Seeing an infant’s creepy soft spot is just one of the many reasons I’ve chosen dogs over babies. It gives me the willies to see a baby’s pulsating head hole. It’s a reminder that, with one tiny mistake, you could give a baby serious brain damage for life. Eeek. So, dogs it is.
However, I recently learned that dogs can have soft spots too. All puppies are born with a molera, though it’s not uncommon for Chihuahuas, Yorkies and other small, round-headed breeds to have this skull gap for their entire lives.
Since Matilda is a minpin mix, she does not have a soft spot. If she did, I think she would either be a vegetable or dead. Cow plays rough with her, and sometimes she bangs her head. Thankfully, she always bounces back, unfazed, and gets her revenge.
Are Soft Spots Part Of The Chihuahua Standard?
The American Kennel Club breed standard (PDF) for the Chihuahua states that the dogs should have a round, apple-shaped or domed skull, with or without a molera.
I discovered this interesting statement on moleras from the Chihuahua Club of America that states the Chihuahua was originally bred in the United States and Mexico to have the molera; it was a sign of purity.
Should Chihuahuas Be Bred For Moleras?
I’m hoping that most Chihuahua breeders are not breeding dogs with soft spots. Even if this was once considered a mark of purity, it’s not in a dog’s best interest. If dogs without moleras are found to be acceptable when it comes to the current breed standard, there’s no good reason for dogs to be born with large, gaping skull holes that never close.
Vulnerability To Brain Injury
A molera, in itself, is not a medical condition or injury. It’s generally considered to be normal.
Dogs with a soft spot have not been shown to be more likely to get hydrocephalus, a potentially fatal buildup of water in the brain. Even so, it’s good to know the signs: bulging eyes, seizures and behavioral changes. Dogs with hydrocephalus may also press their heads against surfaces in attempts to relieve the pressure. In severe cases, it’s noticeable in young puppies.
As you’d expect, a gaping hole in a dog’s skull leaves them vulnerable to brain injury. However, between the brain and the skin would be a layer of tissue, so it’s not as though you can touch the dog’s brain.
A Chihuahua puppy’s molera will shrink as the puppy grows and the skull fuses. The smaller the hole, the more protection surrounding the dog’s brain. If your dog has a soft spot, you do need to be extra careful about dropping them, allowing them to jump and play with other animals.
Adopting A Chihuahua With No Molera
While the molera is not considered a defect, I personally believe it should be. Chihuahua breeders may have to remove an otherwise perfect dog from their gene pool, resulting in a loss of profit, but I feel that producing healthier, more stable dogs should be a bigger priority.
If you buy from a breeder, be sure to ask if their dogs have a molera before you make a down payment on a puppy. Also ask about health testing for luxating patella, a condition caused by genetics that makes the dog’s kneecap dislocate.
If you can’t find or can’t afford a good breeder, there may be plenty of chihuahuas available in a local rescue or shelter. Chihuahuas are the #2 most surrendered and euthanized breed in United States animal shelters, particularly in states close to Mexico.
Many adoptable chihuahuas are not purebred, and may have a longer snout and a skull with a less pronounced dome shape. Some people call this a “deerhead” chihuahua, though the only AKC recognized varieties are long and short haired. “Deerhead” chihuahuas and chihuahua mixes are less susceptible to moleras, hydrocephalus and chiari malformation.
If your Chihuahua does have a molera, keep him or her safe, and remember that all Chihuahuas are beautiful – gape or not, purebred or not, apple or deerhead, shy or bubbly, big or small!
Does your dog have a soft spot? I’d love to get a head count! (Sorry, that was an awful pun.)