The Pomeranian is a relatively healthy little dog. Along with many other breeds of dogs (including cross-breeds) it can suffer from a variety of general health issues. However, there are some complaints that are considered to be hereditary and this page will provide some information about those issues along with some more common problems with links to provide you with more information.
If you are concerned about the well-being of your Pom you should go straight to your Vet and seek professional advice and help.
In 2004 the Kennel Club organised a breed wide survey, unfortunately only 15.6% of Pomeranian breeders responded but it was sufficient to gather some statistics. Here is the link to the results of this survey.
The Accredited Breeder Scheme has a handbook that states health testing schemes for some of the KC registered breeds. The Pom is not included in this book as there are no Breed Club health requirements in place and no KC mandatory tests. This does not mean that the breed is not pre-disposed to genetic or other issues – it just means that at the moment there are no compulsory or suggested health tests for Poms.
As of 2009 each region in the UK now has a Breed Health representative and contact information can be found on the Links page. Although their task is to observe potential/actual health issues or exaggerations in Poms exhibited at shows they should be able to give you further advice if you are worried about a health issue concerning your Pom. You can also call up the Kennel Club directly for assistance or advice.
It is our personal opinion that every dog should be healthy and sound enough to fulfil its intended role in life – even if, in the case of some Toy breeds, this role is mainly that of giving many years of stress free, loyal companionship.
This is a common problem in many Toy breeds – it is normally an inherited disorder but can result from an injury. The grooves in the knee joint or patella are weakened or are not properly formed causing the thigh bone to slip in and out of its socket.
If you notice that your Pom stops momentarily with one of its rear legs raised and appears to be re-adjusting its leg or even squeaks in the process this should be investigated by your Vet.
The Vet will assess the problem and will then categorize it in Grades 1 – 4 with Grade One being the mildest form of luxation. Some breeders have their Vet assess this when their puppies are inoculated and will give this information at the time of sale. This can be an intermittent problem or chronic where the dog is permanently lame. In some cases corrective surgery has successfully rectified this problem.
Poms were first noted to suffer from Patella Luxation in 1872.
HEART MURMURS AND PROBLEMS
Poms are not immune from many of the heart or cardiovascular problems but do flag up on an international level as being one of the few breeds more prone to a hereditary condition known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus or PDA for short.
Heart murmurs are normally discovered at the time of the puppy’s first inoculation and examination although some are so serious a breeder may already have taken an ailing youngster to their Vet for help. The Vet will grade a heart murmur from 1 to 5. Additionally there is a mild heart murmur called ‘an innocent’ murmur that can disappear as the puppy matures. Your Veterinarian will assess and advise you on this matter. Some dogs can still lead a fairly normal life despite a slight murmur.
Here is a link to a site where you can hear a normal heart in action and also examples of murmurs.
The worst type of murmur is a continuous or machinery heart murmur (sounding like the woosh woosh noise of a washing machine) - this type of murmur indicates a very serious condition like PDA or Aortic Stenosis.
Canine PDA is 'consistent with the polygenic mode of inheritance' (Dr. Patterson DVM). When a puppy is in the fetal sac, the blood bypasses the lungs by a vein called the Ductus Arteriosus – typically when the puppy is born the vein closes up within the first 48 hours. When this does not happen a PDA has occurred which is only correctible by surgery. If surgery is not performed it is unlikely the puppy will survive much beyond its 2nd birthday – although there have been exceptions to the rule. It is more likely to affect females but does also occur in males. If untreated, the heart will eventually enlarge, leading to either sudden death by heart failure or congestive heart failure.
Here is a very informative page on this problem with advice for breeders who have encountered this problem
ALOPECIA X – also known as Black Skin Disease (BSD)
There are numerous reasons why a dog suffers from coat loss and your Vet is the person to identify and diagnose why this is happening. In some cases (after a process of elimination) your Pom may be diagnosed with Alopecia X. This condition occurs in some other Spitz Breeds and also in some other breeds – Poodles for instance. Coat loss usually starts around the base of the tail or lower chest and then affects the inner thighs and spreads along the top of the back and up the tail.
A few years ago the Kennel Club contributed financially to research on this topic in a study involving the drug Trilostane. Here are links to this research, involving 16 British Poms, and a very good summary of the study in more straight -forward language.
Cerundolo - article by Dr. R. Cerundolo 2004 - about UK Trilostane study involving 16 Poms and some Poodles
Keeshond page - more information about the Trilostane study in UK
Although in most cases this is purely a cosmetic problem there are cases where coat loss is resulting from a serious underlying health issue like Cushing’s disease. It is felt some coat loss sufferers have pseudo - Cushing’s disease. Other studies have identified growth hormone responsive dermatosis, castration responsive dermatosis and adrenal hyperplasia- like syndrome. Some believe it is of polygenic inheritance.
