Skip to content

How to Help Your Chihuahua Live 18 Years

May 10, 2010
Stately old chihuahua with tan face and grey around his neck ruff

Is there a treat involved in this office visit?

We Want Our Chihuahuas to Live Forever!

Chihuahuas are not only lap dogs and purse ninjas, they are confidantes and best friends. We want them to stick around a long time.

Chihuahuas Live Longer Than Big Dogs

Usually, a small dog like a Chihuahua will have an expected lifespan of 12-14 years. The oldest Chihuahua Doc Truli has treated was 20 years old when he passed away from heart disease.

2 Best Things to do to Extend Your Chihuahua’s Life

You can do two specific things to help your Chihuahua live a long, healthy life:

You want to keep your chihuahua thin and brush the teeth once a day to extend that lifespan to 14-18 years!

Keep Your Chihuahua Thin!

Brush Your Chihuahua’s Teeth Every Day!

Keep Your Chihuahua Thin

If your Chi stays on the thin side, research shows he or she will live two to four years longer than expected and old age diseases like arthritis will wait two to four years before they become an issue.

How to Judge If Your Chihuahua is the Right Weight

You can’t go by breed charts or breed standards in books.

You want to look at and feel for three things:

First: RIBS

Place your open hands on either side of your chi’s chest at the same time. Can you feel ribs? If no, your chi is fat. If yes, but you cannot see them during a bath, that’s a good weight. If you can feel and see ribs, your chi is probably too skinny.

Second: PEANUT

Look at the “peanut view” of your chihuahua. Look down at your chihuahua’s back. Does your chi’s waist go in just in front of the hips? Like an hour-glass shape? Then your chi will live longer. If there is no waistline, your chi is fat.


Look at your chihuahua from the side. Does the tummy tuck up under the hips? It should. If the belly just looks straight across, or bulges out and down, your chihuahua will not live as long as he or she should.

“Each extra pound of fat is one mile (2.2 km) of extra blood vessels for the heart to pump blood through,” says Doc Truli.

Brush Chihuahua Teeth Daily

Daily tooth brushing adds 2-4 years of healthy life to the chihuahua expected lifespan!

Chihuahuas are one of the top ten breeds predisposed to periodontal disease. To prevent progressive periodontal disease, every day, at the same time, brush those choppers!

See How to Get Your Chihuahua to Behave

Here’s a link to a fabulous training video showing a chihuahua learning to relax for nail trimming. It works just as well for tooth brushing, or other maintenance.

Read Secrets and Tips: How to Brush Your Chihuahua’s Teeth

Check out VirtuaVet’s How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth for specific instructions.

Of you’re already behind on the toothbrushing (Chihuahua is over 6 months old), be sure there is not already dental calculus and tartar before you begin brushing. Your chihuahua may experience pain if there is dental disease and you brush. That pain would cause a bad memory.

Warning: If your little Chihuahua already has tartar, or you are unsure, see your veterinarian for help and a deep dental cleaning under careful chihuahua anesthesia.

57 Comments leave one →
  1. Tammy permalink
    May 18, 2017 2:05 pm

    I have a 15 year old female Chihuahua that I’ve had since she was 1.She’s almost blind, she bumps into furniture but can make out large items that move but not well. When she’s outside she gets lost and I’ve got to go lead her back home. She recently has been walking back in forth in an area. She eats great but just can’t gain no weight. She’s started not sleeping much day or night. I’m trying to figure out why she’s doing the walking thing. Any suggestions would be great appreciated.Tam

  2. Maria alma permalink
    April 25, 2017 11:15 pm

    my little girl just died an hour ago. We rescued her and her son from Peggy Adams. I think she was 11 years old. She had seizures that were very mild for years maybe 1 every other month. Sunday she had a Grand Mal seizure and never recovered. I am going to miss her she brought such joy to my life! Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all isn’t that what they say…still not easy I miss her already.

    • Tammy permalink
      May 23, 2017 12:32 pm

      oh Maria alma, I’m so sorry u lost ur precious baby. My little Pookie, stays so confused where her bed, dishes, potty pads etc.. are? She’s blind and slowly losing her hearing.

