As if Paris’s penchant for pocket-pooches wasn’t already problematic enough, the breed is bound to suffer in the wake of Disney’s release of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. In case you’re not aware, here’s the official site for the flick.

With more CGI dogs than 101 Dalmatians, Disney’s Chihuahua love story is already a holiday success (though, technically, it was released in October). So what does that mean for the breed, my clients and my career? LOTS more Chihuahuas!!

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against individual Chihuahuas, per se. It’s just that I can think of about 150 other breeds most vets I know would prefer to work with. (OK that’s a joke…before all the Chi owners ban Dolittler from their browsers on principle.)

Sure, they’re fabulously cute in that bat-like sort of way. They’re smart. They have big dog personalities in little dog bodies.

Despite their adorability, it’s nonetheless true that many Chihuahuas are aggressive in mixed company. And going to the vet’s does nothing to incite their gentlest impulses. Yes, in general, vets are extremely wary of the average Chihuahua in an animal hospital setting. We’d be stupid not to be.

The biggest problem with the newly-resurgent Chihuahua phenomenon is not really about us veterinarians, of course. It’s to do with the problem raised by the specter of any breed-specific publicity. Remember 101 Dalmatians? I do. Dalmations everywhere…in the shelters, mostly, once the inbred hordes hit the market with nary a thought as to their temperament.

What’ll happen to the Chihuahua if Disney’s magic does to this breed what it did to the Dalmatian?

In general, I suppose nothing can be worse than Paris’s influence on the breed. The concept of pets as fashion accessories is as odious to me as seeing pet shops in tony locations on Miami Beach and in New York’s West Village newly teeming with Paris-style teacups.

At least in the case of the heiress she’s got the means to pamper her purse-stuffings beyond belief. But what about those who don’t? After all, a Chihuahua is NOT like most Dalmatians when it comes to health issues. Moreover, the appeal to children via Disney’s take seems ominous to me, given what I know. Here’s a rundown of the issues owners (and their vets) will doubtless confront:

  • Complicated births
  • High rate of neonatal death
  • Pediatric hypoglycemia
  • High rate of pediatric respiratory complications
  • Open fontanels (incomplete skull development)
  • Housebreaking resistance
  • Aggressive tendencies
  • Collapsing tracheas
  • Fragile bones and high fracture rates
  • Hereditary heart conditions
  • Common skin issues
  • Congenital joint anomalies
  • Severe dental disease

Now triple the risk of some of these conditions for teacup sizes and other some inbred varietals. Ouch!

In case you’re prepared to bash this post like you did my teacup rant (the comments on this latter post are way more interesting than the post itself) I should tell you that I really like Chihuahuas. They’re some of my best patients, as well as my worst. A Chi with an excellent personality is a smart sassy dog and a potentially unparalleled companion animal.

Yet I still can’t help expressing my doubts whenever any breed is thrust into the limelight (recall I argued the same for my French bulldogs in another post)—especially when its pet shop abuse potential is high...especially when children are the target of the trend.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen five(!) Chihuahua pups pass through our exam rooms…with children in tow. So when I read a DVM Newsmagazine blurb in this month’s issue on how vets should be on the lookout for a surge in the Chihuahua population this holiday season, I knew exactly what they were talking about.

Living in trendy Miami as I do, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of this Disney-fueled drift…and I don’t like it.