Chihuahua Floppy Ears – Reasons Why

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 02/14/22 •  11 min read
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Chihuahua Floppy Ears

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Does your Chihuahua have floppy ears? If so, then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve done some research on why these small dogs occasionally have droopy or floppy ears! Read on to learn about what may be causing your Chi’s floppy, droopy ears!

Why Do Chihuahuas Have Floppy Ears?

Puppyhood & Chihuahua Ears

When Chis are puppies, they all have floppy ears. This is a normal characteristic in puppies of this breed. As they grow through the first few weeks, the cartilage in the puppies’ ears begins to firm up.

As the cartilage becomes stronger, the puppies’ ears begin to stand. In many cases, a Chi puppy’s ears will be fully erect by the time he’s five to six weeks old.

Chihuahua Ears & Teething

But Chihuahua ears go through another droopy phase when the puppy starts teething. By the time a puppy is between four to five months old, his puppy teeth fall out, and the adult teeth come through. During this stage, the puppy’s ears may flop over again. However, once teething is over, the ears in most Chis will stand tall once again.

In addition, it takes puppies with longer hair longer for their ears to stand up! Puppies with shorter hair have fully erect ears earlier! Who knew?

Chihuahua May Not Be Purebred

According to the AKC breed standard for Chihuahuas, the dogs should have “large erect type ears, held more upright when alert, but flaring to the sides at a 45-degree angle when in repose.” This is the breed standard recognized by dog shows. Any Chihuahua with floppy ears that tries to compete in a dog show will be disqualified.

Some Chis that have floppy ears may simply not be purebreds. His parents may have come from two different dog breeds. If they were purebreds, then the Chi is a hybrid dog. And there’s nothing wrong with that! A Chihuahua hybrid is just as sweet and lovely as a purebred. What do floppy ears really matter if you’re not planning on showing the dog?

There are breeders who have tried to mix purebred dogs to develop hybrid mixes. Breeders have tried to mix Chihuahuas with other breeds, too. For instance, there are dogs called “Chugs,” which are a mix between a purebred Chi and a Pug. Then there are “Chippits,” which are a mix between a purebred Pitbull and a Chihuahua.

It’s entirely possible for a hybrid Chihuahua to have floppy ears. These dogs are just as precious as a Chi with erect ears, too!


Even purebred Chihuahuas may have floppy ears. There are some lines of Chihuahuas that have a genetic predisposition to floppy ears. It’s simply normal for them. That’s because there are genes, even in purebred Chis, that determine whether or not the dogs’ ears stand up or droop.

If you’d rather have a purebred Chihuahua that has fully erect ears, then it’s best to adopt from a reputable breeder. Be sure to ask if they breed Chihuahua lines that have stand-up ears.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind having a Chihuahua with one or both ears drooping, then you may want to adopt your fur baby from a shelter.

No matter what, it’s possible for purebred Chis to have floppy or erect ears! The good news is that the gene(s) that govern floppy ears don’t seem to carry negative health effects. So, a Chi with floppy ears is just as healthy as a Chihuahua with erect ears.

Poor Nutrition Can Cause Floppy Ears

Another reason some Chihuahuas have floppy ears is because of their diet. All dogs require proper nutrition to be healthy and happy. Puppies require the right nutrients to grow into healthy adult dogs. Without proper nutrition, puppies and dogs can develop certain health issues.

For one thing, a puppy that doesn’t have the right nutrients may lack calcium for healthy bones and teeth. It’s possible the puppy’s muscles may not form correctly, too. These issues can lead to floppy ears in Chihuahuas. It’s even possible the muscles aren’t strong enough to hold up the puppy’s ears as they stand more erect.

If your puppy has floppy ears and you’re concerned, then it’s OK to make an appointment with the vet. They can run tests to see if your fur baby has the proper nutrition needed to be healthy.

Stress Can Lead to Droopy Ears

Another problem that may cause droopy ears in Chis is stress. Stress can cause some major physical changes in dogs, including in a Chihuahua’s ears. If you’ve ever noticed, a dog may lower his ears when stressed by certain noises, as a reaction to what’s going on around him, and more. Fear, stress, and anxiety can cause a dog to lower his ears and keep them that way, even in Chihuahuas.

In addition, a pregnant Chi may also have floppy ears. However, this is usually temporary and lasts only during the pregnancy. In most cases, the momma dog’s ears will stand erect again after the puppies are born.

So, if your Chihuahua shows his emotions by lowering his ears, this is completely normal. However, if your dog seems to be anxious and stressed all the time, it’s a good idea to take him to the vet. Your fur baby may need medication to help ease his stress and anxiety.

Illness in Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas are prone to many health conditions because of their genetics. While this is common, it doesn’t mean they’re not great companion dogs! It just means that it’s crucial to monitor your dog’s health as a pet parent. This can be done through regular vet checkups and appointments when you notice concerning symptoms.

Chihuahuas may develop one or more of the following health issues, which may cause floppy ears:

So, if you have an adult Chi who has had erect ears that suddenly flop over, it’s good to call the vet. And if you have a dog that’s reached adulthood and his ears have never stood up, check with the vet. The key is to ensure your fur baby isn’t suffering any of the common health conditions that can lead to floppy ears.

