top of page

Symptoms and signs of a sick chihuahua: know when to see a veterinarian!

Your chihuahua can not explain its symptoms, so it’s your responsibility to keep him or her healthy and to determine whether or not they need veterinary care.  chihuahuas tend to want to hide their illness, so it is up to you to check your chihuahua for abnormalities.

not knowing if your chihuahua is feeling sick or how to care for your chihuahua when they are sick can be VERY stressful!  this article will help you determine if your chihuahua is showing signs and symptoms of being ill and when you need to take them to see a veterinarian.

be prepared: questions your veterinarian may ask

your veterinarian may ask additional questions to help localize or diagnose the problem.  it may help to be prepared to answer some of the following questions:

  • how long have you owned your chihuahua?

  • where did you get your chihuahua (adoption center, breeder, previous stray)?

  • what other type of pets do you have?

  • what is the age of your chihuahua?

  • has your chihuahua experienced any previous illnesses?

  • is your chihuahua currently under treatment for an illness or disease?

  • what preventative medications is your chihuahua currently taking?

  • does your chihuahua receive consistent flea treatment?

  • are any other pets ill?

  • has he/she been vaccinated? if so, when? which vaccines?

  • have there been any recent pet acquisitions?

  • have there been any recent activities such as boarding, grooming, trip to the park?

  • is a majority of your chihuahua’s time spent indoors or outdoors?

  • have there been any recent changes in diet or eating habits?

  • what brand of food, how much and how frequently does your chihuahua eat?

  • what type of table scraps are offered and how frequently?

  • what type of treats are offered and how frequently?

  • how much water does your chihuahua typically drink per day?

  • have there been any recent changes in water consumption?

  • have you noticed any coughing or sneezing?

  • have you noticed any lumps or bumps on your chihuahua?

  • is your chihuahua urinating normally?

  • Is your dog having normal bowel movements?

  • when is the last time he/she had a bowel movement?

  • have you noticed any recent weight loss or weight gain?


after answering some general questions, more specific questions need to be answered.  a brief cursory exam of your chihuahua at home can help you determine the answers.  these questions are also commonly asked when chihuahua owners are seeking help over the phone.

be prepared to answer the following questions, depending on the problem with your chihuahua:

regarding the eyes

  • have you noticed an increase or decrease in tear production?

  • do the eyes appear cloudy or red?

  • have you noticed any discharge coming from the eyes?

  • do the eyes appear bloodshot?

  • are the pupils the same size in both eyes?

  • have you noticed your chihuahua rubbing or pawing at the eyes?

  • is your chihuahua squinting?

  • do the eyes appear to be sunken or excessively protruding?

regarding the ears

  • do you notice any swelling or discharge from the ears?

  • are the ears drooping when they normally stand erect?

  • are the ears red and inflamed?

  • do you notice any odor to the ears?

  • is your chihuahua rubbing or pawing at the ears?

  • have you noticed a lot of head shaking?

  • have you noticed any pain or crying when you rub or scratch your chihuahua’s ears?

regarding the nose

  • have you noticed any congestion, sneezing or coughing?

  • have you noticed any blood coming from the nose?

  • have you noticed any nasal discharge?

regarding the mouth

  • have you noticed any swelling of the lips or tongue?

  • have you noticed any bleeding from the mouth?

  • what color are the gums – tissue just above the teeth?

looking inside the mouth

  • are there any foreign objects such as bones or sticks stuck on the roof of the mouth or around the teeth?

  • is your chihuahua able to open and close the mouth normally?

  • is there any pain involved in opening or closing the mouth?

  • have you noticed any excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth?

  • is your chihuahua able swallow food normally?

regarding the chest

  • is your chihuahua experiencing any difficulty breathing?

  • have you noticed excessive panting?

  • is there any pain when the chest area is petted?

  • have you noticed any recent coughing?

  • is the heartbeat steady and consistent?

  • what is the heart rate?

place your hand or your ear on the left side of your chihuahua’s chest, just behind the elbow.  you should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute.

regarding the abdomen/stomach area

  • has your chihuahua been having any diarrhea or vomiting?

  • is your chihuahua able to eat and drink normally?

  • does the abdomen/stomach area appear swollen or distended?

  • does your chihuahua appear to be in pain when the stomach area is petted?

  • is your chihuahua known to chew on non-food items such as clothing, towels, rocks, or other items?

regarding the urinary and reproductive systems

  • have you noticed any difference in urinating?

  • does your chihuahua seem to strain to urinate or cry in pain?

  • does your chihuahua repeatedly try to urinate with no urine produced?

  • is there any blood in the urine?

  • how frequently does your chihuahua urinate?

  • is your female chihuahua spayed?

  • has your female ever had puppies? if so, at what age?

  • if your female is not spayed, when was her last heat cycle and was she bred?

  • do you notice any discharge from the vaginal area?

  • is your male chihuahua neutered? if so, at what age?

  • do you notice any discharge from the penis?

  • if your chihuahua is not neutered, do you notice any swelling of the testicles?

  • have you noticed your chihuahua excessively licking or grooming the genital area?

regarding the musculoskeletal system – bones and joints

  • have you noticed any limping?

