How Long Do Chihuahuas Live? Average Lifespan + 13 Tips

How Long Do Chihuahuas Live (average lifespan)

You’re wondering what the average lifespan of Chihuahuas is… And you stumble upon this article.

Good news – no more looking for answers! You’ve got the definite one right here. And not only that…

Read on to discover:

  • How some of your habits could be harming your Chihuahua’s health (check out #10).
  • The exact steps you can take to secure a healthy and enjoyable life for your Chihuahua.
  • What science has to say about the weight of your Chihuahua and how it affects their lifespan.
  • And more…

How long do Chihuahuas live?

Chihuahuas live between 14-16 years. This is typical of most small dogs, despite the many breed-specific health problems they can have. It’s also a longer lifespan than some large dog breeds have. Depending on the way you take care of your Chihuahua, they can live up even to 20 years.

For a dog, this age range represents quite a long lifespan, whether the pup is healthy or sick. But why, exactly, is the Chihuahua’s life expectancy so long?

Scientists have been puzzled by this phenomenon for decades. Dr. Cornelia Kraus of the University of Gottingen in Germany weighed in.

Kraus stated that the difference makes it seem like large dogs’ lives are ‘[unwinding] in fast motion.’

So, what’s the secret? The most recent research says that, with every 4.4lbs (1,99 kg.) of your dog’s weight, their lifespan shrinks by about one month. 

Chihuahuas only weigh up to about 6lbs (2,72 kg.) on average. So, they have the lowest chance of experiencing a shortened lifespan as a result of their breed. (Apart from illnesses, that is.)

How do Chihuahuas usually die?

How do Chihuahuas usually die

Chihuahuas have certain breed-related diseases that are more likely to affect them over other dogs. Many of these conditions can take your Chihuahua’s life.

Further, you must be aware that certain things may affect your Chihuahua differently.

This is why older Chihuahuas may need a bit more TLC (tender, loving, care) than puppies when it comes to issues with the heart and bone. On the other hand, puppies have an underdeveloped immune system.

So, they may be more vulnerable to sickness like distemper. Below are a few more examples of what fatal medical conditions affect the Chihuahua life expectancy, according to age.

3 causes of death for Chihuahua puppies

Adult Chis can better recover from many illnesses that might kill Chihuahua puppies. Luckily, few illnesses specifically affect Chihuahuas over other breeds at this age.

Still, there are numerous present risks to defend them against.

Keep the following major causes of Chihuahua puppy deaths in the back of your mind. This will help you prevent potentially dangerous situations:

#1: Trauma

A past study analyzed the leading causes of death across 82 dog breeds in North America. Researchers found that puppies die most often due to trauma.

‘Trauma’ usually refers to some sort of sudden blunt force or burn. These types of injuries may also penetrate the skin.

Traumatic injuries might occur in Chihuahua puppies after falling from heights or being hit by a car.

#2: Congenital disease

Chihuahuas that are 2 years old and younger are highly likely to die as a result of congenital diseases.

These include eye, heart, and neurological disorders.

#3: Infections

Because of how rough puppies tend to play, they are likely to injure each other and themselves quite often.

Although this doesn’t usually become much of a problem, it can become fatal if the wound gets infected.

Delayed medical care and a weak immune response could lead to severe consequences for your pup.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your puppy could go into ‘sepsis.’ This is a severe infection response that often leads to death.

5 causes of death for adult Chihuahuas

Some of the most common ailments that shorten older Chihuahuas’ lifespans are below. (‘Older Chihuahuas’ includes both adults and seniors):

#1: Heart disease

The leading cause of death in adult Chihuahuas is heart failure. Seventy-five percent of the time, this happens because the heart’s valves deteriorate.

Once the degradation reaches a certain point, your Chihuahua’s heart becomes too weak or deformed to pump correctly.

#2: Hydrocephalus

This is a buildup of fluid in the brain. Unfortunately, this is a common ailment for Toy Breeds. Even more specifically, this tends to affect dogs with domed skulls more harshly.

So, your Chihuahua is more likely to develop hydrocephalus than most other dogs. They’re also more likely to experience much more uncomfortable, even fatal, effects.

#3: Dental disease

The Chihuahua lifespan can shrink by 1-3 years because of dental issues! Eighty percent of all dogs will have dental problems by the time they are two years old.

Chihuahuas also tend to hold onto their baby teeth for several years. This leads to crooked growth.

Such issues could limit your Chihuahua’s ability to eat. Especially if they’re not treated.