  3. Ashley permalink
    March 14, 2017 7:43 pm

    My chihuahua, Buster, turned 20 Dec 25th 2016. I’ve had em since I was 7 ❤ never ever had em to the vet, but he has had no reason to go, I've kept em full of vitamins and healthy exercise his whole life. He's never once been sick or I'll in any way shape or form. He lost most of his teeth n can't hold his tongue n his mouth. His back legs give out every so often and if hes cold they won't work at all. I have to clear a path n the snow for him to b able to go off the steps to pee. He's recently started to not be able to hold his bladder. He will just stand wherever he's at and go. He ran off on valentine day this year (2017) and never returned until 5 days later when, thanks to facebook, a woman found him a mile away and got ahold of me. He was starving and his legs hurt but not a scratch on him. Is he getting 'senile' or n a stage of 'old timers' so to speak?

    • March 27, 2017 10:56 pm

      Dear Ashley,
      Hard to say. He obviously needs more adult supervision from humans than he did when he was younger. The symptoms you describe now fit the Chinese Medicine concept of Kidney Qi deficiency – it is a sign of aging. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can help warm, strengthen him and extend his healthy life. Perhaps you would like to find a local trained veterinarian at under the “references” section. It is a world-wide list of veterinarians trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks for sharing. It would be wonderful if every Chihuahua lived so long!
      Doc Truli

  4. Dean booso permalink
    October 21, 2016 2:56 pm

    My Chihuahua, Alex, just passed away from heart failure. He was running with his brother and barking at other dogs, his favorite thing to do, when he went down. Unfortunately for me, he was only 9 1/2 years old, but for Alex perhaps fortunate, as he had a bad heart murmur, and had been deteriorating. He was a true friend and great companion, and the loss is certainly painful. Many memories and many miles of walking in the woods. I’ll never forget the fast little spin he would take when he was excited. He had so much energy, I think he lived 20 years in his short life. But with love you have to except loss, and I will gladly bear the loss for the love of Alex.

  5. Charles permalink
    October 11, 2016 9:54 am

    My Chihuahua of 12 years pass away yesterday, his name was Boss, he was truly by best friend. He had been doing find, then all of a sudden he was having problem breathing Monday morning. I came home at Lunch to check on him and he had passed away.

    • October 28, 2016 9:54 am

      Dear Charles,
      I am so sorry to red about Boss’ sudden passing. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen that are nearly impossible to understand or accept. Your little Chi going so quickly and unexpectedly is one of those things that is so difficult to deal with.
      Doc Truli

  6. Brenda permalink
    June 12, 2016 4:35 pm

    Just got our first chihuahua. She is seven months old, still has her baby teeth, has a long, soft, black coat and is quite large for a chi, as is her father. She now lives with us, three Italian greyhounds and a large garden and we will look after her as if she is fine china whilst remembering that she is a dog, small, cute, beautiful but still a dog, not a baby. She needs respect along with a decent diet, exercise, love and proper veterinary care. Just hope we are up to the job. Thanks for all your support and advise, pity the north west area of England is so far away. If your ever in England, would like a cup of tea and to meet four amazing dogs, you know where we are ,in friendship.

  7. Jenny permalink
    May 29, 2016 10:51 pm

    We just had to put down our 12 year old male chi! Tecate was the light in our eyes and it’s been heart breaking without him…. He was truly the sweetest little dog in the world. We were very frustratied working with vets. ..His liver count was low and white count showed infection. Meds didn’t do anything for infection and his breathing took a turn for the worse. He was on steroids which help for a month but then he could sleep at night because he couldn’t breath. Still
    Do not know what was wrong… Maybe a tumor , cancer or palups. No idea;( it was hearth breaking watching him not able to sleep at night and he started to twitch.

    • July 1, 2016 10:13 pm

      Dear Jenny,

      So sorry to hear of your loss. 12 seconds is enough time to lose your heart to your dog, let alone 12 years! It can often be frustrating to find an answer to illness in a tiny Chihuahua. Tests can be expensive, invasive, stressful, sometimes open to interpretation. We all are doing the best we can do.

