Get To Know These Common Medical Problems That Small & Cute Dog Breeds Usually Have


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They’re adorable, they’re smol, they’re little pupperinos that are almost as portable as laptops. If you’re considering adopting or owning a small dog breed, perhaps you’re thinking “small problems come in small packages”.

However, you should not be deceived by their tiny stature and size. 

Larger breed dogs may face issues such as bloat and torsion especially in deep-chested dogs like Great Danes and German Shepherds. But these smaller dog breeds can have their fair share of medical conditions caused by their compact, fun-sized build.

Hence, here are 6 common medical conditions in smaller dog breeds that you should be aware of. 

1. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachy means shortened and cephalic means head. Brachycephalic dogs would have shorter face and nose bones thus giving the face a pushed-in appearance as seen in breeds like both French and English Bulldogs, Boxer Dogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Chinese Pugs, and Shih Tzus.

As a result of the altered bone structure, the surrounding tissue growth is also affected. The altered anatomies such as a narrow nostril, elongated soft palate (the roof of your mouth) that blocks the windpipe, and a smaller trachea may increase airway resistance.

Symptoms may include noisy breathing especially with exercise, snorting when excited, snoring when relaxed or asleep, coughing, gagging, retching and vomiting. 

2. Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is an age-related, degenerative condition that’s commonly seen in dogs and occasionally in cats. Breeds that are most susceptible to this condition are Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Shih Tzus.

This condition causes cushion discs between each vertebra to push on the spinal cord causing discomfort, nerve damage and even paralysis.

Symptoms may include abnormal posture (e.g. hunched back with head down), shivering, panting, unwillingness to move, difficulty jumping, and going up and down stairs.

3. Patellar luxation

The patellar refers to your kneecap and this medical condition essentially means a dislocated kneecap. Although this condition also affects other breeds, it is more commonly seen in toy and small breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas, Pekingese, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Poodles, Pomeranians, and Daschunds.

The dislocated or “floating” kneecap occurs when the ridged groove that holds the kneecap in place is either too flat or is worn down. This is a painful condition that impacts mobility and requires immediate treatment for your pup to continue leading a happy and active life.

There are 4 levels of severity to this condition:

  • Grade 1: The kneecap can be easily pushed out of place but will pop back in on its own.
  • Grade 2: The kneecap can be pushed out of place and does not automatically return on its own, requiring help to pop it back in.
  • Grade 3: The kneecap is always out of place but can be manually moved back into place, where it will stay before it later pops out again on its own.
  • Grade 4: The knee cap won’t stay in place at all, even with manual manipulation.

Symptoms may include walking on just three paws, walking with a locked straight leg or shaking.

4. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This is a medical condition in which one of the back femurs degenerates in the hip socket. Not to be confused with hip dysplasia that tends to occur in older dogs and large breeds, this disease tends to show up at 4-12 months of age especially in toy breeds.

As the joint cartilage on the affected side deteriorates, it results in pain and lameness and eventually shrivelling the muscles in the affected leg as the dog tries to minimise its usage as a weight-bearing appendage.

Symptoms may include sensitivity in one back leg, obsessive grooming of the affected leg, increase in aggression due to the chronic pain, abnormal movement in the hip joint.

5. Whelping Complications

Due to the small stature of these smaller breed dogs, their narrower pelvic openings and limited endurance poses a different set of challenges when birthing puppies. Some of the most affected breeds include Toy Poodles, Pugs, and Boston Terriers.

If you’ve noticed your pupperino’s about to turn into a baby momma, you should contact your vet to assess if a caesarean is necessary to mitigate the risks of dystocia (the inability to expel a puppy through the birth canal).

There are no potential signs and symptoms that may indicate your dog’s future birthing issues but planning ahead my help in avoiding serious complications.

6. Homeostasis Imbalance

It’s a running joke that small dogs or chihuahuas in particular are nervous dogs because they just seem to constantly tremble. However, the truth is that their minimal insulation and higher skin to overall body mass ratio makes it difficult for them to regulate their body temperatures. 

Hence sudden exposure to coldness can dramatically drop their body heat and stepping out on an excessively hot day can overwhelm them. It’s especially important to ensure that your little pooch is well hydrated for them to maintain and regulate a healthy body temperature. Or the next time you catch them doing a tremble, simply pick them up for a warm loving cuddle!

What Can You Do About It?

First of all, be observant towards your dog’s behavior and needs. If there are sudden changes in how they’re acting, it could indicate some pain or certain bodily abnormalities. Bringing your dog to the vet for an early consultation could help to relieve them of discomfort and also treat any medical conditions early.

Next, your dog’s physical wellness (fit, fat or floofy) plays a large role in determining their overall health. This can be maintained with a diet suited to their needs along with an active lifestyle. Degenerative diseases and medical illnesses may sometimes be inevitable with age but with the right treatments and management, your pup can still enjoy their golden years with ease and comfort.

Should you require some advice on suitable pet nutrition for your pets, feel free to speak to our friendly Petchef Advisors.

Feature Image Credit: Pikrepo

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