There’s plenty of charm in a little dog. They’re cute as buttons, full of personality, easy to cuddle, and basically as portable as a laptop. Unfortunately, teensy pups also have more than their share of health issues. Not only are little breeds more generally fragile than the big guys, they also have a number of illnesses and maladies that disproportionately affect their kind.
Whether you’ve got a little one or if you’re looking to add one to the family, make sure you understand the health risks that come along. The more you know, the better positioned you’ll be to give your lil’ buddy the care she needs.
These are the 10 health issues all small dog owners should know:
1. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.
This refers to the various upper airway problems found in short-nosed, flat-faced dog breeds. The compressed respiratory system of these pups makes it harder for them to breathe. So make sure you don’t demand too much of them! Strenuous exercise (for instance, running with your dog) is a big no-no for a pup like this.
2. Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD).
A condition in which the cushions between each vertebra come into contact with the spinal cord. When these cushioning discs push on the spinal cord, it can cause discomfort, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Some of the breeds most susceptible to this sad condition are the Dachshund, the Beagle, the Basset Hound, and the Shih Tzu.
A quick drop in blood sugar, often brought on by stress, this condition is particularly common in toy breeds, 6-12 weeks of age. If you notice your little dog becoming weak or lethargic, or struggling to maintain an even gait, or tremors- especially in the face- these could be signs of a hypoglycemic attack. A sudden drop in blood sugar can even send a little dog into a potentially fatal coma.
An ailment that can affect all sorts of dogs, but occurs most often in smaller dogs. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, your dog can end up suffering from fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain. Unfortunately, Pancreatitis can be provoked by all sorts of issues- obesity, infection, trauma, metabolic disorders, and sometimes even appearing out of nowhere.
5. Tracheal collapse.
A progressive disease involving the trachea (windpipe), most commonly seen in small breed dogs. When the rings that preserve the shape of your dog’s windpipe weaken, the windpipe can start flattening, making it harder to breathe. Some common causes include obesity, kennel cough, or exposure to smoke and dust.
6. Legg Calve Perthes Disease.
This disease involves the joints where upper leg (femur) connect to the hip bone- when blood flow to the femoral head is interrupted, bone cells can start dying off and the femoral head starts to degenerate. The bone loses mass and the hip joint deteriorates, resulting in pain and lameness and eventually shriveling the muscles in the affected leg. Legg Calve Perthes Disease is observed in almost all small dog breeds, and usually shows up at 4-12 months of age.
7. Patellar luxation.
Essentially, a dislocated kneecap- when the patella (kneecap) slips out of its normal place in the groove of the femur. This can be hard on your little dog’s hindlimb movement.
8. Whelping complications.
Because of their narrow pelvic openings and very limited endurance, birthing can be difficult for the little breeds. Some of the most affected breeds include Toy Poodles, Pugs, and Boston Terriers. If you have a Little Mama in the house with a litter on the way, ask your veterinarian about a Cesarean section.
An abnormality which commonly affects short-nosed, flat-faced dog breeds. It causes the margin of the eyelid to roll outward, which exposes the tissue that lines the inner eyelids (palpebral conjunctiva). No fun for a poor pup in a dusty house…
10. Homeostasis imbalance.
Small dogs don’t handle temperature extremes well. Because little dogs have such little insulation and not much surface area, sudden exposure to cold weather can dramatically drop their body heat- and on the flipside, stepping out on an excessively hot day can overwhelm them. You have to be very careful when you take your dog out in severe weather- for little breeds, this can literally kill them.
Even though it can seem grim to consider the ailments your sweet little dog might encounter, the more you know, the better you’ll be able to care for your little one. And your veterinarian is always available to help- so if you need more advice when you’re looking for a new dog, or looking after your beloved pup, don’t be shy to ask!