The Chihuahua is one of the longest lived breeds.  There are very few health problems that exist and it is not uncommon to see a Chihuahua live to it's late teens.  Be aware of all breed related health problems from the day BEFORE you own your Chihuahua and you and your Chihuahua will have a long and happy life together.

Taking Your New Puppy Home 

One of the biggest mistakes I have observed when some people purchase a new puppy, is they immediately have to take it visiting to show it off. NOT A GOOD IDEA!!!  Take your puppy straight home and try your very best to keep it there until it has adjusted to it's new surrounding and it's new "parents". Don't do anything that stresses the puppy out. If it is put into some sort of pen and allowed to "cry itself to sleep", you may awake to a dead puppy. If possible before you go to pick up your new puppy, take along some sort of stuffed toy or just a baby blanket and ask the litter owner to let the other puppies from that litter or at least the puppy's sleeping partners, to play on the toy and leave their scent. Usually placing this toy in the bed with your baby at home makes it feel secure enough to sleep without crying. You can also put a plastic bottle of very warm water securely sealed so as not to leak into a soft blanket or towel and allow the new baby to cuddle up to it at night. This simulates the body temperature of another puppy in the bed with your baby so it doesn't feel abandoned.
     If you are required to have the puppy checked out by a Vet within a certain length of time, use some common sense. Keep your puppy in a crate or in your lap when visiting the Vet's office. Do not let it romp on the floor or furniture and most certainly do not allow it to socialize with other animals that also may be in the office at the same time. Where do all people take sick dogs? To the Vet!!! Where is the best place to pick up germs or contract disease? Naturally, it's where everyone takes sick dogs. TO THE VET !!!!! Make sure you go to a vet that works with toy dogs.
     Please note: ALL VETS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL !!!!!!! All of them do not have the welfare of our animals as their number one priority. If they are pushing you for this shot and that worming all in the same visit, run out the door very quickly. Chihuahua puppies should never be given shots and wormings at the same time. Remember, the dog is yours and the Vet is supposed to be working for you. You ALWAYS should have the right to say "NO" if you think anything they suggest doing is unreasonable. Some of them are more interested in how high they can run that bill instead of what is the best thing for your animal. More than one shot should never be given within a 3 week period. Nor should there be multiple shots given on any one visit. You little chi's immune system just can not stand it. Remember, you can always make another trip later. Find out what shots your puppy has been given before you picked it up and what shots will be due to come later. If the Vet you chose says your puppy will have to be started on it's shots all over again even after the breeder has told you they were already given,---run, don't walk as fast as possible for the door. There are many other Vets out there that puts the welfare of your animal before the lining of their pockets with your money. If in doubt, ask around until you find someone that you feel comfortable with taking on your new baby.

Diet and Feeding.

If you were caring for a human baby you would be feeding it every few hours and constantly changing it's diaper and keeping the environment clean. Same thing for a new chi puppy. Whatever food was recommended to you by the breeder at time of purchase should be fed for at least the first week so as not to "stress" the puppy any more than necessary. Depending on the age and size of the puppy, it is wise to keep food and clean water for it 24 hours a day until it shows signs of being capable of going longer lengths of time without being fed. It may be necessary to wet the food and add baby food for added flavor to encourage the puppy to eat better. Some breeders may be feeding the puppy canned foods along with dry kibble or alone. The main subject here is: DON'T change the puppy's diet or eating routine too abruptly. The smaller the puppy, the more times a day it has to be fed. You have to remember that because of the small stomachs, they have to eat much more often just to sustain themselves. NEVER confine a small puppy for any length of time with no food or water. I've heard horror tales where new owners thought they were keeping their puppy safe by putting it in some sort of soft crate or bed and putting it on the bed with them with no food or water to sleep through the night. Puppies also have to eat and drink during the night time hours just to sustain themselves. If you feel it necessary to confine a small puppy, leave it on the floor beside your bed in some sort of pen with sufficient room to sleep, eat and drink and relieve it'self. Yes, they also have to go potty during the night. So do not put very small puppies in the bed with yourself or your small children. They will attempt to move as far away from where they have to sleep to relieve themselves and could fall off the bed and break bones.
     Puppies have no concept of heights. They will walk right off the edge of any furniture if they are left unattended. So please warn children not to play with them on the sofa or the bed. Play with them on the floor for their own safety.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar level drops to an extremely low level, causing 'sugar shock.'  When levels of glucose in the blood drop rapidly, the body and brain are deprived of essential nutrients.  Results are weakness and seizures.  Usually this is due to stress, illness, lack of food, or by using up stored energy without it being replenished. Small Chihuahuas can be prone to this because they have such small digestive systems. To prevent low blood sugar, small Chihuahuas should have small frequent meals and plenty of time to rest.  Another preventative for this is to feed your dog Nutrical, available from your Veterinarian or your local pet store. Nutrical gives your dog the vitamins needed with a single inch strip in the morning and in the evening.  Vanilla yogurt mixed in their food is also another good source. 