#4: Toxic shock

In the year 2016 alone, over 180,000 dogs were reported to have suffered from poisoning. This isn’t as rare of an occurrence as it seemingly should be. Why?

Dogs can be poisoned by things we, as humans, don’t consider dangerous. For example, prescription or over-the-counter medications can pose a severe hazard to Chihuahuas.

Rat poisoning, snake venom, and even everyday foods like chocolate are also common causes of toxic shock in Chihuahuas. This can affect both adults and puppies.

Despite all these risks, most Chihuahuas live long, happy lives with their humans. Some are so healthy that they outlive expectations of Chihuahua lifespan averages. One of those pups was ‘Megabyte.’ A.k.a…

The world’s oldest Chihuahua

oldest Chihuahua meme

For the last several hundred years, we’ve known the average Chihuahua life expectancy to fall between 14-16 years. Although this is still true, it’s not exactly concrete.

Many dogs have lived to be older than their breed’s lifespan, and Chihuahuas are no exception. 

You can ensure that your Chihuahua is in such good physical condition that it lives well beyond their expected years, too. This can be done with a healthy lifestyle and diet.

One dog that maximized his lifetime was Megabyte, the Chihuahua. Megabyte lived until he was 20 years and 265 days old. Quite an old man!

This sweet dog passed away back in January of 2014. But he still holds the title of the longest-lived Chihuahua on record.

Although, now and then, rumors circulate of Chihuahuas living to 21 and 22 years old.

So really, at what age do Chihuahuas die? Normally, it’s 16 years. As you can see, though, many factors play a part in the Chihuahua’s lifespan average.

The most common factors that dictate the age of death would be disease and physical conditions that lead to reduced health (e.g., dental disease).

Chihuahuas are too small for the 4.4lb-rule. So, there are few ways left to predict your Chihuahua’s life expectancy outside of breed norms.

You can’t even go by the historic dog- to human-year metric! Nearly all dog owners have lived by that seven-year guideline.

‘Each dog-year is equal to seven human-years.’

We all believed this to be true for so long that this gold standard seemed unquestionable! Yet, recent research has shown us that this is far from true.

Scientists discovered a ‘nonlinear’ relationship between dog years and human years. This means that there cannot be one number assigned when comparing dog- to human-years. 

This makes it a bit trickier to measure how fast your Chihuahua is aging compared to you. Yet, with proper attention and care, you can ensure that your pup lives just as long as Megabyte.

13 tips to help extend the lifespan of your Chihuahua

There are many measures you can take as a dog owner to extend the lifespan of your beloved pup. The normal Chihuahua lifespan average ranges from 14-16 years.

You might see your pup live for up to 20 years with the guidelines below. Keep in mind that these tips are not guaranteed to extend your dog’s life expectancy.

Still, they are important for improving their quality of life and health. Get started with these tips as soon as possible for the best results of your Chihuahua. 

#1: Train your puppy early

Not many dog owners realize how important training is to your dog’s life. As mentioned above, one of the leading causes of death in Chihuahua puppies and most other breeds is trauma.

Traumatic injuries occur from blunt force impacts, impalement, or burns. How do you prevent such injuries? By making sure your dog knows the meaning of ‘leave it’ and ‘stay.’

If your puppy happened to get off-leash during a walk, you don’t want to give them a chance to run into the street.

The moment the leash falls to the ground, you should be able to say ‘Stay!’ and know your Chihuahua will be safe. Starting this training as early as possible is the best way to protect them.

#2: Help your Chihuahua maintain a healthy weight

In the United States alone, pet obesity rates continue to soar through the roof. 

As of 2018, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimated that approximately 55.8% of dogs are ‘overweight or obese.’

Fortunately, most dog owners like you will try and help their dog lose weight. (That is, instead of giving up and accepting their pup’s poor health.)

The most common methods that you can use to keep your dog healthy are below:

  • Start your pup on a low-calorie or low-fat diet. (23% say that this is ‘somewhat effective.’)
  • Reduce your Chihuahua’s portion sizes during meals. (38% of dog owners say that this is ‘very effective.’)
  • Try a prescription weight loss diet. Formulated pet foods like the Hills Diet are great for this purpose. (13% of dog owners report that this method is ‘very effective.’)

Above all, getting your Chihuahua outside and exercising is the best way to keep them fit and healthy!

#3: Watch the news

This one may seem a bit confusing. What does the news have to do with your dog? Keeping up with current dog- or pet-related news will alert you to food or other product recalls. 

Unfortunately, these have been happening more often in the last several years. These recalls happen to reduce the risk of your Chihuahua becoming ill.

