. With the right care, though, you can protect your pup from these conditions.
That being said, let’s talk about how each of these health problems can impact you pooch’s life. Plus, how you can protect your Chihuahua against these issues.
Chihuahuas are naturally more vulnerable to developing harmful eye conditions than other breeds.
One specific condition that affects this breed more than others is glaucoma.
This is a painful Chihuahua health condition. Why? It can render your poor pup blind without the proper treatment.
How does it cause pain?
Glaucoma is a Chihuahua health problem that targets the optic nerve. The eye is then placed under a massive amount of pressure. (This causes the bulging eye that most people associate with Chihuahuas.)
To the dog, it can feel terrible, like being pricked in the back of the eye with a sharp point.
There are two main primary types of glaucoma that your Chihuahua may experience:
- Primary: This variation of glaucoma tends to be more sudden. The eye loses its ability to drain itself properly, making it vulnerable to infection.
- Secondary: Further infections can develop since the eye can no longer clean itself.
Once the condition is in its terminal stages, your Chihuahua will lose their desire to play and be active. Ultimately, they may even lose their appetite.
Chihuahuas are predisposed to this condition. So, your best method of protection is taking preventive action.
How to keep your Chihuahua from developing glaucoma
Glaucoma in Chihuahuas cannot be prevented entirely, at least for the primary condition.
Poor filtration angles in the eye cause this Chihuahua health problem.
- Have your Chihuahua seen by a vet right away upon first notice of primary symptoms.
- Help your dog keep its eyes clean by giving prescribed eyedropper fluid.
- Protect your Chihuahua’s eyes as much as possible by having them wear dog goggles when necessary.
- Remove any hazardous materials from your home or the dog’s play area. (For example, don’t leave kitty litter accessible. The particles can get in your pup’s eye and cause infections.)
- Monitor rough play. Make sure that your dog doesn’t get scratched or sustain any other injuries in the eye.
Giving your dog the following vitamins will help to keep their eyes strong and healthy:
- Vitamin E.
- Vitamin C.
#2: Portosystemic shunt (PSS)
PSS is a type of common Chihuahua health issue that affects the liver. When a Chihuahua has PSS, they don’t have the appropriate amount of blood going to the liver.
This harms the liver’s ability to grow and function. Poorly performing livers are dangerous to an animal’s health. It will not be able to remove toxins as needed, making your Chihuahua vulnerable to sickness.
In extreme cases, your Chihuahua might even experience stunted growth. Fortunately, this disorder is easy to prevent using the care instructions below.
Protecting your pup from PSS
Focus on food and medication for a preventative approach to this Chihuahua health concern. Here’s how to create the perfect diet for an at-risk dog:
- Limit your Chihuahua’s protein intake. Do this only with the guidance of a veterinarian.
- Alter your dog’s diet to more liver-friendly foods, like dairy, soy, and egg.
- Consider removing some meat from your dog’s diet, as it may be excessive in protein levels.
- Check the salt content of all food you intend to feed your Chihuahua.
- Increase the amount of zinc in your dog’s diet.
Vitamins and supplements that boost liver health include:
- Milk thistle.
- Vitamins E and K.
The domed head is by far one of many people’s favorite characteristics of Chihuahuas. Although it is adorable, it can be a bit of a curse for these pups.
This head shape increases the risk of accumulating liquid in the brain cavity. For this reason, hydrocephalus is also often described as ‘water on the brain.’
Hydrocephalus occurs when the fluids of the nervous system build up in the brain.
Note that it is also one of many Chihuahua health problems that cause seizures as well. There are two different ways the brain can develop this issue:
- Congenital: This how most small breeds like Chihuahuas experience this condition. The nervous system fluids are unable to flow correctly through the body, causing blockages.
- Acquired: Dogs that experience acquired hydrocephalus were not born with this defect. Instead, an event later in life caused them to develop blockages in their nervous system.
The issues listed below often end up being the reason behind this condition:
Your Chihuahua doesn’t have to endure the hardship that comes with hydrocephalus. With the proper care and attention, you can help your dog to avoid getting ‘water on the brain.’
How to keep your Chihuahua from getting hydrocephalus
There are many ways you can care for your dog, whether it has yet to develop hydrocephalus or already has it.
If you suspect that your dog has congenital hydrocephalus, take them to the vet right away. The veterinarian will help by:
- Reducing the pressure in their skull.
- Administering drugs for controlling seizures and other symptoms.
For dogs that do not have hydrocephalus:
- Watch your dog closely during playtime. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can lead to this illness.
