Small dogs are tiny in stature, but they make mighty companions. They are also big on personality. While there are mostly positives about owning a small dog, there can potentially be issues, too. As the trend in America is toward smaller dogs, here are some of the most common small dog problems:


Small dogs require a very small amount of food to get the necessary nutrition to achieve a healthy body weight. This amount can be so small, in fact, that many owners accidentally overfeed their pups thinking they need more food. A lot of people also use treats to reward good behavior and do not consider the extra calories they add. Obesity in dogs can lead to many health problems, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Cancer
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Soft tissue injuries

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about a healthy weight for your small dog the next time you bring him or her in for a wellness visit.

Tracheal Collapse

Unfortunately, small dogs are more likely to suffer from tracheal collapse than their larger counterparts. The cartilage structure of the trachea in a small dog is weaker than in bigger breeds. If the trachea does collapse, a dog will cough and have difficulty breathing. While sometimes this condition develops at birth, walking your dog with a collar might also instigate it. Use a harness for your small dogs to avoid harming the trachea. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome 

This condition affects breeds with flat noses. Unfortunately, many small dog breeds are susceptible to suffering from it. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome impacts dogs that are born with smaller airways. This can make it hard for them to breathe, and might lead to panting, gagging, vomiting, or even fainting after exertion. Brachycephalic dogs have a harder time in the heat, and cannot exercise as much as dogs with bigger airways. 


This condition leads to a fast, significant drop in blood sugar levels. It is often caused by low body fat or intestinal parasites. Hypoglycemia is especially dangerous for puppies and toy breeds because of their small stature. A blood sugar drop of this magnitude can lead to weakness, fainting, seizures, and requires immediate medical attention. 


Pancreatitis in pets is a serious issue that can lead to significant health problems. This condition occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. It is often the result of an animal eating high-fat foods, which can happen quickly with smaller dogs. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. Cases can range from mild to severe. If your pet is dealing with severe pancreatitis, it is imperative to seek veterinary attention. 

Patellar Luxation

Small, female dogs are more likely to have patellar luxation than any other kind of dog. This occurs when the kneecap becomes dislocated. Certain small dogs are genetically predisposed for the condition. If your dog is suffering from patellar luxation, he or she might start limping or have lameness in one of the hind legs. 

At Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, we love caring for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Whether you need an annual wellness exam or your small dog is suffering from one of these small dog problems, we are here for you. Call (248) 363-1508 to schedule an appointment.