Small Dog Problems

In general, small dogs live longer than big dogs.  They do, however, come with a unique set of challenges.  From behavioural quirks to health problems, here are some things to be aware of.


One major behavioural issue comes from the assumption many people have that small dogs don’t need as much training as larger breeds.  Small dogs also sometimes get away with more because they’re just so adorable.  This can lead to a mini tyrant running the house.  Most dogs are remarkably good at training their owners, so make sure that your dog is at least as well trained as you are!


Some small dogs seem to have issues with housetraining.  They prefer to go in the house.  Even fully housetrained small dogs may be more likely to have accidents than larger dogs.  Unfortunately, those accidents may in fact be deliberate.  The smaller the dog, they more likely they are to object to going out in bad weather.  Larger dogs with minimal hair coats may also have this problem, but larger dogs are less prone to feeling chilled.  A good plan is to make sure your puppy learns to use paper, a pee-pad, or even a litter box so that they have somewhere acceptable to go in the house.  It may also be necessary to shovel a clear spot for them outside in the winter so that they can squat without their bum touching the snow.

Joint Problems

Some problems seem to occur more frequently in small dogs than they do in large dogs.  One particular issue is Patellar Luxation.  This can happen to any dog, but is more common in small breeds.  Essentially, it’s a dislocated kneecap.  The kneecap, or patella, sits in a groove.  If the groove is too shallow, the patella can slip out of place.  In minor cases, the patella pops back in on its own, and all that happens is that your dog limps a few steps.  In severe cases, the patella stays displaced, causing pain, swelling, and even an inability to bend the joint at all.  Minor cases can be helped with joint supplements, while extreme cases may need surgical correction.  Be aware that this is often a genetic problem.

Skin Problems

The smaller the dog, the more likely they are to react to something simply because they are smaller in proportion to possible irritants.  A square inch is a much higher percentage of a Maltese’s total skin area than a Golden Retriever’s skin area.  The smaller the dog, the more damage a single flea can do, for instance.


Obesity can be a problem for small dogs.  It can be very easy for owners to accidently overfeed their small dog, simply because of their size.  Take a 10 pound dog.  Two pounds of weight gain is a 20% increase.  That’s pretty significant.  In a 60 pound dog, however, an extra 2 pounds is closer to a 3% gain, which is hardly a blip on the radar.  Feed your large dog by the cup.  Consider feeding your small dog by the kibble, and watch out for excessive snacking.  It may be helpful to invest in a food scale to track how much you’re actually feeding and make it consistent.


Dosing is something else to keep in mind.  There is much less room for error with a small dog.  When it comes to flea and tick products, your veterinarian can help you choose a product with a wide safety margin.  Make sure you follow instructions carefully when medicating your pet.  And remember that toxic substances will have a greater effect on small dogs.  For example, 20 grams of chocolate will do a lot more harm to a small dog than a large dog – it’s less about size and more about proportions.

In Closing

A good rule is to research before you buy.  Large dogs have their own set of problems, so you won’t necessarily find that a large dog is healthier.  Whatever kind of dog you’re looking for, find out what issues they may be prone to and be prepared to deal with whatever comes.
If you are looking for a vet in Newmarket, call us at 905-898-1010.