Ownership of the Chihuahua, the world’s smallest dog breed, is rising sharply. Yet, according to the largest ever study of Chihuahuas treated in first opinion veterinary practices, the breed is particularly prone to dental disease, obesity, and retained baby teeth, which can be detrimental to their health.
The research, led by the VetCompass program at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London—and published earlier this month in BMC Veterinary Research—revealed that Chihuahua ownership in the UK has increased over five-fold in the past decade from one per cent of all puppies born in 2005 to 5.4 per cent in 2016.
However, this sharp rise brings potential problems associated with impulse purchasing, low-welfare breeding at the huge scale to meet consumer demand, legal and illegal importation of puppies, high levels of relinquishment to rescue charities, and treating puppies as disposable commodities.
The most common health concerns of Chihuahuas were dental disease, obesity, and retained baby teeth. Compared with other dogs, Chihuahuas were more prone to aggression, slipping kneecap, and retained testicles.
“Chihuahuas are an old breed but the recent craze for them can cause some real welfare issues for this tiny dog,” Dr Dan O’Neill said.
“There is increasing evidence that unscrupulous breeders and dealers both inside and outside the UK are cashing in on this trend by making a lot of money but with little regard for the welfare of these puppies and breeding bitches.
“Owning a dog is a long-term commitment and I would urge anyone thinking about buying a Chihuahua to really consider and prioritise the needs of the dog before making any final purchasing decisions.”