Chihuahua died when a tennis ball dropped on its head

You may think that the title is ridiculous and fictional but it isn’t. And it happened because the Chihuahua has holes in its skull and a baby-like soft spot at the top. This is due to selective breeding over many years. The skull does not form properly. In fact, some breeders consider it a badge of honour if their dogs have holes in their skulls. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so cruel and serious.

Molera in skull of Chi
Molera in skull of Chi. Photo: study mentioned in text.

And until very recently an open fontanelle (hole) in the middle of the head (called a molera by breeders) was a mark of purity in the breed. It is described as “a neurological jewel in the crown” by the Pedigree Dogs Exposed website (the source of this information).

Molera at top of the skull
Molera at top of the skull. Image: Pedigree Dogs Exposed website.

The current breed standard for this fontanelle in the middle of the head has been dropped by progressive kennel clubs but not the American or Canadian Kennel Clubs according to the above-mentioned website as at May 8, 2021. I guess there is always the possibility that they might change their breed standard one day which is why I mention the date.

The Chihuahua Club of America make it clear that a molera shouldn’t be considered a handicap because historically “the Chihuahua developed in Mexico and the United States has displayed a soft spot on the top of the head.”

They say that it is the same as found in human babies. They also say it is nothing to be alarmed about and although many Chihuahua puppies are born without this soft spot about 50% of Chihuahuas are born with it. It varies in size and shape. They do not consider it a medical problem.

It is the reason why a Chihuahua died when a tennis ball was dropped on his head.

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And there are other inherited defects, as I would call them, in the Chihuahua such as fluid-filled cavities in the spinal cord and other brain abnormalities. Hydrocephalus is also common apparently.

The UK Kennel Club breed standard no longer includes any mention of a molera. The skull defect can be a disqualifying fault in some breed standards as I understand it. So, progress is being made but incredibly slowly. This deep reluctance to accept that breed standards in purebred animals can be inherently unhealthy is typical across cat and dog associations.

It appears that the administrators of cat associations and kennel clubs have historically preferred to allow their breed standard to create unhealthy animals in the interests of creating what they believe is the perfect appearance of pedigree animals. They accept the health problem and don’t see or don’t want to see the ethical dimension. But it is clearly highly unethical to breed animals with these health problems.

Progress is being made. One UK breeder told the Pedigree Dogs Exposed website author that the majority of adult Chihuahuas in the UK show ring have no molera at all. And the British Chihuahua Club said: “These days few Chis have permanent molera which persist into adulthood”.

Well, that’s great news if it’s true but let’s think about it: for a very long time they did have this defect and it was accepted by the senior people and administrators. I think that’s disgraceful. And some owners declaw their small dogs too 😢. Click the link below if this interests you.

RELATED: Trinity Pet Hospital openly condones the declawing of small apartment dogs

The problem is that it appears to be an untruth. Researchers at the universities of Helsinki and Surrey concluded that even if a central molera is absent in some Chihuahua their skulls are covered with holes (see image above). That should shock a few people who want to adopt a Chihuahua but it probably won’t. During Covid there was a surge in dog adoptions and it is clear that adopters ignored inherent health issues in badly bred dogs.

These molera a.k.a. fontanelles are apparently more numerous and larger in smaller Chihuahuas and are linked to other medical conditions such as syringomyelia and overcrowding at the junction where the brain meets the neck.

The research suggested Chihuahuas should be bigger in the interests of health. It appears that breeding them too small predisposes them to these health problems. This is extreme breeding. You see the same in Dachshunds been bred too low to the ground with not enough clearance and Maine Coon cats with muzzles that are too large and exaggeratedly square. You also see it in Persian cats with their brachycephalic heads and flat faces. These are all part and parcel of the same problem namely allowing breeders to chase a goal which is the perfect appearance but in doing so breeding to extreme and causing health problems detrimental to the welfare of the animals concerned.

And breeders have selected Chihuahuas with domed heads and skulls which “overcrowd the brain” and which pushes the structures upwards into the desired apple-shaped head. The UK Kennel Club standard demands and “apple-dome skull”. They also state that the upper weight limit of a Chihuahua should be 2.7 kg (6 pounds).

And in all these examples, and it doesn’t matter whether we are discussing cats or dogs, when you look back into the past say fifty or hundred years ago in some instances, you see an entirely different animal. Extreme breeding has occurred over the 20th century perhaps starting in the mid-to late 1900s as perhaps the cat and dog fancy grew and became more competitive.

The examples of what the American Kennel Club regard as a good head shape are shocking:

AKC illustrated standard showing all correct head shapes
AKC illustrated standard showing all correct head shapes. Image: Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

The conclusion is that ethics have been burned at the altar of perceived perfection of appearance and ironically the desired appearance can become so extreme that it undermines the animals’ attractiveness. There needs to be a clear out at the top of the dog and cat fancy.

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Post Category: Dogs > dog breeding