The smaller the pup, the more prolonged the lifespan—this is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to estimating average lifespans for different dog breeds. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise at all that the average pint-sized Chihuahua lives for 12 to 20 years!
What Factors Influence How Long Your Chihuahua Will Live?
We all want our furkids to live as long as possible. Some factors influencing your itty-bitty one’s lifespan are out of your control, like their genetics. Others, happily, you can optimize to give your fur baby the best and longest life possible!
1. Type of Food
Stick to well-balanced, premium dog foods. By “premium” we mean dog foods that use high quality proteins and don’t use grains or other additives as fillers. Steer clear of artificial colors and flavors as well.
We promise your dog doesn’t care if their kibbles are shaped like little bones and drumsticks. Leave the novelty foods on the shelf and choose a food for its ingredients, not its resemblance to little-charbroiled burgers.
And as tempting as it is, and as persuasive as your Chi might be, don’t give her table scraps. It’s simply too easy to overfeed or give something poisonous to her by accident. Because Chis are so tiny, it’s heartbreakingly easy to give them more of something toxic than they can handle for their body weight. What might just give a Rottie an upset tummy could land your Chihuahua in the hospital, or worse.
2. Amount of Food
Speaking of diet, it’s not just about what you feed, but how much. Overweight people are at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other issues that are exacerbated by weight gain, and it’s no different for your Chihuahua. Because their calorie needs are relatively low, that can mean strict food discipline on your part (see that bit about no table scraps, above).
Of course, too little is as bad as too much; if you underfeed your Chihuahua it could result in her having a host of other problems, from malnutrition to a weakened immune system.
So, how much should I feed my Chi?
That depends heavily on the type of dog food, because some foods are more calorie dense than others. Generally, 50 calories per pound for growing pups (<1 year old), 35-40 calories per pound for adult Chihuahuas (1-7 years old), and 30 calories per pound for senior Chihuahuas (8 years old and up) is sufficient. Each dog has a unique metabolism and different activity levels, however, so watch your pup’s weight to be sure! You can also try out PawedIn’s Ultimate Dog Calories Calculator too!
3. Amount of Exercise
You need exercise to keep your heart and lungs strong, your muscles functioning well, and your immune system strong; the same is true for your four-legged friend. Going for walks or simply gently romping with your little guy or gal isn’t just fun for you both, it’s essential for a healthy, happy, long-lived pup!
Chihuahua puppies (up to 4 months old) will manage their own activity levels, based on their energy levels, and shouldn’t be forced to exercise more than short walks and playtime with toys. Up to 8 months of age, two short walks a day—15 minutes each—is sufficient. From 8 months to a year old, walks can be lengthened, to up to 30 minutes at a time. Adult Chis, up to six years old, should have 1-2 30 minute walks per day, plus some play time indoors or in an enclosed yard.
Owners of older Chihuahuas should pay close attention to their dog’s energy levels, as exercise for senior dogs should be gradually scaled back. It’s important to consult with your vet about this when the time comes.
Spayed and neutered Chihuahuas tend to live longer, healthier lives than their intact counterparts. That’s due in part to the fact that neutering and spaying reduce (and in some cases nearly eliminate) the potential for your dog to develop certain types of cancer, including testicular and cervical cancers.
Plus, even planned pregnancies present a health risk to our doggy-daughters, especially since Chihuahuas face more birth complications than most other breeds.
Keep up on your Chi’s routine doctor’s visits, and take note of any unusual symptoms that your little guy or gal might have. Many conditions are treatable when identified early on, so being attentive to your dog’s behaviour and physical condition is very important. When you notice anything unusual, contact your veterinarian.
Pay particular attention to indications that your Chihuahua may need oral health care (small breeds are particularly prone to tooth decay). While cavities and gum disease may not sound life threatening, they can introduce systemic infections (infections that travel throughout the body, not just the mouth) that could shorten your pup’s life. Up to 90% of Chis experience some sort of oral health condition that requires veterinary treatment. To tackle the problem head-on, schedule regular cleanings with your vet.
Chihuahuas can also suffer from eye infections, due in part to their protruding eyes. Clean your Chi’s eyes gently, on a daily basis, with a damp cloth. Simply wipe from the corner of the tear duct down. If you notice any eye irritation, contact your vet.
Whether you raised your Chihuahua from a puppy, or adopted your furry friend later in life, we know you want her to live as long, happily, and healthily as possible—and these tips should help!