The Chihuahua is a tiny dog with an apple-shaped head and a short pointed muzzle. It has round, large, very dark eyes, sometimes dark ruby or luminous in colour. The trademark large ears should be held erect. Puppies have a soft spot or “molera” on the top of the skull. The bone usually closes the gap by adulthood. The body is cobby (stout), longer than it is tall, and the tail is sickle-shaped – curled over the back or to the side. Besides the common short-haired variety there is also a long- haired type. Colours include fawn, sand, chestnut, silver and steel blue, but any colour is accepted, including black & tan and parti-colour. The dog is more robust than he looks, with a level back, and legs coming down straight and square.
The Chihuahua is lively, alert, proud, and makes a good companion. They seek and demand affection, and they are very spunky by nature. They are determined, courageous, and they become very attached to their owner(s). They have a jealous streak, and they will follow their owner’s every move if strangers are present. Some Chihuahuas are difficult to train, but they are intelligent and generally learn quickly. They are most receptive to gentle training and positive reinforcement. The Chihuahua doesn’t like to be poked, pestered, or teased, and he may snap if a child provokes him. Because of their small size, they will resort to using their teeth if they feel threatened. This breed can be noisy and difficult to housebreak. All Chihuahuas should be properly socialized to avoid the onset of aggressive behaviour. This breed is usually aggressive towards other dogs.
Being naturally territorial and protective, Chihuahuas can be easily provoked to attack, and are therefore generally unsuitable for homes with small children. A Chihuahua who is pack leader of their humans may snap at children. This breed is generally not recommended for children, not because they are not good with them, but because most people treat the Chihuahua differently than they would a large dog, causing them to become untrustworthy. The AKC describes the breed as, “A graceful, alert, swift-moving little dog with saucy expression, compact, and with terrier-like qualities of temperament.” The breed tends to be fiercely loyal to one particular owner, but may be attached to more. They do not always get along with other breeds, and tend to have a “clannish” nature, often preferring the companionship of other Chihuahuas over other dogs. These traits generally make them unsuitable for households with children that are not patient and calm.
Chihuahuas crave attention, affection, exercise and being petted. They can be hyper, but eager to please. They have a reputation as a “yappy” dog, which can be resolved with proper training. Chihuahuas with proper breeding are not “yappy”; the AKC standard calls for “a terrier-like attitude.”
Long and short haired Chihuahuas:
There are two varieties of Chihuahuas: the long-coat, the smooth-coat, also referred to as short-haired. They are genetically the same breed. The term smooth-coat does not mean that the hair is necessarily smooth, as the hair can range from having a velvet touch to a whiskery feeling. Long-haired Chihuahuas are actually smoother to the touch, having soft, fine guard hairs and a downy undercoat, which gives them their fluffy appearance. Unlike many long-haired breeds, long-haired Chihuahuas require no trimming and minimal grooming. Contrary to popular belief, the long-haired breed also typically sheds less than their short-haired counterparts. It may take up to two or more years before a full long-haired coat develops.
The longhaired Chihuahua’s coat should be soft, and either lay flat or slightly curly; an undercoat is also preferred. Ears, feet, front and back legs should have feathering; the tail should be plumed. It is also desirable to have a large ruff around the neck is preferred.
Colours – any colour or mixture of colours are accepted.
A shorthaired Chihuahua’s coat should be smooth and glossy, whilst being a little coarser than a longhaired Chihuahua; an undercoat is allowed. The coat should be a little longer on the body than the head and ears; the tail should be furry.
Health Concerns Facing The Chihuahua
Chihuahua’s are a small breed of dog and their size can lead to many health concerns. Chihuahua health problems are usually genetic or related to their small size.
Chihuahua’s often suffer from what is called, luxating patellas. The kneecaps on the rear legs slip out of place causing pain, stiffness and difficulties walking. This can sometimes be a severe problem. It is a common condition for smaller breeds. If your Chihuahua suffers from luxating patellas you should have him checked out by the vet. In mild cases the dog will be fine without medical interference and should be able to live a normal life. In severe cases, however, your dog may need surgery to correct the condition.
Patellar luxation in chihuahuas can have both genetic causes, or environmental causes (luxation due to injury). If it appears at an early age, it’s likely to be due to genetic causes. environmental sources of injury can include too much jumping (i.e. jumping off furniture), or too much stress on the patella and surrounding ligaments (ie. when a chihuahua dances on its rear legs). This is especially dangerous when a chihuahua is a puppy in stages of early development.
Adult chihuahuas can also damage their kneecap by a forceful hit or blow. With age, looseness might also be recognized, especially in chihuahuas that are overweight as there is constant pressure on surrounding ligaments.
Symptoms of patellar luxation includes skipping, yelping when in pain, holding the rear leg up for a short time as they walk or run or rear-leg weakness. If left uncorrected, the condition will result in serious wear of the patellar ridges where the groove becomes very shallow resulting in both arthritis and in the more serious cases, permanent crippling.
If your Chihuahua does have patellar luxation, see your veterinarian for options to help alleviate symptoms. The use of supplements such as glucosamine may be helpful and it’s recommended that you keep your chihuahua lean and exercised to keep the leg muscles strong.
