Health issues to watch with your Chihuahua
Chihuahuas are both generally healthy breeds but there are some issues that are common in the breed. We health test the parents and DNA screen them to remove as much risk as we can from our lines, but some conditions can crop up unexpectedly and some, sadly, we see all too frequently from other dogs bred by breeders who are more interested in selling puppies than improving the health of their breed.
A note about health information on this site...
The information on this site is by no means exhaustive but includes some of the common medical issues you need to be aware of. You should always consult with your vet or your breeder if you are unsure about any issue affecting your Chihuahua or your Pomeranian.
If at any time your pup is displaying unusual symptoms, do not hesitate to seek veterinary attention. Far better to pay an unnecessary after-hours fee and have a healthy dog, than be mourning the loss of your beloved pet for a condition that could have been treated if presented sooner rather than later.
The information provided here is a basic guide only, and as always, follow your vet’s advice, or seek a second opinion if necessary. Please do not ever rely on social media for medical advice when it comes to your dog.
Patellar luxation. is a most common health problem in both Chis and Poms. Roughly 10% of the population suffers from this genetic condition which responsible will screen for and not breed from afflicted parents. Patellar luxation can become progressively worse over time,
Patellar luxation is can be recognized by characteristic hopping as they are intentionally trying to keep weight off a problematic leg. Instead of walking or running, a Chihuahua suffering from this condition will typically hold up their leg (usually the back) because the kneecap locks up and is painful to walk on.
Treatment options are limited. Chihuahuas with grade I or II patellar luxations should be closely watched. High jumps can frequently cause their kneecap to slip out of its place and lockup. You need to avoid placing pressure on the leg with the luxation. For dogs suffering from grade II or IV patellar luxation, surgery may be recommended depending on the severity of the condition.
Cryptorchidism (retained testicle) is a hereditary condition that can be passed on from affected sires and dams to their male and female young (only the male offspring can actually display the disorder because female offspring do not have testicles, however, affected female offspring can carry the genes through to the next generation thereby passing the disorder on).
.Certain congenital abnormalities may occur with cryptorchidism. These include patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), shortened or kinked tail, tetralogy of Fallot (a life-threatening heart defect), tarsal deformity (abnormal legs), microphthalmia (abnormally small eyes), and upper eyelid agenesis (eyelids that don’t develop).
Although it is possible (though unethical) for cryptorchid testicles to be surgically transferred from the abdominal cavity or inguinal region to the scrotal region, it is likely that many of these relocated testicles will have already suffered irreparable heat damage and, therefore, remain infertile and incapable of producing sperm despite their new scrotal location.
Dogs in the wild chew all the time and their teeth need the stimulation of chewing for good dental hygiene.
We give our Chihuahuas chicken necks daily and sometimes deer-hide chews, deer, lamb and pig ears. Kong® toys or toothbrush shaped Greenies® are also excellent chewing choices. These clean their teeth and importantly, work and develop neck and jaw muscles.
Always give your dog natural chews, not the manufactured, cute colored and shaped rawhide ones you can buy in the supermarket, which are quite toxic.
If your dog doesn’t like to chew, there are additives for drinking water that will keep tartar build-up to a minimum. Ask your vet about them.
Expect your Chihuahua to require a dental under general anaesthetic every 2-3 years to remove tartar buildup and preserve their gum health.
Poor dental hygiene can cause heart problems later in life and significantly shorten your dog’s lifespan. Gum disease is a quick way for bacteria and infection to get into the bloodstream, where it can lodge in the heart and in the kidneys. Congestive heart and kidney failure are two of the leading causes of death in older dogs. It is vital you keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy to ensure a long and happy life.
If your Chihuahua’s baby teeth are still in place by six to seven months old, you will need to get them removed by your vet.
Retained teeth are very common in Chihuahuas and if they haven't come out by themselves by six months, they probably won't come out without veterinary extraction. If left in, they will affect the position of the dog’s adult teeth, the formation of their jaw and increase the likelihood of dental problems later on.
Anal glands are two small, grape-shaped glands located just under the skin at four o'clock and eight o'clock to the anus. The fluidy, odoriferous material they normally produce is used by dogs, cats, and other small mammals to lend a unique scent to their stool, thereby identifying it as their own.
Sometimes, the ducts into the gland can become blocked and instead of emptying each time the dog defecates, they fill up and can become quite painful. If you ever see your dog ‘scooting’, or scraping their bottom along the ground, this is usually due to full or blocked anal glands. It is a popular myth that this behavior is a result of worms, but in 99.99% of cases, it means they need their anal glands emptied.
If you’ve never done this, it is best to get either your groomer or your vet to do it for you. Often vet clinics will charge a small fee for a nurse to do it. It is usually quick and only causes minor discomfort, although your dog will feel much better once it is done! Tracey will be able to teach you how to do this if you wish, although many owners prefer to leave this to the professionals.
The correct name for this is inspiratory paroxysmal respiration. It sounds awful - like the dog is choking or has something stuck in their throat and is quite common in Chihuahuas. Fortunately, there is nothing to worry about.
It generally occurs because the soft tissue at the top of the dog's mouth (the soft palate), catches over the cartilage flap that covers the windpipe (trachea) during swallowing (the epiglottis). This causes a vacuum to occur in the throat and leads to the “reverse sneezing”. The dog should sort it out themselves after a minute or two. You might be able to help by covering their nose (effectively making them hold their breath) and scratching their throat. Lightly blowing in your Chihuahua’s face can help, too, as it forces them to swallow a couple of times, which can clear their throat and stop the reverse sneezing.
If the reverse sneezing is prolonged or leads to them fainting from lack of air (syncope), you must get this checked by a vet as there may be something more serious going on e.g. a collapsing trachea.