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Chewing Problems

Chihuahua Chewing Issues

Overview

Canines of all ages naturally chew on things to some degree and they will mouth even more objects that they won’t find worthy of chewing. In fact, a dog’s toys (those things you wish were the only things that he chewed on) are his prized possessions. However, a wide variety of issues can develop that will cause a Chihuahua puppy or dog to chew at something that he shouldn’t or is not expected to. 

In some cases, this will be due to a health issue and in others, a behavior issue. Fortunately, in most instances there is a resolution to fix the problem.

This section will cover all of the most common chewing related problems that a Chihuahua of any age may have. Included will be:
  • Chewing at the paws, tail, leg or base of the bum
  • Chewing to the point of hair loss
  • Gnawing at his/her nails
  • Chewing everything in the house including furniture
Chewing at Body Parts

When a Chihuahua chews at himself, it of course, will be on areas of the body that are accessible. For dogs, this means the paws (the front more often than the hind), the tip of the tail and lower legs. If the urge is strong, a Chihuahua may curl up or twist in a certain way to reach other areas, such as his/her rear end. We’ll look at the top causes and steps to take to help resolve them. 

The #1 Cause

In the majority of cases, a dog will chew due to having an itch. It can be a localized itch to a certain body part or it may be an all-over body itch and the Chihuahua chews at what he can most easily reach. It can start an endless cycle, as we discuss next. 
Progression

All it takes is one small itch. The dog chews at that spot. It temporarily relieves the itch, yet without the root cause found, it comes back. The dog chews at himself again. This continues until his chewing now has irritated the skin, causing twice the reason to pay attention to it. Without treatment for the underlying reason, chewing may continue until there is hair loss. This, in turn, causes even more discomfort. There may be skin rashes or just an overall soreness in the thinning areas, which causes a dog to chew or lick some more… and without the first issue being resolved, he is still trying to scratch the itch. 

This said, irritation (some sort of discomfort) may also cause chewing, though in these cases a dog often licks as well. In some cases, it can be so severe that a Chihuahua chews himself raw.
Chihuahua female dress
Peanut
Photo courtesy of Tammy
Top Reasons for Itching that Leads to Chewing on the Body

#1. Dry or Itchy Skin – This is the most common causes of a puppy or dog gnawing at different parts of his body, though many dogs will focus on their paws. When they do this, saliva can worsen irritated skin, which exasperates the problem. The top causes of dry skin are:
  • Weather related – This is most common over the winter, when cold arid air is often the norm for months on end. 
  • Poor diet – Low quality dog foods that are lacking such things as the correct amounts of healthy fats (especially Omega 3, 6 and/or 9) can be at the root of the problem. 
  • Precursor to allergies- In some cases, dry skin will be the first symptom of what is to be an allergy problem. And chewing at the body is also a sign of allergies. 
What to do- If this is suspected, there are several things you can do:

Bath products – The shampoo, conditioner and leave-in coat spray that you use will always have an effect on the skin & coat, for the better or for the worse. When a Chihuahua is chewing at himself due to dryness, you’ll want to start using an oatmeal bases shampoo specifically for adding moisture. 
Once things resolve, if you do not use quality products, the issue may return quickly, so you will want to routinely use top-end bathing products that are properly PH balances, clean without stripping and offer protection to the coat.

Water – There are 2 aspects of this. If the air itself is dry (low humidity), using humidifiers in the house can help quite a bit. If you only have one, place it near the Chihuahua’s resting/sleeping area. The other aspect is to make sure that a Chihuahua is meeting his daily water requirements. Small toy breeds like the Chihuahua do not need much, at the most 2 ounces per each pound of body weight; however, if a Chihuahua is more active or if the weather is hot, this amount will increase. You can encourage a dog to drink more by using a canine water fountain, offering ice cubes or water-rich fruit. 

Reevaluate food and snacks – Take a look at what your Chihuahua is eating, for both main meals and snacks. Low quality brands (those rated 1, 2 or 3 stars) are notorious for causing a host of issues including skin & coat problems, stomach ailments and more. With snacks, keep away from brightly colored treats, instead offering wholesome made in the USA treats and/or fresh ‘homemade’ snacks such as fruit (blueberries, raspberries, banana – fresh or frozen) and/or veggies like baby carrots. 

Assess for allergies – As mentioned above, chewing at the paws or other areas on the body may be due to allergies (we cover that next) and skin changes are often one of the first signs of this. We’ll go into this in more detail below. 
#2 Allergies  

These can be tricky as these may be contact, food or environmental. They may be seasonal or last year-round. A dog can develop this at any age and may seem to be on a roller-coaster, as symptoms come and wane. We highly recommend having a Chihuahua tested to pinpoint the trigger(s), as trying to identify these on your own is hit-or-miss.

In addition, the veterinarian can offer prescribed medication that can reduce itching (which in many cases decrease chewing almost immediately) and assess the chewing contact points (paws, base of tail, etc.) to look for any skin infection since obsessive chewing can often lead to cracked skin, which is then open and vulnerable to infection. 

