Like most other small breeds, Chihuahuas typically live pretty long lives. Different authorities cite different average lifespans, but the general consensus seems to be that Chihuahuas live between 15 and 20 years.
Of course, not all Chihuahuas live this long, and some may be able to surpass 20 years of age.
A lot of factors determine the length of time any dog will live, including Chihuahuas. We’ll dig into some of these and explain a few ways to help ensure your pup lives as long as possible below.
Oldest Individual Chihuahua
While most Chihuahuas pass away before completing their teenage years, there are a few reports of individuals exceeding the two-decade mark. Unfortunately, very few (if any) of these reports are backed by credible documentation.
For example, if you Google around a bit, you’ll see repeated references to a Chihuahua named “Megabyte,” who reportedly lived to be 20 years and 265 days old. However, we can’t find any verifiable reports or documentation to back the claim up (please let us know if you are aware of any primary sources relating to this pup).
There are a few other reports of 20-year-old Chihuahuas floating around the internet, but as with Megabyte, we can’t find anything to back up these claims. There are even a few reports of 30-year-old Chihuahuas, but it’s difficult to accept such claims on their face.
Nevertheless, Chihuahuas can almost certainly reach 20 years of age, and a few may exceed this a bit. It’s just hard to prove that they can do so.
Common Chihuahua Health Problems
Like all other breeds, Chihuahuas are at greater risk of some health problems than others. We’ll discuss a few of the most notable examples below, but understand that these aren’t the only health concerns that threaten the breed – they’re just a few of the most common.
Note that while some of these ailments can directly impact your pup’s lifespan, others are unlikely to lead to death. They may, however, drastically decrease your pet’s quality of life, so they still demand attention.
Chihuahuas are especially susceptible to dental problems – partly because they live such long lives. Dental problems can wreck a dog’s quality of life, so it is important to take good care of your pup’s teeth and visit your vet at the first sign of problems.
And while dental problems are rarely considered life-threatening, they can cause long-term changes to your dog’s eating habits, which may very well lead to more serious health problems. Additionally, periodontal disease has been linked to heart problems, which further illustrates the importance of good oral health.
In part because they are so small, Chihuahuas are very susceptible to weight gain and obesity. It doesn’t take many extra calories to cause a surplus when you are dealing with such tiny pups, so it is important to watch your pet’s waistline and ensure she stays fit and trim.
Obesity not only imparts extra stress on a dog’s joints, it can lead to serious health problems involving the heart, liver, and kidneys, among other things. But, if you feed your Chihuahua a sensible diet, allow her to get plenty of exercise and limit the high-calorie treats, she’ll probably stay within the recommended weight range without difficulty.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a dog’s joints wears down over time. This leads to bone-on-bone contact, which is both damaging and extremely painful. Arthritis can occur for a variety of reasons, but obesity and repetitive activities (particularly those of a high-impact nature) are two of the most important.
Osteoarthritis doesn’t directly contribute to a shortened lifespan, but it can make dogs depressed (which reduces their quality of life and potentially shortens it) and it can make exercise difficult.
Consult your vet if you suspect that your pooch is suffering from osteoarthritis, as there are a number of treatment options available, including over-the-counter supplements, such as glucosamine.
Hypoglycemia occurs when a dog’s blood sugar remains at lower-than-usual levels. Hypoglycemia can cause a number of different symptoms, some of which are quite subtle.
For example, many dogs with hypoglycemia are sluggish or sleep excessive amounts, and they frequently shake or tremble. Just be sure to visit your vet regularly to catch the disease as soon as possible.
With prompt veterinary assistance, hypoglycemia isn’t a terribly problematic condition, but it can be fatal without treatment. It is usually a good idea for owners of hypoglycemic dogs to keep a bit of honey on hand, to help treat dangerously low blood sugar levels.
Patellar luxation is a fancy term for a medical condition that occurs when the bones that form the knee joint fail to align properly. This is a common medical problem for many small breeds, and although it is typically present at birth, it often fails to trigger symptoms for some time.
