This post was originally published on October 9, 2018, and has been updated. Common Chihuahua Health Issues and how to save money without compromising your Chihuahua’s health.
These tips can save you hundreds of $$$ on your veterinarian bills!
It is true, I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars in veterinarian costs. If you’ve read any of my other posts you already know that I have three beautiful Chihuahuas (meet the gang). I have lots of Chihuahua expertise now, but when I got my first Chi, many years ago. I knew very little about dogs in general and nothing about Chihuahuas, or that they were predisposed to some common Chihuahua health issues.
As a new doggie mom, just like first-time human mommies, I worried about every little thing and rushed my babies to the vet for almost anything! Since then I’ve learned more about when it’s necessary to take them to the vet and when it can actually wait or even resolve itself.
I have listed here some health issues that are common in Chihuahuas and other small breed dogs and how to recognize them as well as what to do should your dog show signs of any of them. They are:
- Patellar Luxation
- Tracheal Collapse
- Teeth Issues
Patellar Luxation is a very common Chihuahua health issue and among other small breed dogs. It is also known as a floating kneecap. This is when the dog’s kneecap or patella moves out of its normal position. The patella in dogs is shaped like an almond and it assists in knee extension.
Symptoms are often described as the dog suddenly went lame and then it was just fine as if nothing had happened. That pretty much describes what happens. The patella will slip out of its normal position. The initial slip is painful and often the dog will yelp or cry and hold up his/her leg. When they hold it up it stretches the quadricep muscles, they relax and the patella will pop back into place.
Many times surgery is suggested, but there are many ways you can treat it, or at least slow the progress from home. Don’t automatically spend money on surgery. To find out more, read my post entitled: What is a Floating Kneecap?
Collapsed Trachea sometimes called backward sneezing, is a common Chihuahua health issue as well as in Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, and the Yorkie. The trachea is a little like a vacuum hose that has small rings. These rings are cartilage that keeps the airways open.
Common causes are, congenital – from birth, nutritional or deficiency in calcium, chondroitin, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans, a chronic disease involving the airways and obesity.
Also, remember to ALWAYS walk your dog with a leash and a halter, NEVER attach a leash to the dog’s collar to walk him or her. When the dog pulls (yes, even a tiny dog, it only takes a slight pressure) on the leash it puts too much pressure on the neck and can cause the trachea to collapse.
See: Why You Should Never Walk Your Chihuahua Without A Harness
Neck and trachea injuries are very common with Chihuahuas
The symptoms are often described as the dog making a “honking noise”. It can sound very scary and sometimes sound like they are gasping for breath. This may cause any Chi owner to rush to the veterinarian unless you are aware of what it is.
Most cases of tracheal collapse are treated with cough suppressants or antibiotics. If your Chihuahua is overweight, losing weight often helps. Just remember not to “freak out” as I did when Pebbles first started doing this and that your Chihuahua is not in distress. Only if the collapse is severe is surgery recommended.
Easy Step-In Harnesses Take the Hassle Out of Putting on a Harness, easy on, easy off!
Pink Step-In Harness
The strong construction and dual steel D-rings allow the leash to give equal pull to both sides of your dog, putting less strain on his neck and offering you more control.
Again, sometimes surgery is recommended. There are many things you can do from home to save money without compromising your dog’s health. To find out more and what you can do read my post entitled: What is Backward Sneezing?
Hypoglycemia is the medical term for critically low levels of sugar in the blood. In some dogs, it is often linked to diabetes and an overdose of insulin. Hypoglycemia is a very common health issue in Chihuahuas, but other small breed dogs are at risk also for hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia can be very serious, even life-threatening if intervention is not immediate!
It can happen when a dog is overly active with too much time between meals, or if it has been a while since they last ate and begin vigorous play or exercise. Puppies are especially prone to it because they have not fully developed the ability to regulate blood glucose concentration and have a high requirement for glucose. Stress, cold, and intestinal parasites may also trigger it in puppies.
This happened to both of my first two Chihuahuas when they were puppies. The symptoms are very scary if you don’t know that this may be the cause. I, of course, rushed them to the veterinarian each time and there were a few times it happened in the evening when my veterinarian’s office was closed so I took them to our emergency veterinary hospital. They, of course, charge a lot more than my own veterinarian.
When it happened to my dogs, they first got a glassy look in their eyes like they were looking, but not seeing anything. When I set them on the floor, they just wobbled and then just passed out or collapsed. This can be so very scary!
According to PetMD, the symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme lethargy
- Lack of coordination
- Muscular twitching
- Unusual behavior
- Dilated pupils
- Stupor or coma
I finally was told about hypoglycemia and what to do when it happened. You should immediately give them sugar-water or an oral solution of glucose, such as corn syrup or Nutri-Cal. I used Karo corn syrup. For faster absorption of the glucose that they need, rub sugar diluted with water on their gums. They generally will almost immediately return to normal and may look at you questioningly as if to say “what happened!”
