How to Take Care of Geriatric Chihuahuas

Increased vet visits will ensure that developing health concerns are caught early.

Increased vet visits will ensure that developing health concerns are caught early.

It seems like just yesterday that you were bringing home a handful of joy, and now your little baby Chihuahua is a senior citizen. It's unfortunate that Chis zip through their lifespan so much faster than you'd prefer. Just like with humans, your aging Chihuahua will require some extra TLC.

Accomodate Your Chi

As your Chihuahua ages, he'll be less tolerant of the cold -- even more so than he was in his younger days. Put his bed in a warm spot next to the heating vent or place a heated pad made especially for dogs in his bed to give him a toasty warm place to relax. The heat will also be comforting to aching joints if your Chihuahua has arthritis. Put a sweater on him to help hold in his body heat when he is up and roaming the house. Place ramps or step stools next to the sofa or the bed to help your older Chi get up and down even if you're not around.

Keep Him Active

Keep your geriatric Chihuahua mentally and physically active. If he doesn't have arthritis or other problems getting around, keep up your daily walks and play his favorite games. Take him places like you always have, like trips to the grocery store or to visit friends. Experiencing the different smells, sounds and sights will stimulate your Chihuahua mentally in addition to giving him exercise. Visiting friends who have a dog he knows will help keep your older Chi's mood positive. Or consider getting a new friend for him. In her book on Chihuahuas, Joan Hustace Walker encourages readers who have been thinking about getting a Chihuahua puppy or other small dog to do so. Walker says that a puppy will often breathe new life into an older Chihuahua.

Nutrition

As older Chihuahuas slow down, they don't need the calories they did when they were younger. Not adjusting your Chihuahua's diet as he ages might cause him to gain weight, and that can bring on difficulties with joint and heart problems. Be on the alert for weight loss and weight gain, though. A geriatric Chihuahua may not be able to absorb nutrients as well as a younger dog, and your Chi might start losing weight even if he's eating as much as usual. Foods that are formulated for senior dogs typically address this problem by using better quality ingredients at higher concentrations and in forms that are more readily digested. Don't be surprised if your Chi doesn't take to the new food immediately. As he ages, your Chi's sense of taste will be reduced a bit but you can entice him to eat by pouring a bit of low-sodium broth over the new food or by mixing canned food with kibble.

Increase Visits to the Vet

Keep in contact with your vet. Your aging Chi will need to see his doctor at least twice a year if he remains in good health, but will need more frequent visits if he develops diabetes, a heart condition or other age-related ailment. The vet will probably reduce or eliminate vaccinations -- other than rabies -- but taking your geriatric Chihuahua in to see the doctor regularly will give the vet a chance to stay on top or ahead of developing medical concerns. At home you can do your part by being vigilant and taking note of any change to your dog's behavior or physical condition. Bring anything, however small, to your vet's attention. It's better to be overly concerned rather than waiting until your geriatric Chihuahua's health is compromised.

 

About the Author

Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

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