  • are any legs or joints swollen?

  • has your chihuahua been excessively licking at one area of his/her legs?

  • does your chihuahua show signs of pain when walking?

  • is your chihuahua able to walk normally?

  • does your chihuahua walk on his/her knuckles?

  • does your chihuahua drag any legs when walking?

  • does your chihuahua seem to be in pain when petting him or her?

by supplying the answers these questions, your veterinarian will be in a much better position to help your chihuahua.  additional tests may be necessary to find out what the problem is, but the answers to the above questions can greatly narrow the area of concern.

Patellar luxation: what you should know about this knee problem in chihuahuas

The chihuahua breed is known to have the knee condition known as patellar luxation and is one of the most common health problems associated with chihuahuas.   the knee is a complex structure consisting of muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones.  these components must align properly and interact harmoniously in order to function properly.  three bones are included in the knee: the femur, the tibia, and the patella (kneecap).


the lower front portion of the femur (thigh bone) in a normal chihuahua has two bony ridges that form a fairly deep groove in which the patella is supposed to slide up and down.  these structures limit the patella’s movement to one restricted place, and in doing so, control the activity of the quadriceps muscle.  the entire system is constantly lubricated by joint fluid.  it works so that there is total freedom of motion between the structures.


diagram of the anatomy of a normal knee cap

patellar luxation (or trick knee, subluxation of patella, or floating patella), occurs when the patella, or kneecap, dislocates or moves out of its normal location.

when the patella is luxated in a chihuahua, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not prominent, and a too-shallow groove is created.  in a chihuahua with shallow grooves, the patella will luxate (jump out of the groove) sideways, especially toward the inside.  this can causes the leg to ‘lock up’ with the foot held off the ground.


chihuahua with a luxating patella on both hind legs
(like teaka the famous chihuahua has as seen in the video above)

when the patella luxates from the groove of the femur, it usually cannot return to its normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length.  this is why a chihuahua may be forced to hold their leg up for a few minutes after this occurs because the muscles are contracted, the patella is luxated from its correct position and the joint is held in a flexed or bent position.  pain is caused by the knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur.

patellar luxation in chihuahuas can have both genetic causes, or environmental causes (luxation due to injury).  if it appears at an early age, it’s likely to be due to genetic causes.  environmental sources of injury can include too much jumping (i.e. jumping off furniture), or too much stress on the patella and surrounding ligaments (ie. when a chihuahua dances on its rear legs).  this is especially dangerous when a chihuahua is a puppy in stages of early development.

adult chihuahuas can also damage their kneecap by a forceful hit or blow.  with age, looseness might also be recognized, especially in chihuahuas that are overweight as there is constant pressure on surrounding ligaments.

symptoms of patellar luxation includes skipping, yelping when in pain, holding the rear leg up for a short time as they walk or run or rear-leg weakness.  if left uncorrected, the condition will result in serious wear of the patellar ridges where the groove becomes very shallow resulting in both arthritis and in the more serious cases, permanent crippling.

if your chihuahua does have patellar luxation, see your veterinarian for options to help alleviate symptoms.  the use of supplements such as glucosamine may be helpful and it’s recommended that you keep your chihuahua lean and exercised to keep the leg muscles strong.  some people have also anecdotally reported that CBD products have helped their dog with pain and anxiety.

depending on how severe the condition is, it may or may not require surgery.  if required, your chihuahua will recover quickly with complete recovery in as early as thirty days.  breeding chihuahuas with this disorder is not recommended.  chihuahuas affected still make for wonderful pets and those that do require surgery usually lead perfectly normal lives without any restrictions on activity.

Tracheal collapse in chihuahuas: a serious chihuahua respiratory health problem

The concerns related to their chihuahua puppies or dogs experiencing breathing problems, more specifically frequent gagging, coughing and chihuahua wheezing and seizures that result in gasping for air.  this article may be helpful to you if your chihuahua has been affected by obstructed breathing or symptoms thereof.

chihuahuas are known to suffer from problems related to their soft palate or a collapsed trachea.  it is a health concern that is characteristic of the chihuahua breed and is also commonly referred to as “reverse sneezing”.


tracheal collapse is a condition in which the trachea partially collapses or flattens out as your chihuahua is trying to breath.  this leads irritation and results in the gagging, coughing and wheezing symptoms mentioned above.


the trachea is the airway from the larnyx to the main bronchi in the lungs.  it looks somewhat similar to that of a vacuum hose and has many stiff rings with flexible tissue connecting them.

sometimes these rings are not stiff enough and are unable to hold the trachea open against the air pressure that’s created during respiration.  the portion of the trachea that is not stiff is then sucked into the airway causing partial obstruction making it difficult for your chihuahua to breath.


factors that can lead to tracheal collapse in your chihuahua are obesity, irritants, allergies, repeated heart conditions, bacterial infections, viruses and second-hand cigarette smoke.

tracheal collapse can also be brought on by damage done from leash pulling, especially if you use a collar to walk your chihuahua.  it is recommended that you switch to a trachea friendly dog harness to prevent any pushing or pulling against the trachea.

if any of these symptoms develop, take your chihuahua to the vet right away. this is an important chihuahua health concern. if they are not treated, damage can occur in the lungs, larynx, nasal passages and soft palate regions. your veterinarian will provide you with the right medications and you will be able to further prevent symptoms.

a happy and healthy chihuahua is the goal, and a sick chihuahua must be properly cared for.  famous chihuahua welcomes your comments and shared experiences.

