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Chihuahua - breed information and advice

The world’s smallest dogs, Chihuahuas make good companions. They bond strongly with their owners, are quick-witted and easily trained – as long as you start early. They can be prickly around strangers as they like to have all of their owner’s attention for themselves.

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Breed information


Size: Small

Coat: Chihuahuas can be smooth-coated or long-coated. Both types require grooming at least once a week.

Exercise: Adult dogs need up to 30 minutes a day. Soft wide collars should be used as Chihuahuas can have fragile windpipes.

Life span: Usually 12+ years, although they can live as long as 20

Breed group: Originally bred to amuse their owners and look beautiful, Toy dogs are usually small, attractive and extremely faithful, making them charming, loyal companions.


Chihuahuas can suffer from conditions that affect the brain, spine and some nerves. Epilepsy is a brain disorder that results in seizures or fitting, which may begin in dogs as young as six months old. Epileptic seizures look painful, but generally aren’t. However, depending on the severity, they may need to be controlled with medication for the dog’s entire life to ensure a happy, normal existence.


We paid £2,439 to treat Deni the Chihuahua for epilepsy in 2016

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Tracheal collapse

A dog’s respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Tracheal collapse, for example, is a common cause of airway obstruction in small breeds such as Chihuahuas. The trachea (or windpipe) is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs when the dog breathes. Sometimes the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and air is squeezed through, resulting in a characteristic honking cough. Treatment may include surgery if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised.


We paid £1,659 to treat Chanel the Chihuahua for respiratory system disorders in 2016

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Heart disease

Heart disease in dogs is classified as either congenital heart disease (which means ʻborn with itʼ) or acquired heart disease (which means the disease develops later in life). Both of these defects can lead to a state called ʻheart failureʼ, wherein the heart struggles to pump blood around the body. Chihuahuas are particularly prone to valve disease, which often leads to heart failure. Early diagnosis of heart problems is key, because if they progress to the ʻheart failureʼ stage, treatment will then be needed for the rest of the dogʼs life.


In our experience, Chihuahuas are twice as likely to need treatment for a heart problem than all dogs we insure

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Legg-Perthes disease

Legg-Perthes disease (also known as Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease) affects part of the hip joint. As with humans, a dog’s hip joint is like a ball that fits into a cup. Legg-Perthes disease causes disintegration of the ‘ball’ part of the hip joint. It is commonly seen in younger, small breeds of dog like the Chihuahua. Treatment involves rest and control of the arthritis, or surgery to remove the damaged part of the hip. If treated early enough, the dog can have a good quality of life.


We paid £2,665 to treat Jasper the dog for hip disorders in 2016

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Dislocating kneecap

The kneecap (or ‘patella’) sits in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). A dislocating (or ‘luxating’) kneecap is one that pops out of its groove. A relatively common condition in Chihuahuas and other small breeds, dislocation happens because the alignment of the bones from the hip through the knee to the ankle is not straight, which pulls the kneecap to one side. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but surgery may be required to reduce the likelihood of arthritis and enable the dog to live a normal life.


A dislocating kneecap is the most common condition we see in Chihuahuas

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