Comprehensive Guide to Small Breed Puppy Health
Bringing a small breed puppy into your life is an exciting new chapter filled with joy and rewards. But caring for their unique health needs is also a big responsibility. Regular veterinary checkups, proper nutrition, exercise, grooming and training are all critical in giving your puppy the best start in life.
This in-depth guide will walk you through everything you need to know about caring for your small breed puppy’s health from their first days and weeks to adulthood.
The First Vet Visit
An initial vet visit is one of the most important first steps when welcoming a new puppy. Plan this first appointment for within a few days of bringing them home or as early as recommended.
- The vet will conduct a full physical examination to check for any signs of congenital defects, infections, parasites or other health issues.
- Heart, lungs, eyes, ears and mouth are examined along with a temperature check.
- Weight, height and body condition score are recorded to have a baseline.
- The puppy’s temperament is observed for any abnormalities.
Come prepared with the puppy’s health records from the breeder including deworming or vaccination history. Have a list of questions ready such as:
- Recommended feeding amount and diet
- Ideal schedule for vaccinations and deworming
- Preventative care such as flea/tick/heartworm medication
- Spay/neuter timing and procedures
- Training and socialization best practices
- Grooming needs
- Any breed-specific health risks to monitor
This first appointment sets the foundation for your puppy’s veterinary care. Be sure to choose a vet you trust and feel comfortable with.
Vaccinating your puppy is crucial to protecting them from dangerous and potentially fatal diseases. Vaccines help their immune system develop defenses against specific contagions.
Core vaccines protect against common diseases like rabies, parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus. Your vet will administer a series of these vaccines on a set schedule during your puppy’s first 16 weeks of life.
Non-core vaccines may also be recommended based on risk factors like lifestyle and geographic location. These include vaccines for kennel cough, Lyme disease, leptospirosis and influenza.
A typical vaccination schedule is as follows:
The vaccination schedule:
|Distemper/Parvo combination <br> Leptospirosis (non-core)
|Rabies <br> Distemper/Parvo combination <br> Leptospirosis booster (if given initially) <br> Lyme (non-core if needed) <br> Influenza (non-core if needed)
- Initial distemper and parvovirus vaccines are usually repeated every 2-4 weeks until 16-20 weeks.
- Rabies vaccine is given earliest at 12 weeks but 16 weeks is more common.
- Schedule can vary depending on breed risk and vaccine types used, so follow your vet’s recommendations.
Annual booster vaccines are needed throughout your puppy’s adult life to maintain immunity. Core vaccines should be boosted every 1-3 years depending on individual risk factors.
Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are common in puppies who can pick them up from their mother before birth or through the environment.
A strict deworming schedule removes these internal parasites before they cause health issues like gastrointestinal problems or anemia from blood loss.
Most vets recommend deworming puppies for roundworms and hookworms starting at 2-3 weeks old, repeating every 2-4 weeks until 12-16 weeks old. Additional medications can treat whipworms and tapeworms if needed.
Regular deworming ensures any parasites your puppy picked up from their mother or environment are eliminated before causing harm.
Spaying or Neutering
Spaying or neutering your puppy is advisable for health and behavioral reasons. These procedures:
- Eliminate the risk of testicular and ovarian cancers
- Reduce hormone-driven behaviors like aggression or wandering
- Prevent accidental litters
Traditionally, most vets recommended spaying or neutering around 6 months old. However, research suggests delaying the procedures until fully grown around 1-2 years may be better for bone, physical and behavioral development.
Discuss the ideal timing with your vet based on breed size and other factors. Larger breeds likely benefit from later spay/neuter while smaller breeds can be done earlier.
- Smaller breeds: Optimal around 6-12 months
- Medium breeds: Between 12-18 months
- Larger breeds: Around 1.5-2 years
Spaying/neutering requires general anesthesia so your puppy will need pre-op bloodwork and an exam to ensure they are healthy for the procedure. Be sure to follow all post-op recovery instructions from your vet.
Puppy Wellness Exams
Beyond the initial exams for vaccination purposes, regular wellness checkups are crucial for monitoring your puppy’s health on an ongoing basis.
Comprehensive physical exams starting around 12 weeks old allow thorough inspection for any emerging issues. Heart, lungs, ears, eyes, skin, joints, lymph nodes and mouth are closely checked.
Weight and growth tracking ensures your puppy is developing along a healthy curve. Measurement and body condition score are compared to breed and age charts.
Behavioral assessment identifies any potential concerns as your puppy grows like emerging aggression or anxiety.
Preventative care review includes an overview of heartworm, flea and tick control needs based on risk factors.
Generally, puppies need wellness exams at:
- 12-16 weeks
- 6 months
- 1 year
- Annually as an adult
Additional wellness or sick visits are scheduled as needed if any concerns arise before the next exam. Keeping up with these routine wellness checks is key to monitoring your puppy’s health.
Common Health Issues in Small Breeds
While all puppies are susceptible to general health problems, small breed puppies can be prone to certain additional risks. Being aware of these common issues will help you recognize potential problems early.