Depending on how severe the condition is, it may or may not require surgery. If required, your chihuahua will recover quickly with complete recovery in as early as thirty days. Breeding chihuahuas with this disorder is not recommended. Chihuahuas affected still make for wonderful pets and those that do require surgery usually lead perfectly normal lives without any restrictions on activity.
A Tricky Trachea:
Chihuahua’s often suffer from problems with a collapsing trachea. The trachea flattens out and results in a dry cough and breathing problems. It is often linked to injury, like from a collar or leash pulling or pushing against the trachea. It is usually a condition that shows up in older dogs, but sometimes a pup can be born with it. Your veterinarian can treat the problem with medications and you may be able to prevent it with proper Chihuahua care, like using a harness instead of a collar leash.
Chihuahua’s are prone to a few different heart conditions and of all Chihuahua health problems, heart conditions produce the most fatalities. They can experience heart murmurs, although these are the least common heart ailment in Chihuahua’s. If a Chihuahua does have a heart murmur it is usually nothing to cause great concern and the dog will not experience adverse health effects from it. The more common heart conditions that Chihuahua’s face are mitral valve disease and pulmonic stenosis.
Mitral valve disease is a term for degenerative thickening and deformity of the heart. It is genetic and effects males twice as much as females. It can cause the heart to become inflamed or not operate properly. A Chihuahua suffering from mitral valve disease may experience symptoms like passing out, weakness, fluid build up in the lungs and shortness of breath. The severity if the disease varies and it is most often controlled through medication if caught early enough.
Pulmonic stenosis is a condition where the blood flow to the heart is partially obstructed. There are varying levels of severity dependent upon how much the arteries are blocked. Severe cases can lead to congestive heart failure. Dogs with mild cases may not experience any symptoms at all. Dogs with sever cases may experience breathing problems, be easily fatigued and have abdominal swelling. Surgery is the most common method to correct this condition.
Hypoglycemia is a common condition in Chihuahua’s. Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar.
This is especially dangerous for puppies. Left unattended, hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death. This can be combated with frequent feedings (every three hours for very small or young puppies). Chihuahua owners should have a simple sugar supplement on hand to use in emergencies, such as, Nutri-Cal, Karo syrup or honey. These supplements can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth to rapidly raise the blood sugar level. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, sleepiness, low energy, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes and spasms of the neck muscles (or head pulling back or to the side).
Chihuahua’s are generally healthy, despite all the Chihuahua health problems described. Most conditions are easy to control and as long as you schedule regular check ups with the veterinarian your dog should remain in good health. Prevention and good Chihuahua care is the key to keeping your Chihuahua healthy.
Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections or eye injury due to their large, round, protruding eyes and their relatively low ground clearance. Care should be taken to prevent visitors or children from poking the eyes. The eyes also water to remove dust or allergens that may get into the eye. Daily wiping will keep the eyes clean and prevent tear staining.
Moleras (“SOFT SPOT”):
Chihuahuas have moleras, or a soft spot in their skulls, and they are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. The molera fills in with age, but great care needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. Some moleras do not close completely and will require extra care to prevent injury. Many veterinarians are not familiar with Chihuahuas as a breed, and mistakenly confuse a molera with hydrocephalus.
Because the Chihuahua is small, he also has a very small mouth. This small mouth can cause problems with the mouth being too small for the teeth, which causes overcrowding. Overcrowding of teeth can cause food to be trapped between the teeth, resulting in plaque and tarter buildup, as well as premature tooth-loss. Keeping the teeth clean is essential to keeping the mouth and the rest of the dog healthy. Dogs that have dirty teeth are found to be at much more at risk of heart, liver and kidney damage from the bacteria entering the bloodstream.
You can help keep the mouth clean by offering dental biscuits, dental chew toys, including edible dental chew toys (i.e. greenies, dental bones, etc.), feeding dry food instead of semi-moist or canned food, brushing your dog’s teeth (but don’t use human toothpaste…it has fluoride…there are doggie toothpastes available at most pet shops), using the available edible water additives for dental hygiene, as well as taking your dog to the veterinarian for a dental cleaning, etc. As the Chihuahua gets older, it is almost inevitable that he will need at least one dental cleaning by the veterinarian, quite often more.
Another issue, although less serious and easily corrected, is retained puppy teeth. Toy breeds are more prone to this problem, and it is caused by the adult tooth growing beside the puppy tooth, instead of the puppy tooth falling out. I usually recommend that if there are any retained puppy teeth (the usual teeth to be retained are the long canines and the small incisors in the front), that the puppy teeth be removed at the time of spay/neuter. This way the dog is only under anesthetic once, and for the rest of his life food can’t get trapped between the puppy and adult teeth.
Overfeeding a Chihuahua can be a great danger to the dog’s health, shortening its life and leading to diabetes to diabetes, joint problems, tracheal collapse and chronic bronchitis.
Chihuahuas have a tendency to tremble but this is not a health issue, rather it takes place when the dog is stressed, excited or cold. One reason for this may be because small dogs have a higher metabolism than larger dogs and therefore dissipate heat faster. Due to this Chihuahuas often wear coats or sweaters when outside in the cold or in overly air-conditioned places. Chihuahuas often like to dig and snuggle down in blankets for sleeping.