The biggest challenge to the health of a Chihuahua is overfeeding. With their small bodies, they really don't need a lot of food, and snacks are definitely out. These dogs are known for being picky eaters, so care must be taken to make them eat the right foods. Overfeeding of dog food and table scraps can lead to joint problems, diabetes, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and a shorter life. Read more.
Molera vres Hydrocephalus
An interesting difference between Chihuahua puppies and all other dog breeds is that Chihuahua puppies are often born with a soft spot in their skulls, called a molera. The soft spot hardens over the first six months of life as the skull knits itself closed. This is similar to a human baby's soft spot, and care must be taken to prevent injury to the dog's brain until the skull is fully closed.
Make sure the veterinarian you choose has experience with baby Chihuahuas, due to the soft spot and the possibility of hydrocephalus. The two are often mistaken for each other, which can have deadly consequences. Just as in other toy breeds, the Chihuahua is prone to swelling on the brain because the cerebrospinal fluid cannot drain properly from the skull. A dog with hydrocephalus will have many soft spots in the skull because the additional fluid in the cranial cavity keeps the skull plates from fusing. The puppy will have large eyes due to the fluid pressure, but Chihuahuas have large eyes anyway, so this may be hard to distinguish. A hydrocephalic puppy will have a larger head than his littermates, will be lethargic, and will grow more slowly. A dog with hydrocephalus can be expected to live a very short life, vs. the average lifespan of 16+ years for a normal healthy Chihuahua dog.
Your Chihuahua may appear to be cold most of the time. They burrow under blankets and pillows, and have been known to lie in the sun for longer than they probably should. You must protect them from getting overheated by making them move to a cooler spot when they begin to pant excessively. Another interesting feature of the breed is that they shiver a lot, even when they are warm. This is likely due to their high metabolic rate, rather than any temperature-related discomfort.
Keep a close eye on first time Chihuahua mothers with large litters (5-8 pups). Large litters of puppies puts a heavy demand on a lactating mother. If she is panting fast but not overheated it can be a sign of distress. When there is a sudden onset of panting combined with tremors and or loss of strength and twitching of legs (Eclampsia, also called hypocalcemia and puerperal tetany or milk fever), it is a sign of a calcium deficiency which needs rapid treatment as it can cause permanent damage to the lungs and be fatal. The exact cause is unknown, but there appears to be an imbalance between calcium uptake from the digestive tract and calcium outflow in the milk, bone, urine and feces. It is most often seen about 2-4 weeks after a Chihuahua's first whelping. For large litters give mom calcium rich foods or supplements all during her lactating period (not durning pregnancy). You can take some of the pressure off mom by feeding the pups a milk replacement 2-3 times a day if she is having a hard time keeping up with the demand, often she will look thinner than normal. It may become necessary to remove pups from mom and feed the them with a milk replacement until weened.
Predators, Bravery & Small Children
Due to their tiny size, Chihuahuas puppies and adults like to keep warm. When you take your Chihuahua outdoors, there are some special considerations. First, remember that he is very close to the ground, so look out for hazards that stick up, such as rakes, nails, or stakes in the ground. Second, because he is so small, animals of prey, particularly hawks, owls, coyotes and some times foxes, may think he's a tasty snack. The Chihuahua's fearless attitude may have him challenging much larger dogs, and will almost surely lose the fight; So it is often necessary to protect him while he thinks he is protecting you. Your Chihuahua puppy should also be kept away from very small children, until he has been well socialized, to lessen the chances he will bite them or they will drop him when playing.
Also check out our Canine Dental Health page to find out why having clean teeth is important.