The Chihuahua is a lively dog that tends to closely identify with one owner, causing it at times to be aggressive to other people and dogs. Like many toy dog breeds, the Chihuahua can be prone to genetic diseases such as hydrocephalus in puppies, a condition where fluid accumulates in the skull, and painful physical deformities in old age. The Chihuahua is a long lived dog, ranging in lifespan from 14 to 18 years, although a great deal of variation of lifespan exists from one dog to the next.
Primary Health Conditions of the Chihuahua
An enlargement of the head, or encephalitis, is a common, serious condition Chihuahuas may face. It is rarely a treatable condition and the prognosis for the disease is unfavorable. Additionally, the breed is born with a soft spot in the skull that may or may not close with maturity. Care must be taken to prevent head injuries.
The Chihuahua is also susceptible to diabetes, and because of their small size, dangerous low blood sugar levels can develop quickly. Owners are advised to keep simple sugars on hand in case of emergency. These dogs are also prone to dental problems and obesity, so regular dental care and a strict “no people food diet” is required.
Secondary Health Conditions of the Chihuahua
The large, bulging eyes of the Chihuahua make them vulnerable to injury. The owner should take care to remove protruding obstacles around the house at the dog’s eye level. Physical deformities in the limbs and joints can be painful for the Chihuahua in older ages, and physical activity may need to be limited at that time. As a toy dog, the Chihuahua can suffer from collapsed trachea, making breathing difficult, especially during exercise. Again, limiting activity may be required, although the health problems related to obesity, including diabetes, need to be balanced with these concerns.
Chihuahua Exercise and Walking Needs
The Chihuahua is an energetic dog, but its activity is usually reserved for intense, short-lived bouts. Thus, the breed can get most of its exercise needs in a small yard or even around the house. Ball chasing is a favorite exercise for many Chihuahuas. As the Chihuahua gets older, its taste for exercise decreases and the dog can become somewhat lethargic. However, given its propensity towards obesity and diabetes, the dog should be encouraged to exercise through play and interaction with its owner.
Chihuahua Nutritional Needs
As with all dogs, the Chihuahua requires a high quality food with plenty of protein and nutrients. Given the breed’s small size, care should be taken to not overfeed the dog. Also, the Chihuahua will likely prefer a dry food that comes in small pieces. Chihuahuas should never be fed food intended for people. Their predisposition to dental problems and diabetes makes this prohibition especially important to the breed.