There are many reasons why you may become a parent to a small dog. Sometimes it’s a dog you inherited from a family member or a loved one, and sometimes your heartstrings get pulled by those little legs and those adoring eyes and you just can’t say no. Small dogs are so very easy to cuddle with and they don’t bring nearly as much debris and dirt onto your carpet or bed. They’re super easy to walk and don’t intimidate (usually) guests or other pets when you’re out on the trails. They are a lot easier to take to public places and aren’t as offensive or trouble-provoking just by their presence alone.
Owners of larger dogs have to deal with a plethora of different difficulties that small dog owners don’t have to. For example, a small dog is way easier to bathe than a larger dog. Additionally, how much you pay for dog food on a monthly basis is a lot less than what you pay for a larger dog. Not every small dog loves being dressed up but if that’s your thing, you are much more likely to be able to train a small dog to wear a matching outfit with you than a larger dog.
Even if you already share your bed with your partner, a small dog if is easily nestled on either corner of the bed or right next to one of you two, and if they’re lucky, right in between the two of you. While small dogs aren’t necessarily considered guard dogs, they are definitely able to get loud to alert you of any potential danger, like intruders. And this next reason is a bit sad but it’s also true: small dogs tend to live longer lives than larger dogs, which means that you are more likely to enjoy their presence for a bit longer than you would if it was a larger breed.
It might be that you already have a small dog and you’re just getting more and more curious about their longevity, or it might be that you’re looking into purchasing or adopting a small dog and are curious about what you may have to prepare for. In this article, we cover the life expectancy factors that you should consider as well as the common health conditions that small dogs are more prone to developing. We itemize some of the most popular types of small dogs and their life expectancies and let you know how to best care for your small pup!
Life Expectancy Factors
Even if you consider that a dog may die of old age, the life expectancy is dependent on that dog‘s specific breed. However, aside from the breed, there are also plenty of preventive measures that can impact the life expectancy of a small dog. For example, spaying or neutering your pet can help improve their behavior, keeping them from running off and potentially getting into dangerous situations, like running through traffic. Additionally, vaccinations are a form of preventive care to keep your dog in good health. Some medications like heartworm and parasite prescriptions can help to prevent the development of these awful conditions, which could certainly cut your small dog’s life short.
Lifestyle also includes exercise. Obese animals can develop a variety of conditions (cancer, heart disease, urinary bladder stones, osteoarthritis) and are more prone to the development of diabetes as well. These health conditions can complicate your dog’s well-being and could also be the reason why a dog doesn’t live as long of a life as it could have. Along with exercise comes nutrition. Your dog should be eating a well-balanced diet throughout its life, with appropriate changes during puppyhood, adulthood, and senior years. If a dog is not eating proper nutrients, its body will break down more easily, causing more trips to the vet, more medication to be administered, and overall, lower quality of life.
Most Popular Types of Small Dogs and Their Life Expectancies
Generally, small dogs live over the age of 10. However, there is no guarantee that just because you have a small dog, they will live into those double digits. If you have a small dog and a large dog, it’s much more likely that your small dog will outlive the larger dog. Below, we share some of the most popular types of small dogs and their life expectancies:
Average lifespan: 13 years
Average lifespan: 13 years
Average lifespan: 12 years
Average lifespan: 15 years
Jack Russell Terrier
Average lifespan: 14 years
Average lifespan: 9 years
Average lifespan: 11 years
Average lifespan: 12 years
Average lifespan: 13 years
Average lifespan: 10 years
Do Small Dogs Live Longer than Large Dogs?
Yes, most small dogs outlive their larger counterparts. This is because large dogs go through the aging process more quickly. As dogs age, they become more susceptible to different health conditions that range anywhere from joint problems to cancer. Naturally, since a larger dog’s body ages more quickly, those diseases are much more likely to develop as well.
Common Health Conditions for Small Dogs
If you own a small dog or are thinking about getting one, you may wonder what potential health conditions you may have to deal with over the life of your pet. There are certain actions you can take to promote a healthy lifestyle which we cover in the next section, but you should be aware of what types of conditions small dogs are more susceptible to. This helps you remain proactive and helps you start early, especially if you are still caring for a small breed puppy.
Small dogs like French bulldogs or the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tend to have flat faces and really short noses. These types of dogs may be susceptible to developing ectropion, which is an abnormality that causes the small dog’s eyelids to turn outward. When this happens, the tissue of the inner lids becomes exposed.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
This is another condition that also affects dogs with flat faces and short noses. This can happen with a Shih Tzu, pug, or Chihuahua. Basically, it’s a condition that relates to a variety of different upper airway problems that lead to different symptoms.