- Do not let your dog play in hazardous locations. Keep them away from areas where they can bump their heads.
- If you are purchasing a puppy, research the breeder carefully. Do not buy from litters that were born from parents with this condition.
- Do not breed any Chihuahuas with hydrocephalus since it can be hereditary.
#4: Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
This is another bone disease that targets Chihuahuas, especially. Even young Chihuahuas are at risk of having to live with Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP).
So, it’s not quite one of the many ‘old’ Chihuahua health problems.
Unfortunately, doctors don’t have much information on this Chihuahua health risk. Currently, though, they suspect that it is caused by restricted blood flow to the hips.
The bone eventually becomes quite brittle and is at a higher risk of fracturing. Again, this is on the long list of Chihuahua’s common health problems that affect all ages.
Dogs between the ages of six to nine months old are especially likely to develop this problem. So, prevention must start early on.
Keeping your Chihuahua from developing LCP
This is a condition that requires surgery if it gets out of hand. Without the proper attention and care, a Chihuahua can lose the ability to move one or both of their hind legs.
In any case, they will experience substantial pain. To keep your Chihuahua from having to experience this, use the tips below into your care routine:
- Feed your Chihuahua a healthy, balanced diet. Dogs that are overweight have a higher risk of developing LCP.
- Consult your veterinarian to develop a diet that promotes hip health.
- Be mindful of how you exercise your Chihuahua. Exercise that is too rigorous can negatively impact their health.
- Give your Chihuahua hip support even in their sleep by purchasing an orthopedic bed.
- Consider purchasing Walkin’ Wheels for dogs that are losing control of their back legs.
You can also check this video for more tips:
Mange is a severe skin condition that is harmful to dogs’ health. It’s caused by a microscopic insect, known as a mite (specifically, the Demodex mite).
Chihuahuas’ small bodies make them extra susceptible to this skin condition. Why?
They have minimal surface area compared to other breeds. Even with the same number of mites on their bodies, they can develop a worse infestation.
You can recognize a mild case of mange by signs like dry or hairless patches of skin. These conditions can worsen and cause harmful infections on your Chihuahua’s skin.
It’s best to be proactive and protect your pet from this disease before it gets too bad.
Preventing mange from harming your Chihuahua’s skin
Keeping your dog’s skin healthy and clean is the best way to prevent mange from impacting their life.
Here’s how to do that:
- Don’t bathe your dog too often! Too much will dry out their skin and make them more vulnerable to infections.
- Use moisturizing and bathing products.
- Do not allow your Chi to have contact with dogs who have mange.
- Give your dog supplements to boost skin health. Good options include omega 3 fatty acids, salmon oil, vitamin E.
- Inspect their skin regularly, so you notice any infestations early.
#6: Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA)
Patent ductus arteriosis is a type of heart disease that can cause significant problems for your pup. Also known as PDA, this condition causes a vessel in the heart to lose its ability to close.
The vessel cannot correctly carry blood between different parts of the heart. Like a heart murmur, this causes certain areas to be overwhelmed with large amounts of blood.
The difference with PDA, however, is that it’s not only the heart that is affected. Instead of leaking back into the heart, excess blood is sent to the lungs.
This results in a dangerous build-up of fluid that puts a massive strain on the heart.
Your poor Chihuahua’s heart will then need to work even harder to pump blood throughout the body. This overworking can severely impact their health.
This is a genetic defect that is especially common in Chihuahuas. Sadly, this means that it’s not entirely within your control to prevent it from developing.
Still, there is much you do to ensure your dog experiences as few discomforts as possible if they were born with it.
How to prevent PDA from affecting your Chihuahua
When a Chihuahua is born, the blood vessel that causes PDA should close. If it fails to do so, then the dog will develop this condition.
To prevent PDA from harming your dog too extensively, follow the guidelines below:
- Upon first observation of symptoms, have your Chihuahua scheduled for surgery. This is the only way to close the problematic vessel.
- Ask a vet to perform non-invasive closure of the vessel. This is an alternative for pet owners who don’t want surgery.
- Chihuahuas that experience difficulty breathing should not be pushed to exercise.
- Calmly walk dogs on a leash in highly controlled settings.
- Dogs with PDA should be enrolled in a medical therapy program to fight heart failure.
#7: Patellar luxation
Chihuahuas have some of the tiniest legs of all dog breeds. These little runners can carry them around seemingly at the speed of light. Still, they are not without their ailments.
Patellar luxation (PL) is a condition that harms your Chihuahua’s kneecaps, specifically. How? Affected dogs will suffer from their kneecap (also known as the ‘patella’) slipping out of place.
