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How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 9/25/2019 Emily DiNuzzo
a brown and white dog sitting on a blanket: “We all know a barky chihuahua, but they aren’t all that way and with training are incredible pets,” says Ellis. “Content in an apartment they don’t require an immense amount of attention or exercise and are also happy to join you on your outings.” © Benevolente82/Shutterstock

“We all know a barky chihuahua, but they aren’t all that way and with training are incredible pets,” says Ellis. “Content in an apartment they don’t require an immense amount of attention or exercise and are also happy to join you on your outings.”

No one wants to talk about how long pets have to live, but it's good information to know if you are deciding to add a furry friend to the family. This official guide to picking the best dog breed for you is helpful, too. If chihuahuas are on your list of possible dog breeds, you need to know how long they'll be by your side.

How long do chihuahuas live?

A chihuahuas life span is typically 12 to 20 years, according to Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York, and the proud owner of a short-haired chihuahua named Eloise. "Typically, smaller dog breeds tend to have longer lifespans than their large counterparts," Dr. Barrack says. That's why Mark Freeman, DVM, an Assistant Professor at VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine who has eight chihuahuas, notes that some chihuahuas can even live past 20.

There isn't a clear reason as to why smaller pups live longer, according to Dr. Freeman. "A study out of Germany recently showed some fairly convincing evidence that large dog breeds do actually age faster," he says. Although there isn't a proven reason, one theory from the research is that large dog breeds grow quickly from puppy to adult. "This rapid growth may increase the risk for cancer later in life due to the rapid turnover of individual cell populations in the body," Dr. Freeman says. And if your dog of any breed is this color, it could live longer.

What are the common health issues to watch out for with chihuahuas?

Chihuahuas are generally a relatively healthy dog breed, Dr. Freeman says. There are still a few health issues that owners should note. Dental disease is a common issue because chihuahuas are prone to developing plaque and tartar, according to Dr. Barrack. Other common health problems include heart and kidney disease in older chihuahuas and a variety of endocrine disorders. Moleras, or soft spots on the skull, may not close completely and are another common health issue with chihuahuas, per Dr. Barrack.

Even though chihuahuas are typically tiny at four to six pounds, they have a big bark and big attitude. These dogs will readily show defensive or aggressive behavior, even toward a much larger dog. "This means that traumatic injury ranks fairly high on the cause of death scale for this breed," Dr. Freeman says. If they also have this common health problem they'll have trouble jumping to defense.

Here's how you can help your chihuahua live longer

If you can keep your tiny pup from picking a fight with a larger dog, you can also use some tips to help your pet live longer from Dr. Freeman and Dr. Barrack. "As with any size dog, to help your chihuahua live a long life it is important to take care of their health," Dr. Barrack says. "Maintain regular visits with your veterinarian and encourage healthy weight by feeding them a healthy diet and incorporating exercise daily."

Pet owners with small dogs sometimes assume their dog is healthy and skip regular vet exams, but doing so is a bad plan. "This can lull pet owners into a sense of 'all is well,' so that they don't actually recognize a health problem until it is significant," Dr. Freeman says. Don't wait until your chihuahua is sick to take them to the vet for an annual wellness visit. You don't want to shorten the life of your pup.

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