The smallest dog in the world and a beloved lapdog to many, the Chihuahua has it all. Many love the breed for its affectionate nature and large, expressive eyes. Despite its size, the Chihuahua’s ears stand upright, much like a bigger watchdog. When people buy a Chihuahua puppy, they want their dog to grow up with the characteristic upright ears. However, some Chihuahuas still grow up with floppy ears due to various reasons.
While the shape of the ears doesn’t make your Chihuahua any less affectionate, you might wonder if something is wrong with your pet. The America Kennel Club (AKC) states that all Chihuahuas have erect ears, but there are many Chihuahuas with floppy ears.
Reasons For Chihuahua’s Floppy Ears
The truth is that all Chihuahuas have floppy ears at some point in their lives. As Chihuahua puppies grow and mature, the ears gradually acquire their characteristic upright position.
Despite reaching maturity, your pet’s ears might still stay floppy. Many factors can influence the ears, including age, diet, and genetics.
You can try to ensure your Chihuahua’s ears become upright, but there is no certainty they will. Some reasons why your Chihuahua has floppy ears could be:
Puppies of every breed are born with floppy ears because the ear muscles are underdeveloped. As growth occurs, the ears naturally gain an upright position. If your Chihuahua is only a few months old, it is completely normal for his ears to be floppy. It will take some time for the ear muscles to develop fully.
You might wonder why your puppy is growing bigger rapidly, but his ears are still floppy. Growth occurs first in other parts of the body. Your puppy needs to have strong bones and joints before the facial muscles develop fully. Consider how growing puppies need smaller, softer kibble because their jaw isn’t strong enough for harder food.
As your Chihuahua grows older, you might worry if its ears remain floppy. At times, the ears might become upright only to flop again. Ears flopping back and forth happen because the ear muscles twitch and spasm during development. It might look odd, but it is perfectly normal and is not worrisome. For most Chihuahuas, their ears become upright around ten weeks of age.
You should not worry too much about your Chihuahua’s ears. As he grows up, the ears will gradually become upright. If you consider upright ears an important feature, you can adopt an older Chihuahua. If your puppy is old enough but its ears are still floppy, it is unlikely they will become upright.
A nutritious and well-balanced diet is essential for growth and development. The ears contain muscles and cartilage that only develop properly with a protein-rich diet. Avoid adult dog foods since these generally don’t contain enough protein for a growing puppy. Look for a protein-rich kibble enriched with various nutrients.
Puppies need a high-quality diet high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and essential nutrients. Another important factor is the ratio of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are responsible for developing healthy bones and muscles.
It might come as a surprise to you, but teething can cause floppy ears. Puppies below six months of age lose their baby teeth and grow strong, adult teeth. This process is uncomfortable, and your Chihuahua’s gums can constantly feel irritated. Have teething toys ready for this phase since your puppy will need something for chewing. You wouldn’t want them chewing up shoes and furniture.
While it is not certain that teething causes floppy ears, there are some convincing arguments. When a puppy is teething, they instinctively chew on everything in sight, which can overwork the jaw muscles and strain the ear muscles. You will notice that you can feel it in your ears when you chew. The jaw and ear muscles are connected, and as a result, when your Chihuahua is constantly using his jaw muscles, it can also affect the ears.
Another interesting argument suggests that teething affects the ears due to calcium use. Calcium is an important mineral that plays many roles in the body. One of these roles is muscle contraction. When your puppy is teething, the body’s calcium reserves ensure healthy teeth. Since the teeth require a lot of calcium, the ear muscles stay relaxed. Once teething has ended, your puppy’s ears should continue to grow normally.
It is not recommended you give your puppy Calcium supplements without consulting your veterinarian. Puppies given excess calcium can develop health issues like hip dysplasia.
4. Ear Diseases
Another reason for Chihuahuas to have floppy ears is ear diseases. Your pet could be struggling with ear infections, tumors, ear polyps, and dermatitis. These illnesses can cause the ears to flop or lose their healthy appearance. When purchasing or adopting your puppy, you should inquire about any genetic illnesses in the puppy’s lineage. Adult Chihuahuas can also have floppy ears due to ear diseases. If your Chihuahua’s ears are generally upright but become floppy suddenly, consult your veterinarian.
Chronic stress can be harmful to a growing Chihuahua puppy in many ways. Puppies are vulnerable since they are in their developmental years. Even a little stress can cause unexpected changes. The causes of stress can either be internal or external. Some dogs have a natural inclination towards feeling stressed or anxious. However, external factors play a much larger role than internal ones.
Chihuahuas are small dogs prone to stress and anxiety because they are instinctively protective of their space and humans. Other dogs and unfamiliar faces can cause Chihuahuas to become stressed. Since dogs usually express these emotions through their body language, you will notice droopy ears, raised hackles, tails between the legs, and lip licking.
