Understanding the normal values for your Chihuahua will help you detect when something is not right. The following describes four signs you can monitor.
Gum Color: The simplest yet most overlooked checkpoint is your dog\’92s gum color. Looking at the gums is so simple, yet virtually no one does it – except your veterinarian, who will often look at the gums before anything else when your Chihuahua comes into the exam room sick.
- Normal gum color is a good deep pink.
- Pale gum color can indicate anemia or poor circulation.
- White or very light gum color can indicate shock, severe anemia, or very poor circulation.
- Bluish gum or tongue color indicates an imminent, life-threatening lack of oxygen.
- Bright-red gum color can indicate carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Yellowish color can indicate jaundice.
- Little tiny red splotches can indicate a blood clotting problem.
Do not confuse a red line around the gum line with healthy gums. A dog with dirty teeth can have gum disease, giving an unhealthy, but rosy, glow to the gums, especially at the margins around the teeth.
Besides color, capillary refill time, which is an index of blood circulation, can be estimated simply by pressing on the gum with your finger and lifting your finger off. The gum where you pressed will be white momentarily but will quickly repine as the blood moves back into the area. If repining takes longer than a couple of seconds, circulation is poor.
Body Temperature: Your Chihuahua’s body temperature is another clue about what’s going on inside. As in humans, temperature will be slightly lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Normal temperature for a Chihuahua is about 101 F to 102 F. If the temperature is:
- 103 F or above, call the veterinarian and ask for advice.
- 105 F or above, go to the veterinarian. A temperature of 106 F and above is dangerous.
- 98 F or below, call the veterinarian and ask for advice. Meanwhile, treat the dog for hypothermia.
- 96 F or below, go to the veterinarian. Treat for hypothermia on the way.
Pulse: The easiest way to check your dog’s pulse is to feel the pulse through the femoral artery. If your dog is standing, cup your hand around the top of his hind leg and feel around the inside of the leg, almost where the leg joins with the torso. If your dog is on his back, you may even see the pulse in this area. Normal pulse rate for a Chihuahua at rest is about 70 to 120 beats per minute.
You can feel your dog’s heartbeat by placing your hand onto his lower rib cage just behind his elbow. Do not be alarmed if it seems irregular; the heartbeat of many dogs is irregular compared with that of humans. Have your veterinarian check it out, then get used to how the heartbeat feels when normal.
Hydration: Repeated vomiting, diarrhea, or overheating can quickly lead to dehydration. To check your dog’s hydration, pick up the skin on the back just above the shoulders so that it makes a slight tent above the body. The skin should pop back into place almost immediately. If it remains tented and separated from the body, your dog is dehydrated.
The most obvious treatment is to give your dog some water. In severe cases or in cases in which the dog cannot eat or drink, your veterinarian may need to give the dog fluids intravenously.
The best five minutes you can spend with your Chihuahua every week is performing a quick health check. You will get to know how your dog looks when he’s healthy, and you will get a head start treating any problems. As a benefit, your dog will think you just cannot resist petting him all over. Check the following:
- Mouth for red, bleeding, swollen, or pale gums; loose teeth; ulcers of the tongue or gums; or bad breath.
- Eyes for discharge, cloudiness, or discolored whites.
- Ears for foul odors, redness, discharge, or crusted tips.
- Nose for thickened or colored discharge.
- Skin for parasites, hair loss, crusts, red spots, or lumps.
- Feet for cuts, abrasions, split nails, bumps, or misaligned toes.
- Anal region for redness, swelling, discharge, or tracts.
Watch your Chihuahua for signs of lameness or incoordination, sore neck, circling, loss of muscle, and any behavioral change. Run your hands over the muscles and bones, and check that they are symmetrical from one side to the other. Weigh your dog, and observe whether he is gaining or losing. Check for any growths, swellings, sores, or pigmented lumps.
Look out for mammary masses, changes in testicle size, discharge from the vulva or penis, increased or decreased urination, foul smelling or strangely colored urine, incontinence, swollen abdomen, black or bloody stools, changes in appetite or water consumption, difficulty breathing, lethargy, coughing, gagging, or loss of balance. Remember always to be on the alert for signs of hypoglycemia, especially in puppies, or during stressful times.