Additional steps – Again, professional veterinary care to diagnose and treat allergies is highly recommended and can help stop allergy related chewing within days. This said, there are other steps to take concurrently:

1. Do not feed any food with high levels of chemical additives. Look for wholesome foods without chemical preservatives, coloring and/or flavoring. 
Chihuahua smiling
Gizmo
Photo courtesy of Tammy
2. Do not give straight tap water. The number of toxic and disease-causing chemicals in much of the tap water through the US is mind-boggling to say the least. Use a filter on your kitchen tap, a canine water fountain that has a charcoal filter or offer bottled water (relatively inexpensive if you purchase this by the gallon).

3. Have a no-shoe rule in the house and wash off your Chihuahua’s paws and lower legs under running water each time you bring him back into the house. It is best if you carry him over to the sink. This will help stop the people and your dog from tracking in outdoor elements that may be causing itching and in turn, chewing. 

4. Use HEPA certified air filters in your AC and heating units (if applicable). There are also free-standing air purifiers that use HEPA technology to rid the air of pollutants and allergens. 

5. Use a quality shampoo specialized to treat irritated skin. And once resolved, always use proven, top-rated bath products. Mist the coat with a good leave-in to help create a barrier. 

#3 Irritants- Elements outside may cause irritation to the paws when you take your Chihuahua outside and/or may cause issues to the underbelly if the Chihuahua lies down outside. Once this happens, the puppy or dog may then chew at those spots to find relief. 

In the spring, summer and autumn, the most common element is lawn care chemicals, keeping in mind that even if you do not use these yourself, these are quite common in public parks and other places where they are sprayed to control weeds and/or insects. In the winter, the biggest culprit is ice-melt chemicals and/or salt and again, you do not need to use this on your property. Many city municipal services spread this on public roads and these are easily tracked in by vehicles. 

What to do – Stay off any grass that you believe may be treated, avoid puddles, apply a quality paw wax twice per week (more ahead) and rinse off your Chihuahua’s paws once you enter back into the house. 
#4 Fleas, Parasites & Other – Even dogs that are kept clean in impeccable houses can become the victim of fleas, mites or other pests and parasites. Anything that causes itching or irritation can then lead to chewing. And if the issue is not resolved, chewing can become so severe that the skin can become raw and fur can fall out. These are things that may not be apparent when you first inspect the dog. It’s a myth that you’ll see fleas circling over a dog; they actually cannot fly (they only jump and this is how they transfer from one animal to another). 

And such things as mites or a yeast infection may not be outwardly obvious to owners, but may very well be the reason a Chihuahua chews like mad at himself. If other reasons for chewing are not applicable, you will want to have your Chihuahua receive a full and complete checkup at the vet’s to determine the underlying cause and receive proper veterinary care and treatment.
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Chewing at the Bum

There are a couple of possible reasons for this:

1. Allergies. The anal area is one of very sensitive skin. As bowel movements are expelled, allergies to certain foods or food elements can cause a reaction to the bum. The skin there can become itchy and/or irritated. You will want to look above for steps you can take to resolve this. 

2. Feces stuck on hairs. The hairs around the anus are very fine hairs and when a dog goes to the bathroom, tiny bits of feces can cling to and twist those hairs, often leading to a pinch or tug that in turn, causes a dog to chew at the area for relief. It can help to routinely check the bum for this issue, using a quality canine tushie wipe to clean off the area, or if there is a good amount of dried stool, to wash it off in the bath. 

3. Another reason why a Chihuahua may chew at his bum is due to discomfort coming from the anal glands (also known as scent glands). These hold oils that are released in minuscule amounts both when a dog meets another dog and when a dog has a bowel movement. Sometimes, these can be build-up of fluid that require the glands to be expressed. This can be done by the vet or by a groomer. 
Obsessively Chewing at the Paws 

When a dog chews at his paws, he may focus on just one, both, the pads or just around the nail beds. While the issues discussed previously are the most common reasons why a Chihuahua will chew at himself, and often focus on the paws or tail, there are other less common but possible reasons. 

Dried paws. There are many reasons why a dog’s paws may become dry such as the surfaces that he walks on, slight dehydration and irritants that come into contact with them. A minor case can quickly spiral out of control if the dog licks or chews at the paws, which can then make things worse and lead to peeling or cracking. Using an effective, quality paw wax to heal and then protect the paws is an important step to resolving this. 

Nails issues. For issues in which the Chihuahua is only chewing at his nails, this may be a matter of an ingrown nail, which can happen if the nails are not trimmed often enough. In rare cases, a poor diet can cause malnutrition issues, which can affect the entire body, but also present as dry, brittle nails which may be causing discomfort. 

Other issues: Boredom, stress or habit. These are all issues that we will discuss next, since they are also top reasons why a dog may also chew at non-toy objects. 
Applehead merle Chihuahua
Bella, 5 years old
Photo courtesy of Karma G.
Chewing Non-Toy Objects

If a Chihuahua seems to want to chew just about everything including furniture and other household objects, this can be exhausting for owners trying to keep up and prevent destruction of the home. 

