Chihuahuas might be little dogs, but they're prone to a lot of medical conditions. Some of these ailments are breed-specific, while others are common in small canines. While genetics cause certain Chi medical problems, improper handling and feeding of these little dogs can result in otherwise preventable issues.
Water on the Brain
The bones in the Chi's classic apple-domed head often don't completely close, leaving the dog with an open area in the skull. Such dogs might develop hydrocephalus, often referred to as water on the brain. This occurs when cerebrospinal fluid collects in the dog's brain or in the area between his skull and brain. Affected dogs might experience seizures, lack of coordination and head pressing. They might go blind. Untreated, this painful condition leads to death. A veterinary surgeon can place a permanent shunt in the dog's head for drainage and also prescribe medication that can give a dog a decent quality of life.
Hypoglycemia in Chihuahua Puppies
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is common in Chi puppies and can prove fatal. The Chihuahua Club of America website recommends always having a tube of the high calorie supplement called Nutri-Cal, or a similar product, on hand to give to a puppy in an emergency. Puppies with hypoglycemia appear weak, cold and disoriented. To avoid hypoglycemia in your Chi puppy, make sure he always has dry food available.
Chihuahuas are prone to slipped kneecaps, formally known as luxating patellas. According to the Chihuahua Club of America website, approximately one-third of Chis are affected with his condition. Chis with luxating patellas exhibit lameness, although kneecaps with mild luxation generally slip back in. Seriously slipped kneecaps require surgical correction.
A Chi's high metabolism means he requires a lot of food for his size. It also means it's not hard to overfeed him, resulting in an obese little canine. Your Chi shouldn't receive treats, for that reason. A Chi's little body dehydrates faster if he throws up or experiences diarrhea. He could die from fluid loss that wouldn't seriously harm a big dog, so he needs veterinary attention. Mature Chis weigh between 4 and 6 pounds. For his own protection, always lift him carefully and don't allow other people to pick him up. Although tiny, Chis can behave aggressively. That means you also have to protect yours from other dogs, who could inflict injuries to the Chi if the Chi behaves aggressively.
Small Breed Issues
Chis are the smallest of dog breeds; they suffer from maladies common to toy dogs. These include portosystemic shunt, a congenital issue occurring when the vein that sends waste to the mother's body from the fetus doesn't close after the puppy's birth: Waste goes into the dog's bloodstream, bypassing the liver. Chis with liver shunt are even smaller than normal and exhibit neurological problems. Surgery is required to correct the defect. Chihuahuas have 42 teeth crammed into tiny mouths; they often start losing permanent teeth at a young age. Their dental issues can lead to systemic health problems affecting the liver, heart and kidneys. But regular tooth brushing can help keep dental and periodontal disease at bay.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.