There is not much warning when a dog is experiencing a hypoglycemic episode.  The dog will appear tired, weak and sleepy in the beginning.  The dog may also fall over, become unconscious or begin to seizure. When this happens rub Nutrical or Nutristat on the dog's gums and the roof of it's mouth, so that it is absorbed in the dog's blood stream.  Another good source of sugar is honey or Karo syrup.  Keep the dog warm in a blanket or with a heating pad.  You should see improvement in 15 to 30 minutes with the intake of sugar.  However, it is always recommended to bring the dog to the veterinarian, as they may be in need of a glucose IV.

Each time a Chihuahua is threatened by hypoglycemia it takes much more to bring them out of it the next time. It is much easier to prevent hypoglycemia by always providing a readily available sugar supply, frequent meals and a warm bed, then to have to treat it once it happens.

Hypoglycemia can also be hereditary, so be sure to know about your dog's lineage.
 

Hyprocephalus And The Molera

Hyprocephalus and the molera are not one in the same and should not be confused as so.  The molera, a soft spot on the top of your Chihuahua's head is similar to that of a new born human and is normal.  This trait is unique to the Chihuahua breed.  Hyprocephalus is the accumulation of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and is not at all normal, nor is it curable.  It is also known as 'water on the brain.'

When fluid accumulates on the brain, it compresses the brain against the skull.  A Chihuahua puppy can be born with this disorder, or it can be caused by a brain infection.  

Check the molera, making certain it is no larger than the tip of your little finger and that there is no swelling, bulging or throbbing, although, dog's with a normal molera can still be hydrocephalic. Check carefully on the sides of the head for  bone as well. Make sure there is no more then one molera, as this is not normal.  Other signs include wide-set eyeballs, blindness, abnormal behavior, waling in circles, slowness (mental and physical), seizures, slow growing puppies and uncoordination.  These signs may come and go or become worse over time.  Concerns should only be answered by a licensed veterinarian.

Diagnosis is based on the signs in conjunction with techniques to image the brain. In dogs with a fontanel (molera), ultrasound can be performed by scanning through the fontanel to detect the excessive accumulation of fluid within the brain.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for hydrocephalus.  Mild cases can be treated with steroids to reduce pressure or with a shunt to divert fluid from the brain to the abdomen.  Severe cases in puppies usually cause death before 4 months of age.

For more information contact your Veterinarian.

Coccidia  

 This is an "opportunist protozoa" that lives in the bowels of all dogs. ALL DOGS carry coccidia. But something has got to weaken the immune system of an animal for the protozoa to have an opportunity to take hold and start multiplying. That "something " is usually stress of one kind or another. Coccidia is usually accompanied by a loose, stinky stool that can even have streaks of bloody mucus in it. Some Vets will explain coccidia to their clients by saying the animal is loaded with parasites. This is sometimes interepreted by that client that the animal has worms. Coccidia is not exactly a parasite but can be just as hard to get rid of . So long as good bacteria exists in an ample supply in the gut, coccidia can not grow. Coccidia is shed in the stool like a virus. If the animal is not shedding it when a stool sample is taken, the animal can be misdiagnosed as being free of the protozoa. If your puppy is put on antibiotics of any sort, feed yogurt to replenish the good bacteria that is killed off by the antibiotic. It will in no way affect the antibiotic from completeing it's job but may save your animal from secondary infections caused by an imbalance of good bacteria.
     When coccidia does exist in the G.I. tract of your puppy, it can easily spread up through the system and into the lungs and if unchecked, it can cause pneumonia and eventually death. The first signs of coccidia is usually a lack of eating properly accompanied by a loose stinky stool and sometimes escalating into bouts of hypoglycemia. Coccidia can be transmitted to humans if hands are not washed and contaminated utensils are handled improperly. Coccidia should never be allowed to progress to a point that the puppy's life is threatened. If your puppy shows signs of this disease, immediately seek professional advice and treatment.

