If you’re a new owner of an old Chihuahua, or if the Chi you’ve had from a puppy is starting to enter their golden years, this detailed guide to Chihuahua aging and care will help you prepare for the next stage of their life.
- Chihuahua life expectancy
- What age is considered a senior Chihuahua?
- Will my old Chihuahua change?
- Common health problems of senior Chihuahua dogs
- Caring for an older Chihuahua
Chihuahuas are considered senior from about their 11th birthday onwards. Chihuahua owners are likely to notice physical, mental, and behavioral changes in their older dog. There might be some age-related health conditions to address as well.
16 year old Chihuahua Peanut is slowing down but still has his playful moments. Let’s find out more about how his owner may be adjusting to owning an older Chihuahua.
What age is considered a senior Chihuahua?
Are you unsure whether to call your Chihuahua old yet? If so, that’s totally understandable, because when it comes to dogs, ‘old’ is a relative term! Dogs’ average life expectancy is linked to their adult size. Large and giant dogs have the shortest lifespans, and small and toy dogs have the longest lifespans. Researchers don’t fully understand why that is yet though. They have speculated that by not using as much energy to achieve and maintain a large size, dogs like Chihuahuas simply don’t wear out their bodies as quickly.
Chihuahuas are usually considered old, or ‘senior’, from between 10 and 12 years old. Usually about 11 onwards. The reason one Chihuahua might be regarded as senior at 10 years old, and another at 12 years old, is because aging depends a lot on the individual. Some Chihuahuas might be showing physical signs of aging and have acquired some age-related health problems by the time they’re 10. Whilst others might still be fighting fit at 11. For this reason, it’s more important to make care decisions based on your own pet’s specific needs at each life stage, than to time them by their age on the calendar.
Chihuahua life expectancy – how old do Chihuahuas live?
Chihuahuas live for 11 to 12 years on average. This is based on anecdotal evidence from breed experts, and some limited studies of Chihuahua lifespan. But in fact, estimating the life expectancy of an ‘average’ Chihuahua is quite tricky. Sadly, a significant proportion of Chihuahuas die during or shortly after birth, or in midlife from traumatic injuries (such as falling from furniture). These premature deaths skew life expectancy estimates based on the average lifespan of previous Chihuahuas, so that they appear very low (as low as 7 years in fact).
But for Chi’s who survive being born and who don’t have any fatal accidents, their 11th birthday is likely to be the start of their old age, not the end of it. In fact it’s not unusual to read reports of 14 year old Chihuahua dogs, and even occasionally 20 year old Chihuahua dogs!
Will my old Chihuahua change?
We all change as we get older, and the same is true of our dogs. As your Chihuahua gets older, you’re likely to notice changes in how they look, and how they behave. They might also start to acquire age-related health problems.
Some of the physical ways old dogs change are:
- Losing pigment in their fur
- Thinning fur
- Weight loss, or gain
- Loss of muscle mass and tone
- Decreased speed and agility
- Deceased coordination
Emotional and behavioral changes
Older Chihuahuas might also become noticeably more:
- Set in their ways
- Intolerant of puppies or children soliciting their attention
- Disinterested in playing
- Enthusiatic about napping
You might also notice behavioral changes linked with some of the age-related health concerns described below. Interestingly, evidence suggests cognitive aging progresses at the same rate in all dog breeds, regardless of their size. So mentally, large dogs have a relatively short old age. But small dogs like Chihuahuas have a longer period at the end of their life of thinking like an old dog. Of course, there will still be variation among individuals. One Chihuahua might start to become forgetful from 10 years old, whilst their neighbor remains whip smart until they are 13. In the end, they could both live to 16.
Common health problems of senior Chihuahua dogs
Age-related health problems are part of aging for most old Chihuahuas. The longer they use their body, the greater the likelihood that some part(s) of it will start to wear out. Common health problems in elderly Chihuahua dogs are:
In particular, deafness, and sight loss caused by cataracts.
Older Chihuahuas are prone to cardiac diseases such as mitral valve disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Both of these cause the heart to work less efficiently. Cardiovascular failure is the leading cause of eventual ‘death by old age’ in the Chihuahua breed.