      Doc Truli

  8. Hovik permalink
    April 24, 2016 1:44 pm

    I lost my 12 year old Chihuahua 12 days ago. She died a sudden death five minutes after I got home and she greeted me as usual. I’m devastated and heart broken. I’m not sure when it will feel ok. Has anyone had same experience as me. She was passed out on her bed with tongue sticking out and her eyes were open, but she was unresponsive. Was my best friend always with me. Went through so much together now it’s all a memory.

  9. March 12, 2016 6:25 pm

    My chi, Gizmo, died March 9 after having a.ruptured gallbladder from a mucus seal. He would have been 12 in July. He was in horrific pain that Fentanyl barely controlled it. Only surgery would have helped and docs said he might not survive surgery. I miss him sooo much. He was my loyal companion, bodyguard, and the best cuddler. He was also very smart and loved to play fetch. I will forever remember him via memories and the hundreds of pics I took of him.

    • July 1, 2016 11:12 pm

      So sorry for your loss. And such a rare, unlucky thing to have a ruptured Gallbladder. Really just terrible.
      -Doc Truli

  10. Lawrence Dean Beldua permalink
    December 10, 2015 12:25 pm

    I had a chihuahua named Mia who died yesterday at the age of 8 years and 3 months. She was a survivor of parvovirus when she was 8 months old. She started to pass stones in her urine 6 months ago she had been taking rowatinex, with still on and off passing of stones. A week earlier we had her admiited at a local vet and she was discharged after 2 days. She was better for a while until 2 day after she started to become weak again passing stones with blood streaked urine. I hugged her that night and told her that i will bring her back to the vet. But she died that early dawn. I really regret not bringing her back to the vet earlier. If only i could turn back time. I really missed her so much. She was my loyal companion since i was in the med school. She was a spoiled brat then. Given her all the love in the world. My wife started to worry because she didnt saw me that depressed when Mia died. My parents were also depressed. I know it will take a while for me to accept Mia’s death. One of our happiest moment of our lives was having Mia in our family. Im still holding her toys at this moment. Do i have to buy a new chi? I got several breeds of dogs but she was apple of my eyes.

    • December 24, 2015 2:59 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your little Chi! How heart-breaking. Perhaps your heart will heal given time.

  11. Ychuchies permalink
    December 4, 2015 6:37 pm

    We decide to put our chihuahua to sleep yesterday, he was 18 1/2 yrs old we got him when he was 2 mos old , he could not heard he was almost total blind, 4 teeth left, he had arthritis and his back hind legs were giving out, and he had intestinal problems also, he had alot of amxiety, would cry alot if we left him alone for any length of time, he did not like the dark, this was our first dog, and I just wanted to say how painful it is to lose your friend and family, but I know that when we got him it was the perfect time for him and us, we thank God for those memories and friendship

    • December 4, 2015 8:19 pm

      Please accept my condolences on the passing of your Chihuahua friend.

      -Doc Truli

  12. touchet permalink
    October 17, 2015 1:45 am

    Mine is 17 and still kicking. Although she is starting to show her age. She is slightly senile and not so nice and playful any longer. She is quite cranky sometimes like an old lady. But she was always prissy like that. She also has osteoporosis, as her back is starting to hump. Poor thing, but she doesn’t seem to be in pain. They get constipated when they get old though. I have to give her fiber.

  13. Judi permalink
    June 3, 2015 1:25 pm

    My dear sweet little Chico passed away on March 11-2015 and crossed the “rainbow bridge” He would have been 14 n May 21-2015

    I miss him so

    I do have a pair of twins Bambi and Fawn who are 2 yars old

    • July 11, 2015 3:54 pm

      PLease accept my condolences on Chico’s passing. Losing a chihuahua friend is painful.

      -Doc Truli

    • LIsa permalink
      August 6, 2015 5:43 pm

      I’m very sorry for your loss. They are family members and it does take time to recover just like the death of anyone you love but you will recover. Eventually your sadness will be replaced with happy memories.

