Chihuahua Health Problems
The Chihuahua is a little dog with a big personality! He is perfect for the owner who wants an entertaining, relatively inactive and quirky companion to lounge around with.
Every breed is unique in many ways, so it’s important to examine every part to ensure a good fit for the potential home. Let’s take a look at some health problems that can be common to the Chihuahua.
Have you ever heard of the “soft spot” on a newborn baby? Chihuahuas are a unique breed in that they’re the only dog to also be born with a “soft spot”, where the plates of their skulls are not fully fused until later in life. While most of the time his skull fuses together and that hole closes in a healthy manner over time, there are a small number of Chihuahuas who suffer from problems with this fusion resulting in a hole that will not completely close.
Usually, in these circumstances, a condition known as hydrocephalus develops – meaning cerebrospinal fluid collects and fills up around the brain, which causes pain and pressure, seizures, poor coordination, blindness and other issues. Surgical “solutions” include the placement of a shunt to drain the fluid, but it must be managed throughout his life as fluid build-up fluctuates over time.
Most small dog breeds are susceptible to a condition known as Patellar Luxation, and the Chihuahua is no different. Patellar Luxation occurs when the kneecaps slip out of socket, thereby causing lameness and pain. The extent of the issue varies widely throughout the breed – some dogs simply experience pain as their kneecaps slip out and then back into place, and some require surgical correction. In both extremes, dogs might experience a temporary or permanent inability to walk. Up to a third of Chihuahuas are thought to suffer from some extent of Patellar Luxation.
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar, otherwise known as hypoglycemia, is a fairly common and very serious condition amongst Chihuahua puppies. Weakness, shaking, disorientation and skin that is cold and clammy to the touch are all symptoms of hypoglycemia. Though sometimes issues that arise due to low blood sugar cannot be completely avoided, a huge helper for an owner is to include quality food (high fiber and protein) in their puppy’s diet in order to prevent peaks and valleys in sugar levels.
A general rule of thumb for dogs is this: the smaller the dog, the more sensitive they are to mistakes in terms of daily feedings and their diet. The Chihuahua has an incredibly sensitive and small stomach, which means that a subtle change in what they eat has the potential to throw their entire system (metabolism, specifically) off kilter. They are particularly easy to over-feed because their tiny bodies do not require as much sustenance as other breeds, so it’s imperative that owners measure their food carefully and pay special attention to food quality.
Along these lines, because of their size, Chihuahuas are more likely to become dehydrated quickly than bigger dogs – illnesses like diarrhea or vomiting can significantly throw off electrolyte balance, hydration levels, and metabolism – and without access to fresh, clean water, this can be devastating for the little guys.
A congenital issue that could possibly affect a Chihuahua at birth is called Portosystemic Shunt: when the vein that connects the fetus to the womb in utero doesn’t close off properly after birth. The result of this condition is waste entering the bloodstream rather than passing through the liver to be eliminated. Prompt surgery is required to correct the issue, and usually puppies affected turn out much smaller than their litter-mates and struggle to gain weight.
Breathing problems like gagging, coughing and wheezing in Chihuahuas can sometimes be related to a condition called Tracheal Collapse, a condition in which the trachea partially closes up and a struggle to breathe occurs. This occurs when the rings in the digestive tract are not stiff or strong enough to hold the trachea open against the air pressure created during respiration, and the result is a partial collapse.
Obesity, irritants, allergies, heart conditions, bacterial infections, viruses and leash pulling are often culprits behind why tracheal collapse occurs. If you notice any symptoms of Tracheal Collapse, it’s important that you consult with your vet immediately, as damage can occur in the lungs, larynx, and nasal passages without proper treatment.
Kerato Conjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eyes)
You may have noticed that Chihuahuas have eyes that protrude off the skull more than other breeds. Because of this, it’s relatively common for them to develop Kerato Conjunctivitis Sicca (dry eyes), especially as they grow out of their puppy status. This condition occurs when the glands in the eye do not produce sufficient tears, thereby resulting in an inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissue because of the drying.
Dogs with Dry Eyes might have red, irritated eyes, eyes that appear dull, with thick discharge, recurring eye infections, reduced vision, and they might blink constantly or paw at their eye / eyes often. Though Dry Eyes in and of itself isn’t life threatening, it can be painful and uncomfortable for a Chihuahua, and it often points to a greater, more serious issue. Genetic defects, inherited abnormalities, autoimmune conditions, hypothyroidism, eye disease and some other trauma are all often the causes of Dry Eyes.
Because Chihuahuas are so small, they often have issues with teeth crowding in their mouths. This can be painful over time, and can pose a problem in terms of eating in extreme cases. Do your best to maintain proper dental health for your Chihuahua by monitoring his food intake closely and making sure he has quality food, brushing often, and doing routine teeth checks regularly – being careful to remove food stuck between teeth that might cause an eventual shift in tooth structure if left alone. Finally, ask your vet to include a regular dental check up whenever you bring him in.