If you notice these signs in your Chihuahua, stress could be the culprit. Consider the reasons your pet could feel stressed. Major life changes such as moving houses and the death of a family member or another pet can cause stress. Chihuahuas recovering from a major life change might have floppy ears for a while.
If stress causes floppy ears, alleviating it should be enough to fix the issue. When your pet recovers and returns to normal, the ears will become upright again. Consult your veterinarian about the best way to tackle this situation.
6. Domestication Syndrome
It is natural, even expected, for modern dogs to have floppy ears. Several domestic species have similar characteristics. This phenomenon is known as “domestication syndrome.” These include smaller brains, smaller teeth, and droopy ears, to name a few.
Recent studies show that dogs became domesticated nearly 130,000 years ago. While humans have domesticated many animals, dogs were domesticated nearly 11,000 years before any other species. Modern-day dogs are very different from their wolf ancestors. Selective breeding techniques gave rise to many breeds with unique characteristics.
There is now a theory that explains the changes in domesticated animals. Animals that are hunters by nature, like wolves, have neural crest cells which develop characteristics such as upright ears. They also lead brain development and mediate the fight-and-flight response. These large, upright ears are unnecessary for domesticated dogs since they don’t need to hunt for food. Dogs don’t have as many neural crest cells, which could explain why many modern dogs have floppy ears.
There are many misconceptions about purebred dogs. Many people believe that Chihuahuas with floppy ears are not purebred. However, many purebred Chihuahuas grow to have floppy ears. Your Chihuahua could come from a line of floppy-eared ancestors, increasing its chances of having floppy ears.
On the other hand, some claim that Chihuahuas with floppy ears are crossbreeds. There are many Chihuahua crossbreeds with upright ears, so it is not an issue of breeding. Genetics plays a large role in determining your dog’s physical characteristics. Chihuahuas with floppy ears could have them due to their genetics.
Some breeders go out of their way to assure you that your Chihuahua will have upright ears. You can look for breeders that offer a “breeder guarantee.”
8. Individual Differences
Your Chihuahua is unique and will have its quirks. Many Chihuahuas around the world have a single or two floppy ears. You might think that floppy ears indicate something is wrong with your puppy, but that is not the case. Puppies with floppy ears are perfectly healthy and similar to Chihuahuas with upright ears. Even with a breeder guarantee and perfect pedigree, your pet might still have floppy ears. The uprightness of your Chihuahua’s ears doesn’t take anything away from her personality. She will be a loyal and affectionate companion regardless.
Methods To Fix Floppy Ears
If you want your Chihuahua to have upright ears, try the following methods. It is not certain that they will make your pet’s ears upright. These procedures include:
Many breeders use taping to ensure Chihuahua puppies have upright ears. They tape the ears in an upright position using surgical tape. The premise is that this can “train” the ear muscles to stay in this position. After taping the ears for a week, they should be upright.
There is no evidence that this procedure works. Most Chihuahua puppies will be uncomfortable and try to remove the tape. If your Chihuahua does not tolerate the process, remove the tape immediately.
2. Protein-Rich Diet
A high-quality diet rich in protein is essential for a Chihuahua puppy’s development. Protein aids the development of muscles and cartilage that lead to upright ears. You can opt for a raw diet or a high-quality protein-rich kibble. Remember that your puppy needs highly digestible meat-based protein.
3. Massage The Ears
Some pet parents noticed that massaging their dog’s ears made them upright. However, there is no guarantee this works. Some veterinarians even advise against it, claiming that massaging the ears can soften the cartilage and cause floppy ears. It is recommended that your Chihuahua be at least six months old before trying this method.
4. Eliminate Stress
You should try to eliminate stress as much as possible. Reduce exposure to stressful situations, such as meeting too many new people. Puppies can become overwhelmed and stressed easily in these situations. Chihuahuas will be healthy and happy if they have a routine and get enough exercise.
Chihuahuas with floppy ears have the same exercise and nutritional needs as other pets. However, their floppy ears can pose some challenges.
The shape of your Chihuahua’s ears can increase the risk of ear infections. Floppy ears can be difficult to air out, leading to bacterial growth in the ears. Clean the ears once a week to prevent infections.
Clean the ear using a cotton ball soaked in a cleaning solution. Avoid using cotton swabs because these can damage your dog’s ear if he moves while you are cleaning. Massage the start of the ear canal for at least thirty seconds to remove any bacteria. Your Chihuahua might not tolerate the process well, so work quickly and efficiently. Be gentle and try to make the process as comfortable as possible.
If your Chihuahua enjoys swimming, you should dry the ears soon after exposure to water. Ensure there is no moisture, or it can cause yeast and bacteria to grow freely in your pet’s ears. You can use a cotton ball while showering to keep the ears dry.
Omega-3 Fatty acid supplements can reduce the risk of ear infections. Allergies can lead to recurrent ear infections in Chihuahuas. Consult your veterinarian to determine if these supplements are good for your pet.