Patellar luxation can alter your dog’s gait and cause limping. If left untreated, it can also cause arthritis. There are a number of different treatments for patellar luxation, which vary depending on the severity of the disease.
Like most of the other appendage-related health problems described here, patellar luxation is unlikely to shorten your dog’s lifespan, but it will reduce the quality of her life.
Hydrocephalus is a condition in which spinal fluid builds up in the brain. The condition is typically present from birth and is characterized by a swollen head. There isn’t a cure available for the condition, and many Chihuahuas born with the condition die before they reach 4 months of age.
However, mild cases may be treatable with steroids, and moderate cases may partially resolve if a shunt is installed to divert some of the fluid away from the brain.
Chihuahuas are susceptible to a number of different heart conditions, which can drastically shorten their lifespans. Murmurs – disturbances or abnormalities in the flow of blood through the heart — are one of the most commonly observed problems. While murmurs are not necessarily a big problem, they can indicate the presence of other, more serious issues of the heart.
Fortunately, most heart murmurs are treatable. Some will require your dog to take medications, while others will require special diets. Some heart problems may require your dog to take it easy, which can, unfortunately, limit the amount of exercise she gets.
A variety of small breeds are susceptible to a condition called a collapsed trachea. A frightening event to see, a collapsed trachea makes it difficult for a dog to inhale or lead to strange coughing sounds. The condition is thought to be inherited in some cases, but it is also thought to occur in conjunction with other respiratory conditions or obesity.
Surgery is occasionally necessary to treat collapsed tracheas, particularly in severe cases. However, some dogs respond to medications and manage to live somewhat-normal lives with the condition.
Helping to Ensure Your Chihuahua Lives a Long, Healthy Life
While you’ll be unable to protect your Chihuahua from all of the health threats out there, there are several which you can avoid or at least limit their severity. Just try to implement the following practices to give your Chihuahua the best chance at a long, healthy life.
Have Your Puppy Vaccinated
No matter what breed of puppy you’ve introduced to your family, you’ll want to ensure she receives all of the vaccinations that your vet recommends. Many of the diseases that vaccines prevent – including parvo, rabies, and distemper, among others – can be fatal.
Additionally, be sure to keep your dog’s vaccines up to date as she matures. She’ll need regular boosters to help ensure her immune system remains ready to fight off any diseases.
Fit Your Chihuahua With a Collar and ID Tag
All dogs should have a collar and ID tag – even if they never leave your yard. Escapes are always a possibility, and you’ll want to have the best chances of being reunited with your pooch if she scampers off.
An ID tag doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your pup back, but it certainly improves the odds that she’ll be returned safely.
In fact, many owners take things a step further and have their vet install a small microchip under their pet’s skin. This chip can be read by vets (and many shelters), who will then be able to access your contact information and get your canine back into your arms.
You may even want to add a GPS tracker to your pet’s collar, so you can always see exactly where she is on your phone.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
A lot of Chihuahua owners allow their pet to walk around unleashed, but this is a very bad idea.
Even if your pup normally walks right by your side, strange things happen, and dogs can get into plenty of trouble in a hurry. All it takes is one passing car, dog, bicyclist or squirrel to launch your dog into a frenzy, which may result in serious injury or worse.
Accordingly, you’ll always want to have your pup securely leashed anytime you aren’t in an enclosed space. But don’t worry – you don’t have to settle for a boring leash.
There are plenty of fantastic and fashionable harnesses and leashes available that’ll let you show off your dog’s personality and fabulousness.
Visit Your Vet Often
One of the most important things you can do to provide your Chihuahua with a long and healthy life is to catch and treat medical problems as soon as possible. And the best way to do this is by visiting your vet regularly.
Your vet is trained to notice the subtle signs of illness that you’re likely to miss, which will help ensure that your dog gets the treatment she needs.
