Small dog health issues

It’s important to note that not all small dogs suffer with health issues and in general most small dogs are healthy. Indeed small dogs tend to live longer than bigger dogs. That said, if you’re thinking about getting a small dog you should be aware of the various health issues that can affect some of them. Then you can be on the look-out for any signs of ill health in your dog and take the appropriate action. Below are descriptions of some of the most common small dog health issues.

Small Dog Health Issues

Small dog health issues

Brachiocephalic issues

Many small dog breeds, such as Shih Tzus and Pekingese, have short noses and squashed faces which may make them look cute but can result in wheezing, snoring and panting and other breathing and airway difficulties, particularly in hotter climates because dogs pant to cool down rather than sweating and in these breeds the nasal passages are too small to allow much air to pass through them.

Note that not all dogs of these breeds will suffer from brachiocephalic problems.

Intervertebral disc disease

This is a condition where one or more of the protective shock-absorbing discs that cushion the spine degenerate causing discomfort and pain.

Neck pain is the most usual symptom which is characterized by your dog being reluctant to lift or lower its head, or walk up and down stairs.

Another symptom is back pain which is again characterized by a reluctance to walk up and down stairs, and also a reluctance to walking in general and a reluctance to jump on or off furniture, and sensitivity when picked up and/or played with.

Homeostasis imbalance

Smaller dogs have less body surface area and so are more exposed to extremes of temperature because they have more difficulty in adjusting and regulating their body temperature; in cold weather they can suffer from rapid heat loss, and the opposite in extreme heat. This can even be fatal for small dogs so great care should be taken.

When it is hot outside make sure your dog has plenty of shade and water. When it is cold, ensure your dog has access to warm blankets and consider buying it a jacket.

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation is a dislocation of the kneecap which makes walking painful and causes your dog to limp. It can occur in any breed of dog, but smaller dogs are more prone to suffer from it.

Adverse reactions to drugs and chemicals

Because of their small size, and also their natural sensitivity, small dog breeds tend to suffer from worse toxic reactions to chemicals, vaccinations and other drugs than big dogs do.

Therefore, you should attempt to keep them away from household chemicals and other harmful substances, and help them to lead as naturally healthy a lifestyle as possible, including feeding them the healthiest food you can and avoiding giving them too many treats.

Also, if your dog has to have multiple vaccinations try to ensure they aren’t all delivered at once and instead are scheduled on different days. If you have the option, go for longer vaccination periods; for example, if you can choose a three year vaccination shot over annual ones.

Skin allergies and tooth disease

Many small dogs have heightened immune systems that can cause them to suffer skin allergies. In addition, small dogs can develop tooth and/or gum disease as they get older. It is important that you help to maintain your dog’s oral hygiene.


Pancreatis is inflammation of the pancreas and can have a number of causes, for example infection or obesity. Symptoms can include pain in the abdomen, vomiting, dehydration and diarrhoea. Again, it usually affects smaller dogs more than large dogs.


Hypoglycemia is a quick drop in the blood sugar level and is often suffered by young small dogs. The symptoms are lethargy and listlessness, along with glassy eyes and a lack of appetite. If you suspect your dog is suffering from hypoglycemia you should take it to the vet straight away.


Because small dogs are so cute and cuddly and like to snuggle up with their owners, it can be very easy to spoil them with treats, which can easily lead to obesity. This is obviously an easily preventable health problem simply by providing your dog with a good diet and lots of exercise.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that can affect all dogs, including small dogs. Although it will often clear up on its own, it can be dangerous if left untreated as it can lead to pneumonia.

Ear infections

Ear infections are one of the most common dog health issues. This applies to all dogs, not just the small dog breeds.


Although most small dogs are perfectly healthy it’s important that you are aware of the most common small dog health issues so that you can spot signs of ill health in your dog nice and early, and get the appropriate treatment.

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