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The Chihuahua is the most famous ‘handbag accessory’ toted around by high-profile celebrities such as Paris Hilton due to his small size.
The Chihuahua dog weighs 2–3kg and stands 15–23cm. His average lifespan is 14-18 years. The breed comes in two coat variations: long-coated and smooth-coated Chihuahua. Both of which are easy to maintain due to minimal shedding.
Despite his size, the Chi-Chi is a feisty companion dog with a loyal and comical personality.
Are you thinking of getting a Chihuahua? Here is a brief background of the world’s smallest dog breed.
The Chihuahua is thought to be bred for various reasons including companionship, and religious ceremonies and rituals. The origins of the breed are shrouded in mystery.
In the first theory, the Chihuahua is believed to have descended from the ancient Techichi dogs that lived during the Toltec civilisation in the 12th century. Toltec carvings tracing back to the 9th century depict the Techichi as a dog with a round head and large ears.
The Aztecs view the Techichi as a mystical being that holds various powers. It was said to possess the ability to heal the sick and foresee the future.
The dog also functions as a guide of the dead souls to the underworld. Killing a red Techichi and cremating him together with the remains of the deceased has become a tradition by the Aztecs. The arrival of Spanish conquerors in the late 1500s caused the obscurity of the Techichi’s existence.
Another theory suggests that the Chihuahua is a descendant of hairless dogs from China. The breed’s ancestors were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders. Later on, they were bred as small native dogs. In the last theory, this small dog is said to be named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
The modern Chihuahua breed that we know is solely bred as family companions. The breed came from the small dogs from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1850. The breed was sold by Mexican merchants and brought to the USA. The breed was also called Texas dog, Arizona dog, and Mexico dog.
The Chihuahua Club of America was founded in 1923 to improve the breed. The Chihuahua gained recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1904. He is officially recognised by the Kennel Club as well and listed under the toy group.
The Chi-Chi skyrocketed to popularity after the renowned dance king and Latin music bandleader, Xavier Cugat, conducted with the dog under his arm in the 1940s. The breed also became famous stars in movies like Legally Blonde, Sex and the City, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
The Chihuahua is a small and dainty dog that weighs 2–3 kilos and stands 15–23 centimetres. His average lifespan is 14-18 years.
A pet Chihuahua can be oversized, with some reaching up to 4–5 kilos, which can be a better choice for families with children. However, for show purposes, the smaller kind is preferred. He is known for his large, round eyes, large, erect ears, and apple head.
The Chihuahua takes approximately 1 year to become fully grown. The tiny dog’s growth gradually slows down between 12 weeks and 6 months. When he is 6 months old, the Chi-Chi is close to his adult size.
The Chihuahua dog only comes in one size. ‘Toy’ and ‘Extreme Tiny’ types of Chi-Chis are variations made by unscrupulous breeders.
These exceedingly small-size dogs often come at high prices but are highly susceptible to many health problems. These include poor dental care, brittle bones, and weak internal organs.
The Chihuahua comes in two varieties: the smooth-coated Chihuahua and long-coated Chihuahua. They are basically the same breed with different hair lengths.
The smooth-coated Chihuahua can range from having a velvety to a bristly texture, whilst the long-haired Chihuahua has a smoother texture and fluffier appearance. All colours and combinations are accepted by the Kennel Club except for merle.
The Chihuahua sheds throughout the year, but heavy shedding often occurs during spring and autumn. Both coat types require minimal grooming and no trimming, with the long-haired variety shedding less. It can take up to 3 years before a full long-haired coat grows.
The Chihuahua toy breed has one of the easiest coats to maintain. The smooth-haired ones can be brushed with a rubber grooming mitt, whilst a pin brush can be used for the long-haired one to remove little clumps. The Chihuahua can be bathed once every 3–4 weeks.
Grooming does not only mean brushing your Chi-Chi. Be sure to check the eyes for excessive tearing or abnormal eye discharges, which may lead to potential health issues. The eyes should be thoroughly cleaned using a soft, damp cloth or canine eye wipes.