Additionally, by visiting your vet regularly, he or she will become more familiar with your dog, which will increase the odds of noticing minor symptoms and signs.
Feed Your Dog a Nutritious Food
A healthy diet is important for all dogs, and your Chihuahua is no exception. But, you need to pick a good food that is well-suited for your Chihuahua and may help address some of the breed-specific issues from which they often suffer.
Just check out our guide to the best foods for Chihuahuas and pick the one that sounds best for your specific pet’s needs.
Make Sure Your Pup Gets Plenty of Exercise
Chihuahuas may be cute little companions who are content to sit in your lap for hours at a time, but they still need plenty of exercise. They’ll get a bit of exercise during their daily walks, but you should make sure Chihuahuas get about 30 minutes of running, jumping and playing each day too.
Just remember that Chihuahuas can get chilly very quickly thanks to their small size, so be sure to throw a coat or sweater on your pup when the weather is cold. And you may also want to put a pair of booties on her when going for walks in wet weather – cold paws can lead to a cold core body temperature.
As you can see, adding a Chihuahua to your family is certainly a long-term commitment! But given their endearing personalities and loving natures, this is definitely a good thing. Just be sure to keep an eye out for the medical conditions mentioned above, embrace the steps provided for extending their lifespan, and you’ll give your companion a great chance to live for 15 years or more.
Do you have a particularly old Chihuahua? Or do you know of a reliable account of one? We’d love to hear all about it. Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
April 3, 2023
I have a Chihuahua Jack who will be 18 this year. Hoping to steal the world book! Luckily baby is AKC certified so I have all records to proves this cool dudes DOB. Cheers to our boy Jack Jack
April 3, 2023
That’s fantastic, Kimberly! Best of luck and keep us posted!
February 23, 2023
I rescued my chihuahua Biggie Smalls 17 almost 18 years ago. He’s living his best life on heart meds and meds for his digestion and loosing his vision but he’s happy and loving life. Also, I’ve documented his entire life. I have every vet receipt the adoption paperwork and thousands of photos. Hope my story can give hope to fellow chihuahua parents. Yesterday I adopted another chihuahua that is 2.5 months and I’ve named her Lola.
February 23, 2023
Biggie Smalls certainly has lived a long life, Mary!
Thanks for sharing. Give him and Lola some scritches for us.
November 20, 2022
Thank you for all this info for my adorable Chi-Weenie.
November 21, 2022
Glad you found the article helpful, Carole!
August 17, 2021
My chi is 19 years old he still doing well.
August 18, 2021
That’s great, Margaret! We hope you have many more years together.
July 29, 2021
My Chihuahua is 20 yrs old. I would recommend proper dental care for all pets but my old gal has no teeth left and her life quality is very good. I invite you to meet LOLLIPOP. She’s amazing at a mere 2 pounds 6 ounces she has shrunk half her original body weight. She is fragile but still thinks she’s tough. Last week she was diagnosed with Cataracts in her left eye. She is on eye drops but she hates them and I hate giving them to her but I do it regardless. She has a follow up appointment next week. Worst case she will have to lose that eye. I love her like crazy, she is my baby #growingoldwithlollipop
July 29, 2021
Thanks for sharing, Shelley! We hope things go well with the vet and that you and Lollipop have many more years together.
July 27, 2021
I have a chihuahua we had him when he was born.Now he has 1 more year of life before he is going to die.
April 8, 2021
we have a chihuahua called Chico. we got him when he was 7 and have had him for 11 years. is there such a thing called sundown syndrome. Altimers at night. Chico is Joe dog but he sits with me during the day. AT night he attacks me especially when i get close to Joe. Chico only has 3 teeth so I put up with it .
April 8, 2021
Hey there, Patricia.
Wow! So, Chico is 18? That’s great, but we’re sorry he’s struggling as of late.
Sundowners is a condition dogs sometimes suffer from. Check out that link to learn more about it and see a few ways to keep Chico comfy.
Thanks for sharing!
