Health

Health Issues With Chihuahuas

Every breed of dog has some sort of health issue and Chihuahuas are no different.  You must remember that Chihuahuas are a man made breed.  Responsible breeders selectively choose a male and female for breeding.  They want the pair to complement each other and both dogs must be to the breed standard, high quality in looks and health.  Individuals that decide to breed dogs and have no knowledge of the genetic background of a breeding pair, run the risk of pups being born with health problems as well as  transferring these health problems into future generations.  Breeders that sell their dogs with non breeding contracts are aware of this fact and are actually protecting the breed from the defects that would continue on and cause Chihuahua owners disappointment and often heart aches. These breeders will not use a dog for breeding purposes without knowing the genetic background, knowledge that can be found by researching with the Canadian Kennel Club and with other responsible CKC breeders.

*PATELLA LUXATION in dog lingo, subluxation of the patella is slipped stifles or loose kneecaps.  When it occurs, the kneecaps of the rear legs slip out of their groove.  This can happen once, rarely or often depending on the severity of the problem.  Should your dog be one whose kneecaps slip often, surgery may be the only solution.  It is a simple procedure in which a veterinarian must make the digit in the knee bone deeper so that the ligament will fit nicely over the patella (knee cap).  As soon as the patella heals, the dog will no longer hop or pull its leg up and will run around like a new pup.  Should the problem be infrequent a dog can live a normal life somewhat like a person with a trick knee.  Subluxation of the patella is a relatively common problem in small breeds and also in some large breeds as well.  This is never a life threatening health defect and is never a reason to put a dog down.

*HYPOGLYCEMIA means low blood sugar and is a common problem in young toy breed puppies.  Most of them will grow out of it before they are old enough to leave the breeder while some will retain it throughout their lives.  Like in humans, symptoms of low blood sugar are a staggering gait, glassy eyes and sometimes either limpness or rigidity.  If the dog doesn’t receive immediate help he can suffer seizures, unconsciousness, and eventual death.  Treatment involves putting some sugar in your dog’s mouth, calling your vet and heading for the clinic.  Once diagnosed with Hypoglycemia you can prevent further attacks by giving your pup small amounts of food several times a day and by avoiding sugary treats.  This is also a good time for me to remind you to be aware of what your Chihuahua eats as too much sugar can put Pepe on a roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows as his blood sugar levels hit its highs and lows.

When you purchase a pup that is under 8 ½ weeks or a pup that is going to be under 3 ½ lbs full grown you have to watch your pup/dog’s behaviour for symptoms that their blood sugar level isn’t appearing to be too low.  Puppies should free feed and there will be less of a problem with Hypoglycemia.

*HYDROCEPHALUS (aka water on the brain) is recognized as an extra large head for the pup’s size.  A lot of white may be showing in the eyes.  Their eyes might pull in on one side and stick out on the opposite side or they could have east-west eyes (the opposite of crossed eyes).  The pup could have an unsteady gait, frequent falling or seizures.  Usually these pups will die before 10 weeks of age and should they live longer the signs will be noticeable before the age of 8 months.  A pup that has Hydrocephalus is in pain and won’t live long.  Euthanasia is the humane solution.

*COLLAPSING TRACHEA is another problem with small breeds.  The symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing and exhaustion.  Although it appears more often in dogs older than 5 years an occasional puppy has it from birth.  To understand the condition think of the trachea as a straw made of cartilage that carries air from the neck to the chest.  When the cartilage collapses, breathing becomes difficult, kind of like sipping soda through a flattened straw.  Your vet can treat the condition with medication, but if you or someone in your family smokes your pup’s prognosis may be poor.  Second hand smoke is a proven contributing factor to the problem…and smoke tends to settle low, just where a little dog’s nose is!  It is not to be confused with snoring from the dog’s nose to get rid of dust or water that has gone up the dog’s nose.

