If you suffer from asthma, or if you have a friend or loved one afflicted with the condition, you already know how scary and debilitating the disease can often be.
And because of the harsh symptoms associated with asthma, people are always on the lookout for potential treatments.
While some of the known remedies are indeed very effective and, in fact, necessary in some cases, others fall into the category of “wishful thinking.”
Within the latter of these categories is the notion that the presence of a chihuahua in the home can actually help or cure your asthma—a myth that dates back centuries, but is still alive and well today in certain circles.
To help make some sense of this theory, below we will briefly describe what asthma is and highlight some of the symptoms it can produce.
We will then describe the origins of the “chihuahuas help with asthma” myth, and provide some truthful information that may actually help you better understand this subject.
What Is Asthma: A Brief Description
According to the National Institute of Health, “asthma is a common, chronic lung condition that negatively impacts the airways in the lungs.”
In people with asthma, their lungs and airways can become considerably inflamed—largely due to pollutants, allergens and overexertion.
This inflammation causes the body’s airways to narrow significantly, making it difficult to inhale and exhale air.
In most cases, asthma is a condition that develops during the childhood years, although adult-onset asthma is also possible.
There are many risk factors for developing asthma, and even more factors that can trigger an asthma attack.
Risk factors associated with asthma include:
- Cigarette smoke exposure. Exposure to cigarette smoke, either in the womb or as a small child, is known to increase the chances of developing asthma.
- Poor air quality. Those living in areas with a lot of smog are at a higher risk for asthma.
- Exposure to chemicals or irritants. Workplace and home exposure to a wide range of chemicals and other irritants is thought to bring about asthma in adulthood.
Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, allergies and certain respiratory conditions that cause lung inflammation.
The disease is more prevalent in African-Americans and certain Latin populations, and more boys than girls will develop the disease.
Just as smoking, smog and chemical irritants can all be risk factors for developing asthma, they can also trigger an attack.
Activities that require exertion are also triggers, as are allergies to pollen, dust, and pet hair—including the pet hair of chihuahuas.
Do Chihuahuas Help with Asthma? The Truth Behind This Myth
First, let us again address this question/myth: Chihuahuas do NOT help people with asthma.
However, it is also important to note that, for asthma sufferers with no known pet hair or dander allergies, the presence of this animal in the home will usually not make the condition any worse.
So where and how did this myth originate in the first place?
Most historians agree that this rumor/myth began with the ancient Aztecs in what is now Mexico.
The Aztecs, like many early people, were a very superstitious bunch, believing certain animals could cure different diseases and afflictions.
The chihuahua was a very important part of Aztec life, thought to be heralded for its healing properties, in addition to its role as a companion—and sometimes a food source.
The Aztecs believed the chihuahua was a sort of spiritual guide—a messenger to the Gods.
As a result, many myths have prospered over the years—especially in Mexico—about this tiny dog breed.
But this myth is not limited to the Aztecs.
Even today, you can find literature that highlights the belief that chihuahuas can cure the asthma of their owner.
So just how do they do it, according to these myths?
Well, according to one thesis in a 1956 medical journal, it was thought that the chihuahua could gradually take the asthma from a child through a process of absorption.
In other words, the asthma would leave the body of the child to instead reside in the dog.
Of course, today that sounds just as crazy as it actually is, but you have to understand that these were the early days of modern medicine, and many people actually prescribed to this theory.
The reason for this is two-fold. In many cases, asthma is a condition for which a child might outgrow as he or she reaches their teen years.
And if this was the case in a home where a chihuahua was actually present, it only stood to reason—back then—that it must have been the dog that cured the problem.
The other reason for this odd belief is that some chihuahuas are known to, over time, develop wheezing—mostly because of its mouth and active nature.
So if the child seems to be getting better just as the chihuahua is starting to wheeze, it would not have been hard to make a connection between the two events—and convince people of that connection.
Some Helpful Truths about Chihuahuas and Asthma
In today’s highly-sophisticated world, we of course now know that chihuahuas cannot absorb a child’s asthma.
But there are also many others things we now know.
Some of these facts include:
- It can sound like a chihuahua has asthma when it doesn’t. The wheezing, also known as reverse sneezing, that you might have heard in your chihuahua is likely NOT due to asthma. Instead it stems from a softer-than-normal palate that is subject to irritation and a reaction from your dog.
- A chihuahua can develop asthma. Chihuahuas can also develop the lung condition known as asthma, with symptoms that may present much like those in humans. If you notice prolonged breathing difficulties, be sure to make an appointment with your vet.
- Treatment is available for your wheezing chihuahua. Most cases of wheezing, caused by soft palate irritation, are due to certain environmental allergens like dust and pollen. And just as humans can be treated for allergies, so too can your dog.
Last but not least, if you or one of your children is an asthma sufferer, be sure to check with your doctor before bringing any pet into your household.
While these pets cannot help cure your asthma, they can make it worse in some instances, triggering unwelcome attacks and unnecessary complications.