There’s nothing more painful than the loss of a pet. No one likes to think about man’s best friend’s last days, but part of being a responsible pet owner is educating yourself on issues that could affect your dog. You’re probably worried about the potential risk factors that could impact your Chihuahua, and you might wonder what Chihuahuas die from most of the time.
The good news is that Chihuahuas have some of the longest lifespans in the dog kingdom, ranging from 12 to upwards of 20-plus years. While you don’t have anything to worry about for a long time with a healthy Chihuahua puppy, you may be curious about what’s ahead.
The number one leading cause of death in Chihuahuas is heart failure. Unfortunately, they’re genetically predisposed to valvular heart diseases. However, Chihuahuas can still live for one to five years long after their diagnosis with proper treatment and care.
While that’s just the simple answer, there are a lot of genetic and environmental factors that influence a Chihuahua’s lifespan. Here’s everything you need to know about what your Chihuahua may face down the road in their lifetime.
What is a Chihuahua?
In order to understand the Chihuahua’s potential health problems, we must first understand the breed. Chihuahuas, unfortunately, are one of the most stigmatized dog breeds on the planet. Despite their small size, many consider Chihuahuas “evil” or “aggressive.”
They’re one of, if not the most, common small dog breeds in animal shelters across the United States. They’re sadly the second most euthanized breed in animal shelters. In California alone, Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes make up 30 percent or more of the dog population at animal shelters.
Despite the stigma, Chihuahua lovers around the world rally around the breed. It’s common for most Chihuahua owners to have two or more, due to their size. However, even in the face of overwhelming misconception, not many people are entirely sure what a Chihuahua really is.
Simply put, the Chihuahua is classified as a toy breed by the American Kennel Club. Don’t let their small size fool you, this breed has a larger-than-life personality. At times you’ll even forget how small they really are.
Named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua, the breed is thought to have evolved from the Techihi, a small dog that was often kept as a companion dog by the Toltec people of Mexico around the 9th century.
Fast forward to today, and the Chihuahua is solely a companion animal. They can be standoffish with strangers, but it’s often a way of trying to protect their owners. Early socialization is key to preventing unwanted behavior.
What is Heart Failure in Chihuahuas?
Since the leading cause of death in Chihuahuas is heart failure, many wonder what that might look like for their sweet Chihuahua. Death is one of the hardest experiences we deal with in life, but it’s inevitable and happens to every living being.
Chihuahuas are prone to valvular disease, which usually begins with a leaky mitral valve. Unfortunately, it is not preventable and is considered genetic.
As your Chihuahua ages, it may begin to develop a heart murmur because of the leaky valve. This progresses into disease and can cause congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart becomes unable to pump and supply the proper amount of blood to the body. It can be left- or right-sided.
It’s estimated that around 80 percent of canine CHF cases are caused by valvular insufficiency. While that’s a sad statistic, it is very common among dogs — especially smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas.
Some signs and symptoms of CHF include but are not limited to:
- Persistent coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Less stamina
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pale or bluish gums
If your Chihuahua develops any of these signs or symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away. The sooner the medical intervention, the better.
Leading Causes of Death in Chihuahuas
It’s not fun to discuss the common causes of death in our Chihuahua friends, but education is one of the core parts of prevention. Here are some other leading causes of death in Chihuahuas.
Another leading cause of death in not just Chihuahuas, but most dogs, is a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Most commonly, Chihuahuas die from parvovirus or distemper.
Parvovirus is an infection that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system. This causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It’s spread through contact with another dog, or contact with contaminated feces. Luckily, there is a preventative vaccine for parvovirus.
Distemper is a highly contagious infection that attacks the respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract. Dogs often become weak, cough, and have diarrhea.
Then, it begins to attack a dog’s central nervous system, like the brain and spinal cord. Ultimately, a dog may become paralyzed or seized to death. Luckily, there is also a preventative vaccine for distemper.
Other infections include coccidioidomycosis, leptospirosis, and rabies. Make sure your Chihuahua is fully vaccinated to reduce the risk of disease transmission and infection.
Unsurprisingly, trauma is another leading cause of death for the Chihuahua. These small dogs are left vulnerable to the devices of the big world.
Some common types of trauma include being hit by a car, being attacked by another dog, animal abuse, being stepped on, puncture wounds, weapon-related injuries, or falling from a high place.
