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Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Small Dog Safety

By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM

Kimba

I was recently at the Pet Socialite “Home, Garden and Safety” Pet Product Media Showcase, organized by my friend Charlotte Reed. Everyone was enjoying themselves speaking with vendors about the advances in fun new products for pets. Our enjoyment abruptly stopped when the shrieking of a three-month-old Chihuahua puppy pierced the air. I got called to take a quick look at the puppy and could easily see one of the front legs was broken. Kimba was rushed to The Animal Medical Center to have the broken leg repaired. Here you can see him with a faint resemblance to a martini glass after the leg was repaired.

Fragile as a porcelain teacup

Kimba is not the only dog with a broken leg from a jump out of his owner’s arms as a puppy. My patient, Handsome, an eight-year-old pug, has three screws in his back leg from a fall he took as a puppy. Because small dogs can be as fragile as a bone china teacup, the littlest trauma can induce a fracture. The AMC’s Critical Care and Emergency Service cared for an Italian Greyhound who, while struggling to get out of a sweater he did not like, fell off the bed and broke both front legs.

Dog owners prone to worrying may read these vignettes and resolve to never carry their small dog again, but their worries may provoke other problems, such as the risk of their tiny dog being bitten by a larger dog or getting stepped on in a crowd. Exercise is equally important for small and large dogs alike. Carrying your small dog too frequently will keep him from getting adequate exercise to burn off all his exuberant energy. Common sense should dictate whether or not your dainty dog can safely walk on the ground or be carried. In either case, putting a harness and leash on your dog will help you control unexpected behavior and possibly break a fall.

Manners matter

For their safety, and that of their family members, small dogs need obedience training as much as large dogs do. Small dogs like Kimba, who are frequently out in public have a greater opportunity for social interaction with strangers. These dogs need impeccable manners regarding biting behaviors and must be well socialized through obedience training.

Being small can be a big problem

Because of their compact size, situations handled easily by a large dog have greater potential for danger in small dogs. Take chocolate, for example. If your 60-pound Golden Retriever helps herself to one chocolate from the Valentine’s Day box, it is not likely to cause a problem. If your six-pound Toy Poodle raids the box, the problem is 10 times worse due to his small size.

Little dogs get colder faster since they have a larger surface area to body mass ratio and, therefore, have a greater ability to loose body heat. Their greater potential for loss of body heat puts them at greater risk for hypothermia.

Finally, when I see small dogs mixing with big dogs at my local dog run, I worry about the safety of the small ones. One of my favorite NYC parks, Carl Schurz Park, has a run dedicated to small dogs. For more NYC dog run information, click here.

For some additional ideas about keeping small dogs safe, check out what our friends at the American Kennel Club included in their e-newsletter on small dogs.

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 11:35 am

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