Chihuahua Health Information
Chihuahuas are highly intelligent and not be underestimated for their diminutive size. These sassy little dogs have an independent streak. Owners must keep in mind that the breed is overall healthy; however, their small size makes them fragile. They should be kept INDOORS. Their tiny bodies cannot tolerate cold temperatures.
Teacup MYTH- Our breed standard recognizes two varieties of Chihuahuas, the long coat and the smooth coat. All Chihuahuas must weight six pounds or under as our standard specifies in order to be shown. Occasionally, within a litter, there may be a puppy that is unusually small. That puppy is a small Chihuahua and any other breakdown in description is not correct. There is no such thing as a teacup, micro, miniature, mini, or any other term to describe a “runt” of a litter. Do not be fooled!
CHILDREN & LARGE DOGS
According to the AKC Breed Standard, Chihuahuas are six pounds or smaller, however, a larger Chihuahua doesn’t make your pet unhealthy or from poor breeding. As tiny dogs they are defenseless with young children and large dogs. They must be constantly supervised and kept separated when direct supervision is not possible. It is advisable to keep your Chihuahua on a leash whenever you are in public. This will enable you to quickly pull your Chihuahua out of harm’s way, and will prevent the dog from running away when frightened.
Chihuahuas have higher metabolisms than most breeds and should be fed premium dog foods. When a quality dog food is fed, no additional supplementation is recommended. Young puppies should have dry food available at all times to prevent hypoglycemia. Fresh water should always be available to your Chihuahua.
Historically, the Chihuahua developed in Mexico and the United States has displayed a “soft spot” on the top of the head. In the Chihuahua this spot, or fontanel, is known as a Molera; and is the same as that found in human babies. In the past, this molera was accepted as a mark of purity in the breed, and it is still mentioned in most Chihuahua breed standards the world over. A domed head with a molera present does not predispose the Chihuahua to hydrocephalus. It is important to note that while many Chihuahua puppies are born without the molera, there are probably just as many born with one and its presence is nothing to become alarmed over. Unfortunately, many lay people and some veterinarians not familiar with the Chihuahua have tried to link the mere presence of the molera with the condition known as hydrocephalus. This has caused many new-comers to the breed serious concern and undue worry. The truth is that a domed head with a molera present does not predispose the Chihuahua to this condition. For more information about the Molera, please visit The Chihuahua Club of America's statement.
This is the scientific name for a condition where the sugar level suddenly drops in a small animals system. The first signs of the problem is usually staggering and falling over as though they are drunk. Or they can be observed lying on their side paddling with their front feet as though they are swimming. If these symptoms are observed, you must act very quickly in order to save your puppy's life. YOU HAVE TO GET THE SUGAR LEVEL UP TO BRING THE PUPPY OUT OF THIS SITUATION, AND IT MUST BE DONE VERY QUICKLY!!! Usually you do not have time to get them to a Vet before they suffer irreparable damage. Honey is the best remedy for this situation. But if honey is not available, use Karo syrup or anything that is super sweet. If you don't have any of this on hand, then run about an inch of water in a coffee cup and stir in 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar and stir quickly until it dissolves. Then you must get some of this mixture into the puppy. At this point, you will find the puppy clinches its mouth shut and will not lap it up on its own. By inserting a finger in the corner of the puppy's mouth you can pry it open far enough to get a fingertip covered with honey into its mouth. Or in the case of the sugar water, an eye dropper, straw, or even dropping it through the opening in the mouth one drop at a time from a spoon. Once the puppy gets a good taste of the sweet substance, it will usually start sticking its tongue out and will start to recover in a very short time. Please note that if it was necessary to use Karo syrup, this mixture is also a natural laxative. Do not be surprised if diarrhea should follow when relieving itself. If your puppy has experienced episodes of hypoglycemia, it is usually a sign that it is not taking in enough food or it has an underlying problem that may need medical attention. Sometimes, this problem can be corrected by just stirring in a teaspoon of sugar into the puppy's water supply daily until the episodes subside. When levels of glucose in the blood drop rapidly, the dog's body and brain are deprived of essential nutrients. The results of hypoglycemia can be weakness, seizures, coma, and in severe cases, death. Because Chihuahuas are so small, they can be prone to hypoglycemia, especially when they are very young. Hypoglycemia is usually caused by stress, illness, lack of food, or by using up stored energy without it being replenished. It is important to make sure that young puppies and very tiny chihuahuas eat regularly throughout the day. Another preventative for hypoglycemia is regular feeding of a high calorie supplement like Nutri-Cal, available from your veterinarian or you local pet store. If you suspect that your Chihuahua is hypoglycemic, call your vet AT ONCE as this condition can be quickly fatal.