Recall the last time you watched your Chihuahua run. Do you remember the moments where they are running or trotting and lift their leg for a few seconds?
They might do a sudden kick before running normally again. This is a symptom of PL, and they are reacting to their kneecap suddenly coming out of the socket.
In response, your Chihuahua will snap the leg quickly to get everything back in working order. (Yikes!) For many dogs, the condition only affects one leg.
So, all they need is some arthritis medication to help them manage the discomfort. Still, many dogs have to live with symptoms much worse than this. These dogs may need more help.
How to keep your Chihuahua from developing PL
Since this condition is genetic, there is no guaranteed method of prevention. Still, you can reduce your Chihuahua’s chances of developing PL by using the tips below:
- Provide stairs or ramps where your Chihuahua may need or want to jump up onto something.
- Exercise your Chihuahua regularly and safely. Improving muscle tone can help to prevent luxation.
- Include joint supplements in your Chihuahua’s diet.
- Feed your dog a diet that supports bone and joint strength.
- If you are noticing signs of PL, have your Chihuahua seen immediately. Early treatment can prevent worsening.
Toy breeds are especially vulnerable to having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Young puppies have a higher chance of developing such problems. So, you must keep a close eye on those little ones!
Fortunately, most dogs are less likely to have to live with this condition as they grow older. This may be related to the causes of hypoglycemia.
Your dog is most likely to experience the effects of low blood sugar after lots of exercising or periods of high energy.
This can also happen if they miss a meal. Luckily, hypoglycemia is easy to manage with preventive action.
Keeping your Chihuahua’s blood sugar levels high
Prevent this condition from hurting your Chihuahua’s quality of life by following these steps:
For dogs that do not have hypoglycemia:
- Be cautious in the type of exercise you allow your Chihuahua to engage in. (Too much excitement can easily cause a drop in blood sugar!)
- Feed your Chihuahua multiple small meals throughout the day.
For dogs with hypoglycemia:
- Rub corn syrup on their gums to prevent their condition from worsening. You can also feed them the following: honey, cake icing, fruit juices, gatorade (source).
- See the vet for a glucose injection.
- Include supplements in their diet that support liver and pancreas health.
The risks of obesity are worse for Chihuahuas than most other breeds. Why? Mainly because their legs are much less capable of supporting extra weight.
Obesity can severely impact a dog’s quality of life. In this condition, they can’t take part in regular activities like other dogs.
Additionally, this is another Chihuahua health problem that causes difficulty breathing. Fortunately, no dog is born obese, and this condition can be both prevented and reversed for any affected dog.
How to help your Chihuahua maintain a healthy weight
To maintain your Chihuahua’s healthy weight, keep the following tips in mind:
- Exercise with your Chihuahua regularly without pushing them too hard.
- Limit the number of treats you give your dog.
- Choose treats that are low in calories.
- Measure your meals to prevent overfeeding.
- If you have more than one dog, monitor them closely while they eat. (You don’t want one dog stealing another one’s food!)
#10: Dental disease
Chihuahuas are not the only breed affected by chronic dental problems. Sadly, this disease afflicts 80% of all breeds by the time they are two years old.
Still, Chihuahuas are more likely to have issues with their teeth than most breeds, so you have to keep a consistent eye on them to keep them healthy.
Dental disease typically starts with the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. After this layer of tartar builds, the gums and roots of the teeth then become susceptible to infection.
This will quickly worsen your Chihuahua’s condition and make it difficult for them to eat.
Without prevention and proper treatment, your pup will be vulnerable to many different health hazards as well.
These conditions are dangerous to your Chihuahua’s ability to eat regularly. They can also have severe impacts on their whole life as well.
For example, a Chi’s life can be reduced by as little one or as much as three years without the necessary dental treatment.
How to prevent dental disease in your Chihuahua
The best way to keep your dog protected from potential dental disease is prevention. You don’t have to wait for your pup to exhibit symptoms to ensure their health is protected.
To prevent periodontal disease, use the following practices in your healthcare routine:
- Have your dog’s teeth checked annually by a veterinarian.
- Brush your Chihuahua’s teeth at least three times a week.
- Feed a diet that is specific to improving dental health. Approved diets are listed on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website (link).
- Give your dog plenty of time to chew on abrasive (within reason) chewing materials.
- Use chlorhexidine in your dog’s dental care routine. Chlorhexidine is a compound that has the following properties: Antibacterial, antifungal, and
#11: Canine parvovirus
This viral disease, unfortunately, affects all dog breeds. Your Chihuahua is far likelier to contract this virus without the proper vaccination.
