Your little dog might seem like a perpetual motion machine but, in fact, the bodies of smaller breeds expend less energy than those of bigger dogs. As a result, the muscles, bones, and internal organs of small dogs stay healthier longer and, on average, small breeds outlive large breeds.
This isn't to say that small dogs can't run into big medical problems. Knowing the health risks of smaller breeds is particularly important to ensure a longer life.
4 medical red flags for small dogs
Here are some conditions that typically afflict smaller dogs, from Chihuahuas and Yorkies to Pomeranians and Toy Poodles:
Patellar Luxation: This condition is a dislocation of the knee joint that can cause pain and limping. It's harder to detect in small dogs because, with their lighter bodies, they are able to tolerate the discomfort longer. And because they have fragile bones, small dogs that are carried often can also suffer bone breaks and other orthopedic difficulties if dropped from protective arms.
Brachiocephalic problems: The "squashed" face of Pugs, Pekingese, Shih Tzus and other small breeds may be cute, but it can cause serious breathing difficulties like wheezing, snorting, and heavy panting. Short-muzzled, brachiocephalic dogs are particularly at risk in hot climates, where they can suffer dangerous heat prostration quickly.
Whelping: Puppy birth can be problematic for small dogs, due to their narrow pelvic openings and inability to exert for prolonged periods. Toy Poodles, Pugs, and Boston Terriers are particularly prone to birthing issues. Cesarean section by veterinarians are far more common with these breeds.
Homeostasis imbalance: Temperature extremes are serious threats to small dogs. Rapid body heat loss during cold weather, as well as exposure to excessive heat, can lead to sudden death in small breeds. With a larger surface area, big breeds can adjust to extreme environmental changes and tolerate fluctuations more easily.
Do some research on your dog's breed or breeds (if you know them) and speak to your vet so you can always detect health warning signs before they become a big problem for your small dog.