Popular Choice of Pup by Many
Chihuahua dogs became a pop culture icon when the kitschy Taco Bell commercials — featuring a personable, wide-eyed Chihuahua with a male voiceover — hit the airwaves in 1997.
The catchphrase, “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” put the Chihuahua breed on the map, and even though toy figures of the dog were selling out by popular demand, Taco Bell stopped airing the TV commercials in 2000. No matter, the Chihuahua breed has continued to remain one of the top 10 most popular dogs nationwide.
There has been a great deal of speculation about the origins of the Chihuahua breed. European paintings dating back as early as 1482 depict small dogs resembling the Chihuahua, including Botticelli’s famous Sistine Chapel fresco, “Scenes from the Life of Moses.”
While some historians believe the breed originated from Malta, a Mediterranean island, and traveled on trading ships from one port to another, others think the Chihuahua was brought to Mexico from China more than 200 years ago by wealthy Chinese merchants who had a knack for dwarfing animals.
One study of the Chihuahua’s DNA indicates the breed has links to the Old World and is therefore European; however, folklore and archeological finds point toward a Mexican origin. The popular theory is that the Chihuahua descended from the Techichi, a pet dog dating back to the Toltec civilization in Mexico in the ninth century.
The breed’s name comes from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where one such dog was reportedly found wandering through the ruins of Casa Grandes in 1850. The breed continued to flourish in the area and then throughout America, where the Chihuahua was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904.
Contrary to popular belief, all Chihuahuas are not alike. In fact, the breed has more varieties than most dog breeds.
Chihuahuas are notoriously needy dogs, constantly craving attention and affection. They enjoy being petted and — due in part to their hyperactive personality — like to exercise.
In addition to being protective of their families and having a territorial streak, Chihuahuas can be easily provoked to attack. Families with small children should make a committed effort to routinely train their Chihuahuas to help curb a poor temperament. The breed is eager to please, one attribute which has helped make Chihuahua a very popular family pet.
Contrary to popular belief, all Chihuahuas are not alike. In fact, the breed has more varieties than most breeds, particularly when it comes to height.
The height range for Chihuahuas is known to vary from 6 to 15 inches. Both English and American breed standards state that a Chihuahua must not weigh more than 6 pounds, although companion Chihuahuas (versus show dogs) often weigh more than 10 pounds.
While some breeders advertise “miniature” or “teacup” Chihuahuas, these are not recognized by breed standards worldwide. The Chihuahua also has a wide range of fur colors, including: fawn, red, cream, chocolate, blue, black, brindle, orange, tricolor, dark brown and a combination of colors that attribute to a spotted coat.
Chihuahua Health Concerns
While these may be common medical conditions, your Chihuahua will not necessarily develop any of those listed below.
- Dental problems such as retained deciduous teeth (baby teeth), missing teeth and periodontal disease is common in Chihuahuas.
- Congenital hydrocephalus is caused by birth defects of the brain's drainage system and is not uncommon in the breed. Mild hydrocephalus, manifested by a dome shaped skull with a pronounced “soft spot,” does not appear to cause serious clinical problems in many dogs. Severe hydrocephalus may cause depression, loss of coordinated movement, eye abnormalities, vision problems, seizures, and skull enlargement.
- Congenital patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset hereditary condition with gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
- Cryptorchidism occurs when one or both of the dog’s testicles have not descended from the abdomen into the scrotum. Retained testicles are not functional and have a high risk of developing tumors as the dog ages. Early castration is advised for cryptorchidism.
- Cystinuria is a hereditary metabolic disorder that causes formation of cystine crystals (crystals formed out of amino acid called cystine) in the urine which may lead to stone formations in kidneys and bladder. These stones result in irritation and infection of the urinary tract. Surgical removal of stones and dietary modification is recommended for dogs with this condition.
- Hemophilia is a genetically inherited bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of certain blood clotting factors. Signs include excessive bleeding from the gums, when getting adult teeth, and areas of bleeding under the skin from minor trauma.
- Mitral valve dysplasia occurs when there is a malformation of the left heart valves. This condition may eventually lead to congestive heart failure.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.
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