An Occasional bout of sneezing, snorting, honking and wheezing are not unusual in Chihuahuas, and are sometimes called a "reverse sneeze". This is usually caused by an elongated soft palate that is thought to become temporarily misaligned. It is a common trait in toy breeds. Pulling hard on a leash, drinking too fast or getting overly excited can lead to an episode of reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing SHOULD NOT be confused with a different condition called "collapsed trachea". Although reverse sneezing may appear to be scary, it only lasts a short time and can be ended by massaging the dog's neck and throat to encourage the dog to swallow or lick. Another way to slow the reverse sneeze is to clap your hands to distract the dog, or pinch closed the dog's nostrils with your fingers forcing it to breathe through its mouth and to swallow.
In Chihuahuas, when they are between 8 and 12 weeks of age, you may notice a sudden thinning splotchy pattern in the coat. Some breeders call this the "hen pecked look" because the coat looks just like a chicken has pulled out tufts of hair in the shape of a chicken's beak. This has very often been misdiagnosed as mange of one kind or another. Many vets opt to do skin scrapings to determine if mites are present. Please note that this is a very normal condition that usually only last a couple of weeks to a month and will completely clear itself up with time. It is caused by the changing of the coat. Smooth coats look like they have bare places and some long coats will shed off their coats until they are nearly as slick as an onion skin. It will grow back and is perfectly normal. It will sometimes occur again when they are about a year and a half old. Females blow coat when they experience heat cycles and when they are recovering from nursing puppies. You should only be alarmed if the shedding is also accompanied with some sort of rash or what appear to be pimples on the skin. This is usually a sign of demodectic mange mites or some sort of allergy.
Chihuahuas usually have a full set of baby teeth by the time they are 6 weeks old. But some of them lack jaw muscles strong enough to crush dry kibble in order to get enough nutrition. You should watch your puppy for signs of hunger and make sure it is getting enough to eat even if you have to feed it "soft" food for a couple of weeks. When Chihuahuas get about 12 weeks old, they usually start to cut their permanent teeth. This is a process that sometimes goes on for 3 to 6 months. It can affect different puppies in different ways. You may notice some that had very erect ears now resemble Beagles. Or you will see them with one ear up and one ear down. Tomorrow it can be the other ear up and the mate down. It is not uncommon to see one or both ears actually roll up backwards like window shades. This is all perfectly normal and if given enough time the ears will stand erect again all by themselves. There are cases of puppies coming from lines with "weak" ear leather where you may have to tape the ears in order to help them keep them erect until they can again hold them up on their own.
Most dogs wear down their toenails by activity such as walking and running. It they are indoor pets, like most Chihuahuas are, they wear them down enough naturally. If this is the case, they can grow to become extremely long and damage carpets and furniture. They can also splay the toes and interfere with traction by preventing the foot pads from making contact with the ground if they become excessively long. Long toenails should be trimmed.
WHAT ARE ANAL SACS?
Anal sacs (also called "anal glands") are two small glands just inside your pet's anus. The material secreted into these glands is thick and foul smelling. Most animals can empty these glands voluntarily for scent marking or in self-defense (like a skunk might do).
Domestic animals have largely lost their ability to empty these sacs voluntarily. Walking around and normal defecation serves to empty the glands but some animals become unable to empty their glands on their own at all. The sacs become impacted and uncomfortable.
