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Keeping Small Dogs Healthy

Due to their compact size, small dogs are becoming increasingly popular. We must consider that, due to their small size, they have certain nutritional needs and a genetic predisposition to certain health problems. If you care for them properly, small breeds have a long life span. There are general guidelines on how to keep small dogs healthier.

 

Types of Small Dogs and Life Expectancy

Small dogs are considered to be 20 lb or less. They are breeds like beagles, miniature poodles,  dachshunds, shih tzus, pomeranian and yorkshire terriers. Dogs of a small breed live to be about 11 to 13 years old. There are, of course, some dogs that live longer, and those that pass away sooner. Vet record analysis reveals that small mixed breed dogs have an average lifespan of 11 years.

One benefit of having a small dog is since they have this longer life expectancy, we get to have them as our friends for a longer amount of time. However, to keep your dog as healthy as possible, there are some specific health considerations you need to keep in mind.

 

Small Puppy Dietary Needs

As puppies, these breeds have different needs than when they are medium or large sized.

Small dog breeds grow exponentially and reach their adult size more quickly than larger dogs. It’s important to feed them a diet approved for puppy stages because the foods are uniquely formulated to make sure proper nutrition is there for growth.

Small dogs are unique because they are prone to get low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, if they don’t get proper nutrition throughout the day. Because of this, they need to be fed three meals a day until they are about 12 to 14 weeks old before switching them to a twice-daily feeding.

As the puppy ages and you transition the puppy to adult food, do this by adding small amounts of adult food to the puppy food over a week.

If the puppy receives an appropriate diet, they won’t need any additional supplements during this time.

 

Health Issues and the Importance of Vet Visits

A new puppy should be seen by the vet as soon as they are adopted or welcomed into your home. Make sure they have their vaccinations and deworming, and a stool sample is checked for internal parasites. Additional vaccines against Bordetella, leptospirosis and Lyme disease may be recommended as well. They should be put on parasite and heartworm prevention as early as eight weeks of age, and continue for the life of your pet.

Small dog breeds are especially predisposed to gum disease at this young age. The best way to prevent this is to have an at-home dental routine and schedule them for dental cleanings at your vet. Water additives that clean your dog’s teeth and dental chews are the most effective and easiest ways to prevent plaque buildup and gum disease that is secondary.

Part of being a responsible pet parent is by spaying and neutering your pet, thus reducing unwanted animals brought into the world. Smaller dogs reach sexual maturity sooner than large dogs, so it’s recommended to have them spayed or neutered before 6 months of age.

Small dog breeds can be predisposed to specific health conditions because of their genetic and breed influences. Some of the typical health issues seen in small dogs are patellar luxation, tracheal collapse, mitral valve disease, vertebral disc disease and issues with their temperature regulation.

 

As the Small Dog Matures

As your dog matures into adulthood, keeping up with their health is just as vital, if not more important, than when they were a puppy. Common health conditions have the potential to start showing their symptoms during this adult stage. It’s important to prevent the diseases that can be prevented and to discuss any changes you may see with your veterinarian. Continue yearly vet visits because not seeing a vet over a year’s time is equivalent to a human not seeing a doctor for almost 10 years. 

The adult life stage is a good time to start supplementation for joints. Don’t wait until they have a problem because the problems can actually be prevented.

Many pets get to the senior dog phase, and although it’s easy to, do not become complacent with healthcare. Pay attention to any early warning signs or symptoms, or changes in their health and get them to a veterinarian when you see them. Blood work needs to be performed to find any underlying diseases. And remember, older dogs may need more potty breaks.

The end of life is never an easy subject, but there are many tools and resources you can utilize to make the transition easier. And, as always, contact your vet to talk it through. 

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