A chihuahua is a breed that’s beloved amongst many. They are adorable little creatures that are perfect for people who live in small apartments in the city. There are a number of factors that can influence the lifespan of a chihuahua and some are well within the control of the pawrent, while others are more dependent on nature. To ensure your chihuahua grows to a ripe old age, we can only do the best we can.

The best care starts with diet, and exercise. Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way to prevent certain illnesses or congenital diseases of each puppy, but we sure can try. There is one thing to take to heart is that smaller breeds tend to live longer than medium or large breeds. Since a chihuahua is as small as they come, you can expect a good 15-20 years of companionship.

How Long do Chihuahuas Live for?

chihuahua dog smiling

How long do chihuahuas live for depends on a number of factors. If your little fur baby was prone to health problems from the beginning, it doesn’t matter the small size, it could take more effort on your part to make sure your pooch is healthy. Whether it be a long-haired chihuahua or an applehead, chihuahuas need years of consistent care to live long and healthy lives.

For the average chihuahua, you’re looking at a lifespan of about 15-20 years. Five years can make a big difference in terms of companionship and you can even exceed the 20 year mark with a careful diet, the right amount of exercise, supplements, etc. Why do chihuahuas live so long? It’s mostly due to their smaller size.

Issues that Plague Chihuahuas

What health problems do Chihuahuas have? Here we will touch upon some common issues chihuahuas and chihuahua owners often have to deal with.

Epilepsy

Yes, epilepsy is an issue with humans as well as dogs. Epilepsy is a health concern that targets the brain, spine and nervous system. What happens, similarly to humans, is your chihuahua may be prone to seizures. We can almost say it’s a hereditary disease common among the breed. It can even begin as early as six months in some chihuahuas.

When adopting from a breeder or rescue, make sure you have ample information about the bloodline (if possible), just to know what issues you could possibly face in the future. If your chihuahua does happen to suffer from epilepsy, we’re sure it could be heart-wrenching. However, one thing that can bring you some peace is that fits aren’t usually painful.

It can sure look scary, especially the first few times you witness it, but your dog can actually lead a relatively normal life if the seizures are managed with medication. Unfortunately, if your dog does happen to have epilepsy, there isn’t much you can do in terms of a “cure”.

Hydrocephalus

All chihuahuas have a molera. A molera is a soft spot on a chihuahua’s head and ones with a particularly large one could suffer from hydrocephalus. A dog who suffers from hydrocephalus could have the following symptoms : seizures, blindness, dementia, etc.

They have abnormal fluid accumulation around the brain and puppies are more susceptible. If your dog has survived past the 1-year mark without any issues, it’s more than likely that hydrocephalus won’t be an issue. Even if it is an issue, it can be monitored and managed with medication.

Patella Luxation

The patella, or kneecap, and luxation, which means dislocation, is basically the dislocation of kneecaps. Now, this is more commonly seen in small breeds, while hip and elbow dysplasia happens more among the larger breeds (but that’s not to say the chihuahua isn’t susceptible). They are more prone to this issue and should be monitored when they are very active or jump from larger heights.

It’s very easy for their little joints to pop out and it could cause them pain. Treatment will depend on the severity of the luxation and sometimes surgery may be recommended by your vet in order for more severe cases to heal properly and for your dog to lead a normal life.

Patella luxation could also lead to arthritis which could be painful at an old age. In this case, your vet may also recommend surgery. Another joint problem that you can possibly see is Legg-Perthes disease, which causes the gradual decay of the hip joint. Again, some vets would recommend surgery to prevent the onset of arthritis.

Collapsed Trachea

This is also an issue seen more commonly in small breeds and ones with shorter nasal passages. It’s a common problem that surgery can fix. What tracheal collapse is is just a part of your chihuahua’s trachea rings start to literally collapse, which may obstruct breathing.

You know a dog is suffering from a collapsed trachea when you hear labored breathing or even a severe cough. If you suspect your chihuahua has a collapsed trachea, it would be best to schedule an appointment with your vet.

Heart Problems

There are two types of heart problems a chihuahua can suffer from – congenital or acquired. It doesn’t really matter which one it is, chihuahuas with heart issues could suffer from heart failure later on in life. This happens when their heart is no longer strong enough to pump blood around the body. Valve disease is another common issue that plagues chihuahuas. The key to combating heart problems in your little dog is to catch it early.

