Out of all the dog breeds, the Chihuahua is one of the most recognizable. With their adorable features and big personalities, Chihuahuas are well-known for having a variety of quirks that make them stand out from other dogs. Some Chihuahua owners have wondered why their pups shake so much, or if they are more prone to weight gain than other breeds. If you ask around, you'll also find a number of Chihuahua owners who say that their dogs blink more than normal. Do Chihuahuas really blink that much? And if so, why?
It's unclear how old the Chihuahua breed is, but it is thought they were first bred in either Spain or South America over 500 years ago. The breed's name comes from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
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Chihuahuas weigh between 2 and 6 pounds and stand between 6 and 9 inches tall. Their coats can be short or long and come in any color. Their ears are naturally upright and they have big, round eyes and short, pointed ears. They are considered to be energetic, extremely loyal, and very vocal.
Similar to humans, dogs' eyes have an upper and a lower eyelid which makes brief physical contact when blinking in order to completely shut the eye. Blinking can prevent foreign objects from entering the eye and remove debris particles. Blinking also releases a tear film consisting of water, oil, and mucus that helps keep the surface of the eye smooth, which is necessary for vision and prevents the eye from drying out.
Dogs also blink to indicate submission. In dog body language, staring can be a sign of aggression or dominance. If two dogs are staring at each other, one may blink and look away to display submission and relieve tension.
Some dogs may have conditions that prevent their eyelids from fully closing. This can lead to dry eye, and a dog may blink frequently in an attempt to keep its eyes moist. Dry eye may require medicated eye drops or artificial tears.
The conjunctiva (moist tissue that covers the eye) can become inflamed or infected from an injury or a foreign substance in the eye. This can lead to conjunctivitis, which can be treated with medicated eye drops.
The transparent layer on the outside of the eye, called the cornea, focuses light into the eye. The cornea can get scratched or irritated by dust and dirt, which can lead to eye infections. Dogs can also develop corneal ulcers, which most commonly occur from trauma to the deeper layers of the cornea (the stroma and the Descemet's membrane) but can also have genetic causes. Corneal ulcers can be very painful, and if your dog is pawing at their face, keeping their eyes tightly shut, or has a discharge coming from their eyes, it could be an indication of a corneal ulcer.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that can cause blindness in dogs. Excessive blinking isn't the primary symptom of this condition, but if you notice that your dog's eyes appear cloudy, bulging, or swollen, they may be experiencing eye pain and/or discharge that could lead them to blink more than usual. Cataracts affect the lens of the eye and can also cause blindness, and are frequently diagnosed by a cloudy appearance of the eye and behavioral changes that indicate a loss of vision. Cataracts can be painful or uncomfortable and may cause a dog to rub their eyes with their paws and blink excessively.
So, what's the verdict? Are Chihuahuas, in fact, unusually blinky?
Chihuahuas are prone to epiphora, an over-production of tears and discharge. Epiphora can be caused by allergies, infections, or eyelid deformities. Chihuahuas, along with Pugs and Cocker Spaniels, frequently have a deformity of the eyelids or eyelashes which causes them to turn inward. This can keep the eyelids from completely shutting and lead to dry eye — and an excess of blinking.
Additionally, because Chihuahuas stand low to the ground, and because they have naturally big, protruding eyes — they are simply more likely than a taller dog to experience eye irritation and infections from dirt and dust getting kicked up in their faces. There may be a behavioral component to the blinking as well — Chihuahuas can tend towards neurosis and anxiety, and frequent blinking may be an indicator of nervousness.
If you notice your Chihuahua blinking more than normal, take a look at their eyes and see if you spot any swelling, discharge, or irritation. If the blinking persists, a vet visit is never a bad idea. Otherwise, don't feel bad about giggling at this cute little quirk!