  14. Debra Gentry permalink
    March 18, 2015 5:10 am

    My chihuahua Lily is 11. She is doing great. Teeth are a big concern and unfortunately even if you brush you still need professional cleaning just like a human. Lily has been under five time for deep cleanings with no complications. You need to find a great vet you trust. I have been feeding her royal canine since she was a pup. It’s the one dog food she will eat dry. I must say dog food alone is not enough. She eats boiled chicken, veggies, yogurt and other healthy snaks in moderation. I also bathe her probably more than I should but she has the best coat and skin. I put a lot of effort in this little heartbeat at my feet but she is soooo worth it. My husband says she won the owner lottery. Debra in California

  15. mindy permalink
    March 14, 2015 7:52 pm

    hi, we had a friend who’s mom just died. she had a 14 year old chi who has no teeth and can’t even hold her tongue in her mouth. my friend is unable to have her where she lives so we said we would take her and try to find a home for her. i’m just wondering, she’s 14, no teeth and seems to be deaf and she doesn’t always seem like she’s potty trained. how long does she have? i’m worried that my 6 year old son will get too attached and then she’s going to die. i’m not really sure what to do. i cannot find anyone to take this dog, but i don’t want to do anything crazy. we love dogs, but also aren’t rich and can’t afford further vet treatment. we are really trying to do the right thing but feel stuck!!!

    • Mia permalink
      July 1, 2016 10:43 pm

      This is for mindy , you need to have a better heart than the way you are expressing your self for this poor little unconditional love . What if your son needed someone to take care of him and he ended up with family like the way you are talking about this baby our unconditional loves are just like our kids we never give up on them , and you should not give up on this poor little baby that will never hurt you , our unconditional loves only know how to give us love unconditional .!! Take care of the little baby because God will take care of you and your family when someone is good and loving to a innocent little loving unconditional love . Stop complaining and start showing the little baby love !!!!!!!! Mia

    • CARRIE permalink
      February 18, 2018 12:19 am


  16. Faith permalink
    March 7, 2015 6:24 am

    i just recently got a five year old chihuahua. She is a sweet, three-legged baby. Her name is pixie. Though, her breath is unbearably bad. I understand most dogs have bad breath, I’ve had over six dogs. But pixie’s is sooooo bad. She is really small teeth ( I think that’s normal though ) and can’t eat like hard dog food without struggle. We tried brushing her teeth but she freaked out. I can’t even afford a visit to the vet, so is there anything I can do?

    • July 11, 2015 4:53 pm

      Dear Faith,
      You cannot brush infected, loose Chihuahua teeth without hurting her. Do not do it! If you cannot afford a vet visit at all, then make her food as soft as you can.
      -Doc Truli

      • Patty permalink
        September 30, 2016 9:34 am

        We “adopted” Della at 5 years old into our forever home. When we got her, her breath was absolutely aweful. Turns out most of her teeth were infected. The Vet ended up pulling all but 3 teeth. She weighed a sickly 3 pounds when we got her. Her ribs showing, her eyes full of black crusty goop (due to teeth being infected) She also had signs of the infection in her liver due to letting this go for so long. Two months after her teeth surgery she was a totally different dog. Once her mouth was healed, we put her on a soft food only plan and at her two month checkup the Vet was happy to report, no infection in her mouth and she weighed close to 6 pounds. That poor baby must have been starving but was unable to eat due to a sore mouth. Here we are as we just celebrated Della’s 12th birthday. She has brought me more joy and love into this family then we have ever thought was imaginable. At the time the initial cost for her dental work was surprisingly high, but as I sit her cuddling with her thinking that one day she may not be with us, I would have paid ten times that amount to have these memories!

    • March 5, 2016 3:47 pm

      My chihuahua died last night.he was my deceased sisters dog..he hated me when she was alive..and he bonded to me after her death..I had him for almost 5 yrs.he was 14..I’m so depressed right now..can’t do anything but cry..His name was littlebit.he had a large heart.pressing on his trachea.tried him on lasix..he had seizures..I gave him oxygen for 6 hrs until the tank ran out and his body filled with fluids..just like the way my sister was Like her dying all over again. .

