The smallest dog breed in the world, Chihuahuas are the only “natural” toy breed, which means they are small naturally and not as the result of a generation of breeding down a larger breed. Affectionate and energetic, Chihuahuas are also agile, alert, and observant as well as big in courage and personality. If you live in a small apartment, they make for excellent watchdogs.
So, how long do Chihuahuas live? We’ll discuss everything you need to know about your Chihuahua’s lifespan in this article.
Chihuahua Lifespan – What To Expect From This Dog Breed
A Chihuahua has a life expectancy between 14 and 18 years and a median age of 15 ½. Females live a little longer, about one to two years than males do. Plus, 15 ½ years is also a little longer than the typical lifespan of a domesticated dog which is around 12.8 years.
The long length of a Chihuahua life expectancy is thanks to the fact that a small toy breed will generally live longer than a larger dog, plus, Chihuahuas tend to be a pretty healthy breed with any genetic issues not being fatal to them.
Leading Causes of Death for a Chihuahua
The leading causes of death for a Chihuahua varying depending on the dog’s age. The top causes of death for a Chihuahua puppy are trauma and infection. Adults die most often from trauma, infection, or cardiovascular disease, which is most common for a Chihuahua over the age of 14.
Categorized into three different classifications, cardiovascular disease happens because a heart can only work for so many years, and dogs that die of heart failure are typically classified as dying of old age.
Heart failure – When a dog’s heart is unable to pump blood as it should, it can cause a lack of oxygen and blood to circulate, which is needed throughout your dog’s body.
Arrhythmia – Also known as an abnormal heartbeat rhythm, an arrhythmia, when it is severe, can be life-threatening if it causes your heart to decrease its pumping function.
Heart valve problems – Heart valve problems include stenosis, when the heart valve will not open wide enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, regurgitations, where the heart valve will not close correctly and allowing blood to seep out, and valve prolapse when the valve starts to bulge into the upper chamber.
Trauma can include a situation like getting hit by a vehicle, getting stepped on accidentally, being dropped, or falling from a high place. This is actually a rather shocking and preventable cause of death that is entirely preventable. Infections that were reported as a cause of death varied greatly, but included:
Parvovirus – While a vaccine exists for parvovirus, many dogs remain unvaccinated and die from the disease. The disease attacks a dog’s immune system and gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea and vomiting. This disease is spread through direct contact with a dog that is infected with it or the feces of a dog that has the infection.
Distemper – Along with parvovirus, distemper also has a vaccine. Beginning with coughing and weakness, distemper is very contagious and infects the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system. When the disease progresses, the dog can develop diarrhea, and, in its later stage, the disease will attack the central nervous system including the spinal cord and brain. Before dying, the dog may suffer from seizures and paralysis.
Leptospirosis – Featuring many strains, leptospirosis isn’t always fatal, but it can cause fatal kidney and liver damage. The fatal strains of leptospirosis are spread through wild animals’ urine including rats, raccoons, and skunks. A dog can catch this infection when he drinks from the water that is contaminated or by sniffing infected urine puddles.
Sepsis – A severe infection of the body, if sepsis is not treated, it can cause liver failure, acute kidney failure, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. With proper treatment, sepsis still only offers a 40 percent survival rate. Even with proper treatment, only roughly 40% of dogs survive.
You will find there are several causes of sepsis including bacterial infection, prostatic infection, and pneumonia. With Chihuahua’s however, you need to be concerned about infections that are linked to tooth decay, which when left untreated, may spread through a dog’s body.
Tips to Help Extend Your Chihuahua’s Life Span
Make sure your Chihuahua is immunized against fatal diseases, particularly those that are fatal to the Chihuahua breed. Do not believe that keeping a dog inside most of the time means that he won’t need inoculations. All it takes is one second of sniffing some infected urine or brief contact with a dog that is infected with the disease for your dog to become sick.
A puppy should be vaccinated against rabies, parvovirus, parainfluenza, distemper, hepatitis, and adenovirus cough. Other vaccines your puppy should receive include Lyme disease, leptospirosis and coronavirus. Remember that leptospirosis is only recommended for a dog that has a high chance of exposure because the Chihuahua breed does not react very well to this particular vaccine. Talk to your veterinarian to help you decide if you have enough wildlife around your home for your Chihuahua to warrant having this vaccination.
Remember that an adult Chihuahua will need booster shots, but they do not have to be done annually since antibodies may last up to several years. Talk to your veterinarian about conducting routine tests that measure your dog’s antibodies for certain diseases by using a blood sample. If your dog has enough antibodies, then he won’t need a booster shot, but if his antibody levels are low, then a booster will be needed.
Trauma is another leading cause of Chihuahua death, but you can ensure your dog will live longer if certain safety precautions are taken and followed in your home. Here are a few tips that will help to keep your Chihuahua safe:
- Always keep your Chihuahua on a leash when he is outside of your home.