Taking your dog to the vet for a yearly physical is recommended, especially since these small little tykes tend to suffer from more serious health problems. Catching it early on could prevent your chihuahua from needing treatment for the rest of his life.

Injury and Weakness

Since they are a very small breed, it’s safe to say they are not as hardy as some other sturdy breeds such as the husky. You should always supervise your chihuahua to make sure he doesn’t accidentally injure himself jumping off of high places or when playing with other dogs, especially if they are larger in size.

Speaking of injury and weakness, chihuahuas may need extra dental care compared to some other dog breeds. A healthy diet and daily brushing of their teeth can help mediate the situation. Bad doggy breath could also be a potential problem so dental treats can be helpful as well.

Shivering

We’re pretty sure dog lovers and dog parents have seen or known of this problem. Shivering is often seen in smaller breeds such as the chihuahua, Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, etc., but it could just be because of their extremely small size. Teacup versions of poodles, and other dogs can also have this problem.

However, it’s still not to be ignored since it could be an indication of larger health issues such as hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia

Since we are on the subject of shivering, one more serious issue it could be a symptom of would be hypoglycemia. This is another issue that can plague humans as well. This is when your chihuahua’s blood sugar level is too low, another problem more commonly found in small breeds. Other symptoms could include loss of appetite and hair loss, which is a shame for chihuahuas with long hair.

The key to living with hypoglycemia is also to catch it early on. This is why even though shivering is not usually considered a health problem, it’s still better to get a concrete diagnosis from your vet. If not properly identified, hypoglycemia can result in organ failure, which can severely compromise the immune system.

Retinal Atrophy

This is a progressive issue that we also see in Chihuahuas. They start experiencing blindness at night and as the symptoms progress in later stages, your Chihuahua could also suffer from vision impairment in the daytime. We hate to break it to you, but there is no cure for progressive retinal atrophy.

It will eventually lead to complete blindness but there is plenty you and your vet can do beforehand to slow down the process and learn to manage it later on.

How to Keep Your Chihuahua Healthy

Three Chihuahua dog on a sofa
The list above was only for the more common symptoms, there are a few other ones that may pose a problem for your Chihuahua later on in life. However, we do have some good news. In order for chihuahuas to love as long as possible, there may be a few things you can do.

Diet

All proper care begins with diet. This is why it happens to be the first point on our list. Smaller dogs grow faster and reach maturity faster as well. This is due to their high metabolism, which can help with weight gain to some level. Understand your dog’s needs. If he happens to have sensitivities, stay away from grains and look for grain-free kibble.

Some pooches out there have stomachs that just don’t do well with kibble, and owners have found a raw diet to be a good alternative. There are also plenty of subscription dog food services out there that can offer your dogs freshly cooked meals.

If you do decide on kibbles and/or wet food, it’s possible to supplement what their diet is lacking with treats or meal toppers. Make sure you read the label to see what goes inside the food and avoid buzzwords such as natural and fresh. To make the best choice, you can always consult your trusted vet who knows your dog’s history. To learn more about what to feed your chihuahuas, read our article on the best dog food for chihuahuas.

Regular Checkups

You don’t have to take your dog in for every little thing, but a regular checkup once or twice a year can be very beneficial. Not only are checkups necessary for catching illnesses and diseases early on, but you can also get a clear picture of where your dog is headed in terms of health.

Keeping them at a healthy weight and making sure they are getting enough exercise are also beneficial outcomes from regular vet visits.

Grooming

No, grooming isn’t only important and necessary for appearances, but also for health as well. No matter the dog breed, there is a certain amount of external care pawrents need to take on. Depending on if you have a long-haired or short-haired chihuahua, your work will vary.

They don’t require special grooming tools like the double-coated dogs and they are quite easy to manage. All dogs shed, it’s a misconception that short-haired dogs don’t. So don’t let the hair length be the only factor that dissuades you from getting the type of chihuahua you want.

They just need a weekly groom, and make sure it’s thorough. You should slowly sift through his fur to check for fleas, parasites, skin abnormalities and more. We also talked about the importance of proper teeth cleaning, and we definitely can’t leave ear cleaning out of it. Although your groomer can take care of that if you bring your dog in for a bath.

