Preventing heart disease in chihuahuas

Preventing heart disease in chihuahuas

How common is heart disease in chihuahuas?

Heart disease in chihuahuas is common, they can suffer from a condition called mitral valve disease, also known as chronic valvular disease. This can affect several small dog breeds like dachshunds and toy poodles.

There is a further increase in this disease amongst dogs that have been deliberately bred to be miniature sometimes referred to as teacups. Read more about teacups health here.

Mitral valve disease is when the valve that separates the left ventricle of the heart from the left atrium starts to degenerate and allows blood to leak back into the left atrium.

Larger dogs may suffer with dilated cardiomyopathy, this disease weakens the heart and makes it less efficient at pumping blood around the body. Because it’s working harder than normal it will make the heart larger.

The first sign that your chihuahua has a heart condition could be a tell-tale murmur, a vet would be able to pick up the irregular heartbeat during a routine exam. If your chihuahua was going in for any kind of surgery your vet is likely to check their heart before deciding if he can have a GA (general anaesthetic)

Heart disease can eventually lead to heart failure which is when the heart finds it difficult to meet the bodies demands.

These symptoms could include:

Fatigue /fainting or collapse

Rapid panting/breathing after exercise or play.


Weight loss or gain

Swelling of the abdomen

Blueness of the gums.

What causes heart disease in chihuahuas

Heart disease can be something your chihuahua is born with (congenital), or it could be something that develops over time.

According the Healthy Pets Mercola there is now a blood test your vet can do to see if your dog is at risk of developing heart disease.

The test is called a proBNP test. BNP = B-type Natriuretic Peptide.

The proBNP is a blood test that measures how much peptide hormone, released by the heart, is in circulation in your pet’s body. This hormone is only released when the heart is pushed beyond its capacity.

There is no actual cure for heart disease in chihuahuas, but there are medications that can slow its progress. If your chihuahua is diagnosed with this condition, he will be carefully monitored by your vet. You may be sent to see a specialist. With proper monitoring your chihuahua can still have a long, happy life. You may just need to make some changes to your lifestyle.

How to stop heart disease developing

Like any long-term condition prevention is always better than cure. Obviously, if your chihuahua has been born with a heart murmur it can’t be helped and must be managed but there are steps you can take to prevent heart disease developing in the first place.

Keep your chihuahua at a healthy weight. If your chihuahua is a bit tubby then plan to reduce his weight slowly. Read what to do if your chihuahua is overweight here.

Make sure your chihuahua has a healthy diet that has a variety of fresh veg, proteins and healthy fats. Avoid dry food if you can as it contains a lot or carbohydrates that turn into sugar. Here is some more info about carbohydrates and dog food.

Get plenty of exercise. Chihuahuas need a good run and plenty of exercise, a young male chihuahua could easily need two good walks a day. It also affects their behaviour if they are under exercised. Read should I let my chihuahua off lead.

Avoid smoking or vaping around your dog. Like people, dogs can be affected by second hand smoking.

Keep their teeth clean. There is a clear statistical link between tooth decay and heart disease in dogs. Chihuahuas are prone to tooth decay because their teeth are small and close together and because their temperament doesn’t always make teeth cleaning easy. If you have a puppy introduce teeth cleaning straight away so they are used to it. Read 9 things to do with your puppy from the off.

Are you managing heart disease for your chihuahua. We would love your feedback. Please leave comments below.

12 thoughts on “Preventing heart disease in chihuahuas

  1. Chrissy

    My chi passed away from heart disease a few months ago, he was 13 years old, I am heartbroken and miss him with all my heart. All i can say is that I urge anyone with a chi that has a heart murmur to stay on top of it and have regular vet visits so they can prescribe meds and keep an eye on it in the case that it worsens with age like what happened to my baby boy shorty. RIP Shorty boy miss & love you so much!!<3

    • Louise Kirby Post author

      Hello there, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. thank you for taking the time to share your advice on the thread. Sending you hugs and love.

  2. steve mcmillan

    I am wracked with guilt. My partner and I have just lost our Chi boy, aged six. We knew nothing of heart disease in the breed. The first thing I noticed was that he was breathing shallowly and quickly about six weeks ago, other than that he had vomited a couple of times, but was playing and seemed happy. I don’t live with her and only see him on weekends but I urged my partner to take him for a check-up. She passed it off as anxiety and told me this was what the vet had said in a phone call (which I am dubious about). I saw him the last weekend and he was still breathing quickly but again seemed bright. He was found dead in his cage six days later. I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that my partner could have taken him to the vets weeks earlier and I blame myself for not being strong enough with her. I wondered if it was too late by this point and if that is the case I would feel much better. The alternative is that my partner let him die needlessly. I cannot see a vet, knowing the problems Chihuahuas have, would pass it off as anxiety. MY boy doted on me and me him and I trusted her to do the best for him. I am now in a situation where I don’t know whether I can be with someone like that. Please put my mind at rest.