December 21, 2020
My Chihuahua will be 17 years old in May 2021. She has lost some teeth, doesn’t hear very good and is getting the white “film” over her eyes…..but she still enjoys a bit of playing on the mornings. We’ve always watched her diet so she’s not overweight, which I’m sure is helping her maintain such a good quality of life, despite her age.
July 29, 2020
I can confirm our families two smooth haired chihuahua’s lived until nineteen and twenty. We had two smooth haired chihuahua’s Chicco & Dinky. Chicco was tinny in cream and Dinky was larger standard size in tan. Chicco lived till he was mineteen and Dinky was teenty. Vet felt Dinky was pinning for Chicco who died first. Two beautiful boys. Some twenty five years later I decided I wanted a dog so had a longhaired chihuahua P’nut (Peanut) who is a beautiful beige and cream dog with the loveliest nature so gentle and friendly and he’ll go to anyone. He’s just seven and the love of my life and I hope and pray I have him until he’s at least twenty. So yes in my experience chihuahua’s do live to a good age.
July 30, 2020
Thanks for sharing, Regina! So glad your pups lived such long lives.
January 20, 2020
I want to know how can you become a volunteering at THE K9 of mine.Please email me to let me know at [email protected]. thankyou Nara Keo
September 25, 2019
I really found your article most informative, thank you. I’ve had my black shorthair deer/applehead for five years now. I purchased Pedro for my mother who passed away so I adopted him by default. He is the spitting image of his father Lalo in attitude. He is the toughest, biggest bad#*+ around these five acres. He has chased off a wild hog, three deer, a German Shepherd, plenty of people, and the occasional squirrel or raccoon. But when it comes ten p.m. our Pedro is ready for bed no matter what. He’s something else and a handful.. My concern is his diet, he has grown up with two cats and will only eat dry cat food. I’ve tried many dry dog foods and he wants nothing to do with it. I know he isn’t getting what he needs, please advise. Also, my cats are aging and I run a lot (taking him when I can), should I get him a Chihuahua companion?
September 7, 2019
We rescued our Chihuahua 2 years ago and his weight got to 8lbs. Our vet said keep weight under 8. So we were in the mountains and all of a sudden we threw a stick in the lake” still on leash” and Deno walked right in and got that stick. Couldn’t keep him out of the water. We got back to Vegas bought a above ground pool, put a life jacket on him and when I took him for a check up, vet weighs him comes back says Deno looks great. I told her Deno loves to swim. I showed her the video and she was surprised.
June 15, 2020
We have 2 rescue Chihuahua mixes. And one like getting in water too. The other, would like to never get in it again, though I wonder if it has something to do with her being found abandoned at the river.
September 6, 2019
My little girl is 16, it makes me feel so nervous and anxious about her age getting up there I love her so much I’ve had her sense she was 6 weeks old my tiny Minni
August 2, 2019
My lil chihuahua name papito was killed someone in the park pick him up and took him someone and bet him and 2/3 days later he die and I had him forever he is my everything he is my life and I love him so much and I dont no what I am going to do with out my baby and so I sit with out him crying and asking god why him
R.I.P. PAPITO MY MOMMY LOVE U
August 3, 2019
That’s horrible, Elizabeth! We’re so sorry to hear about your loss.
March 15, 2019
I love dogs and I adore them sooo much
June 15, 2018
What can I do about dry flakey skin on my 14 yr old chihuahua. Is this common for this breed?
June 15, 2020
Dog food is often associated with skin irritations. If it’s bad or if your dog is scratching a lot, it could be skin infection, and you should see a vet because it will only get worse. Unsure which one? Try switching to a different or higher quality dog food. Check out DogFoodAdvisor.com on the internet. They are an objective evaluator of dog food, ingredients, and overall nutrition. Oddly enough, my vet said chicken is a common allergen for dogs, so if your current dog food has chicken, perhaps try one formulated for small breeds without chicken, or that has it much lower on the ingredient list.