Trimming the Chihuahua’s nails is required. It should be done every 3 months. Nails left to grow will cause painful ingrown nails and may affect his gait and cause skeletal damage.
To avoid excessive wax build-up in the ears, make sure that ear cleaning is part of the normal grooming routine.
The Chihuahua does not do well in cold weather as he easily gets chilly. When you go out for a walk, make sure that he wears a coat to keep him warm. Provide your dog with fleece blankets and consider investing in heated dog pads.
The small Chihuahua dog has a big dog personality hidden in that small-sized body. This feisty tiny dog loves sticking close to his family and tends to form a close bond with a single family member.
The Chihuahua enjoys being the centre of attention but avoids spoiling him too much. Otherwise, he may end up becoming a very demanding pooch.
The Chihuahua generally loves children, especially if he grew up with them since puppyhood. However, supervision is needed especially with younger kids, to avoid this tiny pooch from getting injured.
This breed is great for families with older children who know the appropriate manner of approaching and handling dogs.
The Chihuahua has a terrier-like personality, which means he is usually wary of people and other dogs. If threatened, he won’t hesitate to defend himself even if his opponent is larger than him. For this reason, early socialisation is necessary to ensure that the Chihuahua matures into a well-mannered dog.
The Chihuahua dog is a great companion for other pets. However, the breed is best paired with small dogs just like him. Avoid getting larger dogs as they may easily trample the small Chi-Chi whilst playing.
The Chihuahua is a smart and fast learner when it comes to training and learning new commands. He is great in agility and obedience training. However, he can be stubborn and doesn’t respond to harsh treatment. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise and rewards can help.
Often, small-breed dogs like the Chihuahua are stereotyped as ‘snappy’ and bark a lot. However, this is not entirely true. Although dog breeds have certain predispositions, behaviour can be the opposite. For instance, the behaviour of a dog can also be calm and friendly, depending on the type of training and socialisation he experienced when young.
One huge, significant, deciding factor of a Chihuahua’s personality is how he is raised.
A Chihuahua puppy requires approximately ¼ cup of dog food per day. As he gradually grows, his food should be increased to ½ cup. A typical serving for an adult Chihuahua is 1/4–1/2 cups of excellent-quality dry dog food per day.
The amount of food depends on each dog’s age, size, build activity level, and metabolism. Always do your research on the nutritional needs of the breed that you are getting.
An adult Chihuahua’s daily calorie needs:
As a toy breed, the Chihuahua dog is easy to overfeed because he is tiny, active, and burns calories quickly. Some owners think that he should eat more because he is very active, not realising how small his stomach is.
The Chihuahua breed thrives on protein, which should make up at least 25% of his diet. The best sources are lean meats such as chicken, fish, venison, and bison.
The Chihuahua is prone to hypoglycaemia, so complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats) are beneficial. Avoid simple carbs like soy, corn, and wheat at all times.
The Chihuahua’s average lifespan of 14-18 years.
He doesn’t generally have serious health problems, but like any other breed, he can be predisposed to certain medical conditions. These include:
A Chihuahua puppy is very likely to develop hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar. It is often caused by a lack of energy reserves due to stress or an imbalanced diet. This leads to a lack of supply in glucose levels.
It may sound like a mild health problem, but it can turn fatal without proper treatment. However, early detection of hypoglycaemia can make it easily curable.
The condition is often misdiagnosed as other diseases such as viral hepatitis or encephalitis. Thus, knowing the symptoms of hypoglycaemia is important. Signs that a puppy has low blood sugar include twitching, lethargy, weakness, lack of coordination, and seizures.
Bladder stones, also called cystic calculi or uroliths, are a common genetic predisposition in the Chihuahua breed, especially males. These stones are rock-like formations made up of minerals found in the urinary bladder. Different types of bladder stones can form depending on these minerals.
A Chihuahua with uroliths often has discoloured urine. He may also experience difficulty in urinating and may frequently lick the area around his urinary opening.