Also, puppies that are younger than four months old are especially at risk of becoming infected with parvo.
The virus is highly contagious and spreads in the following ways:
- Direct contact with infected dogs.
- Direct contact with infected people.
- Contact with the feces of an infected dog.
- Exposure to environments that host the virus.
Even if you believe an area is safe, it is best to take precautions and have your dog vaccinated ahead of time. Why?
Safety doesn’t depend exclusively on avoiding contact with infected dogs. The virus can stick around on various surfaces and continue to pose a threat.
Parvovirus targets the gastrointestinal tracts and can quickly get out of hand. Most of the time, death can occur between 48-72 hours after the signs of infection.
To protect your pup from this terrible disease, you must be proactive in your care.
How to keep your Chihuahua safe from parvovirus
Parvovirus is one of the most dangerous types of Chihuahua health problems. To keep them safe from this disease, follow the guidelines below:
- Have your dog vaccinated against parvovirus.
- Be cautious when walking your dog in public areas. Do not allow them to smell poop that’s left out in the environment.
- Ask about the sanitation practices at any kennels where you intend to lodge your Chihuahua.
- If your dog is not yet vaccinated, do not lodge them in public kennels.
- Always confirm the health of dogs you intend for your Chihuahua to play with. Don’t allow contact between your dog and potentially sick animals.
#12: Rabies infections
Rabies is one of the most well-known diseases that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. It is dangerous because of how it attacks your Chihuahua’s body.
After being bitten by an infected animal, the virus enters the victim’s nervous system.
Specifically, it attacks the peripheral nerves and later progresses toward the salivary glands. (This is why the primary route of infection is through a bite since the saliva contains the virus.)
There are two manners in which a dog may display a rabies infection:
- Dumb rabies: Admittedly, this is not often imagined to be what a rabies infection would look like. Still, this is the most common portrayal of the viral disease in dogs.
- Furious rabies: This is what most people think of when picturing a dog that has been infected by rabies. The dog becomes aggressive and eats all sorts of things, including rocks and dirt.
Thankfully, both forms of this disease are preventable. See the information below on how to protect your pup appropriately.
Preventing a rabies infection in Chihuahuas
Fortunately, rabies is a preventable infection. To give your dog adequate protection from this deadly virus, keep the tips below in mind:
- Have your dog vaccinated according to their age.
- Do not allow your Chihuahua to interact with wildlife.
- If you suspect a dog is infected, do not allow it to come into contact with your Chihuahua.
- Contact animal control if you suspect a rabid animal is in your neighborhood.
- Secure your yard from animals like coyotes and raccoons. This way, they can’t come in and infect your pup.
- Bonus tip: The routine for rabies vaccinations changes depending on your dog’s age. Your puppy’s first two rabies shots will be annual. After that, they should happen every one to three years for adults.
#13: Canine distemper
Distemper is another severe disease that can harm Chihuahuas of all ages.
Although this disease is not unique to this breed, you must still keep a vigilant eye out for infection.
Canine distemper is one of the most common viruses known to affect dogs in these ways:
- Inhaling the virus through airborne exposure (after an infected animal sneezes or coughs).
- Sharing food or water bowls with an infected dog.
- Mothers with distemper can pass the disease on to puppies.
- Contact with infected wildlife. Distemper is known to affect: coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks.
Unvaccinated dogs have the highest risk of contracting this disease. Puppies younger than four months old are at particular risk as well. Like rabies, distemper attacks the dog’s nervous system upon infection.
It’s easy to confuse distemper symptoms with those of rabies. So, you must have your Chihuahua examined immediately upon observing any alarming behavior.
Distemper often results in irreversible damage to their nervous system. For this reason, the best treatment for this disease is prevention.
How to prevent your Chihuahua from contracting distemper
The canine distemper virus causes unbelievable harm to a dog’s nervous system. While it most often ends in the death of the animal, it can also leave survivors’ lives changed forever.
To protect your Chihuahua from distemper, practice the following guidelines:
- Have puppies and adults vaccinated against distemper according to vet recommendations.
- Do not allow your Chihuahua to have contact with wild animals.
- Never socialize your Chihuahua until they have been vaccinated.
- Ask about cleaning protocols and bring your own bowls if you plan to lodge your Chihuahua.
- If you plan to buy a puppy from a breeder, research the breeder’s history and ensure the parents are free of disease.
Whether you have a Chihuahua now or are planning on adopting one, keep this handy.
With this information, you will be ready to take on any Chihuahua health concern as soon as it comes your way.