How long do Chihuahuas live? Well, we have good news!
The Chihuahua lifespan is arguably the longest in the canine kingdom. With some individuals living 17 to 20 years.
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.
You might also enjoy:
- A guide to the gorgeous long-haired Chihuahua
- The truth about tiny teacup Chihuahuas
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.
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.
Other conditions which may reduce your Chihuahua’s lifespan or quality of life include: patellar luxation, Von Willebrand’s Disease, hydrocephalus, and retinal disease.
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
Janet Brand says
My pippy male chiwauwa 18 yr has a cough it worries me
Helene Soucy says
I have a Chihuahua mixed with Boston terrier that we adopted in 2010 from a shelter. We were told she was approx. 3 years old, but when we took her to our vet, she said our dog was about 5 years old. Although it would not change anything, she is a good dog. The only concern is about some kind of warts that grows at different places on her body: sometimes on top of her head, or behind her neck, or sometimes on her legs. We were wandering if it was contagious, the vet said it wasn’t, we wondered if it could be cancer, the vet said no. It just not very appealing! It grows slowly during a few months, then it dries out & falls. It’s strange, it’s not very nice, but we accept her as is! 😊💕
I just lost my chihuahua he was breathing hard wouldn’t eat for 1 /1/2 days and iam so hurt I had him sense 2009 iam going to miss May baby so so much I can’t stop crying
Hi Kim, I’m so sorry for your loss, my sincerest condolences.
Our male has has 22 years, we had to make a decision as he couldn’t walk well anymore and other minor problems. What a great dog
Kathy Headrick says
My baby is 24 years old. She can’t see but very little. This is due to cataracts on both eyes. I do not allow Kerya to jump down off the bed or couch. I surely don’t let her do steps at all.She is now having trouble walking. I give her baby aspirin at night. I’m Keryas eyes & most of her legs as well. We will be checking on help on wheels soon I think.Kerya is my baby & my link to life itself. She has her right mind, Kerya is the BOSS! I WILL DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO MAKE HER LIFE BETTER WITH ME! WHEN YOU DO NOT HAVE A BABY WITH HER RIGHT MIND. YOU MUST RELIEVE THERE PAIN.I feel you should not let them pass alone!Be there for them no matter what has to be done.Let them go knowing LOVE AND NOT A LONE. I know it’s the hardest thing to do.Then bury them as pay back, for being there when you where sick.Or down & out.For when they made you laugh, given love with just that look.For all the kisses they have given. You Owe Them That! You are a better person for just sharing there life with you! Love them and remember them forever! Another baby don’t take the place of another baby.That place is full. In time the pain will not be as bad.Another baby will come along to hold & love. And that’s ok. You know all good dogs go to heaven.
My little Lollie had the same walking problems, I tried everything the pet store sold for joint problems, but she wouldn’t touch them. Finally I found “Whippy SC hip and joint jerkey treats” on Amazon! She LOVES THEM! I ONLY GIVE her one a day, but she would eat the hole box if I let her and she’s a picky eater.
It’s been life changing.
Lollie and Lesa
My chihuahua named Hope, age 14 had two seizures last year and two this february. They happen at 2a.m. she had good results from her lab test giving no clues why they are occuring. Any ideas?
Elaine Brownsell says
Hi, my female chihauhau suddenly one day had a seizure. We had been out walking and stopped of for a drink in our local. Her paws were splaying up and down a bit rigid, her eyes transfixed and glazed.It seemed to last for ages, but was probably minutes. I carried her home and took her to the vets.
She had various scans/ tests etc and ended up on tablets for liver problems.
She had a couple more siezures and was loosing weight fast. She ended up in the Queen Mother Royal Vetinary College, she was in for the night and had tests.
She actually had pyometra, which is a sack of poison in her womb. Obviously it was circulating around her body.
She had an emergency op and was nutered.
It was 50/50 at that point if she would survive.
Still brings tears to my eyes now.
But she made full recovery. Damn the vet who completely got it wrong.
Her liver is fine. This was about 4 years ago and she has not taken any tablets for her liver since.
I hope your baby is ok x
Perhaps consider epileptoid cramping syndrome. We believe our dog may have this. Treatment is avoiding gluten in diet.
Yes, I agree, my female chihuahua I brought from Australia in 2002 has followed me moving from one place to another and I am gladful that she still stay healthy on her 16th bday. The only matter is her eyesight now getting worse (the vet said because of to much sunlight exposure) and probably she had a bit of dimensia by peeing everywhere.
Christina Kuczora says
What is dImensia?
Dementia is what I think they meant.
We had a chihuahua for 15 years he had a stomach cancer …a loved pet , I am devastated that he is gone , but will surly will be missed…. we had no idea that he was sick , never gave us a clue…. he just knew he needed to go and it was time… just wish we had more….sometimes pets just know….Thank you Angie (God’s Angel)he was heaven sent.. not just for me , but for your niece and your Nana… take care of him ..he is a special one!!