Heart and respiratory problems in Chihuahuas.
As lovable as they can be, Chihuahuas are prone to some cardio-respiratory conditions due to their body conformations and genetic heritage. The reason why we describe both cardiac and respiratory problems at once is that they are closely connected body systems which work mutually and consequently when problems both systems are affected. The signs and symptoms in both cases are also similar and can be confusing to distinguish them.
Tracheal collapse in Chihuahuas.
The trachea is a windpipe through which the air passes from the oral and nasal cavity into the lungs. It’s made up of rigid rings and when these rings lose their integrity and begin to collapse the result is obstruction of the airway’s normal flow. Chihuahuas, along with Yorkshire Terriers are probably the most predisposed breeds in developing tracheal collapse. While the exact reason for it remains unclear, some experts suggest that hereditary genetic problems which reduce the cellularity (total number of cells in the tissue) of the tracheal rings are the prime reason.
The first most obvious sign of tracheal collapse is a honking cough appearing spontaneously. Furthermore, the Chihuahua might become intolerant to exercise and walks, experience labored breathing and increased heart rate. Sometimes the gums change the color to blue or dark-blue. The above-mentioned signs aren’t necessarily persistent and occur in situations when the dog is eating, drinking, running, getting excited etc.
If you suspect your Chihuahua might experience tracheal collapse symptoms you must make a veterinary appointment as soon as possible. After diagnosing the vet will prescribe conservative treatment with antibiotics, corticosteroids, bronchodilators and cough suppressants or will suggest a surgical treatment if the conservative one isn’t helping. The surgical procedure is a complex one that should be performed by a veterinarian experienced in such types of operations.
Heart murmurs in Chihuahuas
Heart murmurs relate to turbulent blood flow when the blood enters or exits the heart muscle cavity. There is a variety of reasons why heart murmurs occur and most of the times there are little to no clinical signs at all. Because toy dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, are genetically predisposed to developing heart murmurs, a routine physical examination performed by a skilled vet is necessary to make an early diagnosis and prevent serious heart diseases.
Chihuahua owners should look out for signs such as panting, labored breathing, exercise intolerance, reduced activity, pale gums, coughing and collapse. The main reason for heart murmurs in Chihuahuas is CVD (Chronic Valvular Disease) which condition if left untreated can be life-threatening. In case you notice some of the signs of heart murmur, you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
A heart murmur isn’t a diagnosis; it’s a symptom to some underlying disease. After the vet performs a series of tests, depending on the problem he can prescribe heart medications, changes in diet (ex. kibble food low in sodium) or no treatment at all. However, there is always a possibility that a surgical correction will be required when there is no other option to alleviate the symptoms with medications or diet.