    • Louise Kirby Post author

      Hi there,

      I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your chihuahua. Obviously i’m not a vet but my feeling it would have been very hard for an owner to spot and understand. At the moment it is very difficult to actually get in and see a vet and often telephone consultations are the first contact. The fact that your chi died so quickly tells me that the heart disease, if that is what it was, must have been very far advanced and there was probably not much that could have been done. You have been the best owner your chihuahua could have asked for. When our dogs pass away it’s heartbreaking but I always feel that they wish us to find a place in our lives to give another dog the love and attention you gave them. Good luck and best wishes. Lousie

  3. Sarah Turner

    My chihuaha died this morning aged 8. I was not aware of any heart problem. He was trying to be sick last week. I thought it was something he ate. Then on Sunday night he was lying on my bed and I thought he was going to be sick again. He was panting. I took him to vet Monday. He had no tempreture seemed quite bright. They listened to his heart and said possibly a stage 3 or 4 heart murmur. So they booked him in for a heart scan for this coming Monday. The last few nights have been the worst panting. Wandering about. I woke up at 2.30 am today he was sat by my wardrobe just looking at me. I picked him up cradled him in my arms. Blood and bubbles started coming out his nose, and a pool of watery blood ran down my arm. I laid him on the floor. He took some last large intakes of breath and was dead by 2.40 am. To say I’m shocked at how quickly it happend from noticing he wasn’t quite himself to death was about 2 to 3 days. Pets can’t talk saddly. I’m full of tremendous guilt that he suffered. I should have pressed the vet for a more urgent appointment. But everywhere has a back log.

  4. Nette Lee

    I was also unaware of heart problems in chihuahuas. I lost my COCO this past Sunday. Everything happened so quickly. I noticed Friday evening when I got home from work that he was somewhat lethargic and not his energetic self. He was also not eating much. I thought maybe he had an upset stomach. I also noticed that his back legs appeared to be weak and he was having a hard time moving around. I called the vet and was getting ready to take him in the next morning as I was very concerned. I found him lying down unresponsive the next morning and it was here breaking. I am overwhelmed with guilt. I also feel like at this point I am not sure what they could have done. It all happened so quickly, he all of a sudden stopped eating, drinking water and seemed so tired. He was also breathing really fast as well. I wish there was something that I could have done sooner. This has been very heart breaking for me. I wish I would have been more aware of this condition. He was almost 10 years old, I wish I had continued regular routine screenings for my COCO. I miss him so much already, I didn’t realize how much it hurts to lose a beloved pet.

    • Louise Kirby Post author

      I am so sorry for your loss. Please don’t feel guilty, you gave your chihuahua the best life possible and he was lucky to have you. Coco would want you to find some space in your heart to give your love and kindness to another chi chi who is just out there waiting for you. Good luck and sending hugs.

  5. Madalin

    My little guy Bean was diagnosed in 2018 with heart disease. Now a few years later, he’s on more medications than I am! But I would do anything for him, he’s my soulmate.
    I do have a question though, Bean has always been extremely underweight and seems like he can never gain weight with any diet. He’s been like that since I got him about 9 years ago. Could this be a heart thing causing it I wonder? Thanks!

    • Louise Kirby Post author

      If you are worried about his heart see what your vet says. If he is a complete dog, i.e has his testicles, he is more likely to be on the lean side. You should be able to see some rib definition but there should be a little fat covering. Again if you are worried chat to the vet. Feed him a good quality wet or semi moist food, the amount depends on his life stage and if he is neutered. But for an adult, neutered dog a good rule of thumb would be around 3-4 % of his body weight. Feed food with a good protein offering.

  6. BellaScout

    I lost both my chis within the last 12 months. I am totally devastated and worried that the diet I gave them may have caused the valve disease they both had. I have read that DCM May be caused from boutique and homemade diets. They did not have dcm but they did have enlarged hearts from valve disease. I will never know for sure what caused this. One dog was 15 1/2 and the other only 12.
    They actually died from lymphoma again both had same disease. This all came about after taking care of my sister who was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. Half a dozen other people including her husband all came down with PC within a short period of time, living on the same block. I stayed with her a few weeks until she passed along with my two dogs. A month later my dog was hit with lymphoma and died with 2 months. Nothing would stop it. We tried everything. Two months after he passed my other dog came down with the same cancer. She just died in November. This is all so strange and either highly coincidental or related in some way. I have so many questions.

  7. Louise Kirby Post author

    Gosh you have been through the wringer. I’m so sorry for your loss. You are correct, some homemade diets can be a problem as they lack the correct supplements. If you are feeding homemade food it is essential to add the correct calcium, taurin and brewers yeast. Taurin is an essential amino acid that does contribute to heart function. It is also important to make sure all diets have a good quality protein offering. Dogs need good quality fat and protein to thrive and their food should offer above 60% protein. Many dry foods are well below this and pack the food with fillers and carbs which just turn to sugar. There are some posts on the blog about it and it is something I am going to focus on more. When you feel able the right dog will come to you. Sending hugs. X

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