Top Health Issues in Pomeranians and How to Avoid Them
Pomeranians are in general a very healthy breed. Don’t be fooled by how fragile they look with their tiny paws and short legs -- they are full of energy and are always teased by the vet or groomers because they’re so hyper! On average, most Pomeranians can live up to 12-16 years. In rare cases, some Pomeranians lived more than 20 years.
However, as Pomeranian owners, we need to take the best care of our fur babies by knowing some common health issues they might have, and learning how to prevent them.
No.1 Luxating Patella
Luxating Patella is one of the most common health issues in Pomeranians. Also known as “slipping kneecaps”, this disease can be caused by genetics or environment -- diet, lifestyle, physical trauma, etc. Just like humans, Pomeranian’s knee caps float on the joint and are held in place by the tendons. An injury or genetic issues can make the tendons weak and unable to hold the knee caps.
Luxating Patella is hard to notice at first, because they don’t always show symptoms when it first starts. Please pay attention to how your dog walks. If your dog starts to walk funny sometimes, for example, their legs are very straight when they move around, or they might be limp on one or two legs, or they can’t jump or run like usual -- make sure you bring them to the vet immediately for a check-up. Luxating Patella can cause severe sharp pain in their joints and make them yelp. It usually gets worse if left untreated.
There are four degrees of Luxating Patella that represent how serious the disease is (grade 1 as mild and grade 4 as the most serious). Usually Grade 1 or 2 can be treated by non-surgical methods, like medications and proper exercise recommended by the vet; but grade 3 or 4 will most likely need surgery to treat. Speak to your vet as they will have the best judgment as to whether or not your Pom will need surgery. Luxating Patella can definitely be treated, but it’s important to catch it earlier. After the treatment, most dogs can walk and run like normal. Some of OC Pom Rescue’s adopted dogs have had Luxating Patella surgery, such as Tuffy, Peanut, and Vixen. After their surgeries, they have been able to run around and play with ease and comfort!
To prevent Luxating Patella, Pomeranian owners should:
Be careful not to let them, especially young puppies, jump up and down the couch, bed, or stairs. Dog stairs can help them go up and down different platforms safely without injuring their fragile knee caps.
Don’t over exercise them. Compared to larger breeds, pomeranians don’t need as much exercise. A 20-40 minutes walk a day will be enough exercise for them
A healthy diet is always important to maintain their overall health.
No.2 Tracheal Collapse
Almost all Pomeranian owners have heard of Tracheal Collapse, the most common health issue in this breed. Trachea is like the “wind pipe” for humans -- we breathe through it every second, it’s a vital part of survival. Inside the trachea, there are rings of cartilage that keep the pipe open when they breathe in and out. However, the cartilage can be bent and become weak from genetic issues resulting from improper breeding or physical traumas, like repeated pulling of their collar on walks. Teeth decay and rotting can also contribute to collapsed trachea by the bacteria from their teeth dripping down their throat and weakening the cartilage rings. The bent cartilage will cause trouble breathing, and in severe cases, cause death. Dentals and wearing harnesses can be small things that will save or prolong your Pomeranian’s life.
Signs of Tracheal Collapse include coughing, honking noise, wheezing, or having trouble breathing. If your dogs show one or more symptoms above, please take them to the vet immediately. There are also four degrees of Tracheal Collapse -- grade 3 or 4 usually requires surgical treatment.
To prevent Tracheal Collapse, the most important thing is -- don’t let them wear a collar on walks. To be more accurate, they can wear a collar if you need to attach an ID tag to it, but when going out for walks, make sure they wear a harness too and only connect the leash to the harness.
No.3 Alopecia X
Also known as “Black Skin Disease (BSD)”, Alopecia X can cause severe loss of fur. It’s really common for dogs with double coats, like pomeranians. Dogs who have this disease will develop symmetrical coat loss and darker pigmented skin on the bald area. Some people think it's an imbalance in hormones that causes it, but the real cause of this disease still remains mysterious.