Patella Luxation

Patella luxation is probably the most common defect in the Chihuahua breed. OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) lists the Chihuahua as having a 10% affected rate, however, this may very well be quite underestimated as people who have a dog with Patella luxation might not even submit the paperwork to OFA. Although patella luxation is fairly easy to diagnose, some breeders are unaware that they do have a problem (they think that if their dogs are walking around fine, they don't have any problems), or are not checking their dogs properly. A skilled veterinarian can easily determine if a Chihuahua has any looseness in the patella joint, or if the patella itself  luxates. A breeder can also become skilled, if properly taught, to determine if a dog has patella luxation or not.
    Patella luxation can either have genetic causes, or environmental causes (i.e. injury). If patella luxation shows up at an early age (under 7 months or so), it is probably due to genetic causes; however, injury might also cause patella luxation to show up in the first seven months. Sources of injury could include being overweight, too much jumping (i.e. jumping off furniture), or too much stress on the patella and surrounding ligaments (ie. a dog dancing on its rear legs). These causes are especially dangerous when a Chihuahua is in the developmental stages...from a young puppy to 1 or 2 years of age. Chihuahuas might also damage their kneecap by hitting it, and even an unskilled veterinarian might cause permanent looseness if he is forcibly trying to see if the patella is loose. As a Chihuahua ages, slight looseness might be seen, especially in dogs that are very overweight and have continued pressure on the ligaments/patella.
    Visual signs of grade 2 (and higher) patella luxation includes skipping, holding the rear leg up for a short time as the dog walks/runs or rear-leg weakness. Grade 1 patella luxation does not usually have any visual signs (which is why some breeders might be unaware they have a problem) except the patella can manually be pushed out of place quite easily by hand. Patella luxation can cause permanent lameness later on, as well as arthritis, especially in the more serious cases (grade 2 and higher).
    If your dog does have this painful problem, your veterinarian might be able to give you some options to help alleviate the symptoms, depending on the seriousness of the problem. This might include keeping the dog lean (ie. not letting the dog get fat), the use of joint supplements such as glucosamine/choroditin, pain killers, or surgery.

Brucellosis

Brucellosis is a disease caused by a bacteria, Brucella canis. It is found throughout the world. It is spread through contact with aborted fetuses and discharges from the uterus of infected bitches, during mating, through maternal milk and possibly through airborne transmission in some cases. The bacteria enters the body through mucous membranes and spreads from there to lymph nodes and the spleen. It also spreads to the uterus, placenta and prostate gland as well as other internal organs at times.

In female dogs, infection leads to abortion or early death of infected puppies. Infected females may have no other clinical signs. In some cases there may be decreased fertility rather than abortion. This may be due to resorption of fetuses early in their development.

In male dogs, infection of the testicles can lead to infertility due to anti-sperm antibodies developed as the body attempts to fight off the bacterial infection. The testes may atrophy after the initial period of swelling. Scrotal enlargement or infection of the skin over the scrotum may be seen.

In both female and male dogs there may be infection of spinal discs (diskospondylitis) which can cause back pain and rear leg weakness or even paralysis. Eye inflammation may be seen in either sex.

It is not usually possible to culture Brucella canis bacteria from the blood or affected tissues so diagnosis is usually done by titer testing. There is a kit available to veterinarians for testing in their office. It is usually best to retest any dogs found positive on this test with other testing methods since there is a fairly high rate of false positives using the in-house test kit.

Brucellosis is very difficult to treat successfully. A combination of minocycline and streptomycin is thought to be most effective but is expensive. Tetracycline can be substituted for the minocylcine to reduce costs but also lowers the effectiveness of treatment. All infected animals should be neutered or spayed to prevent sexually related transmission. All infected animals should be considered to be lifelong carriers of the disease, even if treated.

It would probably be best not to breed dogs without testing both the male and female for this disease. Breeding should be a deliberate choice -- not a random event! For breeding kennels, routine isolation of new dogs would be a very good idea. After isolation and negative tests at entry into the kennel and one month later, it should be safe to let the new dog mix with the others in the kennel. If infection is suspected at any time, quaternary ammomium (like Roccal Rx) and iodophor (Betadine Rx) disinfectants can kill Brucella organisms in the kennel to limit spread of the disease.

One last thing. It is possible that brucellosis caused by Brucella canis may be a zoonotic disease -- meaning that people could potentially be infected by this organism. It is something to think about when handling infected dogs. Wear gloves around any body fluids and be careful about contaminating yourself in any way.