Small Dog Health Problems

Jack Russell Terrier running through field

5 Health Problems That Affect Small Dogs

Small dogs usually live longer than larger dogs, but their increased lifespan doesn't necessarily guarantee good health. In fact, these five conditions and diseases are more likely to occur in smaller dogs.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Breathing problems can be an issue in small dogs with short noses and muzzles, such as Shih Tzus, Pekingese, or Lhasa Apsos. Dogs that have brachycephalic airway syndrome may have difficulty drawing enough air into their lungs through their nostrils and may resort to breathing through their mouths. Dogs that have brachycephalic airway syndrome might breathe heavily while sleeping or exercising or may have difficulty breathing during hot and humid weather.

Serious breathing problems or airway swelling may occur if your dog is anesthetized or sedated, despite the precautions your pet's veterinarian will take to minimize complications. Although using anesthesia can be risky if your dog has brachycephalic airway syndrome, surgery may be the best option to correct structural problems and improve breathing.

Joint Problems

Common joint problems in small dogs include:

  • Patellar Luxation. Patellar luxation occurs when your dog's kneecap becomes dislocated. The problem happens when the kneecap slips out of a groove that holds it in place in the thigh bone. A dislocated kneecap can cause pain, swelling, and lameness. It may even make it impossible for your dog to bend his or her leg. Miniature and teacup breeds are more likely to inherit the genetic defect that causes the problem. Surgery may be needed if your dog has patellar luxation.
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture. Some small dogs may be more likely to experience a cranial cruciate ligament rupture. The injury occurs when the ligament that stabilizes the knee joint and absorbs shock tears. You may hear a popping sound when your dog walks and notice limping or stiffness if the ligament has torn. Swelling and muscle wasting in the affected limb can also occur. Depending on the severity of the rupture, your dog may recover with a little rest, however, he or she might need surgery to repair the ligament.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. Toy poodles, miniature pinschers, and terriers are at increased risk of developing Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. The disease occurs when the blood supply to the femur (thigh bone) is interrupted, causing degeneration in the head of the bone. Symptoms include lameness, limping, stiffness or decreased range of motion in the joint as well as difficulty jumping or running. The disease often strikes puppies and is particularly common in young dogs between 4 to 12 months of age. Hip replacement or surgery to remove the end of the femur may be recommended.

Birthing Issues

Everything about small breeds is smaller, including their pelvises. As a result, female dogs can encounter issues during labor and delivery and may require Cesaerean sections to safely deliver puppies.

Skin Irritation

Some small breeds are more sensitive to allergens in the air and in foods. Even a small amount of an allergen can trigger rashes and itching when your pet isn't very big. Flea bite symptoms also tend to be more severe in small and miniature breeds, particularly if your pet is bitten multiple times. Regular use of flea protection and medication, changes in food, and allergy medication prescribed by your pet's vet may be helpful if your small breed develops skin irritations due to allergies.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, a serious inflammation of the pancreas, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite in any dog but is more common in small and miniature breeds. Intravenous fluids and pain medication can help your pet recover from a bout of pancreatitis. Your pet's veterinarian may also recommend a low-fat diet to prevent a recurrence of the illness.

Regular check-ups are particularly important if you have a small dog, as some symptoms of illnesses, injuries, and conditions can be subtle at first. Periodic appointments will help ensure that your pet receives prompt treatment if any health problems are detected. Contact us to schedule a visit for your furry friend.

Sources:

Animal Planet: Are Small Dogs More Prone to Joint Issues?

http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/dog-joint-health/

Pet Health Network: Acute Pancreatitis in Dogs, 5/14

https://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/acute-pancreatitis-dogs

PetMD: Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_multi_patellar_luxation?page=show

Dogster: No Small Problem: The Ethics of Teacup Dogs, 6/25/14

https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/teacup-dogs-small-dog-breeds-health-ethics-puppies-pictures-photos

Dog Living Magazine: Top 5 Health Conditions for Small Dog Breeds

http://www.doglivingmagazine.com/wellness/top-5-health-conditions-for-small-dog-breeds/

Contact Us Today!

Contact us using the form or call us at 804-741-3200.

Monday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Tuesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Wednesday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Thursday:

7:30am

7:00pm

Friday:

7:30am

6:00pm

Saturday:

7:30am

2:00pm

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Evans was so patient and kind with our kitty "Cookie". Very caring and so helpful and answered many questions for me concerning her health. The office staff are kind, caring, and professional. The office is immaculate. I have never been to a vet where my pets and myself were treated so well. Love it and so glad to have found them. Best vet appointment ever!"
    Dorothy M.
  • "We have used the Q for over 15 years for our cats and our dogs. Dr. Mortimer is a genius at diagnosing and treating a wide array of issues, and we have relied on his skills to help our animals live to amazing ages. The staff is incredibly caring. They do everything possible to help when we call or come in with a sick animal. They truly care for our pets, and many of the staff will come out from the back to pet our dogs
    when they come in. They are so patient with shy animals like our ferally cat Stasha who needed laser treatments, and our Bagle Topsy who is afraid of her own shadow.Yes, they are not the cheapest vet in town, but they work with us on making a treatment plan we can afford, and we feel that the value and the care are well worth it. Thank you to everyone at the Q for their dedication and loving care."
    Sally M. / December 21, 2017
  • "Met with Dr. Hiser today for the first time. Everyone at the
    clinic--from the desk staff to the vet techs to the veterinarian were warm and welcoming. My dog Iris--who is often nervous around new people--was comfortable there and (I think) made a few new friends. Looking forward to a continued relationship with the clinic as my sweet girl grows up. Thanks, thanks thanks."
    Stephanie C. / June 27, 2018
  • "My three chihuahuas have been Dr. Mortimer's patients for over nine years. The expertise, love, and care demonstrated for each pet is extraordinary. The doctors and staff go the extra mile to help their patients and the parents. They are truly an amazing group that love and care for each pet. If there was a review rated outstanding, that would have been my choice!"
    Donna C. / June 10, 2018
  • "I would highly recommended QVH. All of the staff are so kind and compassionate. They are so willing to help and never mind answering any questions you may have, even if it's 100 questions they are so patient. They genuinely care and treat your pets as if they were their own. And I cannot say enough about Dr. Hiser. She is amazing. Even on her days off she would still call and check in on my dog. I am so appreciative of this place and the staff. It's a great feeling to be completely comfortable with putting your pets care in someone's else hands and trusting them to provide the best service."
    Taylor H. / August 25, 2018
  • "I have been seeing Dr. Evans for at least 20 years. Her manner, knowledge, staff and facility are exceptional. I am a health care provider myself and hold the care of my pets to the highest standards....and I have never had a second thought about the care or recommendations of Dr. Evans. I moved out of town 6 years ago....and drive 3 hours each way to see her."
    Kimberley W. / April 2, 2018
  • "Wouldn't trust my four-legged Kids to anyone else - they have guided us with all our dogs through the years. The entire staff is kind and patient with the animals (and their parents)."
    Karen K. / November 7, 2017

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles