Last Updated on April 26, 2023
Chihuahuas are known for their feisty personality. What they lack in size, they make up for in spirit!
They’re also known for having one of the longest life expectancies of modern dog breeds. We don’t know about you, but we think that bodes pretty well for your pack.
Keep reading to learn all about why Chihuahuas live so long.
Overview: How long do Chihuahuas live?
When it comes to doggie lifespans, Chihuahuas take the cake. (Or do they take the dog biscuit?)
The average life expectancy of standard Chihuahuas is an astounding 12-20 years. The Teacup Chihuahua lifespan can be 15-20 years with the right care.
As furry companions go, that’s quite a long while to spend with your favorite lapdog!
The World’s Oldest Chihuahua
Megabyte, the oldest Chihuahua on record, lived to be 20 years and 265 days old. That’s almost unheard of in the canine world!
Sadly, Megabyte passed away on New Year’s Day in 2014. But who knows? Maybe your Chihuahua puppy will surpass his record!
Chihuahua Age In Human Years and Dog Years
You’ve probably heard that 1 human year equals 7 dog years. Different breeds age at their own pace, though, so that calculation won’t always be accurate.
Chihuahuas and other little dogs, for example, don’t age as quickly as larger dogs. They also tend to age faster in their first year of life as they move through puppyhood into adulthood.
Use this helpful chart to determine how old Fido actually is:
|Age in Human Years||Age in Dog Years|
What do Chihuahuas usually die from?
Even with such a robust life expectancy, the Chihuahua dog isn’t free of health issues.
For Chihuahua puppies, infection and trauma are among the top causes of death. But infectious viruses and accidental injury can affect adult Chihuahuas just as easily.
Especially while your pup is still growing, Chihuahua owners have to be mindful of their small size. Something that only irritates a bigger dog, like being stepped on, can be fatal for a tiny Chi puppy.
Just like traumatic injuries, many viral or bacterial infections can be avoided, too.
Make sure your Chihuahua is vaccinated against parvovirus and distemper. Never let them drink from contaminated water, as this is a common source of leptospirosis.
Be mindful of their dental care, as well. Tooth rot or decay can trigger sepsis in your Chihuahua.
If sepsis spreads, your Chi’s lungs, kidneys, liver, and heart can all be impacted. Few dogs have strong enough immune systems to fight off sepsis, even with treatment.
Keeping your Chihuahua’s heart in tip-top shape is of the utmost importance. Nearly 20% of adult Chis die from heart problems, making cardiovascular disease the #1 cause of death for this breed.
These cardiovascular conditions can be broken down into three main groups: heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
Heart failure simply means that your Chi’s heart doesn’t pump blood effectively.
This leads to an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood, which in turn contributes to your Chi’s body and organs not functioning properly.
Arrhythmia occurs when the heart doesn’t beat at a regular pace. These don’t always impede a dog’s quality of life, but in severe cases, arrhythmias can be fatal.
Heart valve problems can refer to a range of cardiovascular issues, including stenosis, regurgitation, and valve prolapse.
Think of stenosis as a major highway with one lane closed. Dogs with stenosis have narrower veins that prevent blood from flowing properly. They’re usually born with this condition.
Now think of regurgitation as the cars that make their own rules and try to go against traffic to avoid the jam. In this case, heart valves don’t close tightly, and blood flows backward into the heart.
Valve prolapse most often refers to a bulging mitral valve which puts pressure on the heart. Sometimes, valve prolapse can cause regurgitation.
Many of these heart conditions crop up when your Chihuahua reaches their twilight years, usually when they hit the 14-year mark and beyond.
For that reason, senior Chis are often said to have died of old age when in reality, they’ve passed due to a poorly-functioning heart.
How do I know if my Chihuahua is dying?
This is undoubtedly the worst part of pet ownership: knowing that it’s time to say goodbye.
But the better prepared you are for that moment, the more you can support your beloved canine as they cross over the rainbow bridge.
Classic signs that your Chihuahua’s happy life is coming to an end are:
- Increased lethargy: Your sweet pooch may suddenly stop interacting with their pack, or they lose their spunk. Several owners report their aging dogs staying in one spot all day, barely moving at all.
- Disinterest in food, water, and treats
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of bodily control: This may present as a loss of balance, disorientation, or incontinence. Your Chi may be unable to stand up or walk without falling. They may seem confused, and house training could go out the window.
All of these are indications that your buddy needs your companionship more than ever before.
Of course, if you notice any of these symptoms in your sprightly 7-year-old Chihuahua, it could signify an underlying medical issue rather than death.
If you notice them in your otherwise-healthy, 19-year-old Chihuahua, however, the best thing you can do is offer your fur baby love and comfort.
Give them as much peace as you can, and know that you’ve taken good care of them right up to their final moments.
Other Chihuahua Health Problems
In addition to these more serious conditions, Chihuahuas are at risk for other issues that can affect their health.
Dental problems, for example, are incredibly common. Tooth loss, tooth decay, and gum disease are prevalent among most toy breeds, not just Chis.
Small dogs are also at increased risk of suffering a collapsed trachea. If your Chihuahua starts honking like a goose when they breathe, tracheal collapse is likely the culprit.
Patellar luxation is an interesting joint condition, as it’s often present at birth but may not show symptoms for quite awhile. Patellar luxation results in a misalignment or dislocation of the kneecap.
If left untreated, patellar luxation can contribute to osteoarthritis.
You might not know right away that your Chihuahua has osteoarthritis, particularly if they don’t have more obvious joint abnormalities.
Some dog owners don’t realize that their pooch has arthritis until the disease has progressed enough to cause pain and impede mobility.
Interestingly, obesity can be a sign (and predictor) of arthritis. If your Chi can’t move comfortably, they won’t move as much.
And if they aren’t getting enough exercise, weight gain and joint damage will soon follow.
Now, that’s not to say that obesity can’t develop for non-medical reasons. Chihuahuas are tiny gluttons, and they’ll eat as many treats as you give them.
Stay one step ahead of their bottomless appetites!
Finding the balance between too much food and not enough can be tricky with Chihuahuas. As luck would have it, hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) is a common ailment for this breed.
Hydrocephalus–a fancy term for fluid buildup in the skull–can also occur, particularly in dogs with moleras.
We see this more often in apple head Chihuahuas than deer head Chis, but it’s a possibility for both varieties.
These moleras, or soft spots, are totally normal in Chis. They can be an indication of hydrocephalus, though.
If your pup seems to have a larger-than-life molera or if their molera is still open past 6 months of age, get them to the vet just to be on the safe side.
What factors impact a Chihuahua’s lifespan?
As you may have guessed, the average lifespan for a Chihuahua is based on far more than genetics alone.
A Chi’s diet, weight, and activity levels play a role in their overall health. Oral care, while it might not sound important, is also crucial to protecting your Chihuahua dog.
Surprisingly, your Chihuahua’s gender can affect their life expectancy, too. Female Chis tend to live 1-2 years longer than males.
Proper medical care is another essential element of giving your Chi a healthy life. Routine vaccinations and spaying or neutering your pup are both surefire ways of prolonging their lifespan.
Tips to help your Chihuahua live for decades (well, almost)
Much to our collective relief, not all of the Chihuahua’s health conditions are life-threatening if properly managed. Here are simple steps you can take to give your Chihuahua a long life.
- Vaccinate your puppy. We can’t stress this enough!
- Brush your Chihuahua’s teeth daily.
- Keep your Chihuahua on a leash at all times.
- Get your Chi a collar with an ID tag. Amazon has loads of collars for small breeds, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that fits your pup. You could even take this a step further and get a microchip for your dog. If Fido gets loose, his ID tag and microchip may be your only hope at getting him back safe and sound.
- See your vet 1-2 times a year. Regular checkups are the surest way to catch potentially serious conditions before they become untreatable.
- Feed your dog a healthy diet. The best dog food is high in protein and packed with nutrients. Make sure your Chi has high-quality kibble–but not too much!
- Exercise your Chihuahua regularly. Not only does exercise help them bond to you (and stave off the dreaded separation anxiety), but it also prevents unhealthy weight gain.
How the Chihuahua lifespan compares to other breeds
You’ve probably heard about famously long-lived pups like Bluey, the 29-year-old Australian Cattle Dog.
These super seniors tend to be the exception to the rule, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hardy dog breeds out there!
If we didn’t know any better, we might say a long coat equals a long life!
What will you do to extend your Chihuahua’s lifespan?
Whether you have a longhaired Chihuahua or short-haired, whether she has a traditional fawn coat or a pearly snow white, her life expectancy will be the same.
The only consistent factor in keeping her healthy? You.
Aside from her genes, the care you provide has a direct impact on how long your Chihuahua lives.
So, how will you commit to caring for your Chi? Tell us in the comments!
Cess is the Head of Content Writing at K9 Web and a passionate dog care expert with over 5 years of experience in the Pet Industry. With a background in animal science, dog training, and behavior consulting, her hands-on experience and extensive knowledge make her a trusted source for dog owners.
When not writing or leading the K9 Web content team, Cess can be found volunteering at local shelters and participating in dog-related events.