Wheezing/Seizure-Like Episodes

Many chihuahuas owners do not realize that chihuahuas are bred to be small. Breeders create them and as much as we love them, cross breeding can have effects. Trachea issues are common in chihuahuas and can usually be identified by episodes of wheezing. Their trachea collapses on them and the wheezing is usually their immediate response. However, it is ineffective. Instead take firm hold of your Chihuahua, calm them and then plug their noses. This will force them to swallow and breath through their mouths. This is the only remedy so please make a mental note of this.

Reverse sneezing in chihuahuas: what chihuahua owners need to know

what is reverse sneezing?

reverse sneezing is quite common in chihuahuas.  it is also known as mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, and pharyngeal gag reflex.  it is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate that is triggered by an irritation to the throat, pharynx, or laryngeal area.

in a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose.  in a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly and noisily in through the nose.  you might think your chihuahua is choking or having a respiratory attack as the sound that occurs with reverse sneezing is sudden and startling.  don’t panic, your chihuahua will be okay. 

however, if you are concerned that your chihuahua has a health problem, you can review these common signs and symptoms of a sick chihuahua.

typically, a chihuahua will stand still with its elbows spread apart, head extended and eyes bulging as it makes a loud snorting sound that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

what are common triggers of reverse sneezing?

  • excitement

  • exercise intolerance

  • a collar or harness that’s too tight

  • pulling on the leash

  • environmental irritants like pollen, perfume, household cleaners, room sprays

  • a sudden change in temperature

how you can help

it’s important to remain calm when your chihuahua is having an episode or they may become anxious.  you can try massaging your chihuahua’s throat or covering its nostrils briefly as this will cause it to swallow which can help clear the irritation and stop the sneezing.

if the episode prolongs, you can try putting your hand in its mouth and pressing on its tongue as this will cause it to open its mouth wider and help move air through its nose.

when to call the vet

rarely does reverse sneezing require treatment, but if you notice episodes are becoming more frequent, are longer in duration or there’s blood or yellow discharge coming from the nose, make an appointment with your vet to rule out things like a collapsing trachea, kennel cough, nasal cancer, nasal mites, tumors, or a respiratory infection.

kennel cough in chihuahuas: prevention, signs, symptoms and treatment

kennel cough in a chihuahua  it should clear itself within 14 days as long as he is kept quiet and rests.

how do you know if your chihuahua has kennel cough?  what are the signs of sick chihuahua with kennel cough and what can you do to treat and prevent it?  here’s what you need to know about kennel cough in chihuahuas.

enjoying adventurous trips to the dog park with our chihuahuas can be fun, but it’s also a time to be extra cautious as it is where dogs contract kennel cough most often.  trachea respiratory problems in chihuahuas is common, so it’s especially important to know how to prevent, identify, and treat kennel cough.

although kennel cough is generally not a serious respiratory condition and usually goes away after a few weeks, it is often the case that the cough masks a more serious issue like pneumonia, thus, it’s important to properly care for your chihuahua to avoid more serious problems from developing.  the key is to carefully monitor your chihuahua for symptoms so that you can get them checked out as soon as possible.


there is no cure for kennel cough, so prevention is key.  if you plan to board your chihuahua while you travel, enter them into a dog show, or enroll them into a dog obedience school where there will be a lot of dogs around, it’s a good idea to vaccinate your chihuahua against kennel cough.

kennel cough is highly contagious and is thought to be caused by bacteria called bordatella.  generally, kennel cough vaccines are not necessary for chihuahuas that stay indoors, so there is greater risk if your chihuahua is highly socialized with other dogs.

there are two kinds of kennel cough vaccines you can get to treat and prevent your chihuahua.  if you require instant prevention, ask your vet about the intranasal vaccine. it is inhaled through the nose and is best for immediate dog contact situations. t he injectable vaccine is the other kind of kennel cough vaccines and can be given to your chihuahua as early as 4 weeks of age.

what are the signs and symptoms of kennel cough?

look for episodes of high pitched, “honk-like” coughing that lasts for at least 2 weeks, some chihuahuas may also vomit up large amounts of phlegm.  in order to rid their system of the disease, your chihuahua needs to cough up phlegm, so don’t give your chihuahua any cough suppressants.

other than coughing, your little chihuahua will usually not behave sick when it has kennel cough, so limit its activity to avoid triggering intense coughing episodes.  if you have other dogs in the house, it is likely they will get kennel cough too.

try and avoid this by washing your hands after contact with each dog and keeping them separate from each other.  most important, keep your chihuahua home through the duration of their illness and be sure to give them your loving so they know they are going to be okay.

for more information on kennel cough, visit

bottom of page