For all the Chihuahua owners out there, we have good news!
The Chihuahua lifespan is arguably the longest in the canine kingdom.
All things being well, you can expect your diminutive companion to stick around for a long time, at least by doggy standards.
That said, Chihuahuas are vulnerable to several lifestyle factors and health conditions.
In this guide we’ll take a look at these and give you some advice on how to maximize your Chihuahua’s chances of a long and happy life.
If you’d like to learn more about Chihuahuas in general, here’s a great guide to the world’s smallest dog breed.
The Chihuahua lifespan and how it stacks up against other breeds
Small dog breeds tend to live longer than medium and large dogs.
While the exact cause of this disparity is unknown, it’s thought to have something to do with their slower rate of growth delaying the onset of age-related diseases.
Chihuahuas are no exception, living an average of 15 to 20 years, with females typically living around 1 to 2 years longer than males.
This places the average Chihuahua lifespan in first place alongside the Chinese Crested, and ever so slightly in front of the Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers, who live for an average of 13 to 15 years.
Medium and large dogs live significantly shorter lives, with medium dogs living an average of 10 to 13 years and large dogs living from 8 to 10 years.
Chihuahuas may be small, but they keep on kicking!
Health conditions affecting Chihuahua lifespan
While Chihuahua life expectancy is excellent, the breed is affected by a range of health conditions. Knowing and managing these is important.
Chihuahuas are famous (or perhaps infamous depending on your point of view) for their cocky, “big dog” attitude.
While this is endearing, it does make them vulnerable given their Lilliputian dimensions.
Compounding the risks associated with this “never say die” attitude, Chihuahuas frequently exhibit a genetic condition known as “moleras” – soft spots in the skull where bone did not fully develop.
Owing to these factors, a high percentage of Chihuahuas die from trauma, whether from dog fights or accidentally being dropped or stepped on.
A twenty-year study into canine mortality revealed that 18.5% of Chihuahua mortality can be attributed to heart-related disease, placing the breed among the top 5 of those most vulnerable.
While onset of heart disease occurs relatively late in a Chihuahua’s life (14 years) it remains the single greatest contributor to reduced Chihuahua life expectancy.
The good news is that up to 70% of reported heart disease cases in small breed dogs is degeneration of the mitral valve, a condition which can be prevented through good diet and exercise.
Hypoglycemia is a condition which causes blood sugar levels to remain at lower than healthy levels.
While the physical effects are not always immediately obvious, over time hypoglycemia causes a gradual decline in physical condition.
It’s vital that Chihuahuas be checked if they are sluggish, sleeping excessively, or prone to shaking.
Early treatment can arrest the onset of this condition. Conversely, if not treated it will significantly reduce Chihuahua lifespan.
Some practical things you can do to improve your Chihuahua’s lifespan
A healthy diet is your number one weapon in preventing cardiovascular degeneration.
Chihuahuas are often picky eaters and it’s common for them to beg for that delicious “human food.”
It’s important to be firm! Make sure your diminutive pal gets nutritious and well-balanced dog food, keeping treats from your table to a bare minimum.
Chihuahuas usually love to play and go for walks through their neighborhood, so keeping your Chihuahua fit and active is usually easily accomplished.
While they need daily walks, the distance and intensity is far less than required by a larger dog. A little bit of exercise goes a long way.
Remember that Chihuahuas are big dogs trapped in a tiny body!
They’ll often face up to much larger dogs believing themselves to be invincible.
It’s therefore a good idea to keep a close eye on their natural outgoing exuberance.
As with all dogs, prevention is way better than cure.
Make sure your furry companion gets a wellness check every year and that they get all their vaccinations (leptospirosis, parvovirus, and canine influenza are especially important).
You’ll also want to make sure they receive regular oral care. Chihuahuas are prone to dental problems and persistent issues with oral health can introduce infection and increase the likelihood of heart disease.
Finally, spaying and neutering brings many benefits. It reduces the risk of cancer, lowers their aggression and decreases the likelihood of them running away.
With proper care, the average Chihuahua lifespan is excellent! Your pint-sized companion stands a very good chance of being around for a long time to come.
References and Further Reading
- Donner, J., 2018, “Frequency and distribution of 152 genetic disease variants in over 100,000 mixed breed and purebred dogs,” PLOS Genetics Journal
- Fleming, J.M., 2011, “Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age‐, Size‐, and Breed‐Related Causes of Death,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
- Holt, A., 2017, “Systematic review of patellar luxation in dogs,” UTC Scholar Honors Thesis
- Hyun-Tae, L., et al., 2017, “Retrospective study of degenerative mitral valve disease in small-breed dogs: survival and prognostic variables,” Journal of Veterinary Science
- Lindsay, L.F., et al., 2015, “The challenges of pedigree dog health: approaches to combating inherited disease,” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology
- Petersen-Jones, S., 2006, “Advances in the molecular understanding of canine retinal diseases,” Journal of Small Animal Practice
- Przyborowska, P., et al., 2013, “Hydrocephalus in dogs: a review,” Veterinarni Medicina
- Vroom, M.W & Slappendel, R.J., 1987, “Transient juvenile hypoglycemia in a Yorkshire terrier and in a Chihuahua,” Veterinary Quarterly