Small dog breeds are popular with many pet owners due to their small stature and big personalities. Top breeds like Pugs, Chihuahuas, Terriers, Pomeranians, and other tiny dogs are trendy with those with limited space and a passion for their convenient and adorable size. Small dogs, though, are at greater risk for specific health conditions that primarily affect the minuscule breeds.

The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is here to explain some of the conditions that affect small dogs. Understanding the challenges of small dog breeds can hopefully help you better care for your best friend.

7 Conditions That Affect Small Dogs

One of the benefits of owning a small dog is that they typically live a longer life. The lifespan of small and toy breeds can exceed 15-18 years of age, and sometimes longer. Unfortunately, our small friends are prone to health issues that are prevalent in small breeds. 

  1. Tracheal collapse — Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Lhasa Apsos, have respiratory issues due to their nasal structure. They often have difficulty breathing and are prone to tracheal collapse, which is a progressive disease of the trachea. Surgery can correct some issues, but these breeds will have breathing problems, especially if they are overweight or during summer months. Avoid strenuous exercise to prevent aggravating their Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.
  2. Joint issues — Many little dogs have mobility conditions that affect them, one of which is patellar luxation. This knee problem is when the kneecap becomes temporarily dislocated. When this occurs, it sets the dog up for a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture. This important ligament is in charge of absorbing the shock of walking/standing and stabilizing the knee joint. When a CCL occurs, a dog will limp or become lame unless surgery is done to correct it. They are also prone to Legg Calve Perthes Disease, another joint disease affecting the leg/hip joint.
  3. Birthing issues — Small and toy dogs have a much harder time during gestation and through whelping. Their small structure and pelvis make birthing pups laborious work (pun intended). Some pets may require Cesarean sections for their safety and that of their puppies.
  4. Mitral valve disease — This is a serious heart condition that is often found in older small dogs. It occurs when the heart valve deteriorates and cannot open correctly. This then allows the blood to leak back into the left atrium. Many small dogs develop congestive heart failure in their later years.
  5. Pancreatitis — Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that is a serious situation. It is linked to eating rich, fatty people foods, and small dogs are particularly prone to this and other gastrointestinal disorders. They are more prone because of the impact of these foods in relation to their size.
  6. Temperature sensitivities — Have you noticed your little pup shaking in mild weather, or getting too hot when the sun shines on their coat? Small breeds are more susceptible to temperature sensitivities because they are less able to regulate their internal body.
  7. Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) — Small dogs are also prone to ruptured or herniated discs in the spinal area. This leads to pain, difficulty walking or even paralysis. 

What You Can Do to Help Your Furry Friend

Knowledge is the key to keeping your small dog healthy and safe. Get to know what conditions could affect your dog and address them with your veterinarian. From there, take steps to keep your small breed at its healthiest using proactive preventive means. This includes avoiding indulging your dog with people food and keeping them at the right weight for their size.

If we can answer any questions about issues affecting small dogs, please contact us!