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Chihuahua Health Issues!

"Reverse Sneeze"...

Occasional bouts of sneezing, snorting, honking and wheezing are not unusual in chihuahuas, and is sometimes called a "reverse sneeze". This is usually caused by a elongated soft palate that is thought to become temporarily misaligned. It is a common trait in toy breeds. Pulling hard on a leash, drinking too fast or getting overly excited can lead to an episode of reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing SHOULD NOT be confused with a different condition called "collapsed trachea".

Although reverse sneezing may appear to be scary, it only lasts a short time and can be ended by massaging the dog's neck and throat and encouraging the dog to swallow or lick. Another way to slow the reverse sneeze is to clap your hands to distract the dog, or pinch closed the dog's nostrils with your fingers, forcing it to breathe through its mouths and to swallow.

Luxation of the Patella...

Luxation of the patella, or dislocation of the kneecap, is a common hereditary problem with chihuahuas and other small breeds. Patellar luxation can occur in varying degrees from minimal to debilitating. Very young dogs may be able to compensate for this deformity, but the condition tends to worsen over time. Most of the time the chihuahua is older before symptoms of patellar luxation are obvious.

The dislocation is most commonly found on the inner side of the patella. The attached ligaments become stretched over time until the patella is rarely where it is supposed to be, and may "pop" in and out of place very easily.

Recent studies have shown that immediate treatment is recommended, rather then waiting until the dislocation has crippled the dog. The reasoning is that, while the knee is dislocated, the entire body of the dog is compensating for it, causing deformations of many other skeletal areas.

Research has definitively shown that patellar luxation is an inherited trait, and dogs with this genetic problem should not be used in breeding programs.


Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the chihuahua's blood sugar level drops to an extremely low level, causing "sugar shock." When levels of glucose in the blood drop rapidly, the dog's body and brain are deprived of essential nutrients. The results of hypoglycemia can be weakness, seizures, coma, and in severe cases, death.

Because chihuahuas are so small, they can be prone to hypoglycemia, especially when they are very young. Hypoglycemia is usually caused by stress, illness, lack of food, or by using up stored energy without it being replenished.

It is important to make sure that young puppies and very tiny chihuahuas eat regularly throughout the day. Another preventative for hypoglycemia is regular feeding of a high-calorie supplement called Nutrical, available from your veterinarian or your local pet store.

If you suspect that your chihuahua is hypoglycemic, call your vet AT ONCE as this condition can be quickly fatal.

Historically, the Chihuahua as developed in Mexico and the United States has displayed a "soft spot" on the top of the head. In the Chihuahua, this spot, or fontanel, is know as a MOLERA, and is the same as that found in human babies. In the past, this molera was accepted as a mark of purity in the breed, and it is still mentioned in most Chihuahua breed standards the world over.

It is important to note that while many Chihuahua puppies are born without the molera, there are probably just as many born with one, and its presence is nothing to become alarmed over. The molera in a Chihuahua will occur on the top of the head and may vary in shape and size when present.

Unfortunately, many lay people (and some Veterinarians not familiar with the Chihuahua) have tried to link the mere presence of a molera with the condition known as hydrocephalus. This has caused many new comers to the breed serious concern and undo worry. The truth is that a domed head with a molera present does not predispose the Chihuahua to this condition.

Along with the observations of devoted breeders over the years, there is adequate medical evidence to support this statement:

* In "Diseases of the Brain"(1989), Green & Braund stated that many clinically normal toy breeds may have open fontanelles without associated hydrocephalus.

* Drs. Walters and Rivers, Veterinarians at the University of Minnesota, concluded that there did not appear to be any relationship between the presence or size of a fontanelle and the condition of hydrocephalus.

* Dr. Alexander de Lahunta of Cornell University in New York, one of the top neurologist in this country, stated that it would be wrong to conclude that any opening is abnormal.

While it would be impossible to list all the medical documentation in this paper, these few included here are perfectly clear: the presence of a molera does not mean the dog has a medical problem.

The Chihuahua is a little dog! They belong in the house, at their owner's side, returning all the love they deserve to receive. With or without a molera, the healthy Chihuahua that is loved and given proper Veterinary care will live well into its teens as an irresistible member of the family.


The presence of a molera in a chihuahua DOES NOT make the dog any more or less susceptible to brain injury, seizures or hydrocephalus.

The molera should not usually be any larger than the size of your thumb print, and there should be no swelling, bulging or throbbing. Check carefully on the sides of the head for normal bone there as well; make sure there is no more then one molera, on the top of the head only, as more than a single molera is not normal.

Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and is not normal for any breed, nor is it curable. Hydrocephalus is also known as "water on the brain" or "hydro". When fluid accumulates in the brain, it compresses the brain against the skull. A puppy can be born with this disorder, or it can be caused by a brain infection or head injury later in life. Chihuahuas born with "hydro" do not generally live more than a few months, and they do not grow normally, often staying extremely tiny.

Signs of hydro include wide-set or protruding eyeballs (often with a lot of "white" showing at the corners), blindness, abnormal behavior, walking in circles, slowness (mental and physical), seizures, abnormally slow growth and lack of coordination.

Concerns about chihuahua moleras and/or hydro should be addressed to a licensed veterinarian. Be aware, however, that many veterinarians not familiar with chihuahuas have WRONGLY told owners that thier puppy is unhealthy and/or hydrocephalic just because of the presence of a normal molera. Diagnosis is based on the signs in conjunction with techniques to image the brain. In dogs with a molera, ultrasound can be performed by scanning through the molera to detect the excessive accumulation of fluid within the brain.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for hydrocephalus. Mild cases can be treated with steroids and diuretics to reduce pressure, or with a surgically inserted shunt to divert fluid from the brain to the abdomen.