Dogs with impacted anal sacs usually scoot their rear on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands. Some dogs will lick their anal area and other dogs will chase their tails. Cats often lick the fur off just under their tails.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT SCOOTING?
The first step is to check the anal sacs when any pet has a history of scooting. The anal sacs can be emptied in one of two ways:
EXTERNALLY- A rag or tissue is held up to the anus and both sides of the anal area are squeezed. If the secretion is very pasty, this method may be inadequate to empty the sacs.
INTERNALLY- A lubricated gloved finger is inserted in the anus and the sac is squeezed between thumb & forefinger into a tissue held externally. The procedure is repeated on the opposite side.
If the sacs have been emptied adequately, the scooting should resolve in a couple of days.
WHAT IF SCOOTING CONTINUES?
If scooting continues for more than a few days after sac emptying, the sacs should be re-checked. For some individuals, it takes several sac emptying's in a row before the sacs stay emptied. If the sacs are empty and scooting is persisting, another cause (such as itchy skin, tapeworms, or even lower back pain) should be pursued.
WHAT HAPPENS IF AN IMPACTED SAC DOES NOT GET EMPTIED?
An abscess can form and rupture out through the skin. This is a painful, messy and pretty smelly condition often mistaken for rectal bleeding. If an anal sac abscess forms, it must be properly treated by your veterinarian. Antibiotics will be needed.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD ANAL SACS BE EMPTIED?
This is a highly individual situation. The best recommendation is to let the pet tell you when the sacs are full. If the pet starts scooting again, it is time to bring him in.
WHAT IF MY PET'S SACS SEEM TO REQUIRE EMPTYING ALL THE TIME?
To avoid the expense of having the sacs emptied, you can learn to empty them yourself at home but most people feel it is well worth having someone else perform this service. A non-invasive technique that helps some patients is a change to a high fiber diet. This will produce a bulkier stool that may be more effective in emptying the sac as it passes by.
If the sacs need to be emptied every few weeks or more, you may opt to have the sacs permanently removed. This procedure is complicated by many local nerves controlling fecal continence, the fact that any change in the local musculature of the anal sphincter area can affect fecal continence, and the fact that with chronic anal sac problems anatomy is distorted. Draining tracts can develop after surgery if the gland is not completely removed.
Still, despite these pitfalls anal sac removal is considered a relatively simple surgery by most board certified surgery specialists. If this procedure is to be done we generally recommend that a specialist (or a veterinarian with extensive experience with anal sacculectomy) perform it.
Hydrocephalus is not the presence of a molera in a Chihuahua DOES NOT make the dog any more or less susceptible to brain injury, seizures or hydrocephalus.
The molera should not usually be any larger than the size of your thumb print, and there should be no swelling, bulging or throbbing. Check carefully on the sides of the head for normal bone there as well; make sure there is no more than one molera, on the top of the head only, as more than a single molera is not normal.
Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and is not normal for any breed, nor is it curable. Hydrocephalus is also known as "water on the brain" or "hydro". When fluid accumulates in the brain, it compresses the brain against the skull. A puppy can be born with this disorder, or it can be caused by a brain infection or head injury later in life. Chihuahuas born with "hydro" do not generally live more than a few months, and they do not grow normally, often staying extremely tiny.
Signs of hydro include wide-set or protruding eyeballs (often with a lot of "white" showing at the corners), blindness, and abnormal behavior, walking in circles, slowness (mental and physical), seizures, abnormally slow growth and lack of coordination.
Concerns about Chihuahua moleras and/or hydro should be addressed to a licensed veterinarian. Be aware, however, that many veterinarians not familiar with Chihuahuas have WRONGLY told owners that their puppy is unhealthy and/or hydrocephalic just because of the presence of a normal molera. Diagnosis is based on the signs in conjunction with techniques to image the brain. In dogs with a molera, ultrasound can be performed by scanning through the molera to detect the excessive accumulation of fluid within the brain.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hydrocephalus. Mild cases can be treated with steroids and diuretics to reduce pressure, or with a surgically inserted shunt to divert fluid from the brain to the abdomen