Trauma, luckily, can be easily prevented. Keep your dog indoors and close off access to anything that could cause potential injury. The big world, sometimes, is simply too big for our dear Chihuahua friends.
There are several types of brain disorders. However, most brain disorders can cause strokes and seizures, which can result in death. It’s not uncommon for Chihuahuas to develop brain disorders or abnormalities, but they’re not at a higher risk of developing brain disorders than other breeds.
If you suspect your Chihuahua has cognitive issues or is displaying signs of a brain disorder, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. Medication can play a critical role in treating brain-related issues.
Lower Respiratory Tract Disorders
Another common cause of death in Chihuahuas is lower respiratory tract disorders. Commonly, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic bronchitis.
This is also known as asthma in dogs. It causes inflammation of the lungs and airways in the lower respiratory tract. As the inflammation worsens, it can cause scarring of the lungs. It can also cause the airways to become dilated.
Symptoms usually include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, fainting, or wheezing. Symptoms tend to worsen over time. Treatments include oxygen therapy, steroids, intravenous medication, and inhalers.
Other Common Health Issues in Chihuahuas
While Chihuahuas have a lengthy lifespan, that doesn’t mean they’re not prone to health issues. Unfortunately, several common health issues may hinder your Chihuahua’s quality of life.
Chihuahuas, and most small dogs, are uniquely prone to periodontal (or dental) disease. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease where bacteria build into the gums, teeth, and bones. Since a Chihuahua has a smaller head, that puts them at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease.
Brushing your Chihuahua’s teeth regularly and taking them for regular dental cleanings can help prevent the progression of periodontal disease.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is when the discs in the back become slipped or herniated. When the discs fall out of alignment and rub against the spinal cord, it becomes IVDD. It’s most common amongst small dogs, including Chihuahuas.
It can be triggered by jumping, falling, or injury. IVDD is fairly easy to spot, with symptoms including reluctance to walk, crying in pain when moving, or having a hard time going to the bathroom.
Chihuahuas are prone to respiratory issues. This includes a collapsed trachea. A collapsed trachea occurs when the trachea — which is tube-shaped and surrounded by rings of cartilage — weakens and collapses. It’s considered genetic and progressively worsens over time.
Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. A collapsed trachea is often treated with medication and the avoidance of pollutants and allergens. In severe cases, surgery might be necessary.
Patellar luxation, or a luxating patella, occurs when a kneecap slips out of place. It’s considered a birth defect and widespread among Chihuahuas. It causes the Chihuahua to lose stability on the given leg, resulting in a limp or reluctance to walk.
Sometimes, a luxating patella isn’t severe enough to require any form of treatment. However, in severe cases, it may require medication and even surgery.
How to Extend Your Chihuahua’s Lifespan
Extending your Chihuahua’s lifespan starts with providing them with the proper diet, routine, and exercise in addition to providing preventative care, such as heartworm treatment and vaccinations. Here’s how to extend your Chihuahua’s lifespan.
Dogs must be vaccinated to avoid contracting and transmitting deadly viruses. Without vaccinations, your dog is left vulnerable to deadly diseases like parvovirus and distemper.
They’re also at a higher risk of contracting and transmitting zoonotic diseases, like leptospirosis and rabies, which can be fatal in both dogs and humans.
Feeding your Chihuahua an adequate diet filled with adequate protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help provide them with essential nutrients and minerals to keep their bodies in the best shape possible. Since the Chihuahua is prone to heart disease, talk to your veterinarian about the best heart-healthy dog food.
Exercise is essential for any and every living, breathing organism. It reduces stress, keeps vital organs working, and speeds up the metabolism. Since Chihuahuas are prone to cardiac and respiratory issues, regular exercise can help build a strong heart and lungs.
Frequently Asked Questions
The typical lifespan of a Chihuahua is 14 to 16 years. A healthy dog can potentially live up to 20 years.
When a dog digs into a blanket, it is trying to find a safe and secure spot. This behavior is called “denning.”
Chihuahuas might shake or shiver due to excitement, fear, or being cold. There are also other less common reasons which we’ve covered in-depth in this article.
Conclusion for “What Do Chihuahuas Usually Die From”
Overall, the Chihuahua is a relatively healthy breed that lives a long, full life by its owner’s side. With the right preventative measures, and a healthy diet and exercise, the Chihuahua can feel their happiest and healthiest. Although death is inevitable for all of us, it’s the moments we create that count the most.
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Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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