Small Dog Breeds – Health Care Tips

Dogs come in different sizes, colors and temperaments. The first thing any responsible dog owner should do after identifying a preferred breed is to research their temperament, common health issues and care needs. Use this information to help choose the right dog for you. If you opt for a small dog breed, visit the American Kennel Club for more information on how to take care of them.

Small dog breeds typically weigh less than twenty pounds and are less than eighteen inches tall. Some common small dog breeds include Miniature Pinschers, Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers and Maltipoos. Compared to other dog breeds, small dogs have a longer life expectancy, which makes their health care unique. Below we will discuss a few health care tips for small dog breeds.

small dog breed
Min Pin Small Dog Breed

Nutrition for Small Dog Breeds

Proper nutrition is critical to your dog’s health. It directly affects your dog’s weight, energy levels, skin and coat. Small dog breeds have very high metabolism, meaning, they burn their calories extremely fast. Since they cannot eat large portions of food that can sustain their metabolic rate at one go, you need to feed them nutrient-dense diets that have a higher fat and protein content. Preferably, choose dog food that is specially formulated for small dog breeds. Small dog breeds maintain their high metabolism from the time they are puppies all the way into adulthood.

As they start to age, small dog breeds face a higher risk of various health conditions. When your small dog gets into their senior stage of life, it is vital that you feed your dog a diet rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent free radicals that harm your dog’s healthy tissues and cause diseases.

Treats are an excellent way for rewarding your dog for good behavior. However, when given in large amounts, they are a source of extra calories that increase the chances of your dog becoming obese. The excess weight on your small dog puts a lot of stress on their bones and joints and can impact their overall health negatively.

small dog breed
Small Dog Breed – Chihuahua

Common Health Issues with Small Dog Breeds

One common health concern with small dog breeds is their risk for developing Hypoglycemia. This condition develops when your dog’s blood sugar levels drop, which usually occurs when they go too long between meals. This is more of an issue during their puppy phase, so make sure you’re feeding them at regular intervals.

Due to their joint size, small breed dogs can develop Luxating Patella (aka kneecap dislocation). This condition usually develops in your dog’s later years, so make sure to feed them food or treats with glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain their joint strength.

Expert Veterinary Care

Just like you, your dog needs routine medical care to stay healthy- it is critical to their wellbeing. Due to their small size, these dogs are more prone to injuries, eye disease, hip dysplasia fractures and concussions. Shop around for a good veterinarian and ask other dog owners in your area for recommendations on a good vet.

After you find a good veterinarian, take your dog to get him checked for any illnesses, as well as getting the necessary vaccinations. This is also a great time to have your pet dewormed and neutered/spayed. After that, make sure to take your dog to the vet annually. Regular vet visits enable you to detect and treat any issues that threaten to impact your dog’s health before they become a major issue.

Groom your small Dog regularly

Regularly grooming your dog is a great way to keep him healthy. It helps to remove dead hair, flakes of dry skin, dirt and debris from his coat. Grooming your small dog involves more than keeping his coat clean and well-trimmed.

For a full groom, it is highly recommended that you have a professional groomer do it. A full groom involves getting his teeth brushed, eyes and ears checked and his nailed clipped.

Exercise frequently

Regardless of size, all dogs need regular exercise. Some small dog breeds may even require more exercise than large breeds to wade off bad behaviors like destructive chewing or boredom barking. However, be careful not to push it too much since most small dog breeds are predisposed to joint problems and can easily get injured when overworked. Also, they tend to overheat especially when it is hot outside.

Walks are ideal exercise for small dogs. During hot summer months, it is advisable to exercise your dog indoors especially if it has a smashed face (dogs with a smashed face have a harder time cooling themselves off through panting). Always keep an eye on your dog when exercising for signs of fatigue or dehydration and also provide plenty of water throughout these activities.


These are just a few tips to ensure your small dog lives a happy, healthy life. It is great when your dog is at his optimum health and stays healthy into his later years. Along with health concerns, you also need to make sure your small dog is properly trained and obedient.

Kevin O’Donnell is a dog enthusiast and dog rescue volunteer. As the webmaster at he helps spread valuable information and advice about dog training, nutrition and health. He loves playing with his best friend, Buddy (a Japanese Chin/Papillon mix).