If you own a small breed dog you need to have these on hand at all times in case of an emergency. Always have them with you when you travel. I still do. Although as they get older they are better able to regulate blood glucose concentration, it can still happen to adult small breed dogs.
Of course, there are many other potential causes of hyperglycemia in dogs, so if this happens often, please consult with your veterinarian.
Hydrocephalus literally means “water on the brain” and is a serious medical issue commonly found in Chihuahuas. The “water” is actually an excess of cerebrospinal fluid that has leaked inside the skull, leading to brain swelling. There are two types; congenital (from birth) and acquired.
Congenital usually appears as a very large dome-shaped skull or a large fontanel (soft spot) on top of the skull, and eyes that appear to gaze downward. To be clear, Chihuahuas have a soft spot (or Molera) and some have them their entire lives, this is not a symptom or a cause of hydrocephalus. Symptoms often come on early and no responsible breeder will place a puppy with hydrocephalus symptoms for adoption.
Acquired hydrocephalus develops when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked or altered by infection, tumor or swelling.
The breeds most likely to be diagnosed are small, miniature, toy breeds as well as those with shorter faces. They include Boston terrier, Chihuahua, English bulldog, Manchester terrier, Pekingese, Toy Poodle, and Yorkshire terrier.
Signs that your puppy may have Hydrocephalus include abnormal or spastic walking, changes in behavior, circling or falling over on one side, and failure to house train or learn basic commands.
Treatments can include using corticosteroids or in some cases anti-seizure medications. Surgery to place a tube from the open spaces in the brain to the abdomen may be an option. Considerable risks and potential complications can occur with this procedure, so be sure to thoroughly discuss this option with your veterinarian.
Hydrocephalus in dogs is a serious, often life-threatening condition. This is not one of those that can save you money in veterinarian costs. However, if surgery is needed it can sometimes be performed at a veterinary teaching hospital and may cost less. You probably won’t be able to save veterinarian costs, in this case, however, I feel it is necessary to mention because all owners of small breeds should be aware of it. The best way to save costs here is to never buy a dog from a pet store or puppy mill and if you buy from a breeder, make sure they are a responsible one.
This is another common Chihuahua health issue and also amoung that also plagues other small breed dogs more than their larger cousins. Why? Because compared to the larger breeds, small breed dog’s teeth are comparatively larger. That makes for a very crowded mouth. With all those large teeth in a small mouth, there are more crevices in which tartar can build up, leading to gum and periodontal disease. How do you know if your dog has gum or periodontal disease?
Just One Kiss
Just one kiss is all it takes to alert you! When there is tartar buildup it causes really bad breath! Such a crowded mouth doesn’t leave much room for bone between the roots of the teeth, so even a mild case can be devastating to these breeds.
How many Chihuahuas or Yorkies have you seen that always have their tongue hanging out of their mouths? That’s because they have lost their front upper and lower teeth (most likely from gum disease) and so they have nothing to hold the tongue in their mouth. (poor babies!)
On top of all that, it is also pretty common for their baby teeth not to fall out the way they should. Although this can occur in just about any breed, with an already crowded mouth, this is especially not a good thing for our little dogs.
As if that wasn’t enough they are also prone to have permanent teeth that are deformed. They can have tooth roots that are malformed, when that happens it is very common to have an endodontic disease or disease in the jaw bone surrounding the roots (also causing the tongue to hang out of their mouths).
Another problem they are also prone to have is dental malocclusions. That is a fancy word for when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. This then can result in tooth-to-tooth or tooth-to-gum contact, which can be uncomfortable and also lead to dental disease.
If you have or are considering a small breed dog (Chihuahua, Toy Poodle, Brussel Griffons, Yorkie, to name just a few) keep in mind that they are particularly prone to teeth issues. When you have your routine veterinarian visits, make sure he or she does an oral exam to keep an eye on emerging problems. One thing you can do to help your dog and also save you money on veterinary bills is keeping their crowded mouth and teeth clean. That can eliminate some of these problems and slow the progress of others. Always have on hand dental chews, dental wipes, and water additives.
If you have ANY concern regarding your Chihuahua’s health (or any dog, for that matter) please consult with your veterinarian. It is inevitable that you will have veterinarian costs, but these are a few common ones that prevention, of course, is the best policy and there are ways to save some money on the treatments. You should have an annual checkup at your veterinarians to keep ahead of any possible diseases or health issues.
It is always a good idea to have pet insurance. Pet insurance has better coverage and is less expensive than it used to be. You might want to check it out if you haven’t in a while. Check PetPremium Pet Insurance for a FREE quote and more information.
How Do You Know When It’s Time To Visit The Vet? Is it an emergency? Can it wait until tomorrow? Will it resolve itself saving an expensive trip? See: 16 Signs It’s Time To Take Your Chihuahua To The Vet
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