And if your dog is healthy and has floppy ears, that’s completely OK! There’s nothing to worry about! However, it’s still a good idea to make sure your dog’s ears are healthy and normal.

Domestic Syndrome & Chihuahuas

Domestic syndrome can also cause floppy ears in Chihuahuas and other dog breeds. However, we don’t want to scare you! While the name of this condition may sound serious, it doesn’t endanger a dog’s health. Instead, it’s a condition that comes through the domestication of wild animals.

Actually, “domestic syndrome” is a theory about why some dog breeds (and other animals) develop floppy ears. The theory was started by Charles Darwin. He saw that wild animals usually have ears that stand up. However, domesticated animals usually have floppy ears. He noticed that the only wild animals with floppy ears were elephants!

Darwin tried to make a connection between domestication and floppy ears. However, he couldn’t explain why animals’ ears become floppy when they’re domesticated. There was another study done by a Russian scientist, Dmitry Belyaev, with wild foxes. He wanted to see if wild foxes could become tame like wolves had. So, he selectively bred wild foxes for tameness. Over time, the foxes did become tame and develop floppy ears!

Later, Belyaev’s successor, Lyudmilla Trut, tried the same experiment on rats and minks. Her team suggested that a genetic regulatory network was responsible for the traits found in domesticated animals. This could account for many traits, including floppy ears.

Later, in 2014, another scientist named Adam Wilkins developed a newer theory. They said Trut’s hypothesis was inconsistent with other genetic regulatory networks. So, they said the floppy ears were caused by the importance of the neural crest in Domestic Syndrome.

Fewer Neural Crest Cells

Neural crest cells are a temporary group of cells that are unique in vertebrates. These cells work to produce the connective tissues, bones, and other tissues of the face. However, these cells also work on the adrenal glands and other parts of the body. It’s thought the neural crest cells were important for wild animals, as they were part of the fight or flight response.

However, as wolves (and other animals) became domesticated, they had to lose their fear of humans. Over time, as wolves became dependent on humans for food and companionship, they became tamer. Those wolves who relied more on humans started to look and act differently. They were becoming domesticated. As a result, they developed shorter muzzles, smaller teeth, and floppy ears (along with other traits).

The neural crest cells are responsible for tameness and domestication. What’s more, these cells determine the amount of cartilage found in the outer ear. As a result, wolves that had lower numbers of neural crest cells began to have lower amounts of adrenaline (remember, these cells affect the adrenal glands).

Over time, the wolves developed floppy ears and other characteristics of modern dogs. However, there are dogs breeds that have erect ears, like a wolf. These dogs have more neural crest cells. Dogs with floppy ears, including Chihuahuas, are tamer and friendlier because they have lower numbers of neural crest cells, which causes Domestic Syndrome.

It’s all so very interesting! But what we’re trying to say is that your Chi could have lower numbers of neural crest cells, and this could be why he has floppy ears. It’s a completely normal condition, and there’s nothing wrong with your canine companion!

Adrenaline Levels are Low or High

Another issue that can affect a Chihuahua’s ears is the level of adrenaline in the dog’s system. Remember, dogs that have fewer neural crest cells tend to have floppy ears. Having a lower number of these cells may also lead to lower amounts of adrenaline and floppy ears.

However, some dog breeders have also found that Chis who are stressed and anxious (too much adrenaline) may also have floppy ears.

In addition, some Chihuahuas can have a syndrome called Mowat-Wilson Syndrome. This is a condition that can affect humans, too. In both dogs and humans, this syndrome can cause droopy ears. It can cause low brain function and a happy personality. Some dogs may also have this condition. In that case, the dog may have floppy ears.

So, if you’ve noticed your dog’s ears are more floppy or more erect than normal, this could indicate a chance in adrenaline levels. This may be a good time to have your fur baby checked by the vet. It may not mean there’s anything wrong, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Is There Anything You Can Do About Floppy Ears?

It’s normal for some Chihuahuas to have floppy ears. But is there anything you need to do about your fur baby’s ears?

Some pet parents may be tempted to tape or crop their Chihuahuas’ ears. However, these methods are not recommended. For one thing, cropping a dog’s ears is extremely painful. Cropping is a procedure that cuts the outer flap of the ear away to make the ear stand up. What’s more, ear cropping is illegal in some countries.

Taping the ears can also be painful and traumatic and is not recommended.

The truth is that there’s no way to fix a Chi’s floppy ears. If your dog is healthy and happy, then there’s nothing you can do to change his ears. He’s meant to have floppy ears.

The only thing you can do is to make sure your dog is healthy, has the right nutrition, and that his ears are cared for. Some Chihuahuas have sensitive ears. And those that have floppy ears are prone to developing ear infections.

So, it’s best to check your dog’s ears each week and clean out debris, dirt, and ear wax. But only clean the exterior part of the ear. Never try to do anything with the ear canal.

Summing It Up

As you can see, Chihuahuas can have floppy ears and be completely healthy! There’s nothing you can do to make your dog’s ears stand up. So, the best thing is to make sure his ears are clean and healthy.

If you notice any concerning symptoms in your dog, it’s always best to take him to the vet. If your fur baby had erect ears and they’ve suddenly gone floppy, this may be an indication of a health issue.

No matter what, Chihuahuas are cute with erect ears or floppy ears! We think they’re all adorable!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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