Chihuahuas

The Chihuahua burst onto the national stage as a “must have” dog for two reasons: The “Yo Queiro Taco Bell?” ad campaign and, more recently, the tendency of rich, attractive and famous young women to haul these small dogs with big attitudes around in stylish and expensive oversized purses. The appeal? The tiny (as small as two pounds) Chihuahua offers feistiness coupled with enduring loyalty to the person he chooses as his own, along with a face and large, round eyes that show everything the dog is thinking.

Is the Chihuahua the Right Dog for You?

Despite the many endearing qualities of the Chihuahua, if you’re thinking his tiny size makes him a great choice for children, you’d better think again. The Chihuahua may be just right for traveling around in a puppy purse, but he’s far too small and fragile for even the gentlest of children's games. Chihuahuas also tend to be high-strung and prone to nipping, snapping and even biting when frightened, threatened or defending his people or territory.

Some of these tendencies can be helped through early training and socialization. Unfortunately, too many people with Chihuahuas allow them to become little tyrants, displaying manners that would not be acceptable in a larger dog. This dog needs gentle and consistent training from puppyhood on to control his nipping as well as any tendency he has to fight with other dogs. Like many small dogs, Chihuahuas aren't aware of their own size and won't hesitate to challenge a dog many times larger than themselves. Also, like many small dogs, Chihuahuas are difficult to house-train without a lot of consistency and patience.

The Chihuahua is also very yappy and noisily vigilant about any intrusion into his territory, real or imagined. He's not particularly fond of strangers of any species, reserving his affection for his chosen person and, sometimes, the rest of the family.

Variations of the Chihuahua

They come in two coat types, short and long. The short coat sheds more than the long, but the long does require daily brushing to keep it from tangling and to remove dead hairs. But since there’s not much dog, there’s not much coat, even in the long-haired version.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Chihuahua Puppy

  1. Don't ever buy a Chihuahua puppy from a pet store or internet seller. Because of their popularity and their small size, Chihuahua puppies are frequently exploited by puppy millers and other breeders with easy profit on their minds. If you're tempted to buy a puppy at the mall to go with the purse you just picked up, resist. Not only will you be supporting a cruel and abusive industry, your carelessly bred Chihuahua will be at much greater risk of developing health and temperament problems, and of being even more difficult to housebreak or train than usual. Walk past that pet store, quickly and without a glance.
  2. Be sure to follow the advice of the Chihuahua Club of America and seek out a responsible breeder who has done all required health testing for the breed. Those tests include Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearance on the parents' knees and heart, as well as Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) vision testing.
  3. Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. The club publishes a code of ethics that includes genetic testing requirements and prohibits members from selling puppies through pet stores. Breeders who don't live up to those standards may have a lot of excuses – their dogs are all healthy or were "checked" by the vet, for example – but that's all they are: excuses. Consider it a bad sign and walk away.
  4. Consider adopting a Chihuahua from a shelter or rescue group. Although puppies are almost never found in shelters, adult Chihuahuas, both purebred and mixed, are not so fortunate. You may find the perfect Chihuahua for your family through a breed rescue group.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Chihuahuas

Like most very small dogs, Chihuahuas are prone to health problems related to their size. Most Chihuahuas can have breathing difficulties caused by a windpipe that collapses in on itself, and a number of dental problems are caused by the small size of their mouths.

Although Chihuahuas are prized for their small size, they're ironically often fed to obesity. A Chihuahua's skeleton is not designed to carry much weight, and even a few extra ounces can be a significant burden to a dog this size. As with all dogs, leanness is far healthier – and cheaper, when it comes to veterinary costs.

Keeping a Chihuahua lean is particularly important if he has the condition known as "luxating patellas," or kneecaps that slip out of place easily. Be careful, though, to make sure your Chihuahua is eating regular meals even if he's on a weight loss diet, as they also have problems with low blood sugar.

The Chihuahua's round, protruding eyes are one of his most distinctive characteristics, but they are prone to a number of genetic eye disorders as well as to frequent injuries. Chihuahuas can also be born with a liver defect known as a portosystemic shunts, where blood is diverted away from the liver. This causes a buildup of toxins in the dog's body, and is fatal if not corrected with surgery.

Chihuahuas are at risk of a number of neurological conditions, including encephalitis (brain inflammation), hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), and atlantoaxial subluxation, a neck deformity that requires surgical correction.

Chihuahuas also frequently have what's called a "molera," which is a soft area of the skull that should close up and become hard within six months of birth. In a few dogs, the molera never fully closes, and this is sometimes misdiagnosed as the much more serious condition known as hydrocephalus. While dogs can live a normal lifespan with an unclosed molera, hydrocephalus can cause seizures and even death if not treated.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation
High $1,500-$3,000
Portosystemic Shunts
Medium $2,000-$6,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease High $1,000-$3,000
Mitral Valve Disease Medium $500-$2,000
Corneal Dystrophy High $300-$3,000
Cryptorchidism High $200-$500
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Chihuahuas

Pet insurance for Chihuahuas costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Chihuahuas are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

* Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Chihuahuas are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Chihuahua is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.

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