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Whether you have a Smooth-Coat or Long-haired Chihuahua you know that your dog might by tiny in size, but their feisty temperament more than makes up for their diminutive build. Understanding your dog’s health risks and potential for mobility issues can help you better prepare to care for your chihuahua in their senior years.
Five potential chihuahua health concerns include: knee problems, spinal injury, hydrocephalus, obesity, and vision loss. Read on to learn more about each one of these health issues and how they can impact your tiny pup!
Knee problems and patellar luxations are common among Chihuahuas. A luxating patella is when a Chihuahua’s kneecap dislocates and slips out of place. Most patellar luxations are fairly mild and only impact one leg.
A dog with a slipped kneecap will point their leg backwards or to the side and stretch until the kneecap repositions itself. As a dog with knee problems gets older they are more likely to develop arthritis in the joint and may struggle with their mobility as a senior. More severe cases of patellar luxation may require surgical repair to keep the knee in place.
Chihuahua and the Risk of Spinal Injury
Chihuahuas are more likely to have instability in their neck, specifically in their first two vertebrae. This type of instability in the cervical spine causes the dog’s spinal cord to compress leading to neck pain and mobility problems.
Like other toy breeds, due to their small size chihuahuas are at high risk for spinal trauma and injury. Chihuahuas are unaware of how small they really are and they love to be with their owners and playing with other pets. This puts that at risk for an unintentional back injury, nerve damage, and in the most severe cases paralysis.
The chihuahua breed is genetically predisposed to hydrocephalus, there are no apparent genetic markers that would flag a chihuahua mother as a carrier right now. A chihuahua born with hydrocephalus will appear normal at birth, although they are often smaller than the rest of their litter. The first signs of hydrocephalus will appear when the chihuahua is a few weeks older.
A dog with hydrocephalus experiences a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain that can alter a dog’s appearance and behavior. Dogs with hydrocephalus appear to have a larger than normal, dome-shaped head and may show signs of brain damage. Chihuahua puppies with hydrocephalus are prone to seizures, “manic” walking, blindness, and often press their heads against a wall. Symptoms can range in severity from mild to very extreme. Surgical repair is possible to help reduce the fluid in the brain and can help relieve some of the symptoms of hydrocephalus although treatment can be difficult with varying results.
How to Help a Chihuahua Walk
A dog wheelchair is a simple way to help your Chihuahua walk again. Because of their tiny size and small build, a chihuahua’s wheelchairs needs to be lightweight. Your CHI doesn’t have to be paralyzed to us a wheelchair. Dog wheelchairs are often used in rehabilitation for knee injuries, spinal problems, loss of leg strength, and joint issues. Although it’s easy to carry around this tiny breed, it’s important that your chihuahua walk on their own too. Continued exercise will keep their legs healthy, help prevent further muscle loss, and help your dog maintain the leg strength they have.
Chihuahua Obesity and It’s Impact on Their Health
Due to the Chihuahua’s small stature they are considered high risk of obesity. Even a pound or two over their ideal weight can place additional stress and pressure on a Chihuahua’s joints which can lead to joint problems, arthritis, and difficulty walking. Additionally, as they become a senior the Chihuahua has a tendency to become lethargic and less apt to exercise which can lead to rapid weight gain. A gentle exercise program and an active lifestyle can help keep your dog’s weight down.
Chihuahua Eyesight and Vision Problems
Chihuahuas are prone to loss of vision due to progressive retinal atrophy or PRA. A Chihuahua with PRA will have a difficult time seeing in the dark or low lighting. Night blindness is often the earliest sign of progressive retinal atrophy in dogs. As the condition progresses the dog’s vision loss will worsen and lead to eventual blindness.
PRA isn’t the only eye condition that Chihuahua parents have to worry about. The Chihuahua is also genetically prone to developing Cataracts, Glaucoma, and dry eye from a condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca.