Most small breeds like the Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier tend to live longer than medium-to-large breeds like the Labrador Retriever and Mastiff.
While the exact cause of this disparity is unknown, it’s thought to have something to do with their slower growth rate delaying the onset of age-related diseases.
The average Chihuahua’s lifespan is 12 to 18 years. Of course, not all Chihuahuas live this long, and some may be able to surpass 18 years of age. However, no matter how long a dog lives, it’s never long enough for any dog owner.
For as small as these dogs are, their life expectancy and the factors that influence it may come as a surprise to some people.
Being aware of a Chihuahua’s life expectancy is important for those who already own a Chihuahua, as well as anyone who is considering getting one.
If you want to know how to prolong the Chihuahua lifespan, then this article is for you. But first, let’s find out a few more things about this dog breed.
Chihuahua – Short Breed Overview
As with so many breeds, the Chihuahua’s origins are unclear. But, according to one theory, small hairless dogs from China were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and then bred with small native dogs.
The short-haired Chihuahua we know today was discovered in the 1850s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which the dogs took their name. The longhaired Chihuahua was probably created through crosses with Papillons or Pomeranians.
Chihuahuas are renowned for being the world’s smallest dogs, but they may well have the world’s biggest personality stashed inside that tiny body. A Chihuahua’s personality can range from feisty and outgoing to shy and timid.
Often labeled as ‘a big dog in a small dog’s body,’ a Chihuahua’s protective tendencies mean that they may try to ward off larger dogs or people they don’t know; as a result, the Chihuahua needs vigilant supervision in new situations, while they’re on walks, and when they’re in the yard.
Fun-loving and busy, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to be close to their people. It’s not unusual for Chihuahuas to form a close bond with a single person, and they can become very demanding if they’re overindulged.
Besides being affectionate housemates, Chihuahuas are intelligent and fast learners. They can compete in agility and obedience trials with just as much enthusiasm and success as larger dogs. They are also curious and bold explorers.
Aside from their obvious small size, Chihuahuas have plenty of energy and need at least 30 minutes of daily walks or some kind of exercise.
It is suggested that Chihuahuas live with families with quiet, older children who already know how to interact with them appropriately. Children over ten years old are considered to be mature enough to handle the vulnerabilities of Chihuahuas.
Chihuahuas are the ideal lovable, loyal, and long-term little dog. When you’re alone in the house with a Chihuahua dog, you’re never alone – they’ll sleep on your lap, sit by your side, or follow you from room to room while you do chores.
When you’re not home, they’ll protect it like their personal domain, barking at any sign of an approaching stranger (making them surprisingly effective guard dogs).
The Average Chihuahua Lifespan: How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?
There is no accurate way to determine exactly how long any particular Chihuahua is destined to live, but we do have a good average age range that we can go by. We can also rely on the fact that smaller dogs tend to live longer in general (as mentioned previously).
Chihuahuas typically live pretty long lives; the general consensus is that their lifespan is between 12 and 18 years.
This average is based on the Chihuahua living a relatively healthy life and not facing too many factors that can have a negative effect on a Chihuahua’s life expectancy.
While most Chihuahuas pass away before completing their teenage years, there are a few reports of individuals exceeding the two-decade mark.
One of them indicates that the oldest Chihuahua, named Megabyte, reportedly lived 20 years and 265 days. This old Chihuahua hopefully lived a long and happy life. Quite amazing!
What Factors Affect A Chihuahua’s Lifespan?
The biggest impact on the Chihuahua’s lifespan comes from their owners; their lifespan largely depends on how well they take care of these little dogs.
Many factors can affect the lifespan of a Chihuahua. Here are the most important that Chihuahua owners can implement to improve life expectancy:
A Chihuahua can be immunized against diseases that are fatal to this breed. Never believe that a dog that is kept inside the majority of the time does not need inoculations; it only takes a moment of sniffing infected urine or a brief period of contact with an infected dog for a disease to spread.
Chihuahuas require vaccinations and follow-up booster shots to protect against potentially life-threatening diseases like parvovirus, leptospirosis, etc.
Be sure to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date as they mature. They’ll need regular boosters to help ensure their immune system remains ready to fight off any diseases.
Keep Your Dog Safe (Safety First!)
Chihuahuas are very vulnerable to any physical harm due to their small size. Their lifespan can be drastically increased if safety precautions are put in place and followed by everyone in the household. Here are some tips for keeping your Chihuahua safe:
• Keep your Chihuahua on the lead at all times when outside of the house.
• Fit your Chihuahua with a collar and ID Tag. Escapes are always a possibility, and you’ll want to have the best chance of being reunited with your doggy if she or he scampers off. An ID tag doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your pup back, but it certainly improves the odds that she or he will be returned safely.
• When exiting the house with your Chihuahua, scan the area first. Look for stray dogs or wild animals. Aggressive dogs can be encountered just about anywhere, including your normal walking route and the dog park.
• Train your dog to obey basic commands like ‘Sit!,’ ‘Stay!,’ or ‘Come!’. In the case of a dog running off, these commands may stop them in their tracks. Shouting out a command to stop a dog from crossing the street may very well prevent that dog from being hit by a car.
• If your household has lots of children in it, be sure to teach them how to handle a Chihuahua and not to hurt this small dog.
• Give your dog its personal space and bed away from the hustle and bustle of the household.
Proper Dental Care
Like most small breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to dental problems like tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease.
Allowing your Chihuahua to suffer from poor oral health can reduce their lifespan. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums (caused by gingivitis) and go straight to the heart and kidneys.
Make sure that you clean your dog’s teeth to prevent harmful bacteria from destabilizing its health. Professional checkups should be done once a year.
Photo from @miami_delli_chihuahua_dog
A Healthy Diet
Chihuahuas are only going to be as healthy as the food they eat. For instance, as much as most pet owners want to share their “people food” with their little buddies, it’s probably one of the worst things you can do for your Chihuahua’s diet. People food is just as the name implies; it’s meant for people.
Your dog needs better food for a longer life. A Chihuahua needs to be given a diet of high-quality dog food that is well balanced nutritionally and does not contain preservatives or fillers of any sort.
A Chihuahua’s diet is directly linked to how long they live due to how significantly it impacts their overall health.
Just like with humans, if Chihuahuas gain and hold onto a few extra pounds, they are more susceptible to developing health problems.
Typically these health problems include diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, both of which can lead to a shortened lifespan.
If you want to know more information on the desirable nutrition for this dog, check our Chihuahua feeding chart.
Keeping your Chihuahua active is crucial to promoting a long, healthy life. Whether it’s playing fetch, tug-of-war (with a toy, of course), or going for a walk around the neighborhood, give your Chi plenty of daily exercise.
Doing so will burn excess fat, build muscle, strengthen their immune system, and ward off illness, which can increase their average lifespan.
Just remember that Chihuahuas can get chilly very quickly thanks to their small size, so be sure to throw a coat or sweater on your pup when the weather is cold.
One of the most important things you can do to provide your Chihuahua with a long and healthy life is to catch and treat medical problems as soon as possible. The best way to do this is by visiting your vet regularly.
Your vet is trained to notice the subtle signs of illness that you’re likely to miss, which will help ensure that your dogs get the treatment they need.
Taking them to the veterinarian for routine checkups will promote a long, healthy life by diagnosing illnesses early before they progress to life-threatening ailments.
Most vets recommend taking adult Chihuahuas between the ages of 7 and 10 for a wellness check once a year.
Chihuahuas that are spayed and neutered tend to live longer than those that aren’t fixed. Neutering a male Chi before the age of a year will decrease their risk of developing testicular and prostate cancers.
Fixing female Chis before their first heat cycle can reduce their risk of developing uterine and ovarian cancers.
Of course, other health benefits are associated with spaying and neutering a Chihuahua, such as lowered aggression levels, reduced risk of running away, etc.
A dog’s genes can tell you a lot about how long they might live or how healthy they are going to be in the long run. That is if you are so lucky to meet the parents or adopt from someone who knows about the Chihuahua’s parents.
Health Issues Affecting The Chihuahua’s Lifespan
While the Chihuahua’s lifespan reaches the top of the spectrum, it comes with a list of significant health problems that can shorten the Chihuahua lifespan. Here they are:
Hypoglycemia – This malady is caused by low blood sugar. Some of the signs may include weakness, confusion, a wobbly gait, and seizure-like episodes. If your dog is susceptible to this, talk to your vet about prevention and treatment options.
Obesity – In part, because they are so small, Chihuahuas are very susceptible to weight gain and obesity. It doesn’t take many extra calories to cause a surplus when dealing with such tiny pups, so it is important to watch your pet’s waistline and ensure they stay fit and trim.
Obesity not only puts extra stress on a dog’s joints, but it can also lead to serious health problems involving the heart, liver, and kidneys, among other things.
But, if you feed your dogs a sensible diet, allow them to get plenty of exercise, and limit the high-calorie treats, they’ll probably stay within the recommended weight range without difficulty.
Chihuahuas are especially susceptible to dental problems – partly because they live such long lives.
Dental problems can wreck a dog’s quality of life, so it is important to take good care of your Chihuahua’s teeth and visit your vet at the first sign of a problem.
And while dental problems are rarely considered life-threatening, they can cause long-term changes to your dog’s eating habits, which may very well lead to more serious health problems.
Additionally, periodontal disease has been linked to heart problems, which further illustrates the importance of good oral health.
Health Problems Connected With The Chihuahua’s Delicate Skeleton
Trauma – Causes of death due to fatal trauma include being hit by a car, being accidentally stepped on, and falling from heights or being dropped.
Patellar luxation – The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means the dislocation of an anatomical part (as in a bone at a joint).
Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, but many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a dog’s joints wears down over time. This leads to bone-on-bone contact, which is both damaging and extremely painful.
Arthritis can occur for a variety of reasons, but obesity and repetitive activities (particularly those of a high-impact nature) are two of the most common.
Health Issues Connected With The Chihuahua’s Head
Molera or ‘Soft spot’ – If you rub your Chihuahua’s head and feel an opening in his skull, try not to panic. Known as a molera or “soft spot,” approximately 80% to 90% of all Chihuahuas are born with this anatomical feature.
It was once even considered a mark of purity in the breed. A molera is an opening in the top of a dog’s skull where the parietal and frontal bones have not fused together.
Most Chihuahua puppies are born with an incomplete skull, the opening of which is called a molera.
It’s found at the top-center of the skull, several inches above the nose. As the pup matures, cartilage pulls the skeletal plates together, closing the molera and calcifying the skull.
In Chihuahuas and other toy breeds, the molera may never close. Some Chihuahuas live their entire life with this cranial opening, in which case certain precautions should be taken to protect against injury.
Hydrocephalus – Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can accumulate in the brain because of a congenital disability, obstruction, or the result of trauma during birth, placing pressure on the brain. We see this more often in apple head than deer head Chihuahuas, but it’s a possibility for both varieties.
The head looks swollen or enlarged, but the diagnosis can be confirmed with an ultrasound if necessary. There’s no cure for hydrocephalus, although in mild cases, steroids can help reduce fluid pressure.
Chihuahuas are susceptible to a number of different heart conditions that can drastically shorten their lifespans.
This dog’s mortality can be attributed to problems concerned with cardiovascular disease, placing the breed among the top 5 of those most vulnerable.
This disease can be categorized into 3 different classifications:
• Heart valve disease – Chihuahuas and other small dog breeds are also prone to a particular heart disease known as valve disease. If left unchecked, it can lead to heart failure. Early detection and treatment are key to extending the Chihuahua’s lifespan.
• Heart failure – The heart is unable to pump blood as it should. This causes a lack of blood and oxygen to circulate as needed through a dog’s body.
• Arrhythmia – This is an abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat, which – when severe – is life-threatening if due to a decrease in the pumping function of the heart.
While the onset of heart disease occurs relatively late in a Chihuahua’s life (around 14 years old), it remains the single greatest contributor to reduced Chihuahua lifespan.
Other Health Conditions Include:
Collapsed trachea – Some dogs are prone to this condition, where the trachea, which carries air to the lungs, tends to collapse easily.
The most common sign of a collapsed trachea is a chronic, dry, harsh cough that many describe as being similar to a “goose honk.”
• Leptospirosis – an infection caused by drinking water that has been contaminated by the urine of wild animals. It can cause kidney as well as liver damage that can be fatal.
How long do Chihuahuas live with this kind of infection? It varies, assuming they don’t die from it.
• Parvovirus – if your Chihuahua has not received his vaccination, the chances are high that it can be infected with this virus.
Parvovirus causes your dog to have diarrhea and severe vomiting, lowering your dog’s immune system and putting stress on its gastrointestinal tract. Having direct contact with a dog infected with parvovirus or via the feces of an infected dog can spread the virus.
• Distemper – another disease that can lead to death. Distemper is very contagious and will cause problems in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract.
As the disease progresses, the dog’s central nervous system, spinal cord, and brain will be affected. Finally, the dog dies but not before the Chihuahua experiences seizures and paralysis.
Teacup Chihuahua Lifespan: Cracking A Teacup Myth
Whether you currently own a Chihuahua or are thinking of owning one, you’ve probably heard people refer to some of them as “teacups” or by other similar names.
Typically, owners and breeders may refer to their ultra-small Chihuahuas using terms like these.
This can undoubtedly be confusing given the fact that the American Kennel Club (AKC) only recognizes two varieties – the smooth and long-coat.
If you previously thought a teacup Chihuahua was a specific breed, you aren’t alone. There’s a growing misconception regarding this terminology that confuses most of the general public.
As a result of poor information that’s been floating around, numerous names are being used to describe Chihuahuas.
Here are some of the most common unofficial names used to describe Chihuahuas:
• Toy (all Chihuahuas are considered a toy breed)
While we don’t know who the first person was to describe a Chihuahua as teacup, the term gained popularity and spread throughout the early 1990s.
However, it’s important to note that no major canine association has ever used the term to describe or otherwise categorize Chihuahuas.
The only people who benefit from confusing terms like teacup, toy, and micro are some Chihuahua breeders. Of course, some breeders will explain to the customer that teacups are just a term and not an officially recognized breed.
Others, however, will use the public’s ignorance as a tool to sell their small Chihuahuas at a higher price.
The term “teacup Chihuahua” has been used so much that it’s almost become an unofficial way of referring to small Chihuahuas.
When a breeder or pet shop refers to their Chihuahuas as teacups, they are either doing it to try and get more money for them, or they are just as confused about the terminology as everyone else.
In any case, it’s the breeder’s responsibility to label their Chihuahuas correctly and not deceive their customers in any way, shape, or form.
The Chihuahua lifespan is pretty long, and adding this dog to your family is certainly a long-term commitment. But given their endearing personalities and loving natures, this is definitely a good thing.
Just be sure to keep an eye out for the medical conditions mentioned above, embrace the steps provided for extending their lifespan, and your tiny little companion will get to stay at your side for a long time to come.
And as long as you keep an eye on them, you’ll get the best dog and enjoy every minute.
What else can we say, except – long live the Chi!
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