Pancreatitis is a condition that can affect any size dog, but it seems prevalent in small breeds. This condition is characterized by several different symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea and abdominal pain. It happens when the pancreas becomes inflamed and sometimes there is a causal effect like obesity or trauma but on some occasions, it seems to develop without any related cause.
Your dog’s patella is naturally positioned against the femur but when patellar luxation occurs, the patella becomes dislocated. Again, this is a condition that could happen with any size breed, but it tends to occur more frequently in small dogs. Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the dislocation and in most outcomes, the dog may experience long-term mobility issues.
Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)
This disease occurs when the cushion between the vertebrae meets the spinal cord. The condition has symptoms that range from pain all the way to paralysis. Dogs like dachshunds are more susceptible to the development of IVDD.
How to Best Care for Your Small Dog
Nutrition and regular vet visits are pretty standard for any pet, so we won’t bore you with those details. Below, we share some of those other contributing factors that improve your small pup’s quality of life.
No matter how big or small the dog or what type of breed it is, every dog needs some basic socialization. This is what helps them become well-adjusted pups and able to handle the presence of other dogs. This way, whenever you venture outside of the home into your neighborhood, into a dog park, or even into a play date, you can trust that your dog is always going to be able to handle the experience.
Because small dogs fit in a purse or sometimes just nestled up against your neck, it is so important that you don’t consider a small dog as an accessory. This is a real animal that requires socialization, and you must ensure that you plan well ahead of time to ensure that they don’t get themselves into trouble going out and about with other dogs.
If you can easily hold your small dog against your chest, you may not prioritize a proper collar, harness, or leash. However, these are important tools that help you maintain control over your pup without being too overbearing. When you’re around larger dogs, your small dog may actually appear as prey to those larger dogs. You cannot let them roam as freely as you might envision because you have to be able to quickly pull them close to you and pick them up if there is danger.
Safety at Home
Just as much as you have to prepare for when your small dog encounters the outside world, you should take as much time ensuring that your home is safe for your small dog, especially if they’re in their puppy years. It’s much like bringing a new baby home. You’re going to have to babyproof the environment because children are not as adept at safety and rely on you to safeguard their environment.
It’s the same thing with puppies and small dogs. They are counting on you to provide a safe environment because they’re clumsy and sometimes they can’t do the things that you might expect them to be able to do. For example, a couple of doggy stairs or a ramp can make a huge difference for your small dog and make both of your lives easier instead of more difficult, resulting in more accidents.
Small dogs can be super excited, always wanting to follow you around, engaging in playtime, and exploring. However, even though a dog is smaller doesn’t mean that they don’t require just as much training as a larger dog. It’s an important factor to ensure that you’re raising a friendly dog. The approach to training should always be positive and gentle but also extremely firm and this is the most important part: consistency. If you don’t have the time to train, consider hiring a trainer or even registering your dog for some classes at your local training spots. These lessons go a long way to ensure that your dog is safe, especially in situations when obedience results in a life or death outcome.
Although larger dogs may require a more intense type of exercise routine, small dogs won’t need as much. However, they do require regular activity and are generally pretty active so make sure that you are creating a routine that involves one or two walks per day and that incorporates plenty of playtimes, whether indoors with you or outside in your backyard. Your dog’s breed has another important role to play in exercise so make sure that you are keeping your unique dog’s breed in mind when employing exercise activities. For example, a French bulldog wouldn’t do well in extremely hot or humid weather because of their flat faces and susceptibility to breathing difficulties. Make sure you read up on your small dog’s breed to ensure that you’re incorporating all of these best care practices in a way that makes sense for your individual pup.
Up next, learn more about different small and toy breeds:
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Eudyptula/Shutterstock.com
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the average life expectancy of a small dog?
The average life expectancy for small dogs is somewhere 10 to 15 years. Remember, however, that there are many factors that affect the longevity of a small dog’s life. Do all you can to keep your small pup in good health and stay on top of all vaccinations and vet visits to ensure any potential health conditions are caught and treated early.
Can small dogs live 20 years?
It’s absolutely possible. Chihuahuas are known to live up to 20 years! There are so many variables that come together to increase the life of your pup, including nutrition, exercise, and all that love you have for them. When health conditions impact the health of your pup, remember that it’s your love that increases their quality of life. Sometimes, it’s not about longevity, but more about quality.
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