With their tiny size, maintaining proper blood sugar levels can be a challenge. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, instability and collapse. Quick treatment of sugary syrup or food usually resolves it.
A weakness in the tracheal rings leads to a collapsing airway. Coughing, gagging and labored breathing are typical symptoms. Gentle harnesses help prevent trauma to the trachea.
Overcrowding and misaligned teeth make small breed puppies prone to tartar buildup, tooth decay and gum infection. Daily brushing and professional cleanings are essential.
Loose kneecaps prone to slipping out of position is relatively common. Mild cases cause temporary lameness but surgery may be needed in moderate to severe cases.
Congenital heart defects ranging from mild to severe sometimes occur. Symptoms like exercise intolerance, fainting or cough may appear.
Protruding eyes make injuries more likely. Entropion or ectropion are inward or outward rolling eyelids requiring surgical correction.
Monitor your puppy closely and report any potential symptoms to your vet promptly for treatment. Proactive wellness visits, proper nutrition and safe exercise all help reduce risks.
Preventive Care Overview
Preventative care is vital to protect your puppy from common parasites, infectious diseases and other health threats. Discuss the following protocols with your vet:
Flea and Tick Control
Oral/topical medications, collars and shampoos keep potentially disease-carrying external parasites in check. Prescription preventatives are most effective.
Daily or monthly oral heartworm medication is essential in most regions. Microscopic heartworm larvae transmitted by mosquitos can be fatal.
Frequent brushing removes dirt, loose hair and parasites residing on the skin and coat. Nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth.
Daily tooth brushing, annual cleanings and dental treats/chews reduce bacteria and tartar buildup leading to cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.
A complete and balanced puppy formulation provides proper protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for growth and development.
Exercise & Play
Supervised activity and playtime maintains healthy joints, muscles and cardiovascular system while preventing obesity. Avoid overexertion in hot weather.
Prevention is always preferable to treatment. Following proactive wellness protocols provides protection against parasites, disease and other problems impacting your puppy’s health and quality of life.
Diet and nutrition represent one of the most important aspects of your puppy’s healthcare regimen. The right nutrition supports healthy growth, disease prevention and long term wellness.
Key Nutrients Puppy Diets Must Provide
Protein – Supports muscle growth and tissue repair. Quality animal-based proteins are best.
Fats – Provide concentrated energy and aid brain and vision development. Omega fatty acids also contribute to skin and coat health.
Vitamins & Minerals – Play diverse roles in bone growth, immune function, wound healing, metabolism and more. Calcium and phosphorus are crucial for proper bone formation.
Carbohydrates – Provide glucose for energy. Limited amounts from quality whole food sources are ideal for puppies.
Water – Essential for cellular function, temperature regulation and transporting nutrients. Fresh, clean water must always be available.
High meat protein, moderate fat, limited carbs and precise vitamin/mineral content are key for puppy foods.
Choosing a Puppy Food
Selecting the ideal puppy food can be confusing given the wide variety of options. Use these guidelines when comparing brands:
- AAFCO approved – Ensures complete, balanced nutrition for growth. Avoid unlabeled or inadequately formulated brands.
- Meat first – Look for a meat source as the first ingredient, indicating higher protein levels.
- Whole foods – Diets with minimally processed ingredients are superior to by-products and artificial additives.
- Fat sources – Omega fatty acids from fish oil or other natural sources are ideal.
- Texture – Kibble promotes dental health while canned food provides moisture. Many puppies do well with a combo.
- Special needs – Some puppies require prescription or limited ingredient diets.
Reputable brands that meet AAFCO nutrient profiles tailored for each stage of growth are the best choice for optimal nutrition.
Establishing structured feeding routines provides important bonding time while preventing overeating. Follow these tips:
Set meal times – Feed approximately the same time daily rather than free feeding. This helps regulate bathroom schedules.
Measure portions – Use measuring cups to provide consistent amounts based on your puppy’s needs. Avoid overfeeding.
Supervise meals – Eating too fast can cause regurgitation or choke hazards for small puppies.
Clean bowls promptly – Pick up food bowls within 15-20 minutes after meals to discourage gorging.
Contact vet – If lack of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea occur, seek veterinary advice promptly.
The amount and frequency of meals gradually changes as your puppy grows. Use these general guidelines but follow your vet’s specifications:
|Meals Per Day
|Total Food Per Day
|1⁄2 – 1 cup
|1⁄2 – 1 1⁄2 cups
|3⁄4 – 1 1⁄4 cups
|3⁄4 – 1 cup
Portion size depends on your puppy’s expected adult weight. Monitor body condition and adjust amounts as needed under veterinary guidance.
Puppy Weight Charts
Medium Breed Weight Ranges
|7 – 15
|15 – 30
|25 – 45
|35 – 55
|40 – 70
Tracking your puppy’s growth using weight and height charts ensures they stay on target. The following tables outline expected growth curves based on breed size categories:
Small Breed Weight Ranges
|1.5 – 3
|3 – 7
|7 – 10
|8 – 12
|8 – 16