Dogs who have Alopecia X will start losing their coat on the back of their legs or hips, then develop to the back and potentially, the full body. If you notice your dogs are losing more fur than usual, especially around their back legs and hips, please make sure to take them to the vet for an examination. Sometimes even the vet can’t identify this disease at an early stage, but it’s definitely a good idea to have them check out more often.
Treatments for Alopecia X include sterilization to balance the hormone, taking melatonin as medication treatment, micro needling to awaken the hair follicle in the bald area, deslorelin implants for hormone imbalance, and some other treatments based on different cases.
To prevent Alopecia X, owners should neuter/spay their dogs at a relatively young age in close consultation with your vet. Besides that, a healthy, balanced diet is very important for their skin and coat! Consult with your vet for some treats or supplements that improve skin health for your dogs.
Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid of dogs are inactive -- they’re not producing enough thyroxine, the thyroid hormone. This means your dogs’ metabolism will not function normally. Hypothyroidism can be caused by nutrition deficiency, improper medications, weak immune system, lack of exercise, and more.
Hypothyroidism can cause a variety of symptoms: constipation, dry skin, infertility, weight gain, low energy, loss of hair, skin infections, easier to feel cold, etc. If your dog has some of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have Hypothyroidism. It might be from other health issues, or maybe just a temporary reaction to season change, diet change, or something else. But it’s never a bad idea to bring them in for a check up, to make sure they’re healthy.
Hypothyroidism is not curable, but it’s treatable with medications. Improvements can be noticed after taking medications. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent Hypothyroidism. But a healthy diet and lifestyle is always the best for a stronger immune system.
No.5 Heart Murmur
Heart Murmur is the most common heart disease that Pomeranians suffer from. A Heart Murmur is an abnormal sound or vibration heard when a veterinarian listens to the Pomeranian’s heart. It can be caused by any type of heart abnormality, including the heart valves, cardiac leaflets, or chordal structures. There’s almost no way to identify the heart murmur by yourself. If you’re concerned, please schedule a visit with your vet.
Heart Murmur is categorized into six levels, with level six being the most serious that is loud enough to be heard and felt when you put your hand on your dog’s chest.
Mild Heart Murmur is not a “disease”, because it might just be an abnormal heartbeat. Medications are recommended to help with the symptoms. Very severe heart murmur might cause heart failure, and thus lead to death. Make sure to have regular check-ups at the vet for your pomeranians.
To prevent Heart Murmur, feed your dogs high-quality food, eliminate salty and fatty food or treats, encourage moderate daily exercise, and help them maintain a healthy weight.
No.6 Reverse Sneezing
Reverse Sneezing, also known as “paroxysmal respiration”, is very common in Pomeranians -- they’re so hyper that sometimes they get reverse sneezing when they’re over-excited. Other causes include eating or drinking too fast, reacting to perfumes, pulling too hard on the collars, household chemicals, foreign objects in the throat, etc.
Reverse Sneezing is caused by suddenly and forcefully inhaling air through their nostrils. The symptoms are snorting repeatedly, making choking sounds -- like they’re inhaling in a sneeze. It can be scary when it happens to your dogs the first time. I was so worried about my dog when I first heard him making these weird sounds. I thought he couldn’t breathe and I had no idea what to do, just hoping that he wouldn't die.
Despite how scary it sounds, Reverse Sneezing is probably the least serious disease in Pomeranians -- they don’t really require any treatments. If you want the symptoms to disappear, simply block both of their nostrils for a FEW SECONDS (this works like magic for my dog), or massage their throat gently.
To prevent Reverse Sneezing, make sure to let them take a break and sit down when they get over-excited, buy slow feeders for them so they can eat their food slowly, use pet-friendly cleaning products for your house, try avoiding strong perfumes, use a harness and don’t pull the leash too hard.
As mentioned above, there are so many different ways to prevent different diseases. But in general, to maintain a good health for pomeranians, you can:
Provide a healthy diet consists of high-quality food
Encouraging moderate daily exercise
Bring them for regular vet check-ups
Using a harness instead of a collar
Hope every Pomeranian stays healthy and lives a long, happy life!