Eating and digestive problems
Older dogs of all breeds often start to experience difficulties with feeding and digestion. Specific issues include
- Losing teeth
- Decreased gut motility
- Less efficient absorption of energy and nutrients from food
- New food sensitivities
We’ve already touched on how easily Chis can receive traumatic injuries such as broken bones. The risk is even higher in older Chihuahua dogs, who are more likely to lose their footing, or not see a step approaching for example. On top of this, senior Chihuahua dogs are more likely to suffer complications from anesthesia if they need surgery to fix an injury.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
CCD is more commonly known as ‘doggy dementia. It manifests in a similar way to Alzheimers in humans. Symptoms include:
- Disorientation at home and on familiar walking routes
- Sleeping more during the day, but being restless at night
- Urinating and defecating indoors
- Increased anxiety
- Decreased interaction with family
- Gazing absently into space (known as star gazing)
It’s estimated that around 1 in 7 Chihuahuas have some degree of CCD by the time they are 8 years old. And that the older they get, the more likely they are to develop symptoms. Since it is a neurological condition caused by the brain aging, symptoms can only be managed rather than reversed. Let’s look at that, and other aspects of caring for an elderly Chihuahua next.
Caring for an older Chihuahua
Is your Chihuahua old? Here are some of the ways the care they need is changing, and you can make their senior years as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
If your Chihuahua hasn’t needed a wardrobe yet, you might find that from 10 or 11 years old onwards, they start to feel the cold more. Especially if their fur gets thinner, or they lose a little weight. Lightweight layers can help trap warm air next to their skin and make them more comfortable.
Keep things consistent
Old Chihuahuas often become less adaptable to change. Sometimes it is simply part of becoming stuck in their ways. But if it interferes with their well being, it could form part of a CCD diagnosis. Since CCD can’t be cured, keeping your older dog’s environment and routine consistent are an important part of managing their symptoms and limiting the anxiety they cause.
Keeping up with regular activity for as long as your dog can manage it is essential for their physical well being. But as they get older, you’re likely to notice they get tired more easily, and you’ll need to adapt accordingly. If you have younger dogs as well, you might need to walk them separately, or take a sling along so you can carry your elderly Chihuahua when they get tired.
Older dogs inevitably become less mobile, and also lose their footing and injure themselves more easily. If your older Chihuahua has been navigating steps and furniture in our house until now, you might find they start struggling, in which case installing ramps will help.
Respect their space
With a few honorable exceptions, most older dogs dislike being pestered by puppies and young children. Some will tolerate it more patiently than others, but it’s not fair to expect them to put up with it endlessly. If they are experiencing pain or disorientation from an age-related health problem, they might growl or nip in situations which wouldn’t have provoked them when they were younger. So, make sure they have a private space where they know they can rest in without being bothered.
Many pet food manufacturers produce commercial diets targeted at senior dogs. They tend to be less calorie-dense than adult diets, to allow for older dogs becoming less physically active. They might also be fortified with supplements for joint health. If you older Chihuahua loses some or all of their teeth, you might need to soften their kibble with water, or switch to a pate-style food. Your veterinarian can help you choose something appropriate.
Speaking of which, twice-annual veterinary check ups are more important than ever for elderly dogs. They’re a chance to check on their overall body condition, but also to promptly identify any issues which might be causing them pain.
Indoor potty options
Finally, incontinence is a frequent symptom of old age and CCD. Although it hasn’t been studied as far as we’re aware, it makes sense that Chihuahuas, with their tiny bladders, could be particularly affected. Setting up a pee pad in a discreet corner indoors, or even investing in a turf box, can prevent this becoming a source of frustration or resentment.
Old Chihuahua Summary
Physically, small dogs like Chihuahuas age more slowly than big dogs, meaning that they can potentially live well into their teens. From around 11 years old onwards they are considered a senior dog. In this stage of their life, the care they need is changes distinctly from the care they needed when they were younger. And after all the years of companionship they’ve given so far, they deserve a comfortable old age!
Do you have a really old Chihuahua?
Is your Chihuahua older than the average age of 11.5 years? We’d love to hear about them in the comments box down below! What are they like, and what do you think has been the secret to their long life?
- Chihuahua Dog Breed Information: A Guide To The World’s Smallest Dog
- Best Shampoo for Chihuahua Dogs and Puppies
- Chihuahua Clothes – The Best Coats And Outfits For Chihuahua Dogs
- Why Are Chihuahuas So Mean?
- Newborn Chihuahua
- Chihuahua Bite Force
- What to most Chihuahuas die of?
Fast et al. An Observational Study with Long-Term Follow-Up of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Clinical Characteristics, Survival, and Risk Factors. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2013.
Fleming et al. 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. 2011.
O’Neill. Demography and commonly recorded clinical conditions of Chihuahuas under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2016. BMC Veterinary Research. 2020.
Silva & Castells. Key Concepts in Senior Dog Care. Servet. 2020.
Wallis et al. Demographic Change Across the Lifespan of Pet Dogs and Their Impact on Health Status. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2018.
Watowich et al. Age influences domestic dog cognitive performance independent of average breed lifespan. Animal Cognition. 2020.
Maggie will be 13 on Halloween. She is a born nurse. Whenever someone needs comforting. she is right there. Even brings her favorite toy to them. Have had her since she was 8 weeks and she rules the home. My husband died 1 1/2 years ago and she grieved for him, looking for him in his chair. She and I are inseperable. We do everthing together and I love her company. She has helped me through the grief process, married 52 years. She loves the fenced yard, chasing squirrels. She is very smart and recognizes cars when friends come. Love her unconditionally.
My chi Jersey is 15. I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old. We used to do everything together and she came with me everywhere. We walked a LOT for most of her life. She has now lost pretty much all but a bit of her hearing (teeth as well). I think that may be what’s made her sooo jumpy. It’s hard now to pick her up to take her out for walks because she squeals and wants to nip at me. So I have to improvise and figure stuff out along the way, such as how to pull up on her leash at the same time I scoop her up so she’s concentrated on that, and not the arm that’s lifting her. Sadly she doesn’t sleep with me anymore, and the other night while she let me pet and scratch her head, out of nowhere she yipped and jumped off the couch. The past year or so has been heartbreaking for me. I love this dog so much and I am always worrying about her being happy. She is otherwise amazingly spry and still loves her walks; jumps up on and off the couch. It’s just that everything that used to be easy: bathing, picking her up … anything really, has become difficult and nerve-wracking. I just have to keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can for her. It’s just that I want to do so much more, but because of her nervous nipping, I no longer can.
My chihuahua, Princess, just had her 16th birthday on April 8th 2023. I was 13 years old and she was 8 weeks old when she became a part of our family. She was 12 when she had her first seizure. Since then I stopped feeding her regular dry food and began feeding her Ollie’s and Farmers Dog as well as homemade meals which have helped with her seizures, mobility, and activeness. We now have ramps leading up to the couches and bed, as well as motion sensor night lights so she can find her way around easier in the dark. She has some hearing loss, vision loss, restlessness, and moments of seeming mentally out of it but overall she is doing really well for her age. I really think her diet has a lot to do with it, as well as unconditional love.
Wilma Tanghal says
My chi is 29 years old and she won’t let me out of her sight per say, she has cataracts but they slip from in front of her irises ever once in a awhile and she is on a special homemade dog food. I use to give her a vitamin supplement everyday but the vet said it really wasn’t necessary. However, I noticed when I stopped the supplements is when she got cataracts and she became more lazy. She still played like a puppy until she was 16, that was when I stopped the vitamins. She is the love of my life and when her time comes I hope I will be able to handle losing her.
Wilma Tanghal says
Sorry she is 19 not 29
Karen Seeley says
We rescued our Chihuahua Cookie, when she was a year old. She has been with us for 14 years and will be 15 on November 24, 2022 (that’s the birthday the vet gave her based on approximate age). She sleeps a lot now, has cataracts, is losing her hearing (until you say the word walk or biscuit), but overall she’s still fairly active and is very loving. She actually belongs to my daughter but when my daughter left home for college the dog stayed home. I can’t imagine life without her after all this time. I love my girl!!
I have a pure white chi who is 11 yrs old. He has many names and comes to them all. He is AKC reg. But I have forgotten what his full name is. Tiger is what we named him when we got him. He comes to Old Man, Mr. Pee Body, Tiggers. He lives with his son(Whimpy) and daughter(Baby Girl).
He definitely has a mind of his own. You can tell him No, he will look at you as he goes ahead and does whatever it was you said not to. He runs but his new favorite thing is to roll in dirt.
He does nap often and has started to have dog fights with his son when it is bedtime. He now likes to sleep on top of my head or on my hips. There is no getting up once I’ve laid down!
He so has become relentless with his barking and if you scold him he will give you a dirty look and growl at you. He has snapped at me and if I say OW he will run up to me and give me kisses as if to apologize.
Love just isn’t a large enough word that this little man and I share.
I don’t know what I would do without him.
