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How Long Do Chihuahuas Live? (Average Lifespan Data & Facts)

Nicole Cosgrove

The Chihuahua is one of the smallest dog breeds in the world. Their small size coupled with their big personalities has made them one of the most popular, well-known dog breeds in the United States and across the globe.

When committing to the lifelong companionship of a dog, it is essential to be aware of your chosen breed’s lifespan. It is generally common knowledge that small breeds have longer lifespans than larger breeds, but exactly how long do Chihuahuas live?

We’ve taken a closer look into not only their average lifespan but the factors that determine it.

divider-pawWhat’s the Average Lifespan of a Chihuahua?

The average lifespan of a Chihuahua is 12 to 14 years of age but they have been known to live longer. One of the longest-lived dogs on record was a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years, 265 days. So, what exactly causes some Chihuahuas to live much longer than others? As with any living being, many different factors play a role in longevity.

Chihuahua Nibble on Blankets
Image Credit: IAKIMCHUKIAROSLAV, Shutterstock

Why Do Some Chihuahuas Live Longer Than Others?

1. Nutrition

A Chihuahua’s diet and nutrition will have a direct impact on their longevity. Chihuahuas should be fed a well-balanced, high-quality dog food that is formulated for small breeds. You will want to avoid any unnecessary fillers, preservatives, or artificial flavors within their dog goods. The quantity and frequency of feedings should be based on their size, age, and activity level.

Backed up by studies completed by the AVMA, it is highly recommended that you avoid overfeeding dog food and dog treats and never offer any human foods such as leftover table scraps. This can lead to obesity, toxicosis, and many other health conditions that can shorten their lifespan. It is essential to discuss your Chihuahua’s nutrition goals directly with your veterinarian.

chihuahua drinking water
Image Credit: Didgeman, Pixabay

2. Environment and Conditions

Chihuahuas are very sensitive to temperatures and harsh weather conditions, particularly the cold. Chihuahuas should be kept as indoor dogs and should be monitored when let outside in any harsh weather conditions. Never leave your dog unattended in a hot car, this can prove fatal very quickly.

Exposure to environmental toxins can cause serious health issues that can shorten their lifespan. Exposure can come through absorption or ingestion, so it is best to keep their access to chemicals restricted and ensure they are living in a clean environment.

A Chihuahua can easily fall victim to trauma. Their small size puts them at risk of being dropped, trapped in furniture, falling from heights, and being hit by cars. It’s very important to keep their fragility in mind and ensure your home and yard are safe from any risks. Keeping them in a secure, fenced-in yard and not allowing them to run loose or escape the home will help prevent these kinds of accidents.


3. Enclosure Size/Living Quarters/Housing

Living in cramped, uncomfortable conditions can play a role in lifespan. If your Chihuahua spends most of its time in a cage, it is likely it will have high levels of stress. Stress alone can lead to a series of health conditions. Thankfully, their small size does make them ideal pets for smaller houses and apartment living.


4. Size

There is a well-known correlation between a dog’s size and lifespan. Smaller dogs tend to have much longer lifespans than their larger counterparts. Studies have concluded thus far that large dogs age more quickly than smaller dogs, thus causing them to die younger. In this case, Chihuahuas do have their small size on their side.

chihuahua lying on a couch
Image Credit: Svitlana Sandberg, Shutterstock

5. Sex

Gender-related longevity has not been well researched in canines as it has in humans. It has been speculated that females may live slightly longer than males, however, the real evidence of extended longevity lies in the studies of altered dogs versus unaltered dogs. Spaying and neutering help stave off significant health issues later in life such as infections and certain cancers.


6. Genes

Genetics plays a huge role in growth, health, and longevity. Chihuahuas, like any breed, are prone to some genetic health conditions that can affect their lifespan, such as:

  • Luxating Patella
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Tracheal Collapse
  • Dental Disease
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Obesity
  • Bladder and Kidney Stones
  • Heart Conditions
  • Eye Problems

Related Read: 25 Chihuahua Mixes


7. Breeding History

Reputable breeders have ethical practices and work to eliminate any genetic health conditions from being passed down through the generations. A reputable Chihuahua breeder will have their dog’s health examined thoroughly and provide health guarantees.

Rescue Chihuahuas or those from backyard breeders or puppy mills may be more likely to have health issues related to genetic conditions due to unethical breeding practices that are seen among purebred dogs. This does not make them any less worthy of a loving home and wonderful life.

male chihuahua standing on grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

8. Healthcare

Routine Health Exams

Chihuahuas should have regular wellness exams with a veterinarian to ensure their overall health and well-being. Most regular checkups take place annually or semi-annually, at your veterinarian’s preference. Visiting the veterinarian for a regular checkup or to address any health concerns plays a role in lifespan.

