Our canine best friends range in size from tiny to titanic. Meet the smallest of all dogs, the Chihuahua
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
If you love Chihuahuas, you might know that May 14 is International Chihuahua Appreciation Day. While Chihuahuas might be tiny in size, they are huge in personality. It’s one of the things that makes them popular companions for everyone from celebs to grandmas to long-distance truckers. As the author of the third edition of “Chihuahuas for Dummies” and owner of the late, great, much-missed Chihuahua-mix Gemma, I thought it would be fun this week to share some fascinating facts about these widely loved dogs.
Modern Chihuahuas are largely descended from Eurasian dogs introduced to the Americas between the 15th and 20th centuries, but about 4% of their ancestry is from pre-Columbian dogs.
Chihuahuas were “discovered” in the late 19th century by American visitors to Mexico, some of whom brought the little dogs home as souvenirs. They’re named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The first Chihuahua was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904.
Chihuahuas have made a name for themselves in film and TV, with Moonie starring in “Legally Blonde” and “Legally Blonde 2,” and Gidget grabbing attention as the Taco Bell spokesdog.
A Chihuahua named MacKenzie was named American Humane’s 2020 American Hero Dog for helping to raise young animals with birth defects.
Neither variety of Chihuahua -- smooth coat or long coat -- has ever won Best in Show at Westminster (yet), but a smooth-coated Chihuahua named Ch. Quachitah For Your Eyes Only took the Toy Group in 1984.
Typical Chihuahuas weigh between 3 and 6 pounds, but some are larger or smaller. Oversize Chihuahuas are sturdier and can make better pets for families with kids than tiny and more fragile dogs.
There’s no such thing as a “teacup” Chihuahua; that’s simply a marketing term used by breeders selling extra-tiny dogs.
Chihuahuas can have short or long coats, but they all have large, erect ears -- somewhat resembling satellite dishes -- that flare to the side. The large ears help them to dissipate heat.
In April, a 2-year-old Chihuahua named Pearl was named the world’s shortest dog by Guinness World Records. Pearl stands 3.59 inches at the shoulder -- shorter than a Popsicle stick -- and weighs just over a pound.
Chihuahuas come in a rainbow of colors and patterns. To name just a few, they can be any solid color, including fawn, peach, sable, blue, black or white; spotted or splashed with white; tricolor; or black and tan or chocolate and tan. None of the colors or patterns are considered more desirable than another.
Both shorthaired and longhaired Chihuahuas shed, but you might be surprised to learn that the shorthaired variety sheds more. Smooth-coated Chihuahuas are always growing new hairs and shedding old ones, while long-coated ones shed seasonally -- a few thorough brushings are called for during shedding season (usually spring and fall), then they don’t shed for a while. Both varieties should be brushed at least weekly to distribute skin oils and, in longhairs, to prevent development of mats.
Chihuahuas are considered “natural” dogs, meaning their coats don’t need to be trimmed, shaved, stripped or plucked; their ears aren’t cropped; and their tails aren’t docked.
A Chihuahua adopted from a rescue group or shelter can’t compete in conformation dog shows, but they can participate in dog sports such as agility, nose work, obedience, rally and more, and they are keen competitors in whatever they do.
Chihuahuas don’t shiver because they’re scared, but because they’re sensitive to cold. Get them a coat or sweater!
Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot on their skull known as a molera, or fontanel. Usually it closes by the time they’re 6 months old, but sometimes it remains throughout life.
Chihuahuas can have long life spans, living well into their teens. One, named TobyKeith, is 22 years old.
Q: My kid wants a red-eared slider. What kind of environmental setup are we looking at?
A: I’m so happy you asked, because often these attractive and popular turtles don’t get an adequate habitat. Here’s what you need to know.
They are aquatic. You can start them out in a large indoor aquarium, but as they grow bigger, it’s best if they have a real or artificial pond with water deep enough that they can swim around as well as an area where they can get out of the water to sun themselves.
Whether aquarium or pond, the turtle’s habitat must have good filtration. Otherwise, waste products will build up, causing excess ammonia and salmonella and leading to infections and intestinal problems. It’s important to remove feces and leftover food daily to keep the tank or pond clean.
Even without the presence of a male, female turtles lay eggs. They need an area with dirt or sand where they can dig a hole, lay eggs and bury them to protect them from predators.
Red-eared sliders are omnivores, enjoying both plants and animal protein. Don’t rely solely on pellets, but offer a variety of food to help ensure their diet is balanced. They like to snack on plants such as water hyacinths and elodia, as well as earthworms, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms. Other plant items to offer include carrot tops, collard greens, dandelion greens (untreated by herbicides or pesticides), endive, green beans and parsley. Avoid keeping turtles and koi in the same pond, or you may find that the koi become part of the turtle diet.
Turtles brumate in winter. That means they’re less active, but unlike hibernation, they will occasionally seek out food or air. Outdoor turtles will appreciate being able to burrow into the bottom of their pond and dream of spring. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Flat faces, more
-- Got a short-faced dog such as a French bulldog (current tops in popularity), bulldog or pug? They are cute, no doubt, but they’re also more susceptible to certain health conditions, including having trouble breathing, spinal disease and eye injuries. To help them stay healthy, keep them slim and trim (ask your veterinarian to show you how to do hands-on body condition scoring); prevent them from overheating, especially now with summer approaching; and avoid strenuous activity. Limit walks and active outdoor play to cool mornings and after sundown.
-- It’s time to update your pet emergency and first-aid kit. The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City recommends having the following items on hand: a 7-day supply of food in an airtight container; 3-day supply of water; bowls, liquid dish soap, manual can opener; 2-week supply of medication with dosage and administration instructions; microchip and license information, vaccination history, emergency contact list (including your veterinarian), photo of your pet, preferably with you, all in a waterproof bag; carrier or crate with your contact info attached to it; extra collar and harness with ID and leash; portable litter box and litter; a favorite toy and bed; and first-aid materials such as antibiotic ointment, adhesive tape, scissors, nonstick bandaging; absorbent gauze pads, saline solution, instant cold pack, towels and a blanket, digital thermometer, styptic powder to stop bleeding and muzzle.
-- Traveling with a cat? Always confirm that your hotel accepts cats -- even if you’ve been there previously with a cat -- and how many cats are permitted per room. Before letting your cat out of the carrier, inspect the room for hazards such as open windows or doors, vents and grates where they could hide, ability to crawl under the bed (some places block the bottom of the bed), electrical cords or window blind cords. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.