  17. lisa lewis permalink
    March 7, 2015 1:45 am

    got my long hair Chihuahua at 4 months she was a pretty coco color that’s what I named her she was full of energy until about 2 years ago she had a growth that dropped out of her vagina the vets didn’t know what it was we had it removed she was about 14 then during surgery her breathing stopped so they told me in the future she probally wouldn’t make it through any other surgeries growth never came back but she had fluid around her heart and lungs so she was on medication for that and heat meds her teeth the few she had were in bad shape three weeks ago I ran out of her meds and didn’t get them until 2 1/2 weeks later when we noticed her stomach was swollen got her meds right away within 4 days she stopped eating to her to the vet sat morning feb 28th 2015 they said she was in bad shape her stomach was full of fluids. I didn’t expect to here she was that bad off I told them I would take her home and if she got worse I would bring her back in a few days and put her down by 3pm that day she couldn’t hold her head up and her breathing was shallow the vet was closed by this time so I planned to take her first thing sun to be put down but she died at 3 30pm sat That was the worse thing I saw her suffer and there was nothing I could do her body kept jerking I feel so guilty for not paying more attention to her not seeing she was that sick I don’t think I will ever forget that day she was 16 her name was coco lewis

  18. Gretchen permalink
    February 14, 2015 8:29 pm

    My chi will bed 17 next month. She’s just slowly losing the feeling or whatnot in her hind legs. Her left leg went first, but she still responds in her right. She wants to eat and drink though, so just helping her though this last phase.

  19. Zena permalink
    December 23, 2014 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for your response I tried to ask my baby’s vet but he didn’t come up with much I asked to see a nutritionist so I can talk to that dr my self I made appointment for January 5th 2015. I will take my baby and see what this nutritionist dr has to say on feeding my baby . Thanks again I will respond again soon . Thanks again Zena

    • December 23, 2014 11:18 pm

      Where are you?

      • Zena permalink
        December 24, 2014 1:34 am

        I’m in Paramus NJ

      • December 24, 2014 9:26 am

        You are going to love the nutrition consult. Be sure they give you a home-cooked diet recipe and options you can buy pre-made. They should be able to send the diet prescription they make you to a company that will make it and it gets delivered to your door (for a fee, of course!)

        My vet friends at Red Bank Animal Hospital use those services. It can take 1-2 weeks for your custom diet plan to be designed. It costs US$250-$350, depending on how complicated your Chi’s case is.

        I’d love to hear how it goes!
        -Doc Truli

    • February 24, 2015 9:02 am

      Dear Zena,
      What happened at the nutrition consult?

  20. Zena permalink
    December 23, 2014 1:54 am

    Hi my chihuahua just turned 14 on November 26th Drs just diagnosed my loving baby with IBS im so worried of losing her she’s my life does anyone know if a chihuahua can beat this IBS problem and what kind of food to give her . I’m wishing to God to let her be with me for few more years in my life I cant imagine my life without her .

    • December 23, 2014 8:58 am

      Dear Zena,
      Your veterinarian can advise you about foods for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. IBD (sort of like IBS in people) is diagnosed with intestinal biopsy samples. Any other method of diagnosis is an educated guess.

      I can tell you I know lots of Chihuahuas that are messed up about eating. Usually, it’s because they are so smart and sensitive to your moods that they turn eating into a human dog emotional

      Ask your vet what to feed. Then feed it. I will post “How to get your picky dog to eat” later this week with a 2-day system for over coming the food emotion trap.

      Doc Truli

      • Zena permalink
        February 27, 2015 4:44 am

        Thanks but you are not telling me what foods are ok to feed my baby with IBS my vet and nutritionist said to give my baby home cooked food which my baby loves home food but she does not like rice or white chiken meat and that’s what the vet and nutritionist told me to give her not much help from them .

