Did you know that many small dogs such as the Yorkshire Terrier and Chihuahua have longer lifespans than larger breeds like the Great Dane and Labrador Retriever? It’s unknown why this happens but experts believe it’s related to the slower growth rate that delays age-related diseases. In this article, we discuss what you need to know about the average lifespan of a Chihuahua and the factors that can prolong or shorten it.
Chihuahua Breed Overview
Before we talk about the lifespan of these little dogs, it’s important that we first get to know what these dogs are to gain an understanding of how they function. Unfortunately, like with many other dog breeds, the Chihuahua’s origins are shrouded in mystery. According to a theory, they are the descendants of small, hairless dogs transported from China to Mexico where they were bred with native dogs.
What we do know is that the short-haired Chihuahua we love and adore today was first discovered during the 1850s in Chihuahua, the Mexican state these dogs are named after. On the other hand, long-haired Chihuahuas were probably bred by adding Pomeranians or Papillons in the mix. Throughout the world, Chihuahuas are known as the smallest dog breeds but have the biggest personalities stashed away in their small bodies.
The Chihuahua’s personality can be a great mix from being timid and clingy to outgoing and even feisty. However, their loud expressions have earned them the nickname of “big dog in a small body,” and their protective tendencies might make them fend off people they don’t know. As such, Chihuahua owners will need to pay attention during new situations like going out on walks or when playing with young children.
Apart from their small size, Chihuahuas come with a lot of energy and will need a minimum of regular exercise which can be done through daily walks or playing. Chihuahuas should be a part of a family with older children who understand how to interact with them. Children over 10 years of age are old enough to be around Chihuahuas and are mature enough to know how to properly handle them.
All in all, the Chihuahua breed is a loyal, lovable, and ideal long-term companion. Whenever you’re at home, you can count on your Chihuahua to sit by your side, sleep on your lap, or follow you around the house. When you’re not at home, they will surely protect it and treat it as their own, barking away at strangers which surprisingly makes them an effective guard dog.
The Average Chihuahua Lifespan
The average Chihuahua life expectancy is between 12 to 18 years — while not all Chihuahuas will live up to these standards, some will be able to live even longer. Gaining knowledge about a Chihuahua’s lifespan is important for dog owners and those who are thinking about getting one. While there’s no way to accurately tell how long a Chihuahua dog might live, there is an average range that can give us a good estimate.
A Chihuahua can typically live a long life — the figures above are based on a Chihuahua living a healthy lifestyle without factors that may negatively impact their life expectancy. While many Chihuahuas won’t live to reach their teenage years, some individuals are known to have lived past two decades. One such example is Megabyte, the oldest Chihuahua to have lived after it passed away at age 20 years and 265 days who lived a happy life.
Factors that Affect the Lifespan of a Chihuahua
Pet owners have the most significant impact on their Chihuahua’s lifespan and these small purebred dogs will depend on their owners to keep them healthy. There are a wide range of factors that may influence the lifespan of these smaller dogs, which include the following.
Because small dog breeds are more vulnerable to physical harm as a result of their size, you can dramatically increase their lifespan if you enforce safety precautions on everyone in your house. Here are a few tips that can give you the best chance at keeping your dog safe:
- A Chihuahua should always be on the leash whenever you’re outside of your home.
- Use an ID tag or collar on your Chihuahua in case it escapes — while this won’t guarantee its safety, it will provide you with a higher chance of reuniting with your pet.
- When leaving the house with your dog, be sure to scan the surroundings first and ensure that there are no aggressive dogs anywhere.
- Train your Chihuahua to obey commands such as “Come”, “Stay”, or “Sit” in case it runs off somewhere — this can prevent accidents such as getting hit by a car.
- If you live in a house with children in it, ensure that they understand how to carefully handle and interact with a Chihuahua without hurting it.
- Provide your dog with personal space where it can get away from the busyness of your home.
Much like other small breeds, the Chihuahua can be prone to dental problems such as tooth loss, gum disease, and tooth decay. Allowing your Chihuahua to go on with bad oral health may greatly reduce their lifespan. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream as a result of bleeding gums, where they can go straight to the kidneys and heart.
Ensure that you clean your pup’s teeth to stop harmful bacteria from having a bad effect on your pet’s health. Be sure to give your Chihuahua regular checkups at least once a year with a professional.
Much like people, Chihuahuas are only as healthy as the food given to them. For example, many pet owners will often feed their dogs leftovers of “people food” but this is probably the worst thing you can provide for your Chihuahua’s diet. This kind of food is only meant for people and your dog will need high-quality dog food to live a longer life.
Chihuahuas need a balanced diet that doesn’t contain fillers or preservatives of any kind. Your dog’s diet is directly linked to how long they can live because it can significantly affect their overall health. An obese Chihuahua will be more susceptible to health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which can both result in a shorter lifespan.
Keeping your dog active and at a healthy weight can promote a longer life — whether you play tug-of-war or fetch with your dog, giving it plenty of exercise can help its body in the long run. Giving your Chihuahua exercise can help to build muscle, but fat, keep away illness, and strengthen the immune system. Just remember that their small bodies can easily get chilly, so be sure to give them a sweater or coat when exercising in cold weather.
Catching and treating medical conditions as quickly as possible is one of the most important things that can ensure your Chihuahua lives a long and healthy life. The best way to do this is to visit your vet regularly — your vet will have the proper training required to notice subtle signs of illness that you may miss. Taking them to the vet for routine visits will help you prolong their life by detecting diseases early on before they can become life-threatening illnesses.
Spaying or Neutering
Chihuahuas that have been neutered and spayed can live longer compared to those that are still intact. Neutering a male Chihuahua before it turns 1 year old will lower its risk for prostate and testicular cancer. Spaying a female Chihuahua before its first heat cycle can help to reduce its risk for ovarian and uterine cancers.
Health Issues that Can Affect the Lifespan
While a Chihuahua’s life span is among the highest according to dog standards, it comes with health conditions that may shorten your Chihuahua’s life.
Such health concerns are due to low blood sugar levels. Some signs may manifest as confusion, weakness, seizure-like episodes, and a wobbly gait. If you suspect your dog has hypoglycemia, be sure to contact your vet about treatment and prevention options.
Unfortunately, because Chihuahuas are so small, they can be highly susceptible to obesity and weight gain. When handling such small dogs, it doesn’t take a lot of calories for them to gain excess weight, so you must watch their waistline and ensure that it stays trim and fit. Being obese won’t just take a toll on your dog’s joints, but it can also affect their kidneys, liver, and heart.
Because they live a longer life than expected from a dog, Chihuahuas can be highly susceptible to dental issues. While dental problems rarely cause life-threatening damage, they can lead to long-term changes in your dog’s eating routine, which can also result in serious health risks. Moreover, periodontal disease has been connected to heart problems, which is why it’s your responsibility as a pet parent to care for your dog’s oral health.
The kneecap or the patella can sometimes be dislocated. A luxating patella means that the knee joint of a hind leg is sliding in and out of place, causing pain. Without medical care, this can be a crippling condition but many dogs will still be able to live a relatively normal life even with it.
Their small bodies are unable to handle too much trauma, and a lot of the time, Chihuahuas can be fatally injured due to being stepped on, falling or dropping from heights, or getting hit by a car.
This occurs when the dog’s cartilage between its joints wears down through the years. This condition leads to bones grinding against each other, which isn’t just extremely painful but damaging too. Arthritis can happen for many reasons, but repetitive activities and obesity are some of the most common.
Fluids can accumulate inside the brain due to congenital disabilities, birthing trauma, or an obstruction that may be putting pressure on the brain. This is often seen in Apple Head rather than Deer Head Chihuahuas but it can happen in both varieties. If your dog’s head looks enlarged or swollen be sure to visit your vet — while there’s no cure for this condition, steroids can help mild cases.
You may have felt it before but if you notice an opening on your Chihuahua’s skull, there’s no need to panic about this soft spot. Known as Molera, this condition is present in around 80% to 90% of Chihuahuas born. Once considered to be the mark of purity in this breed, the Molera is an opening at the top of the dog’s skull as the frontal and parietal bones haven’t fused.
Chihuahuas are plagued by a wide range of heart conditions that may drastically reduce their lifespan. One of the leading causes of Chihuahua fatality is cardiovascular disease, and the breed is among the top 5 of the most vulnerable breeds for this condition. This health problem is categorized into 3 classifications.
Heart Valve Problems
Small dog breeds such as Chihuahuas are prone to a particular heart problem known as MItral valve disease. When left untreated, this can lead to heart failure, so early diagnosis and treatment are the key to prolonging your dog’s life.
When this happens, the heart isn’t pumping blood to the heart as it needs to. This results in a lack of oxygen and blood that’s needed to flow throughout your dog’s body.
This is the abnormal beating of the heart, which can be life-threatening in severe cases due to the lower pumping function of the dog’s heart.
Even if heart disease starts later in the life of a Chihuahua (at around 14 years old), it’s still one of the biggest contributors to shortening their lifespan.
Teacup Chihuahua Lifespan
The teacup Chihuahua is an ultra-small Chihuahua that is bred and sold for its adorable size. However, they may not always come from safe and ethical environments and processes, which is why they aren’t registered as a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club. The only two recognized varieties are the long coat and smooth Chihuahua.
If you thought that the Teacup Chihuahua was a specific breed, you’re not the only one; there’s a misconception about this terminology that confuses most people. As such, there are various names that people use to describe their Chihuahuas, including the following:
- Toy (there are a wide range of toy breeds, not just the Chihuahua)
- Mini or miniature
If you’re considering getting one for yourself because you can’t resist how cute and charming they are, then you may want to find out how long one will live. Despite having smaller bodies than a regular Chihuahua, they actually have shorter lifespans that range between 14 to 16 years. Again, the real number depends on how well they’re cared for, their health conditions, and whether they come from a trusted breeder who has given them necessary health care before selling them to you.
Chihuahua Lifespan FAQs
Is the Chihuahua a Suitable Indoor Pet?
When you give them proper attention and care, a Chihuahua can be an amiable, loving, and loyal household pet. Because they’re so small and compact, they can play their heart out inside a small apartment or big house.
Which Dog Breed Lives the Longest?
The oldest dog to ever live was an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey. Passing away at the ripe age of 29 years and 5 months, he was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for this achievement.
How Much Sleep Does a Chihuahua Need?
For most of the day, your Chihuahua will be asleep and while most breeds will be happy to snooze for 12 to 14 hours, your Chihuahua will likely be asleep for 14 to 18 hours each day.
The Chihuahua’s lifespan can be pretty long, so adding one to your family is a life-long commitment to them. Before taking one into your home, consider if you are prepared to accept everything that comes with their loving nature and loud personality. They may come with a few health concerns, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to give them the best life possible and extending their stay with you any way you can.