- Instead of a collar, use a harness that will give you better control in case of an emergency. With a harness, you can quickly reel your pup to you without hurting his neck, which can help to prevent a collapsed trachea.
- When you leave your house with your dog, always scan the area around you first and look for strays or wild animals. When you take him out at night, stay close to your Chihuahua and use a flashlight.
- When you are outside with your dog, always remain aware of your surroundings. There have been instances where large stray dogs have jumped fences that are as high as six feet or where wildlife has encroached into a private yard. An aggressive dog can be encountered pretty much anywhere including the dog park or where you walk normally. If you often have large dogs roaming your neighborhood, think about carrying an air horn or whistle.
- Make a rule for your door to help stop your dog from darting outside when it is opened. Have members of the family knock before they come in so someone can keep your Chihuahua from running out.
- Teach basic commands to your Chihuahua so that you can stop them with “Come’ or “Sit” if he runs off. Shouting these commands may stop your dog from running into the street and getting hit by a vehicle.
- Puppy proof your house no matter how old your Chihuahua. Remove all small items from the floors of your home frequently as well as any areas that are accessible to your dog. Look for batteries, bottle caps, pens and caps, coins, jewelry, paper clips, and any small objects that your dog may chew or swallow. Make sure house plants and electrical cords are not within reach to prevent your dog from chewing on them.
- Every member of your house needs to be aware that you have a dog that will always be “underfoot”, which means that he can be tripped over or stepped on easily. Always switch on lights at night or check before turning a corner if you have a Chihuahua running around your home.
- Follow correct handing techniques for your dog and never hold a Chihuahua if you have anything else in your arms. This is a very wiggly breed that can often be hard to hold onto. Make sure any children in your home understand the correct way of picking up your Chihuahua and only let a young child carry the dog if they know how to correctly.
Proper Dental Care
Infection is the third leading cause of death among Chihuahuas, and a portion of this is due to dental infections which spread throughout a dog’s body. It’s imperative that you ensure your Chihuahua has proper maintenance of his teeth and frequent dental cleanings to stay healthy.
A professional checkup needs to be done at least once each year, which should include a thorough examination to look for any potential issues and, if needed, scraping of tarter at his gum line. Make sure you brush your dog’s teeth at home to remove plaque and offer him a daily dental chew that can help prevent and remove the buildup of plaque.
Since heart failure is one of the leading causes of death for Chihuahuas, a healthy diet will keep their heart and body in shape. Look for food that contains omegas, antioxidants, and probiotics that will boost his immune system. Avoid food with fillers like cereals, corn, and soy as well as by-products, artificial coloring and flavoring, and chemical preservatives.
It’s important that your Chihuahua has an exercise routine for his overall health. Keeping your dog’s lungs, heart, and major organs healthy, through exercise helps maintain good blood flow and muscle mass. It also prevents diabetes and some cancers, helps regulate appetite and metabolism, and boosts his immune system.
What do most Chihuahuas die from?
The age of your Chihuahua will dictate what the top cause of death is. A puppy will most often die from infections and trauma while an adult will die most commonly from trauma, infection, or cardiovascular disease.
Why do Chihuahuas live so long?
The fact that Chihuahuas have long life expectancies comes from the fact that a small toy breed will typically live longer than a larger dog. Chihuahuas are also a pretty healthy breed that does not have any fatal genetic issues.
Is 14 years old for a Chihuahua?
A chihuahua has a life expectancy between 14 and 18 years. The average length of a Chihuahua’s life is 15 ½, which is a little longer than a typical domesticated dog’s lifespan. Also, females will live one to two years longer than males.
What health problems are Chihuahuas prone to?
There are several health problems that Chihuahuas are prone to including obesity, which can cause Chihuahuas to develop joint issues. They also often have teeth problems since they have small mouths that have issues with overcrowding of their teeth, gum problems as well as tartar and plaque buildup.
Chihuahuas also suffer from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, which can be fatal if not treated. Plus, they also suffer from patellar luxation, which is a dislocation of the kneecap. This is a hereditary disease that presents about four months after the dog is born. This issue can cause your dog to limp or avoid using the leg that is affected completely.
Tracheal collapse and hydrocephalus are also common issues with Chihuahuas. Tracheal collapse is a narrowing of your dog’s windpipe due to the cartilage weakening, which will cause the trachea’s membrane lining to become inflamed. Your dog will develop a hacking cough as a result, but treatment will help to strengthen the cartilage and keep any pressure on your airway.
Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid around your dog’s brain that can cause death. This is caused by the soft spot on the top of his head being unusually large molera. The symptoms can include seizures, poor coordination, grogginess, lethargy, listlessness, and a swollen head.