Deciding to add a Chihuahua to your family is a very exciting time! Before making the commitment to add these four tiny paws to your family, you should research the breed to ensure that you will be able to care properly for your new furry friend.
One of the most important items of research is the life span of your potential pet; you must be sure that you are prepared to care for him or her for the maximum lifespan of the breed. In this article, you will learn about the lifespan and health of the Chihuahua dog breed which will help you determine if a Chihuahua is the right match for your family.
How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?
Generally speaking, small dogs often live longer than large breeds of dogs. The larger the dog, the shorter the life span.
Considering this universal truth, and that the Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog in the world, if you guessed they are one of the longest living breeds of dog, you are correct!
According to the American Kennel Club, Chihuahuas often live approximately 14 to 16 years.
According to the official breed club health statement written by the Chihuahua Club of America, these tiny but mighty dogs may even reach the age of 20 or more!
One of the most common complaints among dog owners is that their dogs do not live long enough. They quickly become a significant part of your family and your life, and losing them is incredibly painful. Having a companion who you could share your life with for 20 years is quite exciting for potential owners who want such a commitment.
What Diseases can Shorten Chihuahuas’ Life Span?
According to the ASPCA’s pet insurance website, Chihuahuas are considered to be a generally healthy breed of dog. Combined with their long-life span and general overall health, Chihuahuas often live a long time.
These tiny napoleons may act like big bosses, but no one is invincible. The following conditions often cause the shortening of a Chihuahua’s life:
Since Chihuahuas are very small, it is easy for them to be accidentally injured.
Anne of North Carolina shared that her Chihuahua, Rosie, was shut in a door when she attempted to follow her family outside, which caused her death. Her family was heart broken and shares their story so that they can offer other Chihuahua parents this piece of advice:
“Have your Chihuahua wear a cat collar with a bell around the house. The bell will help you know their whereabouts, which might save their life”.
Chihuahuas are prone to heart conditions such as mitral valve disease and patent ductus arteriosus. As Chihuahuas become seniors, it is highly likely that they may succumb to a heart condition that has worsened with age.
Chihuahuas, due to their size and small mouths are prone to poor dental health. By regularly brushing your Chihuahua’s teeth and scheduling professional veterinary dental cleanings, you can help your Chihuahua maintain good oral health.
Consider how close their teeth are to their brain; an infection could quickly travel from their teeth to their brain, and other organs via their bloodstream, which could result in serious illness.
What health problems do Chihuahuas have?
Click the link to get a more in-depth list of Chihuahua health problems but for a general list they are prone to the following health conditions:
The luxating patella condition occurs when a Chihuahua’s knee cap moves out of place. Sometimes dogs are able to reset their knee cap themselves by stretching out their leg, or owners may learn to reset their knee cap with the assistance of a veterinarian.
While many dogs may live with this condition for their entire life and the condition itself is not life-threatening, your Chihuahua’s veterinarian might recommend surgery if the condition is severe.
Since Chihuahuas have large eyes, they are often susceptible to injuring their eyes.
Chihuahuas often have a large molera, or soft spot, on their skull. While this closes up eventually in many cases, some Chihuahuas will have this spot into adulthood and for the rest of their lives. My Lucy has this.
According to the Chihuahua Club of America, this is normal for the breed. If a Chihuahua is mistreated or injured as a puppy, they may sustain a brain injury.
If a Chihuahua has their molera into adulthood, their risk of brain injury increases. A molera that remains present into adulthood may cause a veterinarian who does not have Chihuahua experience to suspect other health conditions are present, so be sure to find a veterinarian with experience with chihuahuas to be your furry friend’s primary physician.
Chihuahuas are prone to dental diseases, which have the potential (though is rare) to be life-threatening because infection from a tooth can travel up to their brain or in their bloodstream. According to PetMD, dental disease can cause heart disease which can be lif threatening.
Dental disease poses a considerate quality of life issue because when left untreated it can be very painful.
By scheduling regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian, you can help your Chihuahua maintain good dental health.
Bully Sticks are another option. Lindsay of Virginia gave her Chihuahua, Riley, bully sticks regularly and his teeth were cleaner than the teeth of any other dog she had owned previously who did not chew on bully sticks. He loves chewing them and has received many compliments from his veterinarian about his pearly whites.
While these chews are great because they are 100% natural and only have one ingredient, you should know that you might not want any Chihuahua kisses after they chew them because the ingredient is “beef pizzle” (penis).
According to the AKC, Chihuahuas are prone to heart conditions such as mitral valve disease and patent ductus arteriosus. These may manifest as heart murmurs early in life and generally worsen with age.
Maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight may contribute to your Chihuahua’s heart health. Consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary cardiologist if your dog has a heart murmur.
The Chihuahua Club of America states that the breed may suffer from idiopathic epilepsy, which means seizures of unknown origin. There are so many different conditions that may cause seizures, if you suspect your Chihuahua has experienced a seizure, arrange for veterinary care promptly.
Consider a meeting with a veterinary neurologist for long term seizure management.
For more information, be sure to check out our article on Chihuahua seizures.
What role does breeding play in a Chihuahua’s health?
A reputable breeder will carefully breed their dogs to ensure that they produce the healthiest litters possible for 2 reasons:
- To make healthy dogs who will have a good quality of life.