There are 3 main reasons why a Chihuahua will do this: 

Boredom – Adult dogs are as intelligent as 2 to 3-year-old humans (making them as smart as toddlers) and if they do not have the means to satisfy that incredible level of intellect and curiosity, this can cause a dog to become quite stir-crazy. This can lead to excessive barking, destructive behavior and such things as chewing at themselves or chewing non-toy objects that are within reach. 

Excess energy – Chihuahuas carry an awful lot of energy in their tiny bodies. When a Chihuahua puppy or dog of any age is not allowed to release that energy in a constructive way, it can become bottled up and then expressed via unwanted chewing. 

Stress – This is a breed that can become stressed quite easily and this can manifest several ways, including shaking, withdrawing, whining and/or chewing. 

What to Do:

1) Limit the Chihuahua’s access to things. This is the #1 rule to follow, but is somehow missed by many owners. We receive emails all of the time, asking, “My Chihuahua is chewing and ripping apart everything in the house! What do I do?” and of course, while other steps should be taken the #1 step is to not allow the puppy or dog the ability to do so. 
Charlie, 2 months old
Photo courtesy Karma G.
This does not mean that you have to crate your Chi, in fact being in a small confined space only increases stress and is no way for a dog to live. You can, however, have a very comfortable set-up for your puppy or dog that limits access to what he can and cannot chew on. 

The 2 options to use are canine gates to gate off a certain area of the house or a canine playpen. With either option, you will want your Chi’s area to be in a part of the home that is not isolating; it should be in a room that is used by the family such as the living room or kitchen. Within that area, should be all of the things that a dog needs to be safe and comfortable. This includes a quality dog bed, a small blanket (if the Chi tends to get chilled), food (if he will be there during a meal time), water (at all times) and a terrific collection of chew toys (more ahead). 

In addition, no matter the age of your Chihuahua, the house should be routinely puppy-proofed. This includes wrapping cords so that they cannot be chewed, placing as many items as possible to new, higher locations (shoes, clothes, pocket books, remotes, etc.) and removing small objects that can be chewed and swallowed. 
If a Chihuahua has a habit of chewing on electrical cords or an owner’s shoes, this falls onto the owner for not concealing those cords or placing the shoes out of the way, and not to the Chihuahua who is allowed to mouth and chew on them.  

2) Exercise. It is a myth that toy breeds are ‘self-exercising’ dogs that do not need to be purposely walked or otherwise exercised. Taking a Chihuahua for 2 walks per day helps in many regards: It helps maintain good health, is a great way to socialize a dog and importantly, allows the dog to release pent-up energy that can otherwise be expressed via destructive chewing. 

3) Reduce stress. This breed does not do well in loud, boisterous household and most Chihuahuas will react badly if there is yelling, arguing or other commotion. The goal should be to run a peaceful, happy household in which the Chihuahua can relax without fear. Being alone can also bring on issues of separation anxiety, and while most of the stress will take place while owners are gone, this can carry over for hours afterward. Liming access to things that the dog should not be chewing should be done as well as taking steps to help resolve separation anxiety

4) Distract & Switch - Prepare for this ahead of time by having quality chew toys within reach of you (these can be in baskets, placed strategically throughout the house). If you see your Chihuahua start to chew on something, immediately distract him. This can be done with a loud clap or by calling out his name. When he pauses due to that noise, offer the toy in a fun, engaging manner. When he inspects it and especially if he mouths it, give great praise to show that his behavior is commendable. Offering praise for good behavior works 100% better than trying to discipline a dog for unwanted behavior. 
5) Offer quality chew toys. It is far better to have 10 engaging, effective chew toys than to have 50 that a Chihuahua is not interested in. Toys are extremely important for dogs; it is how they keep themselves busy and how they relive their chewing urges. We have a helpful section that goes into the details of choosing the best toys for Chihuahuas

Teething

Every puppy is going to go through a teething stage. This generally begins around 4 months and ends around 7 months. During this time, the gums can be intensely itchy. It can be so intense that the puppy has a fevered urge to chew and will clamp his mouth down on anything he can reach. It will be very important to puppy-proof the house and to keep the Chihuahua in his area (as described above). Offering ice cubes and effective teething toys (see above) to satisfy chewing urges will be vital as well. 

In regard to a Chihuahua chewing on furniture, it again must be noted that the puppy should be in an area where he cannot do this and closely supervised when outside of that area. This said, a chew deterrent spray used on the legs of furniture can, as the name implies, deter this as well. 
A Final Word

No matter what you believe to be the cause of your Chihuahua’s chewing problem, if steps taken at home do not resolve the issue, it will then be important to bring the Chi to the vet. It may very well be a matter of a skin infection or other condition that needs to be professionally treated. 
Owner with his Chihuahua
Tucker
Photo courtesy of Ken Little
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