Big Popularity, Small Package: a look at the Chihuahua

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Feb 18 2011

It seems like every young Hollywood socialite is sporting the same accessory: a dog in a purse. And many cases, it’s a Chihuahua. Chihuahuas are wonderful dogs and make great pets, but they do come with their own unique set of problems.

Hello, Big World

One of the biggest considerations with any pet is their temperament. Can you imagine being a tiny, tiny dog in this big, big world? There is a genetic influence on temperament, but the way we nurture them molds them as well. Chihuahuas and other small breed dogs need confidence to deal with their big worlds, and we need to ensure that their confidence does not come from the need to defend themselves. While some people fear large breed dogs due to their strength and size, in the case of small breed dogs the opposite is often true. Tiny breeds are susceptible to developing defensive aggression from fear because of mishandling by their owners, especially when there are children in the house. They are also more susceptible to sustaining injuries from falls, as they are carried around more than their larger counterparts.

Doctor, Doctor

Chihuahuas and other toy breeds are prone to specific medical conditions:

  • Dental Disease. These tiny pups have the same number of teeth as large dogs, but they are shoved into a much smaller space. This crowding encourages the buildup of plaque, which is the major contributor to gingivitis and dental infection. Additionally, these pups tend to retain their baby teeth, crowding their mouths even more!

  • Orthopedic Disease. Small breed dogs are prone to luxating patellas. In this disease, your dog’s knee cap becomes dislocated, causing discomfort. This condition frequently requires corrective (and expensive) surgery. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease causes necrosis of the ball part of the ball and socket hip joint. It affects small dogs like
  • Chihuahuas and almost ALWAYS requires surgery to correct the diseased hip. Protect your little family member with a pet insurance plan from Petplan, whichcovers knee and joint conditions to help alleviate hefty hospital bills should they occur down the road.
  • Liver shunts. Small dogs are more prone to liver shunts. Sometimes these can be corrected surgically, but sometimes medical management is the only option.

  • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain). While this is a congenital problem, most puppies are not born with hydrocephalus. Instead they are born with the anatomical problems that quickly lead to hydrocephalus, and the condition becomes noticeable at about eight to twelve weeks of age. For a permanent fix, hydrocephalus requires surgical placement of a shunt to relieve symptoms.

  • Small dogs are prone to dangerous dehydration from even short bouts of vomiting or diarrhea.

I’ll Take Mine To Go

The portability of small breed dogs makes them wonderful companions. They can easily travel with you whereever you go, whether by car, by plane, or by purse. Just keep in mind his breed predispositions, raise him to be a social pet, and always, always, always buy from a responsible breeder.