Chihuahua Breed Health Concerns!

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While Chihuahuas have fewer genetic defects than many breeds (maybe because so many breeders try hard to eliminate problems), no breed is perfect. The following sections show you some idiosyncrasies - a few serious but most not - that are sometimes seen in Chihuahuas and other Toy breeds.

Subluxation of the patella

In dog lingo, subluxation of the patella is called slipped stifles or loose kneecaps. When it occurs, the kneecap (we're talking about the rear legs) slips out of its groove - sometimes often and sometimes rarely - depending on the severity of the problem. A dog with a mild case can live a normal life, kind of like a person with a trick knee. Subluxation of the patella is a relatively common problem in small breeds and some large ones as well. The condition is diagnosed by a Veterinarian by stages 1-4 ( one and two being mild, three and four being a serious concern.)
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Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar and is a common problem in young Toy breed puppies, although most of them grow out of it before they are old enough to leave the breeder. But for a few, it's a danger throughout their lives. Symptoms of low blood sugar are a staggering gait, glassy eyes, and sometimes either limpness or rigidity. If the dog doesn't receive immediate help, he can suffer seizures, unconsciousness, and finally, death. Treatment involves putting some glucose in your dog's mouth, calling your veterinarian, and heading for the clinic.
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Collapsing trachea

Collapsing trachea is a problem for Toy dogs of many breeds. The symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and exhaustion. Although it appears more often in dogs older than 5 years, an occasional puppy has it from birth. To understand the condition, think of the trachea as a straw made of cartilage that carries air from the neck to the chest. When the cartilage collapses, breathing becomes difficult, kind of like sipping soda through a flattened straw. Your vet can treat the condition with medication, but if you smoke, your Chi's prognosis may be poor. Secondhand smoke is a proven contributing factor to the problem . . . and smoke tends to settle low, where a little dog's nose is.
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Heart murmur

Heart murmurs are relatively uncommon in Chihuahuas and even those that have one usually have the functional type. As in people, that means they can be as active and athletic as they want and live long, normal lives.
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The Chihuahua's molera(a.k.a. fontanel) is considered a breed characteristic and not a defect. Most Chihuahuas (80 percent to 90 percent) have a molera - a soft spot on the top of their head similar to a human baby's soft spot. But unlike babies, most Chihuahuas don't outgrow it. Although it usually shrinks as the dog matures and ends up between nickel - and dime-sized, your Chihuahua's molera won't be a problem as long as you're gentle when petting or handling his head. In rare cases, the molera remains quite large and can be a sign of a serious problem called hydrocephalus. But don't borrow trouble. Hydrocephalus has several other signs besides a larger-than-usual molera.
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Going under anesthesia

The possibility that your dog may someday need anesthesia is one main reason why you need to choose a veterinarian who is accomplished in treating Toy dogs. Although anesthesia-related deaths are rare, and usually the result of an allergic reaction, its use is potentially dangerous. Your vet uses anesthesia only when necessary (before surgery, for example). Be sure you know how to clean your puppy's teeth properly so that cleaning them under anesthesia isn't necessary. When your dog has to go under anesthesia (during spaying or neutering, for example), ask your veterinarian if any necessary dental work (such as pulling impacted baby teeth) can be done at the same time. Be sure your vet uses one of the modern gas anesthetics. They are much safer than the old fashioned intravenous products.
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Watch those eyes

It's certainly not a condition, but because Chihuahuas have big eyes and live close to the floor, they are more prone to eye injuries than a lot of other breeds. Put several drops of saline solution in your dog's eye if the injury seems minor. That's often all it takes to flush out a foreign object that was accidentally kicked up by someone's shoe. If that doesn't relieve the problem, or if the injury appears more serious, take your Chihuahua to the vet.
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Dental care

Chihuahuas and other small breeds are especially prone to dental problems. While dogs have heartier teeth than humans, they're still afflicted by dental problems such as gingivitis and plaque. Diet and prevention can help your dog maintain healthy dental hygiene without costly trips to the vet. Chihuahua dental problems do increase your pet health care costs. Additionally, they can create serious pain and life threatening illness for your dog! Here are some ways to recognize, prevent and treat dental decay in Chihuahuas.

The Breath Test

Sniff your dog's breath. Not a field of lilies ? That's okay - normal doggie-breath isn't particularly fresh-smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensive and is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it's a good idea to take your pooch to the vet.

Lip Service

Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.

Signs of Oral Disease

The following are signs that your dog may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian: Bad breath, Excessive drooling, Inflamed gums, Tumors in the gums, Cysts under the tongue, Loose teeth, Unusual attitude or personality changes, Sensitivity or resistance to having their mouth and jaw touched.

The Bottom Line on Tooth Decay

Plaque builds up on the teeth and turns into tartar, or calculus. These areas grow bacteria and eat away at the teeth and gums. Halitosis, periodontal disease, oral pain and tooth loss can occur. However, the bacteria does not only cause disease in the mouth - they can also affect other parts of the body, like the heart and kidneys. The most important thing to do is address dental disease as soon as it is detected, no matter how minor. Better yet, work hard to prevent it!
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