*MOLERA (aka fontanel) is like a baby’s soft spot on the top of its head.  This is considered a breed characteristic and not a defect because they have a round head.  Unlike babies, Chihuahuas don’t outgrow it although it can shrink as the dog matures and can be the size of a nickel or dime.  You pup’s Molera won’t be a problem as long as you’re gentle when petting or handling his head.

In rare cases the molera remains quite large and can be a sign of a serious problem called Hydrocephalus (see listed in this section) which has several other signs besides a larger-than-usual molera

*CHRONIC LIVER DISEASE in Chihuahuas may be caused by anatomical abnormalities present at birth.  Other causes are cancer (most commonly due to its spread from tumours elsewhere in the body), long-term inflammation, immune-system disorders or disorders of the bile duct, which empties bile from the liver into the small intestine.  Chronic liver disease is most common in older dogs, although anatomical abnormalities may cause symptoms in puppies a few months old.  By the time you notice the symptoms of chronic liver disease, 80% of the liver tissue may have stopped working properly.  Unfortunately, in most cases the outlook for an affected dog is not good.

Symptoms to watch for are:

  1. Polyuria or excessive urination

  2. Polydipsia or excessive thirst

  3. Refusal to eat that results in weight loss

  4. Gastointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting

  5. Lethargy, wanting to sleep a lot or lack of energy

  6. Bloated stomach, usually caused by accumulation of fluid

  7. Viral and bacterial infections

There is a simple test that can be carried out to confirm the existence of chronic liver disease as most of the symptoms are rather vague.  If your dog starts to show any of the symptoms described, or if you are not sure if there could be an issue, take your dog to be examined by your vet.  Your vet could do any of the following tests:  blood and urine tests, analyse any build-up of fluid in your dog’s abdomen, x-ray and/or ultrasound investigations and/or a biopsy.  Exploratory surgery might also be appropriate to take a direct look at the liver.

  There is no cure for chronic liver disease so focusing on slowing down its progression and controlling associated symptoms are the only recourse.  Dietary management, the cornerstone of treatment for liver disease, will reduce the build-up of the waste products of protein-processing which causes many symptoms of this condition.  A diet regime should include easily digested carbohydrates (rice to produce energy), high quality and easily digested sources of protein such as eggs, four to six small daily meals and sufficient food to prevent weight loss.  Some dogs may even need force feeding.

*TEETH ISSUES in Chihuahuas are simple to fix.  Most Chihuahuas can retain their baby teeth and a vet will be needed to remove them (between 6-10 months of age).  The root of the baby tooth is too long, is the size of an adult tooth’s root and doesn’t easily fall out.  Leaving the baby teeth in causes crowding which leads to tooth decay and often in gingivitis.  This also makes their teeth come in crooked.  Just like in humans these problems can cause blood poisoning as well as a great deal of pain.  Removing the teeth is the best solution.  Diet is also important for good dental health.  Hard food strengthens the teeth and gums, always feeding soft food can create a breeding ground for bad bacteria to form plaque as the soft food sticks to their teeth.  Cavities are usually the results if the teeth are not cleaned yearly.

Trying to brush your own Chihuahuas teeth usually doesn’t do a thorough job.  Their mouths are small and it is hard to get to the back of the teeth.  Between the ages of 6-8 months check to see if the baby teeth are getting loose.  Should they need to be removed by the vet, a good time to do it is when the dog is spayed or neutered.  This is not only less stressful on the dog but could save you a few dollars as the dog is already under anaesthetics.  While you take your pet to get their yearly shots make sure they also are scheduled for getting their teeth cleaned and polished.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure not only for our well being but also for our pet’s.  Good dental health will allow your pet to live a long and healthy life.  It is estimated that dog’s that don’t get their teeth cleaned die 4 years earlier than ones that do have regular cleanings.  Often health issues associated with small breed dogs are the cause of negligent owners.

Do your homework before you go ahead and decide on a pet.  Get to know your breeder.  Get a written health guarantee from your breeder when purchasing your pet.  A good experience is usually the result of time spent ahead of time.

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