      • July 11, 2015 4:56 pm

        Dear Zena,
        I cannot prescribe or guess what foods will work for your doggy with inflamed bowels. That is a questions for the veterinarians who know your dog and whom you are paying for that kind of advise. A food that could soothe one inflamed dog could irritate another dog. It’s more about your individual dog than advice that will work for any dog with inflamed bowels. Does that make sense? Ask the vet and the nutrtitionist again and give them the feedback about how their advice is working for her. They may not be used to clients who are as proactive as you are, so you have to help teach them!
        -Doc Truli

  21. Julie permalink
    October 18, 2014 6:58 pm

    My chihuahua Aspen is 18! I have had her since she was 5 weeks old. She is blind and deaf and has awful dementia, no teeth but still eats and gets around. She pees everywhere so we have had to crate her but only in the last 6 months. Crate them the minute they start peeing, although they are little they can very quickly ruin carpet and hardwood. Learned this the hard way!

  22. Donna permalink
    September 20, 2014 10:00 pm

    Our chihuahua lived 17 years. She belonged to my Mom, and was on canned food and table scraps. She was fat and had a coarse coat. When my Mom passed away, we took Cricket. She had horrible teeth and a heart murmur. We put her on a raw diet, and she immediately took to it. We had a dental done on her, and what teeth she had left, stayed clean. Her weight became normal, and her coat became soft and the color was brighter. My husband used to call her Farm Dog. She could run the 300 feet to the barn and back at 16. She developed an upper respiratory infection at age 17 that took her.

    • September 21, 2014 4:44 pm

      You helped Cricket live to her full potential. Thank you for sharing that great stiry.

  23. Susan permalink
    September 4, 2014 2:44 pm

    My Chi, Gabbie, is approx 11. She was already full grown when I received her so not sure of exact age. I’ve fed her Science Diet since I’ve gotten her and for the last several years have kept her on the small bites lite formula. She would find a way to get snacks or cat food when I wasn’t looking and got a little chunky for a little while. She has maintained her girlish figure but recently seems skinnier than I like. Have I kept her on the diet food too long? She’s still fairly active and loves chasing the kitties around. What do you suggest?

    • September 4, 2014 6:16 pm

      Hi Susan!
      What did your vet say about her weight?

      • Susan permalink
        September 5, 2014 11:17 am

        they’re actually waiting results for blood work to make any decisions. I’m just anxious for something because I love that little booger so much. They did notice that she’s lost weight each time she’s been in. I’m just concerened whether I’ve hurt her diet by keeping her on diet food too long and whether she needs something more nutritional. She’s always hungry, but she’s always been that way. ha!!

  24. August 18, 2014 9:23 pm

    We have a chihuahua that we got when I was 9 years old. ( I am now 31). She has the worst teeth you can imagine. We don’t want to put her under to have her teeth cleaned ( as we do with our other dogs), can you suggest anything. Also, I have been looking after her now for 2 years (she was with my parents before that), and it is like she has a new lease on life. She runs around with our much younger cav King Charles spaniel. Should I stop her from doing this as she may have a heart attack? I usually just let her go because she is having such a good time, although she tires easily, but again who wouldn’t at her age. Regards Cathie

    • August 19, 2014 7:56 pm

      Dear Cathie,
      22 yr old chihuahua! Awesome! What is your chi’s name?

      You have good questions about teeth and exercise. Since I am a real, licensed veterinarian I know I would have to meet you and your fantastic chi in the real world (instead of online) in order to give you helpful, not hurtful advice.

      Come to Clearwater, Florida and I’d love to meet such a long-lived Chihuahua!

      Doc Truli

  25. khloe permalink
    May 12, 2014 3:13 pm

    My chihuahua is 17 too. Got him when I was 3 and I’m 20 now. His teeth are gone and he’s going blind but that doesn’t stop him from anything. His little butt can still hop up on the couch and everything even tho sometimes he misses and you can’t help but giggle.

  26. Judy permalink
    April 30, 2014 1:31 pm

    There was a Chihuahua on Facebook, I forget his name now as it was a few years ago, and he was 23 or 24. There was another one that was 23.

  27. Katherine permalink
    September 26, 2013 9:05 pm

    My chihuahua,Casey turned 17 on Sept. 9, 2013


  1. | Tucson Cold Wet Noses
  2. Helpful Hints and Information | Tucson Cold Wet Noses
  3. Tweets that mention How to Help Your Chihuahua Live 18 Years « VirtuaVet --

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: