Sunday, July 8, 2012


Hopefully, all of our readers made it through the 4th of July without losing your dog or cat during a fireworks display.  Next to Halloween, the 4th of July has the next most reported cases of dogs and cats running away, getting lost, or just plain disappearing.  Bear that in mind during the next such festivity.

This week's topic for Questions On Dogs and Cats deals with a subject that could apply to most of our readers in one way or another.  Yes, we're talking about small dogs and some of the things that can happen to them.  There's no doubt that small dogs exhibit a certain type of "cute" that is different from that shown by larger dogs.  Being small invites comments from just about any passersby and frequently stimulates a following conversation.  That's all on the plus side of small dog ownership...but, what lies on the negative side?  Most of the bad things that happen to small dogs happen not because they are dogs but rather because they are SMALL dogs.

Caring for Small Breed Dogs

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

Small dogs are adorable, fun, and, with the toy breed craze in Hollywood, becoming an increasingly popular pet. At first glance, it seems that small dogs would be easier to care for than larger dogs. A closer looks reveals that raising these tiny bundles of joy comes with its own challenges. Toy breed dogs and puppies are prone to hypoglycemia, hypothermia, traumatic injuries, and, of course, "spoiling".


Hypoglycemia is a decreased level of blood glucose (blood sugar). This condition can become dangerous very quickly, and can even lead to death. Toy breeds, especially puppies under three months, are particularly prone to hypoglycemia.

Stress, illness, excessive handling, fasting, and a long period of activity often precede hypoglycemia in toy breed dogs. Weakness, lethargy, tremors, loss of appetite, lack of coordination, seizures, unresponsiveness, and strange behavior are some signs of hypoglycemia.
If these signs are noticed, you can apply some Karo syrup or honey to your dog's gums. The sugars can be absorbed through the tissues of the mouth; it does not need to be swallowed. If your dog is unresponsive or very weak, be careful to only apply a small amount so that the dog does not choke. The dog should then be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
To help prevent hypoglycemia, tiny puppies should be fed at least 3 to 4 times a day. Some puppies even need 5 to 6 feedings a day. If leaving home with your young toy breed dog, always have a snack available. As your toy breed reaches adulthood, 2 to 3 meals a day should be adequate.

If your puppy is showing signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite, he should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Waiting until the next day can be detrimental in toy breed puppies, as hypoglycemia, dehydration, and hypothermia set in quickly.


Toy breed puppies are also prone to hypothermia, which is a decreased body temperature. Their tiny bodies and small amounts of fat for insulation make them susceptible to becoming dangerously cold.

Signs of hypothermia include shivering (the shivering response ceases when the dog reaches an extremely low temperature), pale or blue gums, decreased appetite, and unresponsiveness. Temperature can be taken by inserting the tip of a digital or mercury thermometer (designed for people) into the dog's rectum. Normal body temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you suspect hypothermia, wrap your dog in blankets and rub and stimulate his body. You can also use a heating pad or warm water bottle with a blanket between the dog and the heat source to prevent burning. Immediately contact your veterinarian.

Providing a warm place for toy breed dogs to retreat, such as a blanket or dog bed, will help prevent hypothermia. Toy breed puppies should be kept in a warm, climate-controlled room. Providing blankets to snuggle is also helpful, as it is similar to cuddling beside the puppy's mother and littermates.

Traumatic Injuries

Small dogs are not as durable as their larger peers. A fall from your arms, a jump down from the bed, or a game of wrestling with a child can end in fractured bones, head trauma, lung injuries, and other serious complications. Small dogs are also known for being stepped on and tripped over by getting underfoot of their owners.

If you have small children and would like a toy breed dog, seriously consider how they will treat a tiny, fragile canine. Teach you children proper handling techniques and the consequences of being too rough with the dog.

Another way to prevent traumatic injury is to be extremely careful when carrying the dog. If you are toting the dog often, consider a papoose, stroller, or purse for safe transportation. If your dog loves being on the furniture, providing steps for easy access will help protect his fragile legs from dangerous jumps.

Also keep in mind that backyard fencing to contain a large dog may not be adequate for containing a toy breed dog. There may be openings in the fence which a small dog can squeeze through and then become injured by another animal or a vehicle.


Along with health concerns, there are also social concerns of toy breed dogs. Because they are so cute and pleasant to hold and cuddle, toy breed dogs are prone to becoming "spoiled" and poorly socialized. Avoid the urge to constantly baby your tiny dog. Allow him to be a dog, walk on the ground, and meet other people and animals.

Also, do not neglect obedience training because he is small. Toy breeds need manners just as much as large dogs. Though tiny, these dogs are pack animals with pack instincts. If you do not take the leadership role, your petite, furry friend will rule you.

Adapted from:

Special Considerations For Small Dogs

By: "Dr. Jon"

Small dogs might have tiny paws but they also have big souls! They're often full of love to give and energy to burn. Owning a small dog breed is similar in some ways to owning a big dog, but there are a few important differences that should not be overlooked. Small dogs have special needs that you might not even think about at first, but they have an effect on your pet's health and happiness.

For example, do you let your small dog stay outside in the yard? If so, you need to make sure that the fencing is sufficient to keep him safely inside. Small dogs are much better at wriggling through small spaces like the ones between fence slats or under support beams. Some types of fences may not be built properly to keep your dog inside the yard.

Another surprising detail to consider is birds of prey. Some dog breeds are small enough for a large bird of prey such as a falcon or a hawk to dive and snatch them up. The other day I saw a hawk that was larger than one of my favorite small-breed patients—bird attacks are a very real possibility. If you keep your dog outside often, I recommend making or purchasing a covered kennel for your dog. Your dog will be safe and comfortable in a kennel as long as they are provided with fresh water and a cool shady place. Since he's small, it's easier to find a kennel where he will have lots of space (and less expensive, too).

Small dog breeds also have special grooming needs. Their nails tend to grow faster than their larger counterparts so more frequent nail trims are necessary. Different small dog breeds have fur of different textures (think of the difference between a toy poodle and a pug) and some kinds require more upkeep than usual. Small dogs also need to be washed more often, especially breeds with long fur, since they are so much closer to the ground and dirt. Their teeth require an extra measure of TLC, particularly if they have a canned diet. I know this sounds like a lot of extra work but believe me, your dog's health and well-being is worth it.

On the topic of food, that's another area where small dogs are different from big dogs. Small dog breeds have very different nutritional needs and require a different food formula to make sure those needs are met. Smaller dogs have a faster metabolism than large dog breeds, meaning that they require more food relative to their body weight and they burn through their energy faster. In fact, small dogs need about two to four times more energy intake per pound than large dogs. It is also easier for small dogs to become dehydrated thanks to their metabolism.

Any old food won't do for small-breed dogs; they need one that's designed just for them. The digestive systems of small dog breeds are not very efficient at digesting certain types of grains, most of which are regularly included as fillers in inexpensive dog foods. Ingesting too many of these grains can lead to a buildup of sugar and cause health problems like hypoglycemia, hyperactivity, and diabetes, not to mention unpleasant gastrointestinal effects like gas and diarrhea. Even the size of the dog food is important to small dogs, as they cannot properly chew pieces that are too big for their little mouths.

Choosing the right dog food for your small dog is important for making sure he is a healthy and happy dog.

If you have a small dog, or are considering getting one, I hope that you will take into account the special needs of our furry companions. They'll return all the loving care that you give them many times over.

Adapted from:
Small Dogs and Dog Parks

By: "Dr. Jon"

Walking your dog is one of the central responsibilities (and joys) of dog ownership, but once in a while it's good for your dog to let them run safely off-leash. Many of us live in apartments and don't have enough room to let our dogs get the exercise they need on a regular basis. Short daily walks can help the situation, but there's nothing that compares to letting your dog go wild without the restriction of a leash. This is especially true of small dog breeds, which are frequently the favorites of apartment-dwellers. They make fantastic pets for smaller homes, but small dogs need some off-the-leash-time too!

That's where dog parks come in. A dog park is a great way to let your dog run, play, and socialize with other dogs in a canine-friendly setting. It's a good place for you to sit back and let your small dog romp around without fear of him getting lost, intruding where he doesn't belong (like someone's picnic!) or running into traffic. But you shouldn't go to just any dog park: it's important to pick out a good dog park that's perfect for your kind of dog.

A dog park should be big enough for your dog to run around in, but the best ones also have some areas to challenge him. Many dog parks only have a grassy field. Instead, look for a park that has a hill for your dog to climb or an area with gravel or sand. These surfaces will slow your dog a little, and prevent him from getting too over-excited. I've even seen dog parks with built-in agility courses. Why not take the opportunity to gauge your dog's interest? They might take a shine to the new experience. (Always be courteous to any dogs already training on the course; agility takes a lot of concentration and it's rude to interrupt training already in process).

For small dogs, it's also important to look for a dog park that has a separate area for smaller dogs. I know what some of you are thinking: “But Dr. Jon, my little dog LOVES big dogs!” They very well might; I've met a lot of small dogs who really enjoy the company of bigger pals. But the issue of safety isn't about your dog. Rather, it's about the reaction of other dogs when they see a small dog. Some large dogs, especially those bred to hunt prey such as sighthounds, will experience a heightened instinct to hunt when they see a small dog. In the case of an incident, by the time you reach your dog it could be too late. Always keep your small dog in the little dog area. This will help your dog stay safe, and it will build relationships between your dog and the other dogs that frequent the park.

It's important to stay aware of your dog's surroundings at all times. Far too many people simply get in the park, unleash their dog, and wander off on their cell phone or with a book. You wouldn't do this with a child and it's unsafe to do so with your dog. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure they are not bullying or pestering other dogs in the park. Always have a leash ready in case your dog needs a time-out (or is being bothered by another dog whose owner doesn't notice). And don't forget one very important part: the cleanup. Be a good dog park guest and always pick up after your dog.

Once you've found the perfect park for you, it's time to do what you actually come to dog parks to do - have fun! Don't forget to watch your dog to prevent problems. Sit back, relax, and watch your dog have a blast!

Adapted from:

Serious Eye Problem

By: "Dr. Jon"

Today I want to tell you about a very serious condition that affects dogs. It's called "eye proptosis” and we vets consider it a true emergency. Many owners who have dogs with this condition don't know what to do when it happens, which is why I think it's very important to learn about it beforehand.

So, what is proptosis (sometimes called “eye luxation” or “eye dislocation”)? It occurs when the eyeball is displaced outside of the eye socket, so that the eyelids are curled back and trapped behind the eye. Proptosis is a very serious condition because when the lid cannot cover the eye, the surface of the eye rapidly becomes dry and discolored. In severe cases of proptosis the muscles of the eye may even be torn, especially if dog or owner is panicked.

How does something like this happen?

Eye proptosis has many causes. In larger dogs it is most typically caused by trauma to the face or head, such as dog fights or car accidents. Proptosis can easily develop in small breed dog as a result of fighting with a larger dog. But some dogs are more prone to this condition simply because of their breed. Proptosis is much more common in small dogs with prominent bulging eyes, short noses and shallow eye sockets, such as the Shih Tzu, Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso and Boston Terriers. Some of these dogs have such loosely set eyes that simple play or mild restraint on a leash or harness can cause proptosis.

Treatment for proptosis depends greatly on the extent of the damage. In mild cases the eye may be replaced back into the socket with a vet's help. In severe cases, the dog's eye must be removed. Many dogs lose vision in the eye following proptosis but when quickly treated, the eye can fully recover.

