The Chihuahua dog breed has experienced a surge in popularity, thanks to a now-pervasive presence in American culture. Not only have these dogs been used in countless Taco Bell ads, but they’ve been toted around by celebrities like Paris Hilton, who’ve helped make the purse-sized Chihuahua a living fashion accessory. Before this fido fever bites you, though, be sure to learn about Chihuahua health problems like hydrocephalus and patella luxation. You need to know what you’re getting into.
You see, the Chihuahua is prone to medical issues that many owners don’t realize until after they’ve purchased their pets. Common Chihuahua health problems include hydrocephalus (water-on-the-brain), patella luxation (a knee problem), tracheal collapse, and seizures. While this doesn’t mean your toy dog will definitely experience some of these Chihuahua health problems, the truth is that Chihuahuas have more problems than larger breeds when it comes to the skull, nervous system, respiratory system, and joints. And on a small dog, that’s a lot to worry about. You might even liken the Chihuahua to a Yugo: it’s a small and arguably “cute” compared to its peers, but it’s also not the sturdiest thing around.
Chihuahua Health Problems: Hydrocephalus (Water on the Brain)
Before I explain hydrocephalus, I should mention that Chihuahuas have a special characteristic: a “soft skull” hole known as a molera. Like many newborn mammals (including human babies), Chihuahuas are not born with fully developed bones in their head to protect their brains. Instead, their skulls tend to have an opening which (although it decreases in size with age) never completely disappears the way it does in other mammals. The molera itself is not listed among Chihuahua health problems – it’s just a trademark of the breed. However, an unusually large molera is a telltale sign of hydrocephalus, a condition wherein excess fluid collects on brain and results in a swelled head and eventual death. Other signs include of this painful Chihuahua health problem include crossed eyes, grogginess, loss of balance, and seizures. Hydrocephalus tends to affect most Chihuahuas before they reach 9 months of age, and an experienced vet can help distinguish between a normal molera and hydrocephalus.
Chihuahua Health Problems: Patella Luxation (Knee Problems)
Patella luxation is a fancy way of saying that the dog’s knee joint slips out of place and rubs against the leg bone instead. Ay carumba!! This is one of the Chihuahua health problems that can be traced to heredity and is not necessarily a breed-specific problem, as lots of small dogs experience it. While not as dooming as hydrocephalus, patella luxation can affect a Chihuahua’s mobility and temperament. They’re excitable, high-strung little dogs, so their frequent jumping can aggravate the painful problem. Often, a seasoned vet can detect a Chihuahua’s predisposition for patella luxation by inspecting its legs when it’s a mere pup. Because the treatment for severe luxation is often surgery, it’s a problem potential owners certainly want to avoid if possible.
Chihuahua Health Problems: Collapse of the Trachea (Breathing Problems)
Given their small size, all of the Chihuahua’s body part as small. In the case of the trachea, the little yapper’s windpipe is very narrow and especially susceptible to collapse. When the weakened cartilage collapses, even slightly, the dog has trouble breathing and will tire quickly from exercise. Because of the strange coughing sounds the dog may make when struggling to breathe normally, this is one of the more distressing and frightening Chihuahua health problems owners might encounter. The good news is that it’s somewhat treatable. Reducing air irritants (including smoke, air sprays, and other pollutants) is one way to help the Chihuahua breathe.
Chihuahua Health Problems: Seizures
Part of the genetic problem with Chihuahuas is that they are especially prone to issues with their nervous system wiring. Just as seizures are not completely understood in humans, they’re not completely understood in dogs either. It’s normal for Chihuahuas to shake and shiver a bit (regardless of temperature), and that fidgety quality adds to their nervous reputation. But when the dog begins to shake in an abnormal way, urinate on itself, bite the air, stiffen its limbs, or exhibit other symptoms that are reminiscent of human epileptic seizures, the dog needs veterinary attention. In many cases, the seizure comes about due to hypoglycemia – a low level of blood sugar. Seizures are among the Chihuahua health problems that can sometimes be controlled by medication.
Final thoughts on Chihuahua Health Problems
Despite their greater predisposition to health problems, Chihuahuas can make great pets, especially for people who live in small apartments or people who have limited mobility. Don’t let the potential conditions listed above automatically rule out the breed – just remember that the cute, popular Chihuahua isn’t always the hardiest choice.