In many ways all dogs are the same, and general rules apply when it comes to the health of dogs of all sizes. However, in many ways small dogs need more special care than their larger counterparts. Small dogs can have big health problems, especially when you’re not aware of various preventive measures you can take to minimize the problems in the first place.
So what can you do if you own a small dog?
Here are some tips that can really keep them little critters in tiptop shape:
- If you have a small breed puppy, you need to keep it fed with calorie-rich food about 3 to 4 times a day. That’s because they tend to have very high metabolism, and that means they burn off calories more quickly. This trait continues on as they turn into adults, which means that a smaller breed of dog will need more calories per pound than their bigger counterparts.
Inadequate calories can lead to lots of health problems, and that includes hypoglycemia. This is the quick drop in blood sugar that’s often found in small toy breeds from ages 6 to 12 weeks. A hypoglycemic attack can be indicated by tremors, problems in maintaining an even gait, or by general weakness and lethargy. Nutrition is very important!
You should take your small dog to the vet right away if you notice these symptoms, as hypoglycemia can also result in a coma that can be fatal. Your vet can treat the problem, and recommend changes in your dog’s calorie intake and feeding schedule.
- Make sure that your small dog’s diet also includes a lot of antioxidants. These include lycopene, beta-carotene, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E. These can be found in whole grains, carrots, apples, berries, and broccoli. You should check that your dog food has some of these as the ingredients.
Your small dog needs antioxidants because they tend to live longer than bigger dogs. That’s a good thing, but as they grow older they’re more susceptible to health conditions that are brought on by old age. Antioxidants can fight off the symptoms of aging, by fighting off harmful free radicals that can attack healthy tissues and cause cancer.
- Make sure that everyone in the house is aware of the foods that must not be fed to your dog. These no-no food items include mushrooms, grapes, coffee, and chocolate. These food items can make your dog sick, so you need to resist the temptation to share all your food with them.
- It is true that exercise is crucial for all dogs regardless of how big they are. However, this may be especially true for some types of small dogs. Some of these tiny tots are so active that they need even more exercise and physical activity. You should get them to move more, because these small dogs can become bored and that can lead to problems for you. They can start chewing off and destroying various items in your home, or they can be so bored that they’ll just bark incessantly to keep themselves entertained.
- Exercises for your dogs, such as walks around the neighborhood, are good. Other good types of exercises for small dogs include playing a game of fetch, or playing with other dogs. What’s not good is when you do too much of it, as your small dog may not be built for excessive walks and jogs. These small dogs have a troubling tendency of getting problems with their joints, and so they’re more prone to joint injuries when they take too much time walking.
- Grooming can be extremely important because lack of grooming can lead to all kinds of health problems. Ear mites, ticks, fleas, parasites, and curled up toe nails are but a few of the problems that could arise without regular grooming.
- Small dogs also often have problems with running. Their small legs can have joint problems. Some small dog breeds such as the brachycephalic dogs with short noses can heave breathing problems that make running simply too much for them.
- Overheating is also another problem that you have to contend with, and it’s a common consequence of too much exercise. This is especially true if it’s hot outside. During the hot summer months, you may want to limit the exercises to indoor activities.
- The summer heat is especially problematic for dogs with flat faces and short noses (brachycephalic dogs). In fact, these dogs shouldn’t indulge in too much strenuous exercise like running. That’s because their respiratory system is compressed, and this makes it hard for them to breathe easily.
Breathing problems for these dogs can include labored breathing, snorting, and frequent sneezing. When your dog has a breathing problem that’s left untreated, it can cause your dog stress, and like for you the stress can shorten their lifespan. If you notice any of these breathing problems, you really should take them to the vet as soon as possible.
- Sudden exposure to the cold isn’t good for your small dog either. This can suddenly drop their body heat because these tiny dogs don’t have much insulation and surface area. So you should avoid taking your dog out in extreme temperatures, whether it is very cold or very hot. This sudden change in temperature can be literally fatal for them.
- With small dogs, you always have to be aware of how they’re doing. You need to keep watching for signs of fatigue. When they’re flagging down, you have to stop with the workout.
- As your dog gets older, dental problems can become more pressing issues. You should brush their teeth daily, as this is crucial for small dog oral health. Just make sure you use special toothpaste for dogs, as toothpaste for humans aren’t good for them. If it is possible, you should also look into using oral rinses, and you may want to ask your vet if they can recommend a professional to provide teeth cleanings.
- Joint pain, as we’ve already mentioned, is a common issue with small dogs. Signs that they’re feeling this pain include hopping, limping, and being unable to get up easily after lying down. You need to rest your dog so they can recover.
- If the joint pain keeps your dog from being able to walk, then rest isn’t enough. A trip to the vet is required. Your vet can then administer anti-inflammatory medicine to relieve the pain. You should discuss with your vet whether supplements can help. Some supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine can help lubricate your dog’s joints.
- To prevent or at least minimize joint problems for small dogs, you really need to keep an eye out on their weight. If they’re carrying too much weight around, it can cause additional stress on their joints and that leads to joint problems and pain.
- You may also want to focus more on low-impact exercises for your dog, which means less jumping around. You need enough of these exercises, but again you should keep from going overboard to prevent excessive stress on the joints.
- Keep your dog off any high surfaces which they can climb and then jump from. These jumps can also add stress to the joints.
- You should also deal with all the various slippery surfaces in your home and property where your dog can slip and fall. Such an accident can lead to joint pain and injury.
- It’s best if you keep your small dog away from dust and smoke. There’s a disease called tracheal collapse that causes your dog’s windpipe (trachea) to flatten and so your dog can get breathing difficulties. Obesity can cause tracheal collapse, and so can exposure to dust and smoke.
- If you have a pregnant small dog, you should really consult with a vet to help with the birthing. Giving birth isn’t easy for small dogs. Their endurance isn’t great, and they have narrow pelvic openings. Your vet can help especially when a caesarian operation becomes necessary to keep your dog healthy when she’s giving birth.
- Talk to your vet about heartworm prevention. Treating heartworm is more difficult and more expensive than prevention. It’s not as if these preventive measures are too difficult either. It can be a matter of just giving your tiny tot a single heartworm tablet once a month.
- You should also check to see that your small dog has a nice and suitable bed for them to sleep in. Generally, a small dog prefers to burrow in before they get relax. Your best bet for a bed for a small dog is small and round.
Follow these tips and maintain regular visits to your vet, and you and your tiny dog will be fine. Small dogs can have big health problems, but with these tips you can cut these potential problems down to size.