The dog world's smallest citizen may also be its best-known, at least with the paparazzi. But you don't have to be a celebrity with a purse-pooch to appreciate life with this everyday scene stealer.
The Chihuahua's ancestor was probably the ancient Central and South American Techichi, a little dog revered by the Toltecs. The arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1600s spelled the demise of the Toltecs and their Techichi. But in 1850, three tiny Techichi-like dogs were found in Chihuahua, Mexico.
By 1890, the tiny dogs were already being seen with celebrities of the day. The famous singer, Madame Adelina Patti, toured the world with her Chihuahua. In the mid-1900s, Xavier Cugat, the Rumba King, popularized the breed with movie and television appearances. By 1964 Chihuahuas were the third most popular breed in America.
Chihuahuas come in smooth and long-coated varieties. Both are equally loving and saucy. They love their toys, but they also love their laps---as long as they're in charge!
Feed your Chihuahua puppy a puppy food designed for toy dogs. Tiny puppies should be fed small amounts often---more than larger dogs---because they can't store glucose efficiently. They can easily develop hypoglycemia if they are active and have gone without food for too long. Puppy food for toy dogs combats hypoglycemia because it is high in protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. If your puppy becomes sleepy to the point of being hard to rouse, or unresponsive, it's an emergency. Rub syrup on his gums and get him to the veterinarian immediately. Most Chihuahuas outgrow the danger by the time they are 7 months old. But even as adults, a food designed for toy dogs is the best choice.
Beware the Chihuahua's propensity to overeat! You may need to feed a low calorie food and ration his meals. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.
Chihuahuas are prone to knee problems. If you see your Chi skipping for a step or two, he may have a condition your veterinarian needs to check. He may also eventually develop arthritic changes in his knees. To combat this, add a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement to his diet as soon as he shows any signs of hopping or lameness. And keep his weight down!
Care of the smooth coat is simple. Brush weekly to remove dead hair, and bathe as needed. A color-enhancing shampoo can bring out the highlights in your Chi's coat. Most Chihuahuas have healthy skin; for those that are itchy, an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo can help.
Long-coated Chihuahuas need slightly more care. Brush every few days to prevent tangles. When brushing or combing, spritz the coat lightly with a combination of water and conditioner; this prevents static electricity and breakage. Bathe often, which also prevent tangles. If your dog tends to scratch, use an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo. Follow with a conditioner. You can also apply a leave-in conditioner that will help prevent tangling and matting; however, you have to wash these out and replace them every week or even more often if your Chihuahua gets dirty.
Chihuahuas have healthy ears, but they should still be checked regularly. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal.
Toy dogs are prone to dental problems and tooth loss, so brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a small dog nail clipper.
Chihuahuas are perpetually young at heart, but sometimes age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, can slow them down. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.