Tina Malacina says
I wanted to write & respond about my 14 year old Chi…He wears many hats at our house but his given name by his 1st fur mommy was Shiloh. Fur mommy passed 5 yrs ago, & a friend of a friend volunteered me up as his new Fur Love Mommy. My little guy came to me on the brink of the loss of my 1st Chi, & He’s been such a Godsend. He’s THE BEST Glass door Window Licker Cleaner that ever graced our fine Bluegrass State of Ky! After the first cleaning tho, we nicknamed him the Goober,& we call him him Choo Choo, & Choo Choo Magoo because at 14 he’s still fast as a train out the door to pottie!! Age has bent his spine, Im thinking he may be a mighty 6lbs Soaking wet, but though He be little, HE IS FIERCE!!.He has no teeth, but rules the roost here over top of a Pit Bu
Ll, A Dalmador, A Sooner, & his sob, Bud, another Chi! We are Wild Kingdom Prt. 2 & I’d not trade a Million $ for one of their face licks or cuddles!
Choo Choo has lost sight in his right, has very little left in the left, but still wanders the house, or follows my voice as one sense replaces the other. No matter where I go the Goes! He’s my tiny sidekick. He’s my next to join My 1st Chi at the Rainbow Bridge soon, as he just suffered a dog bite to his tracheah 2 weeks ago, a hematoma on it& now its evolving into a Collapsed Trachea…Last night, I had the Honor of making him Homemade Cough syrup w Honey, Coconut Oil, & lemon & as I write this, He’s sleeping like the baby he is, or maybe the OG he is!! One thing for sure, there are no 2 dog souls, hearts, or personalities alike,but in 52_years I’ve not met one dog soul I didn’t adore. God sent these special angels, but hid their wings to watch over & comfort us & He expects us to do the same for his Innocent creatures of the purest if hearts, who possess the ONLY unconditional love on Earth, who never aren’t waiting for you by the door at the end of every long day…Tail wagging, Barkety Bark Barking their Happy ❤ to tell you they are so very, very glad to see you home from work, & who eat your keys later & say ” Yeah, I ate those old things, so they’d never take you away to that yucky old work again, Away from me! Aren’t I the Bestest Best Boy??!!!
And EVERY TIME, you will pat their head, & look into those soft brown eyes of each old soul or young pup, n cuddle em on up & say “WHY YES! YIU BETCHA!! YOU ARE THE BESTEST OF THE BESTEST!!!”
ADOPT TODAY!! LOVE AS MANY HEAETS AS YOU CAN…YOU WILL NEVER REGRET LOVING A FUR BABY!!!! ❤❤❤
Tina Malacina, Choo Choo, Boo Boo, Moo Moo, Bud Bud & Princess Leah!! 🦄
My chi Milo will be 15 on September 24, 2022! He has had his share of health issues but is doing ok now. He does has some dementia, and started to wee in the house. I put wee wee pads down and that seems to be working. His next visit to the Vet is soon and I’ll discuss his new issue which is drinking a ton of water. Last visit which was in July, a they checked for diabetes, and he didn’t have. I feed him boiled or broiled checking and small bites for seniors from Hills.
My beautiful Chi turned 14 on May 29th 2022. She is the most loved furbaby. She is the best part of our life’s and the joy she brings to my Husband & I is beyond measuring. We have had to add extra Vet visits as she ages. She has suffered from IBD her entire life so feeding and meds takes a lot of our day. I find myself staring in those cloudy beautiful eyes surrounded by gentle gray hairs. She moves slower now and needs help with going up or down out of our slider. I know I am blessed to take this journey with her, but I find myself in tears at the mere thought of losing her. I take one day at a time and I ensure I cherish the little moments. I sing to her at night. Read “Good Night Moon”. Tuck her in and know this unconditional love she gives is a true gift from God.
Lori Vattes says
My chihuahua, Mischief, is doing very well for her age. She will be 10 years old on November 25, 2022. She is still jumping back and forth from each bed (although I have provided a puppy bed ramp from when she was a puppy). She gallops around the house sometimes. She likes to go out with me and sometimes goes to Target, Home Depot and Burlington Coat stores with me. We also frequent Petsmart since we live right across the street. She is also jumping off the bed when she doesn’t want to be there anymore. She had a good check-up just recently in July. I’m giving her Ark Naturals Heart Chews from amazon.com and they’re working because her vet says she couldn’t find a heart murmur anymore. I’m soooo lucky to still have her with me. I hope she lives for many more years.