The most likely causes for recalls are below:

  • The pet food may have been contaminated. 
  • There may be a nutritional imbalance in the recipe. 
  • ​Unauthorized ingredients may have gotten into the kibble mixture. 
  • ​Bacterial or fungal growth may have accumulated on the manufacturing equipment. 

#4: Keep your Chihuahua’s mind active

Chihuahua Toy Mental Stimulation

Like their humans, dogs thrive when they have regular brain-stimulating activities. Think of the joy you get from solving a puzzle or completing a book or a game.

In the same way, your dog’s mood and wellbeing can be improved with mind games. How do you introduce mental activities for your pup?

By taking every little opportunity to turn a mundane task into a game!

Are you giving your Chihuahua a treat? You don’t always have to hand it to your pup. Hide it in an easy-to-reach spot in the house for a game of sniffer hide-and-seek.

Teach your pup to ring a bell when it’s time to go outside for a potty. Small tasks to keep them figuring things out will benefit your Chihuahua’s mind greatly.

#5: Don’t be afraid to say, ‘No.’

People often find themselves feeling awkward when someone asks to give their dog a treat. If your dog’s health is on the line, don’t be afraid to put your foot down.

Common reasons to say ‘no’ if someone asks to give your dog a treat include:

  • Your Chihuahua may be on a specialized diet. 
  • ​Your dog has an allergy or intolerance to a certain food. 
  • ​Your senior Chihuahua may be unable to chew or digest the treat properly. 
  • ​They may be offering food that is toxic to dogs (e.g., chocolate, avocado, etc.)

You can also refuse permission to feed your dog simply because it’s your choice. This is true even if you feel that the reasons above don’t apply. 

Aside from Chihuahua-specific health problems, most dog treats do not contain healthy ingredients. You can protect your dog from this ‘junk food’ by being particular about their treats and kibble.

#6: Get annual vet check-ups

Most dog owners underestimate how often they should visit the vet’s office. You may think, ‘My dog is fine, there’s no need to go!’

In reality, underlying health conditions may be slowly reducing your Chihuahua’s lifespan.

Take a trip to the vet’s office at least once annually for a check-up. This way, you can stay ahead of the curve and take preventative measures if the doctor finds anything suspicious.

Heartworm and cancer are just two examples of deadly medical conditions that you can prevent with vet check-ups.

#7: Brush your Chihuahua’s teeth

Taking your Chihuahua to the vet isn’t the only thing you need to do to maintain their dental health.

Dental hygiene is something that should be managed throughout the year, not just once at the vet’s office. 

Plus, plaque takes quite a long time to build up. So, any severe buildup that the vet might notice would not have happened overnight.

The best way to keep your Chihuahua’s mouth healthy and working normally is to brush their teeth. Experts recommend that your dog’s teeth are brushed at least twice a day, three days per week.

This is the best way to prevent unhealthy plaque and tartar buildup.

#8: Double-check for safety when your Chihuahua is left alone

We often forget just how many hazards are present in the house when leaving our dogs alone for the day. There are even more dangers around the home for small dogs like Chihuahuas.

Before you leave your pup alone as you go to work, look around for any areas where accidents might happen. 

If your Chihuahua is arthritic, enclose them in a doggy gate to keep them from hopping up on the furniture. Any dogs that will be kenneled should have their collars removed.

This will prevent any accidents where the collar can get snagged on the metal and choke your dog.

Remember that even indoor mishaps can reduce your Chihuahua’s lifespan. Take the necessary precautions to keep your pup safe while you’re away.

#9: Reduce your Chihuahua’s stress

Stressed Chihuahua

The Chihuahua lifespan average can be severely reduced if they are under too much stress. Research has shown that dogs respond to excessive stress, just like humans do.

Even if your dog is afraid or wary of people, their life expectancy can fall. This is common in Chihuahuas. So, you’ll have to be mindful and take care of this.

Currently, it is believed that the extra stress speeds up the cells’ aging process. This rapid deterioration makes your Chihuahua vulnerable to more diseases that affect both their body and mind.

Your pup will also be weakened against bacterial and fungal infections and allergies. These are all things that can lead to reduced health and potentially fatal shock.

Stress isn’t always a result of new environments and people, though. Even separation anxiety can cause these terrible effects.

So, you must help your Chihuahua remain calm when you are apart. Adopt the following practices into your daily routine:

Don’t make your arrival too dramatic

This encourages crazy behavior from your dog (i.e., jumping, barking, howling). Keep things mellow by ignoring your Chihuahua for a few minutes when you return home. Instead of petting them right away, wait a little while. This will teach them that calm behavior is more appropriate. They’ll also learn that this behavior will be rewarded with the attention they’re looking for.