Hypoglycemia symptoms and treatment

Hypoglycemia is a sudden fall in the concentration of glucose in the blood below normal levels. The body uses glucose as its primary energy source. The brain, for example, is completely dependent upon glucose to function. The liver is responsible for manufacturing glucose and for storing it in a usable form, for release into the blood stream as needed. Muscle tissues store some of the important materials used in this process

Hypoglycemia Must Be Treated

Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia, which is brought on by fasting, is common in Toy dog breeds, such as Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, Pomeranian and other Toy dog breeds, and usually seen in puppies 5 to 16 weeks of age. Stress, low body temperature, poor nutrition, sudden change in feed, water and schedule patterns, infections, and premature birth may precipitate the onset of hypoglycemia. Some puppies, bred exclusively for tiny size ("teacup Yorkies", "teacup Chihuahua"), are even more predisposed to Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia since insufficient muscle mass may make it difficult for the body to store the glucose and keep its blood sugar properly regulated.

Most common clinical signs of hypoglycemia are drowsiness, shivering, collapsing, disorientation, seizures, listlessness, depression, muscle weakness and tremors. Lee Weston, author of the article about Hypoglycemia (Pomeranian Club of Canada) says that "the entire sequence of clinical signs is not always seen, so close observation of your pet and knowing when your dog is going into a distressed state can mean the difference between life and death of your dog. Immediate treatment by a veterinarian is imperative, as recurrence of, or prolonged attacks, can cause permanent damage to the brain."

It has been proven experimentally that eight hours fasting in a Yorkshire terrier puppy can result in marked variation of blood glucose, showing both hypo- and hyperglycaemia.

Frequent feeding of a high-energy, protein-rich diet to both mother and puppies may prevent toy-breed puppies from developing hypoglycemia and may help them to overcome periods with a decreased intake of energy.

Puppies and dogs can develop severe hypoglycemia after consuming sugar-free gum sweetened with the sugar-alcohol xylitol. In humans, xylitol has little to no effect on plasma insulin or glucose levels, but in dogs xylitol is a strong promoter of insulin release and can cause severe hypoglycemia with collapse and seizures. With the increased appearance of xylitol-sweetened products in the US, xylitol toxicosis in dogs may become more common. Sometimes, a dog will outgrow this condition.

Hypoglycemia in Adult Dogs and Cats

1. A common cause of hypoglycemia in dogs is a functional islet cell tumor of the pancreas (insulinoma). While a wide variety of breeds may be affected, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Collies, Boxers, Fox Terriers, and most Toy breeds may have a higher incidence than other breeds. Insulinomas occur less frequently in cats.

2. Hypoglycemia can result from excessive insulin administration to animals with diabetes mellitus, and cats may be at greater risk of insulin overdose than dogs, especially if the cats are obese and receiving insulin doses > 6 U/injection, administered once or twice daily.

3. Hypoglycemia in highly nervous hunting dogs is also well recognized. Attacks are characterized by apparent disorientation, weakness and generalized seizures. Recovery is rapid; however the affected animal's hunting ability is compromised. Frequent feedings with protein-rich foods and/or candy bars may prevent the attacks. The cause has not been determined.

In adult dogs, hypoglycemia may also occur with severe Addison's Disease (failure of the adrenal gland to produce the necessary hormones), liver disease (e.g., impaired glucose production and glycogen storage), sepsis, and as a complication of pregnancy accompanied by ketonuria (the presence of ketones in the urine, a dangerous feature of severe and uncontrolled diabetes).


1. US National Labrary of Medicine

2. Pomeranian Club of Canada

3. Clinical Neurology in Small Animals - Localization, Diagnosis and Treatment, Braund K.G. (Ed.)




Patellar Luxation - Kneecap Dislocation

Patellar Luxation is a common congenital (animals are born with this disease) health condition in small dog breeds such as miniature and toy poodle, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier, Pekingese and other breeds of dogs and cats. Patellar Luxation affects both knees in 50% of all diagnosed cases.

The patellar or kneecap is a small bone buried in the tendon of the muscles of the thigh. The tendon is a band of tough, inelastic tissue that connects a muscle with its bony attachement. With this condition, the kneecap may slip out of the tendon and then slip back. Patellar luxation is graded 1 to 4 based on the severity of the defect, 1 being occasional mild lameness. As the disease progresses in duration and severity, this lameness becomes more frequent and eventually becomes continuous. In young puppies with severe patellar luxation, the rear legs often present a "bow-legged" appearance that worsens with growth.

Surgical correction of patellar luxation grades 1, 2, or 3 results generally in a successful clinical outcome, whereas surgical correction of grade 4 patellar luxations may not be as effective in young dogs.

When the luxation is left alone, it causes deformity and disorder in the growth of the affected limb. In severe cases, the limb may cease to function or cause other degenerative joint diseases (DJD) such as osteoarthritis. Early surgical correction is therefore essential, but the owners are not able to detect the disorder at an early age and surgical intervention in most cases will take place after 6 months of age.

It is still unclear what exactly causes this orthopedic problem. Possible causes include: hip dysplasia, deviation of muscles and bones to which patellar attaches, etc.

A study of 1,679 puppies sold in pet stores, conducted over a 2-year period (1987 and 1988), found that over 7% of 6- to 18-week-old puppies had congenital patellar luxation and other defects (heart murmurs, reproductive organs abnormalities, umbilical hernia etc.



National Library of Medicine

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