How long do small dogs live? In Chihuahua's case, it can be a very long time, especially if you watch for these common risk factors and adjust the care for your furry companion accordingly. Read more below!
These sweet little Mexican pups are a part of the oldest dog breed on the entire North American continent.
Not only is the entire Chihuahua breed old, but individual Chihuahuas have some of the lengthiest lifespans, and they tend to live longer than many notoriously long-living small dog breeds.
How long do small dogs live?
Though your Chihuahua pup can be with you for two decades if you're lucky, like other dogs, they're prone to some health conditions that may shorten their lifespan.
Are Chihuahua dogs on your mind? Learn more about the average Chihuahua dog life expectancy and how to care for your pup to live together until you're old and grey.
A Little Chihuahua History
The Chihuahua hails from the Mexican state that sits on the border to Texas and New Mexico. These spicy little pups likely evolved from the Techichi wild dog, domesticated sometime around the 9th century by the Toltecs.
Mexicans discovered Chihuahuas sometime around 1850, and they quickly migrated north of the border to become beloved pets all over North America.
The Tell-Tale Chihuahua Characteristics
Most short or long-haired Chihuahua dogs weigh in at between 2 to 6 pounds and measure a measly 6 to 9 inches - no wonder we see people carrying these teeny-tiny doggos around in purses.
Chihuahua bodies are stout and stocky with a sickle-shaped tail, sloped neck, and level back. Their head shape is unique, looking more apple-shaped than elongated.
Chihuahua Lifespan: How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?
Most Chihuahuas live 15 to 20 years on average with the proper care, diet, and exercise. And much like humans, the females of the species tend to live a year or two longer than a male Chihuahua dog.
Are Chihuahua dogs healthy?
Chihuahua doggos living forever seems like a great thing - and it is! But by having a higher than average lifespan of a dog, this breed is prone to develop more health conditions as they age.
Factors Affecting Your Chihuahua's Lifespan That you Can't Control
First, let's address the factors that may affect your Chihuahua's life expectancy that you can't control easily. Knowing about them may help you learn to recognize, catch, and treat your doggo early before a little problem grows into a bigger one.
Like any other dog, Chihuahua pups are likely to suffer from joint and skeletal issues, like age-related osteoarthritis. A daily glucosamine supplement goes a long way in terms of prevention and protection for their joints, so start them on a supplement early before showing signs of an issue.
You can also invest in a bed ramp for dogs to prevent excessive bone and joint stress. Plus, these tiny guys will likely appreciate the independence of moving freely on and off the furniture.
#2. Unique Skull Shape Issues
Those apple-shaped skulls are adorable, but it also means the soft spot, or molera, doesn't fully form and harden until they're six months old.
During the first six months of puppyhood, it's crucial to be careful around the molera until the hole closes; otherwise, you may damage brain tissues and shorten their lifespan. Many Chihuahua pups die of trauma to the molera caused by fights with other dogs or accidental force to the head.
The average Chihuahua may be tiny, but they don't seem to be aware of that fact - some Chis act downright aggressive with other, bigger dogs, which can quickly turn into a fatal fight in the wrong circumstances. Keep your pup leashed at all times so you can maintain complete control over any situation and keep them safe.
Large birds of prey and hunting animals may like the look of your Chi. If you're out in the wild or fenced-in yard, keep an eye on your doggo to avoid any attempted snatchings.
This congenital condition causes spinal fluid to build within a Chihuahua's brain, causing a swollen head. Sadly, most Chihuahuas with hydrocephalus end up passing away before they're even four months old.
There is no true way to prevent or treat this condition, but many breeders use selective breeding to avoid passing this condition down to new pups.
#4. Heart Disease
18.5% of Chihuahuas die of heart-related diseases, meaning they're in the top 5 most vulnerable breeds - it's extra-important to take care of your Chi's heart.
Cardiac disease commonly affects tiny Chihuahuas, specifically through a congenital condition called patent ductus arteriosus. PDA causes left-sided heart disease and general heart failure.
We often see mitral valve disease in Chis, which can mean heart murmurs, scar tissue, and risk for congestive heart failure with blood or fluid in the lungs, torso, or both. Therapy and medication are available from a vet for any pup with valve disease - we can't cure the disease, but we can prevent the significant side effects and death.
Controllable Factors to Lengthen Your Chihuahua's Lifespan
Much like humans, what a Chihuahua eats will affect its overall health, including the Chihuahua lifespan. The best diet to feed your Chi is a good-quality, nutritious, and balanced dog food with no fillers, artificial ingredients, or preservatives.
Ask your vet which food they recommend for your pup's diet. If you're feeling extra motivated, serve your dog a natural food diet with the guidance of a vet, of course.
#2. Say No to Table Scraps
We know it's hard to say no to our dogs when they're giving us those puppy eyes and begging for scraps of our dinner (or the whole thing!). It's best to look at the long game here. By denying your Chi some table scraps, you'll help to prevent obesity, health problems, and feeding them potentially toxic ingredients. Chihuahuas are prone to gaining weight, leading to increased health risks, diabetes, and a lower lifespan on average.
#3. Vet Checks
To keep your Chihuahua in top condition for a long life, take them to the vet regularly for checkups, even if nothing is wrong. These checkups can help to monitor their immune system and catch health conditions early to give you a chance to treat and prevent them before they become an issue.
Be sure your doggo is always up-to-date on booster shots, vaccines, and medicine. Essential vaccinations are for leptospirosis, parvovirus, and canine influenza.
#4. Dental Care
Brushing your pup's teeth a few times each week won't just protect their teeth - without regular brushing, gum disease may become a reality. Gum disease can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which affects the overall body and heart health.
On top of a brushing routine, take your dog in for an annual dental cleaning and exam from a professional puppy dentist to keep their teeth and gums in tip-top shape.
If you plan on having your Chihuahua for 20 years, you want to be sure his teeth are in good condition for a lifetime.
#5. Neuter and Spay
Neutering and spaying aren't just to prevent unwanted "accidents." Neutered male dogs live 18% longer on average than their unneutered counterparts, and spayed females live 23% longer. The rate of reproductive cancers goes way down after the process, too.
Sometimes we forget that our doggos are animals, and even the most hesitant Chihuahua still needs some exercise every day to boost their mental and physical health.
Take your Chi for daily walks, but keep them light - those little legs tire quickly!
Chis are prone to sudden spikes and drops in their blood sugar levels, specifically chronically low blood sugar with a condition called hypoglycemia. If left untreated, over time, this blood condition can affect the Chihuahua lifespan.
Hypoglycemic dogs tend to be sluggish, shaky, and chronically tired.
Final Notes: How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?
When it comes to our dog's health, we can only do what we can about the factors we can control, and it's not worth the stress to worry about potential health factors over which we can do nothing.
Once you know and follow some simple prevention, learn to let go of the worry and enjoy every precious moment with your Chihuahua!