Leave a few clothing items with your Chihuahua

Being able to smell you throughout the day will help your pup to feel a little less alone. Plus, it will give them a sense of security.

Give your Chihuahua supplements to reduce anxiety and fearfulness

One of the most popular products for this right now is CBD oil. There are also capsules, or chews for dogs.

Make your departure either a positive or neutral thing

You can do this by giving your Chihuahua a treat before you leave or providing them with a toy to chew on. Save specific toys and treats for when your Chihuahua will be alone. This will help them to get used to the new routine with greater ease.

#10: Don’t smoke around your dog

People are, of course, free to decide whether they want to smoke or not. For you, that is a matter of your health, something that only you have control over.

Your Chihuahua, however, doesn’t have the freedom to decide what air they breathe. 

More than likely, your Chihuahua will be hanging around you throughout the day. So, when you smoke, you are not just impacting your lungs, but your dog’s lungs, too.

Two main ways that your smoking habit endangers your Chihuahua’s health are:

Secondhand smoke

The smoke and harmful particles remain in the air. The smoke can reduce their health, even if they never touch the item you are smoking from.

Third-hand smoke

You may have noticed in the past that the smell of cigarette smoke, for example, stays in clothes and on furniture. This residue can endanger your Chihuahua’s health even more than secondhand smoke.

How?

Your pup might ingest the hazardous compounds when licking their fur. (The chemicals stick to their fur after they touch contaminated surfaces, such as the carpet.) Breathing it in from the air at the same time makes the health risk much worse.

To protect your Chihuahua’s health, choose to smoke outside when you’re with them. This will protect their lungs and reduce the risk of developing deadly cancers.

#11: Give your Chihuahua flea and tick prevention medication 

Too many dog owners ignore the importance of flea and tick medication. You may not expect your Chihuahua ever to encounter these microscopic parasites.

You might be living in a very clean area and all… Still, it’s best to take a preventative approach instead of waiting for them to become infested or bitten. 

Ticks and fleas are more than just an annoyance. They are carriers of serious, even fatal, illnesses like Lyme disease.

These parasites can also cause anemia and extreme skin irritation.

According to veterinarians, they are highly adapted to live in the average household. So, they can stick around, even after your Chihuahua has been treated for removal.

With this in mind, the only way you can thoroughly protect yourself, your pet, and your home from such insects is through prevention.

Set up a monthly or quarterly schedule for giving your Chihuahua the necessary oral or topical medications to repel ticks and fleas.

#12: Be wary of the ‘human food’ you give to your Chihuahua

It’s quite a challenge to say no to your precious pup. What are you supposed to do when they look at you with those hungry puppy dog eyes?

Although it’s tempting to give your fur-baby all the food they’re begging for, you must resist!

Caution: Not all ‘human food’ is as good (or harmless) for your Chihuahua as it is for you.

Certain foods that will make them sick due to toxins or indigestion. Many spices will upset their tummies as well. Some of the most common health hazards that come from eating table scraps include:

Pancreatitis

When your Chihuahua eats fatty foods, their pancreas behaves strangely. Mainly, it begins to digest itself. It may also affect surrounding organs like the liver and intestines. This condition can cut your Chihuahua’s lifespan short.

Choking

Giving your Chihuahua your leftover bones may seem harmless. Yet, it is highly dangerous.

The cooked bones are likely to splinter in their throat. This causes either choking or serious damage to their digestive system. The broken bones can scratch the insides of their intestines or even get stuck in the organs’ walls.

Toxic shock

Many foods contain chemicals that can poison your Chihuahua. Even foods that are healthy for humans can put their health at risk. Foods that are most likely to have this effect include:

  • Nuts.
  • Dairy.
  • Garlic.
  • Citrus.
  • Grapes.
  • Onions.
  • Avocados.
  • Chocolate.
  • Salty foods.

#13: Spay or neuter your Chihuahua

Did you know that spaying or neutering could extend your Chihuahua’s life? Most people associate this practice with reproduction only.

Preventing new puppies is indeed the main reason to spay and neuter. Still, there are health benefits, too.

For example, spay or neuter surgery can reduce your dog’s chances of developing life-threatening cancers. 

(Female dogs that experience heat cycles are more vulnerable to mammary cancer. Intact males have a higher chance of developing testicular cancer and prostate disease.)

Further, you’ll be able to prevent destructive and risky behavior that is characteristic of intact dogs. For more information about your Chi needs as an individual, consult your vet.