To treat bladder stones, the vet may prescribe antibiotics and recommend a therapeutic diet. In some cases, surgery may even be necessary. These treatments help in effectively breaking down the stones.
The Chihuahua is greatly at risk of suffering from the collapsed trachea. It is an inherited disease in the breed. Middle-aged to senior Chihuahuas are more vulnerable to the collapsed trachea. This respiratory issue occurs when the cartilage supporting the trachea becomes weak, leading the organ to flatten.
It makes the passing of air through the lungs difficult and causes breathing problems. The most common symptom of the collapsed trachea is incessant harsh coughing accompanied by a ‘goose honking’ sound. Treatment for this condition involves medication and, in severe cases, surgery.
This is also known as molera, which is a soft spot or a hole in the skull. Normally, it completely closes once a puppy reaches 9–12 weeks of age. However, in some cases, the molera in toy breeds like the Chihuahua fails to close fully.
Although open fontanel is not a disease, it can put the breed in danger as he can easily sustain injuries due to this condition. Accidentally hitting him hard can be life-threatening for this breed.
Molera has no cure. However, it will require you to handle the Chihuahua gently. A special headgear that can protect his soft spot is also available.
The Chihuahua is highly prone to developing hydrocephalus. Those with this condition do not live past 2 years old. Hydrocephalus occurs when cerebrospinal fluid accumulates between the skull and the cerebrum.
This can result in the weakening of the bones and skull, causing them to misshape. The liquid also puts pressure on the brain, which can trigger several neurological issues.
The root cause of this disorder can be genetic, but it can also be due to head trauma or brain tumour. Chihuahua puppies with hydrocephalus are slow to learn. They also tend to hit their heads on walls and often experience seizures.
Methods of treatment used to cure hydrocephalus depend on the severity of the disease. In mild cases, diuretics, and corticosteroids may be administered to reduce the fluids. Surgery is often necessary if the initial treatments fail.
Hereditary diseases are very common in various breeds, and the Chihuahua is not excluded. For this reason, it is best to purchase a Chihuahua puppy from a reputable breeder whose breeding stocks are health-screened. Tests that show favoured result mean that their puppies have lower chances of inheriting breed-specific diseases.
The Chihuahua needs exercise to maintain a healthy weight. A 30-minute walk or some agility games are usually enough for this tiny pooch.
Do not neglect your Chihuahua’s need for mental stimulation. Be sure to provide mind-challenging activities such as playing with puzzle toys, hide-and-seek, and home-made obstacle course.
When leaving the Chi-Chi in the garden, look out for gaps, as he is naturally curious and may escape exploring the outdoors.
If you plan to take your Chihuahua for a swim, note that small-size dogs generally struggle when wading in water. Thus, your Chihuahua should wear a well-fitted doggy life jacket. Constant supervision is necessary, as well.
If you are keen on raising a Chihuahua, be prepared to pay £1,000–2,000 or more for a well-bred pedigree Chihuahua puppy from a reputable breeder.
You may also consider adopting a Chi-Chi from animal shelters and adoption centres organised by rescue groups.
If you want to insure your Chihuahua, you would need to spend about £20 for a time-limited coverage and £40 for a lifetime policy. This price may vary as insurance companies consider your dog’s health and age, amongst others.
Feeding a small Chihuahua is not as costly as other breeds since you only need to spend about £30 a month on good-quality dog food. Other expenses include dog accessories such as lead, collar, bowls, dog crate, bed, plus visits to the vet for routine consultations.
A Chihuahua can cost you £21,200–£25,400 during his lifetime. If you divide lifetime costs by 18 years, you will be paying along the lines of £1,177–£1,411 yearly. However, this estimated annual cost does not include pet insurance coverage or special health checks from a veterinarian, especially if it includes treatments for a specific disease.
Are you sure the Chihuahua is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
Still not sure if a Chihuahua fits your lifestyle? Take our Pet Finder for more suggested breeds that suit you.
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