Chihuahuas are among the smallest dog breeds, tending to weigh between two and eight pounds. But how long do Chihuahuas live?
Small dogs tend to live longer than bigger dogs, and the average lifespan of a Chihuahua is between 15 and 20 years. When you adopt a Chihuahua, you gain a loyal and affectionate companion for many years to come.
No matter what kind of dog you have, many factors contribute to their lifespan. Some differ by the breed of dog, and some are specific to Chihuahuas. Others are completely random and unpredictable, such as diseases and accidents. Knowing about dog health and chihuahua health, in particular, will help you to raise a long-lived pup.
What Kind of Chihuahua Lives Longest?
Many potential pet owners see the great appeal of adopting a tiny dog. Teacup Chihuahuas are often sought after because they look like puppies for their entire life. Teacup Chihuahuas, however, have a shorter lifespan than a regular-sized Chihuahua for several reasons.
The term “Teacup” is used to denote a particularly small chihuahua. These unbelievably tiny balls of sass are also adorable, especially when you put them inside a teacup. Some actually fit, hence the name.
However, teacup chihuahuas are more at risk for health problems because of their tiny size. This is because a Teacup Chihuahua results from cross-breeding between dogs that were the runt of their litter.
Teacup Chihuahuas are more prone to hypoglycemia because of their tiny size. They eat tiny meals and only require 150 calories a day, but their blood sugar can get dangerously low very quickly if they miss a meal.
Because of their size, Teacup Chihuahuas have very delicate bone structures, and like teacups, they should be handled carefully.
They also have a greater risk for heart disease, and their tiny bladders make them inclined to be incontinent. If you’ve ever seen a Chihuahua pee itself from excitement or nervousness, their small bladders are partially to blame for that.
Because of all these health problems, Teacup Chihuahuas have a shorter lifespan than regular chihuahuas, usually between seven and 12 years.
“Regular” Chihuahuas include the two basic American Kennel Club categories — smooth-coat and long-haired, as well as the variations in head shape — apple headed, pear headed, and deer headed. All of these variations fall into the 15-20 year lifespan range.
Factors in Chihuahua Lifespan
Several factors contribute to the lifespan of a Chihuahua, including the genetics of the dog’s parents, the dog’s gender, and the quality of their diet and healthcare.
In general, female Chihuahuas live up to two years longer than males. Chihuahuas also avoid a multitude of health problems if they maintain a healthy weight throughout their lifetime.
Common Chihuahua Health Problems
All dogs come with a greater risk for certain health problems depending on their breed. Chihuahuas are no different. Not all of these common health problems are immediately life-threatening, but they can affect your pup’s day-to-day activity.
Because they live longer than bigger dogs, chihuahuas are more at risk for dental problems, especially as they age.
Dental problems can be painful for your pup, and although sore teeth aren’t life-threatening by themselves, it can become a serious problem if it hurts the dog to eat. If you notice that your dog isn’t eating all of its food, check its teeth.
Preventative care is also important when it comes to your dog’s dental hygiene. Clean your dog’s teeth regularly, or take them to the vet for cleanings.
A common sight: a fat little dog waddling along in its stumpy legs. It’s kind of cute, but that dog is more at risk for a lot of health problems.
Small dogs are more prone to weight gain because it takes only a little bit of extra food to pack on the pounds. However, it only takes a little bit of exercise and a small change in diet to have your pup back to its trim self again.
Obesity puts excess pressure on a variety of bodily systems and can lead to other health problems.
One of these health problems is a collapsed windpipe, making it hard for your dog to breathe. Dogs with obesity are also at a greater risk for diabetes and many bones and joint problems.
Prevent obesity in your chihuahua by feeding them healthy meals and limiting extra treats. Make sure your chihuahua gets enough exercise. Take them for walks and let them run around in the backyard. Those little guys can zoom around at a surprising speed when they’re energetic and healthy!
Bone and Joint Problems
If you’re keeping your chihuahua at a healthy weight, you’re already taking the first step in preventing bone and joint problems. Small dogs have a predisposition toward joint issues, and obesity puts excessive pressure on those joints.
Small dog breeds commonly have problems with their knee joint alignment, which can be present at birth but often develops later. This misalignment can cause your dog to have difficulty walking and worsen if your dog is overweight.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint wears down from use. If a dog is overweight, more stress is put on the joints, and the cartilage wears down faster.
Cartilage is meant to keep the bones from touching each other, which can be very painful. Arthritis makes it more challenging to exercise, which can, in turn, worsen obesity.
Chihuahuas have a small spot on their head called a molera, where the skull hasn’t fully formed. Think of the soft spot on a baby’s head when they have first been born. This spot on a Chihuahua’s head is vulnerable, and you should be mindful of this when handling your pup.
Chihuahuas are particularly prone to heart conditions, which in turn can be worsened by obesity. The most common heart conditions that Chihuahuas suffer from are heart valve problems.
The heart valves can become weakened and don’t close properly. This allows blood to leak back through the valve and strains the heart.
A vet can detect heart valve disease easily by listening for a heart murmur. Other signs of heart valve problems are coughing, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
If your Chihuahua displays any of these symptoms, take them to the vet. The sooner a health problem is diagnosed, the better chance the vet has of fixing it.
How to Increase Your Chihuahua’s Lifespan
A significant factor in the lifespan of any pet is how its owner cares for them. Regardless of your Chihuahua’s genetics, gender, or health problems, there are many things you can do to improve their quality of life and the number of years they live.
Don’t underestimate the power of healthy food, exercise, and regular trips to the vet!
Common chihuahua health problems include heart disease and obesity, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight is essential.
Diet is the central aspect of day-to-day care that you have control over. Make sure that your Chihuahua eats food with natural ingredients and without artificial preservatives.
Keep your dog safe. Because of their small size, Chihuahuas are more at risk for physical trauma.
Chihuahua’s are feisty for their size, and they often don’t realize that the neighbor dog is three times as big as them. Keep your little dog on a leash when walking them to keep them from running into danger. You should also fit them with an ID collar or a microchip, just in case.
Another aspect of your dog’s life that you can control is their basic healthcare. Looking after your Chihuahua’s dental health and scheduling regular checkups will enable you to catch health problems early.
Preventative care is key to the health of your dog. This includes getting their vaccines to prevent particularly dangerous diseases like rabies and distemper.
If you have a health concern about your dog, get in touch with your vet. I’ve brought my dog to the vet a few times based on nothing more than a hunch or a feeling that something was “off” with him.
Even if it’s something minor, I’d instead get a vet’s opinion and be sure that my pup is okay. Vets understand this. They normally won’t criticize you if you bring your dog in for “no reason.”
Spaying and Neutering
Dogs that are spayed or neutered tend to live longer than intact ones. This is because neutered males are less at risk for testicular cancer, and spayed females are less susceptible to ovarian cancer.
Getting your dog fixed is also a good idea if you don’t plan on breeding them. It’ll prevent the appearance of a surprise litter of puppies. A fixed dog will sometimes also be less aggressive according to anecdotal evidence.
Chihuahuas are naturally long-lived, but there’s a lot you can do to improve their quality of life and increase their lifespan. Chihuahuas are prone to heart problems and issues with their joints, but many of these problems are preventable when you take good care of them.
The key to a healthy, long-lived Chihuahua is a healthy diet and daily exercise to keep them from getting overweight.
Make sure your pup visits the vet often for checkups, teeth cleanings, and stay up-to-date on their vaccines. Give your Chihuahua a healthy lifestyle, and you will have a feisty, friendly, and loyal companion for up to two decades.