We’re accustomed to thinking about Chihuahuas as those cheeky and somewhat haughty little dogs with more personality than three other dogs put together, but what about a senior Chihuahua? While the Chihuahua breed has the most extended lifespan of almost any different breed, they still grow old and become senior. Yes, it’s regrettable, and it happens to every one of our fur babies.
Because of a Chihuahua’s lifespan, he won’t reach old age until between his ninth and twelfth birthdays. However, it doesn’t mean he will instantly begin showing signs of age-related illnesses, but knowing this gives you the opportunity of keeping your eyes on him and getting ahead of any disease.
As Chihuahuas age, their health will deteriorate, and they will naturally become prone to more medical issues. A senior Chihuahua is going to require much more care and attention than ever before.
In this senior Chihuahua care guide, we’ll look into why you’re older Chihuahua needs extra special care, the types of health issues you’re likely to face, and how you can minimize the risk of those problems before they occur.
Why Is An Aging Chihuahua Special?
Chihuahuas being so tiny, have always been delicate all their lives, so moving into older age isn’t going to make that situation any better. All bones become more brittle with age, and the Chihuahua’s bones are no exception. It’s always been easy for a Chi to injure themselves or be accidentally trod on, damaging and breaking their bones; now the situation is worse. Handling a senior Chihuahua must be done with even more care than before.
Everything about a Chihuahua is tiny. If the whole dog is small, think for a moment just how tiny his little organs are and then consider how vulnerable that makes them.
Older Chihuahuas And Common Ailments
To maintain your Chihuahua’s health as much as you can, you’re going to need some idea of what to expect when he gets old.
1. A Chihuahua’s Life-Long Battle Against Cold
Chihuahuas always feel the cold, even as a youngster they lose their body heat very quickly. Chihuahuas find it challenging to cope with the cold and even shake and shiver in a bid to stay warm.
Dogs do get sick from the cold. Frigid air can make a dog’s bronchial tube constrict, so there may be a risk of pneumonia. Severe cold can create a risk of frostbite on a Chihuahua’s paws and ears. Some Chihuahua’s have very short fur, meaning they will feel the cold more. Plus, with such short legs, their little bodies come more easily into contact with snow, quickly leading to hypothermia.
Elderly Chihuahuas can be prone to arthritic issues, so walking on snow and ice is even more precarious; slipping and falling is a real risk.
Conversely, heat is also a concern in elderly Chihuahuas. They are a brachycephalic breed, and these breeds suffer in intense heat. We need to protect our senior Chihuahua from the risk of overheating. Physically as they age, it becomes much harder for them to get cool on their own.
To keep him safe, you’ll need to keep him inside your house. If you have air conditioning, put it on in a small room and let your Chi be in there with plenty of cool water for him to drink. Brush him down more frequently than you would typically; getting rid of excess hair will help.
If your Chihuahua can still walk and enjoys a short walk in the fresh air, try to walk in the coolest part of the day. Walking will help keep him interested mentally and can help reduce obesity.
2. Skeletal Issues
We’ve talked about brittle bones and arthritis, both problems in senior dogs but even more prevalent in older Chihuahuas. At an old age, broken bones can take an age to mend, not to mention the pain he’ll have to endure each time he moves. A condition of the knee, known as patella luxation, is common in senior Chihuahuas.
Arthritis in older Chihuahuas is commonplace. Not just Chihuahuas, arthritis will affect some 80% of all dogs by the time they reach eight years old. Chihuahuas having patella luxation or any other joint problems are likely to develop arthritis in the knees and hips. Obesity can add extra strain on joints and create further damage.
You will see obvious signs of pain and discomfort, a definite favoring of one or more legs, stiffness, particularly in the morning. Over the years, the cartilage between joints begins to break down, becoming weaker and thinner, eventually leading to the bones themselves rubbing against each other. This action is incredibly painful and permanently damage the bones.
How You Can Help?
If you notice any of the signs we’ve discussed or your Chihuahua is getting older, then screen him for osteoarthritis. If he has arthritis, then there are some treatment options – steroids such as prednisone, Adequan injections, and NSAIDs.
You probably already have pet steps or ramps in your home, especially if you like your Chi to get on your sofa or bed, but if not, it would be a good idea to have them strategically positioned around the home.
There are now orthopedic beds for dogs. If you can get one of these for your Chihuahua, it will help him considerably when he’s sleeping. Bones and joints need extra support as they become weaker and ache more.
Don’t be tempted to reduce his exercise. Yes, reduce the intensity but not the amount of time. Just take things more slowly. The worst thing you can do with arthritis is to allow him to become sedate. His joints will seize up even more and much more quickly.
If your Chihuahua is only, shall we say, middle-aged, then start him on supplements as soon as possible? If you act proactively with this, you might just delay the onset for a few years.
Try to keep your senior Chihuahua in a stress-free environment as much as possible. Don’t allow other pets or small children to bother him and get him flustered and upset. Accompanying old age are usually sight problems. If he doesn’t see too well, then don’t confuse him by moving furniture to different home areas.
It’s conceivable that a Chihuahua can live eight or nine years as a Senior dog. That’s not a small amount of time, almost half his life. So you need to be prepared for that and be ready to provide extra care, attention, and love for a long time.