Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Breed of the Week: Chihuahua


I see this breed quite frequently. In fact, many of the new puppies from pet stores are chihuahuas. They are small, so no matter where you live you can fit one into your home.

There are long-haired and short-haired varieties. They come in various colors too.

They have been known to be "nippy" and they often become very attached to one person. They don't HAVE to be this way though. As with all animals, genetics AND environment dictate personality. Socializing your dog and not allowing (or reinforcing!) inappropriate behaviors, no matter the breed, will help make your pet a wonderful companion.

My best friend (an excellent veterinary technician) has a few and she tells me that "you can't treat a chihuahua like a real dog." She's referring to how we handle them when they come into the veterinary hospital. I call her the chihuahua whisperer. Her point is if you go slow with them and be calm and quiet, you'll get a lot farther. I can say that I've done this and found it does help. 

As with all small/toy breed dogs, housebreaking can be challenging. 

Now medically speaking, what do I see with these guys most often:

1.  Luxating patellas - basically the kneecap will slide toward the inside of the leg. This is a congenital defect and these dogs should NOT be bred. If it's not causing a problem and depending on the grade we determine it to be, they can live fine with it. In some cases, surgical correction is recommended.  This happens because the groove the patella sits in is not deep enough or the ligaments holding the patella in place are lax.

2. Open fontanelle/molera - this is very common and I would venture to say it's how you know it's a "real chihuahua" :) It's a small opening on the top of the head where the skull bones haven't fused yet.  Most of the time, this does close over the course of weeks to months. DURING that time, it's important to avoid head trauma as the brain is not protected in that area. There are cases where it never closes. 

3. Obesity - unfortunately, many people start giving these dogs  their own food or over feeding treats because they are "so cute." Well 1 lb of  body weight on a 10lb chihuahua is like 30 lbs on US. 

4. Hypoglycemia - as is the case with any small puppy, they need to eat small meals throughout the day. If they go off food for a meal or two, they are at risk of having their blood sugar drop to the point of causing seizures.  It's always good for a new puppy owner to keep some Karo syrup on hand.

5. C-sections - for those who think it would be a good idea to prepared for the cost and stress involved! Just spay or neuter your dog please!

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