- To help families have dogs who will be healthy enough to be members of their family for years.
The Chihuahua Club of America encourages genetic testing. Should you want to purchase a puppy from a breeder who participates in the CCA’s recommended testing, be prepared to pay extra for your puppy, as there are costs associated with this testing that will likely be rolled into the puppy purchase fee.
A puppy mill or a backyard breeder is only concerned about profit and does not carefully breed their dogs. This results in Chihuahuas being bred and that may have a poor quality of life because of unethical breeding practices and poor genetics. Learn more at Harley’s Dream.
Do not be deterred by Chihuahuas available for adoption; no matter how they came to be on this earth, they are all in need of loving homes.
Rescue dogs are not always dogs who were rescued from a puppy mill; they could be a purebred Chihuahua who someone decided they did not want anymore, or who outlived their family.
A Chihuahua mix may actually be healthier than a purebred Chihuahua because of the diversity of their gene pool.
Give rescue Chihuahuas a chance! If you are interested in adopting a Chihuahua, start with the Chihuahua Club of America’ rescue referral page. We also have a list of chihuahua rescues so be sure to check that out too!
Should I get pet insurance for my Chihuahua?
This is a personal decision for all Chihuahua owners to make. While it is not a requirement to have pet insurance, it can be a fantastic idea to help cover large veterinary bills.
Do be aware that in most cases, the insurance does not pay at the time of the service. They will later reimburse you for part of the cost after you submit a claim. That means you still need to come up with the money at the time of service.
So whether you get a pet insurance policy for your Chihuahua or not, it is recommended that you establish a healthy savings account so that you will be ready to pay any significant veterinary bills that may arise.
How can I help my Chihuahua live longer?
When you get your Chihuahua, you will become so smitten that you will want him or her to live as long as possible. The great news is that owners do have the ability to impact the lifespan of their Chihuahuas.
The following actions may help extend your Chihuahua’s life span:
- Love and Care. Dogs who are loved like crazy live longer because their owners care so much for them. So love your furry friend with reckless abandon. Proudly be the crazy dog lady or dog daddy.
- Veterinary Care. Ensuring that your Chihuahua receives regular veterinary care, including general preventative care and emergency veterinary care, will extend his life. Actively working with a trusted veterinarian helps you get ahead of any medical conditions and initiate treatments as soon as possible.
- Good Nutrition. Feeding your Chihuahua a high-quality diet greatly impacts his life span. Dogs need good nutrition similarly to humans; we also must eat healthy to contribute to our overall health.
- Healthy Weight. Helping your Chihuahua maintain a healthy weight significantly impacts her life span. These little dogs are prone to lounging and snacking, so if your Chihuahua does not enjoy exercising, you must actively police her snacking. Try substituting carrots, green beans, bananas, strawberries, and apples cut into bite-size pieces for commercial dog treats to help keep her calorie count down.
How long do teacup Chihuahuas live?
The first thing you need to know about teacup Chihuahuas is that they are not recognized by the American Kennel Club. This matters because it is not recognized by the authority of all dog breeds.
The AKC’s breed standard for Chihuahuas describes them as compact dogs and says they are not to exceed approximately 6 pounds. That’s already really tiny!
The Chihuahua Club of America states that the only variation within the Chihuahua breed is a short coat or long coat; there is no official size variation.
In the CCA’s Teacup Statement, they inform pet parents that while there will be Chihuahuas of different sizes within each litter, just like how human children born in the same family reach different sizes as they grow.
Chihuahuas are only Chihuahuas; the term “teacup Chihuahua” was invented by breeders in an effort to make dogs sound more appealing to buyers and to raise the price of puppies by making them sound more carefully bred.
Unfortunately, you will often see the term “teacup Chihuahua” associated with puppy mills and backyard breeders; reputable breeders would not advertise their litters as teacup Chihuahua puppies.
Sadly, these dogs usually suffer health conditions associated with improper or unethical breeding practices used to achieve a size the breeder deems attractive to potential buyers.
While a puppy advertised as a “teacup Chihuahua” is no less deserving of a loving home, since they are often the result of unethical breeding, “teacup” Chihuahuas may have a shorter life span.
What does a long life span mean for a Chihuahua?
While having a long life span can be wonderful in certain circumstances, this long life span can also mean heartbreak.
For a responsible and committed Chihuahua parent, this long life is an immense blessing. The Chihuahua will have many years of happiness with a family who loves them and cherishes them very much. This means happy times and memories, a rich and full life.
For a Chihuahua parent who is not committed to owning a dog for such a significant period of time, this means heartbreak for the Chihuahua. It can take work to keep a dog through 20 years of your life and not everyone is committed to ensuring that their dog remains by their side through thick and thin.
With the unconditional love that dogs provide us, it is incredibly disappointing when humans do not return it to them. Sadly, this means that there are many Chihuahua rescues packed with Chihuahuas who are in need of homes.
These little dogs become very attached to their owners and being separated from them is very difficult for them.
Chihuahuas are one of the longest living breeds of dogs, often living into their late teens and even reaching over 20! This lifespan is a result of the breed being generally healthy and being a small dog.
If you are concerned about paying for expensive veterinary bills, consider opening a savings account for your Chihuahua’s care and/or researching pet insurance policies to find one that matches your needs.
This article has been reviewed, fact-checked, and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.