Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tennessee folklore -- chihuahuas cure asthma

photo by Tyke
Have you ever heard the myth that chihuahuas can cure asthma?   Asthma runs in my middle Tennessee family and sinus problems in my west Tennessee kin.  I used to visit my mother's cousins in rural Maury County.  They lived in the original cabin built when my family settled the area in the very early 1800's.  They were such a warm and welcoming family, and I used to love my brief visits there.

These particular cousins kept chihuahuas as pets.  They firmly believed that chihuahuas "take" asthma from asthma sufferers, thus leaving their owners well.  Since then, I have heard that this belief is or was common in Tennessee, as well as in Georgia and other areas.

I've long tried to trace how this belief came to Tennessee given that chihuahuas are not a native breed here.  I haven't been able to find out the exact origien.  If you know, please leave a comment!

In doing research,  I did find that a)  chihuahuas will often lie near or on places where people are hurting, and the warmth of their bodies may provide a sense of ease, b)  chihuahas, with their short hair, might be easier for some with allergies and asthma to tolerate than other pets, but this is not always so, c)  chihuahas do often make coughing or wheezing sounds which might lead to the mistaken belief that this is because the chihuha is taking the asthma upon itself and removing it from the person, and d) since asthma often goes into remission when a person enters their teens, it might be that people buy chihuahas for asthmatic children near the time when they might get better anyway and they coincidentally improve --at least for a time. 

Whatever the origin of the belief, my cousins' chihuahuas became beloved pets.  Perhaps because they were so well-loved, they were the calmest, sweetest chihuahuas I've ever met.

I know from experience that having a loyal, cuddly dog around you can be comforting when you are ill.  If you have asthma, though, I wouldn't recommend bringing a chihuahua into the home unless you have already tested it for a time and know that you do not get worse being around the dog.  Chihuahuas do not cure asthma, despite the myth.  In fact, they can make asthma worse if they cause an allergic reaction.




  1. As a hispanic, i know this tale very well. it seems like every aunt I tell about my asthma automatically reccomend a cute little chihuahua. I have noticed, without a doubt, a friend somehow get better from asthma flairs after he got a little chihuahua pup. His asthma was very severe, and in his junior year in high school he adopted "timmy". by senior year he went the entire winter without a trip to the hospital. (humidity levels in south texas are insane). crazy as it sounds, he actually didnt get the puppy due to this tale, he heard about this "remedy" after he had timmy for a year. Ancient Aztecs were very fond of these little creatures and they are adorable as hell. As to the effect they have on asthma patients, the question is not quite answered. I hope my story serves to any research or conclusion you are trying to find. I have no idea how this old Mexican tale got all the way to Tenesse. I wish the best to you and your family, and I hope this helps in any way!

  2. Saiiree, that's fascinating that it's a tradition in your family, as well. And, that's interesting that your friend got better with one. Thanks for sharing that.

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