Now that you have the facts, I'd like to tell you about one of my patients who dealt with this condition. The following photo of her is graphic but clearly shows what dogs with proptosis experience.

This is a picture of Trixie, a 5-year-old Pug who came into the emergency room for treatment of proptosis. Under general anesthesia, Trixie's eyeball was cleaned with sterile saline solution and a sterile lubricant was applied to reduce further damage to the cornea. Then her eye was gently pushed back into the socket and her outside eyelids were sutured closed. This enabled Trixie's already damaged eye to heal safely. The surgeon left a small opening next to her nose so that topical antibiotics could be administered to the eye for a few weeks. She went home the next day with an Elizabethan collar to prevent her from scratching or bothering her healing eye.

When Trixie's sutures were removed, her vision was normal. This was such a relief to her owners and, I'm sure, to Trixie. Without prompt treatment, she would have lost vision in her eye. She was lucky that her owners took her to the emergency clinic immediately and that they could afford treatment.

Adapted from:

Many of you have heard the catchy phrase, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."  Unfortunately, a lot of small dog owners seem to buy into the idea that it is fun to watch their small dog run right up to, and pester, much larger dogs.  On the rare occasion that the larger dog is very gentle and trustworthy around a small dog, there can be some interesting and enjoyable interaction between the 2 dogs.  However, that's the exception!  If you have a small dog and allow it to "mix it up" with a larger dog, you're inviting a catastrophe.  And, when all is said and done, what results won't be the fault of the larger dog...which is simply reacting reflexively to the situation. 

When I was still working at my veterinary hospital, my partner and I saw the results of these types of interactions several times per week.  I can promise you that the small dog NEVER was the winner in these dust-offs.  Sure, the bigger dog might have sustained some lacerations or punctures, but the small dog was either very severely injured or killed.  It doesn't take much effort for the big dog to grasp the small dog around the head, neck, or ribcage with its teeth and then proceed to shake the small dog into submission.  When later doing surgery on these small dogs in order to ascertain the extent of the damages, it wasn't uncommon to find severe bruising and/or hemorrhaging of all the soft-tissue organs, such as brain, lungs, heart, liver, spleen, or kidneys.

My partner and I called it Big Dog/Little Dog Syndrome (BDLD, for short) and the results were almost always disastrous for the small dogs.  So, don't tell me about how cute it is for your small dog to challenge a larger dog, or how much "fight" your small dog has in only takes one misstep by your small dog and one quick action by the large dog for your dog to become a statistic.

Here are a few videos of small dogs "playing" with bigger dogs.  Watch these and ask yourself if there are any times during the video that could have turned ugly:


The LA Dodgers are finishing the first half of the season down in Phoenix, playing the Diamondbacks.  We did get back into first place but the SF Giants are right behind us.  Desperado and Helpful Buckeye went to the Sunday game with another couple from Flagstaff...he's a big baseball fan and shares my love for the game (even though he's a D'Backs fan) and she shares Desperado's birthday.  It was a fun trip...even though the Dodgers didn't play very well.


I've been fine-tuning my bike training the last 2 weeks as I get ready for my attempt to ride over Vail Pass up in the Colorado Rockies.  The total miles I'm putting in right now are sufficient, so I'm pushing harder on improving my times over the 24-35 mile courses.  I'll get 4 more good rides in by Friday for my final preparation.  Friday afternoon, my ground crew, support staff, road groupies, and I will get together at one of my favorite happy hour joints for a final round of planning and refreshment.  We'll hit the trail to Colorado Sunday morning.  More later....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

  1. Hey there! I really appreciated this article. I am currently a Vet Tech student at Bel Rea institute in Denver, CO. I am currently making an infograph about proptosis for one of my classes. Part of this assignment is that we contribute some sort of image. So I was wondering if I could use your image of the pug's proptosed eye? My name Is Philip Carter and my email is I would greatly appreciate it, but I understand if you have hesitations. Please let me know ASAP!

    Thanks so much!