General Information: common health issues with puppies.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may occur in puppies of toy breeds that have gone too long without eating compared to the energy they've expended. This depletes the body's stores of glycogen, and the brain, which is highly dependent on glucose, is one of the first systems to fail. The puppy becomes abnormally sleepy, weak and uncoordinated, to the point he may not even eat when offered food. If he doesn't eat, the condition can progress to the point where the puppy has seizures, loses consciousness and dies. Toy puppies are especially at risk between 6 and 12 weeks of age, but the threat remains for many up to 7 months, and a few are susceptible even as adults. To avoid hypoglycemia, feed toy puppies frequently and keep them warm and quiet when they can't be fed often. Choose a good-quality commercial puppy food; there are even some puppy foods formulated specifically for small-breed dogs.
Hernias are not uncommon in puppies. An umbilical hernia is a bulge where the umbilical cord was; an inguinal hernia occurs in the groin area. If the bulging area can be pushed back inside the puppy, it is termed reducible. If it cannot be pushed back, it is non-reducible. A hernia that becomes strangulated (a loop of bowel or other abdominal structure gets trapped in the hernia) may require emergency surgery. Otherwise, most hernias can be surgically corrected at the same time the puppy is spayed or neutered.
Retained deciduous (baby) teeth occur frequently in puppies, especially those of toy breeds. The canine tooth (fang) is the tooth most commonly retained as the permanent tooth grows in alongside it. If it remains, it may affect the position of the permanent tooth. Your veterinarian may elect to surgically remove the retained tooth, especially if it's still there at 6 months of age. Many veterinarians radiograph the area before removing a tooth to make sure a permanent tooth is present to take its place.
Portosystemic shunts are abnormal blood vessels that divert blood away from the liver so that the liver isn't able to process it as it should. When blood bypasses the liver by way of a shunt, the nutrients and waste products carried by that blood cannot be cleaned or processed. Toxins can build up in the bloodstream, and the puppy won't receive the nutrition it needs to grow and have energy. Such puppies may be unusually small, with poor muscular development and possibly behavioral abnormalities, such as seizures, circling, unresponsiveness, head pressing or just staring into space. These signs are most common within a few hours after a meal, especially a high-protein meal. Your veterinarian can perform tests to diagnose the condition and can outline a special diet and formula that can help.
Pancreatic insufficiency may first be noted in puppies. These puppies are unable to properly digest foods because they are lacking certain enzymes. They tend to be thin and undersized, but their abdomen may be bloated. Diarrhea is common, and the stools may be light in color, soft, abnormally smelly and greasy. Puppies with this condition often have a lot of gas. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis and can prescribe an enzyme supplement to be given with meals. A special diet may also be suggested.