Nail trimming on all dogs is important as they can get in the way of walking if they get too long. Some dogs can be taken outside to walk or run on asphalt to wear them down, but since chihuahuas aren’t big long-distance walkers or runners, clipping them once a month is best.

Exercise

We saved one of the most important ones for last. Don’t let the chihuahua’s small stature fool you, they can be energetic dogs that require a fair share of exercise. Your chihuahua’s lifespan could depend on it! Chihuahuas live longer if they aren’t only kept around the house as lap dogs.

Puppies are full of vitality and energy, so don’t be surprised if you are run ragged by your new puppy. If you feel like it’s too much to handle, rest easy knowing that they will grow out of the energetic puppy phase. Their energy levels decrease as they age, just like with other dog breeds.

When exercising them, you need to remember that they are very small creatures that more than likely cannot keep up with you. You are a lot bigger so while a walk around the block is no problem for you, it’s quite grueling for them depending on the pace as well.

Remember to balance his exercise with his daily food intake. If your chihuahua isn’t a big eater or hasn’t had his meal for the day, try to refrain from overexercising him.

Training

This section also ties into exercise. Training creates not only physical but mental stimulation as well. Many dog parents may not realize how important mental stimulation is. A dog needs physical exercise and their minds need to be challenged as well. Once they get to be a few months old, we’re thinking 3-4 months, you can start training.

Taking them to puppy classes is a great chance for your Chihuahua to socialize with other dogs. Just make be sure to get all the necessary shots administered first for the safety of your pooch and others. Socialization, order and training and plenty of positive reinforcement will allow your dog to grow into a well-rounded, well-developed young pup.

Factors that Influence a Chihuahua’s Lifespan

Small Dog Breeds: Chihuahua
Diet

As we mentioned, an improper diet can exacerbate illnesses. Give your chihuahua a balanced meal and don’t just settle for any large chain grocery store-bought food. No artificial additives, fillers, or harmful ingredients should be included and do your best to refrain from feeding them human food.

Exercise

Exercise can help regulate weight and build muscle as well as strengthen their immune systems. When you have all three in check, your chihuahua will be better equipped to fight off diseases.

Shots

Making sure your puppy gets all the shots before you take him on an adventure is important. Chihuahua puppies can pick up diseases and viruses much more easily. If you take him to the dog park before you have had at least the third shot, you could be shaving years off of your dog’s life. Distemper, rabies, parvovirus are all life-threatening diseases that he could catch.

Genes

This is the luck of the draw. Just like with most animals (including us), our genes play a huge role in how we grow, develop and age. You may just be lucky enough to have a chihuahua who is exceptionally healthy with little to no issues. The scale could also tip in the other direction and you could also have a pup who is quite sickly and ill.

It’s hard to gauge their genes with rescue dogs, but a breeder should be able to provide a guarantee and all the paperwork in terms of bloodlines. That doesn’t mean sicklier pups don’t deserve a chance, but the owners need to be aware of what they are in for to avoid more dogs being discarded at shelters.

Spay/Neuter

If you don’t plan to breed, spaying or neutering your dog before the age of 1 is recommended (although it’s also okay at 2 years old or more). This will greatly lower the chances of certain cancers in both males and females. A spayed or neutered dog, in general, will live to be longer than those who aren’t.

For dogs who are prone to aggression and escaping (for male dogs when they smell a female in heat), spaying and neutering could change your chihuahua’s temperament.

Gender

Sometimes life is unfair this way, and two genders are not created equal. Studies have shown that female chihuahuas tend to outlive their male counterparts by 1-2 years. To give you a clearer picture at just how long a chihuahua can live, we have made the conversion for you.

Since we mentioned the chihuahua lifespan is usually 15-20 years, we looked into the human year equivalent for both and we got the range of 73-93 years old. That is quite impressive for such a little dog!

Conclusion

Chihuahuas have a long lifespan, but it is sort of in contrast with their myriad of health conditions. A lot of their issues can be managed over time with proper medication, but having a dog who is constantly on meds can be heartbreaking. Luckily, there are a few things you can do as a pawrent to ensure your chi has the best life.

Neuter him and spay her if you can, be sure they have all their shots before taking them to the dog park, pay attention to their diet and give them enough exercise. Remember to get yearly or bi-annual checkups to have an up-to-date picture on your pup’s health.

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