Vaccinations

Chihuahuas require vaccinations and follow-up booster shots to protect against several potentially life-threatening diseases. There are vaccinations for parvovirus, leptospirosis, kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica), canine influenza, distemper, and rabies. It’s important to keep them up to date on these immunizations

Parasite Prevention

While parasites such as fleas can be an itchy nuisance, they can also cause some health issues as well if not eliminated. Internal parasites such as heartworms and intestinal worms can have even more damaging effects on any dog’s lifespan. It’s important to keep them up to date on parasite prevention.

Spaying/Neutering

Chihuahuas that are spayed and neutered are more likely to live longer than those that remain unaltered. While surgery does have its risks, they pale in comparison to the health conditions that can affect them later in life if left intact. Spaying and neutering help prevent infections and certain types of cancers. In addition, it also helps with behavioral issues.

Dental Care

Most small breeds are predisposed to dental disease and Chihuahua’s are no exception. Their tiny little mouths breed a lot of bacteria which results in tartar buildup and will turn to dental disease if proper care is not sought. Dental disease can result in severe health complications if not treated. Prevention is key to keeping your Chihuahua at optimal dental health.

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The 4 Life Stages of a Chihuahua

Puppy

The puppy stage begins at birth and lasts approximately 6 to 12 months. Since Chihuahua’s are a small breed, they age more slowly than larger breeds that will exit puppyhood sooner.

While most puppies will remain with their mother from 8 to 12 weeks, once they are placed in their new home, it is time to learn. Training from puppyhood is key to having a well-rounded companion. This is a very fun and playful stage that can be destructive due to teething, so keep that in mind.

chihuahua puppy_Manuela Federspiel_Pixabay
Image Credit: Manuela Federspiel, Pixabay

Adolescent

The adolescent stage will begin between 6 and 12 months of age and will last up to the age of 2. They are typically at their adult size at this time. They will begin to reach sexual maturity between 6 and 9 months. This is typically when behavioral changes will start to happen due to the related hormones.

Talk to your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your Chihuahua to help prevent the unwanted behaviors that come with adolescence.

Adult

Adulthood is reached between 18 months and 2 years of age but is fully grown by 1 year. In the adult stage, they begin to calm down from adolescence and have come into their own.

Senior

A Chihuahua is considered a senior between the age of 7 and 10 years depending on your veterinarian declaration. Since Chihuahua’s are longer-lived, they can take up to 10 years to be considered such.

At this stage, you will begin noticing graying around the muzzle, a slowing in their activity level, the need for more sleep, and the surfacing of age-related health conditions.

chihuahua dog_HG-Fotografie_Pixabay
Image Credit: HG-Fotografie, Pixabay

How To Tell Your Chihuahua’s Age

Unless you acquired your Chihuahua from a breeder or an individual that is well aware of their history, you will have to estimate their age. Even if you are completely unaware of your dog’s birthdate, you can look at their teeth, eyes, coat, and behavior to get an idea of their approximate age.

While each dog is different, you can typically tell a senior by observing graying around the muzzle and visible eye conditions. The teeth are your best bet for guessing age, here are some guidelines below:

  • 8 Weeks of Age By this time, your Chihuahua will have all baby teeth in.
  • 7 Months of Age All permanent teeth will have come in by 7 months of age and will appear white and clean.
  • 1-2 Years Teeth will become duller by 1 to 2 years of age and the back teeth may even show some yellowing.
  • 3-5 Years All teeth will likely have some buildup of tartar and signs of wear by 3 to 5 years of age.
  • 5-10 Years – Providing no regular teeth cleaning has taken place throughout their life, teeth will be much more worn and even begin to show signs of dental disease between 5 and 10 years of age.
  • 10-15 Years By the senior years of 10 to 15 years or more, teeth will be worn and show signs of severe tartar buildup and possible dental disease. Since dental issues are more common in small dogs, some teeth may even be missing.

divider-pawConclusion

While Chihuahua’s have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, they have been known to live up to 20 years. Many factors determine the lifespan of a Chihuahua. Accidents and health issues can happen unexpectedly at any time during a Chihuahua’s life and may be completely out of our control.

Owners need to be aware of all the factors that can play a role in their Chihuahua’s longevity and do their part in providing their Chihuahua the longest, happiest life possible.

You might also be interested in: 150+ Chihuahua Dog Names


Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.