Research is ongoing and hopefully one day a solution will be found.
We recommend you look at this link to find out more about the condition - Alopecia X - this is a long- standing, informative website with case studies, articles, information about research and links to other informative sites. The information is available in English and also German, Dutch, French and Russian. Well worth a visit to find out more …
We recommend you ask the breeder of your potential puppy if any of its ancestors have suffered from this complaint as it will usually not be apparent until your Pom is about one year old or older and may start with its failure to recoat properly after its one year old molt – the puppy retaining its juvenile coat and not developing the required adult coat. The skin darkens to a greyish colour where bald patches occur – hence the name black skin disease. Amazingly some victims re-coat after several years of varying baldness without any medical intervention. Although unsightly this form of alopecia does not normally affect overall health.
Some Victorian authors noted that alopecia occuring in the diminutive Black and Tan toy terriers was a results of 'in and in' breeding.
COLOUR DILUTION ALOPECIA (CDA)
This condition was first noted in 1897 and called 'blue failing' by Pom fanciers. It seemed to affect smaller specimens of the breed and was considered hereditary. CDA Poms often had very little hair on their ears, lack of hair on the top of their head, sparse hair on their back and around the tail also lack of coat on the lower legs.The over 7lb size was less affected by the condition and breeders were careful to avoid certain lines more prone to the condition. In modern times some blue coloured smaller German Spitz have been known to show minor signs of CDA - typically thinner ear leather and less hair. CDA is also associated with fawn colouring. Blue became unpopular in breeding programmes after about 1911 - it was a difficult colour to achieve as it was to be as pale as possible (similar to a Maltese cat) and breeders ran the risk of CDA.
Below is a link to an excellent site with more information on CDA and loads of useful information about colour genetics.
More information on history of the condition - http://www.pomeranianproject.com/Squib.htm
This can be an inherited disorder but can also result from obesity, prolonged bronchitis and damage caused from surgery/anaesthetic. Tracheal collapse is caused by the weakening of cartilaginous rings in the trachea. The problem occurs when the trachea goes flat causing breathing problems. Poms make a honking type of cough until the trachea corrects itself. Some cases may require surgery and if you suspect your dog has a tracheal problem seek the advice of your Vet.
If your Pom is honking/coughing a quick fix can be to wet the end of your finger (you can quickly dab it in your mouth) and then touch the tip of your Pom’s nose – your Pom will usually then lick its nose and this action of stretching the tongue often sorts the problem out quickly.
This often develops in older Poms and is a cough associated with irritation in the lungs. The condition can be confirmed by X ray work. It is typically treated with oral steroids like Prednisolone. A Vet may also prescribe inhaled steroids and bronchodilator treatment given via an Inhaler (Aerokat) chamber, the same product is used for cats with bronchial problems.
This condition often affects Toy breeds and can be life threatening. It is caused by a sudden drop in blood sugar – symptoms can start with the dog raising a fore paw near its head combined with disorientation, loss of balance, shivering or muscle tremors – in extreme cases this can lead to loss of consciousness leading to a coma. It can triggered by stress, change of routine or diet as well as over activity.
It is important to act quickly - we keep on hand Nutrical (similar products are Enervite and Nutri-plus Gel) – if you suspect a problem is starting apply some of this malty paste inside the dog’s mouth as rapid first-aid. If the jaw is clenched gently open and pop some paste to the roof of the mouth. People sometimes use honey but we personally like Nutrical.
Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible! Unfortunately blood work may be normal by then as the blood sugar may have stabilised but testing or further monitoring could also reveal some other cause for this problem.
Here is a link to an American Veterinary Centre for more information
This can be triggered from a change of diet, treat that was a bit too rich, stress and other similar factors. In most cases, the Pom is still lively and the problem will pass after a day or so and usually just requires lots of rear end washes, plenty of water and little food. A really good product to use is Pro-Kolin + made by Protexin - this paste is available at vets and also online and a dab in the mouth can be really effective. We have also have had luck with tinned Libbys Pumpkin pulp, usually found in the import section or a shop with American products. About a teaspoon of the pulp can help a lot. If your Pom is becoming ill, there is blood in the diarrhea and they are vomiting, seek immediate vet help.
HEMORRHAGIC GASTROENTERITIS (HGE)
This is a life threatening problem and the Pom must be taken immediately to the vets. It can come on very quickly, the Pom will have diarrhea which will turn bloody and also vomiting - they will be ill, off food and water. Here are some links which provide further information about HGE
COPROPHAGIA (eating stools)
You may feel quite surprised the first time you see your Pom do this, and although there are a lot of theories, there is no conclusive explantion as to why they do it. It is a fairly common problem in most breeds - so Poms aren't an exception. We have two Poms who like to do this once in a while and have had luck stopping them doing it by adding a small amount (teaspoon) of chopped tinned Pineapple to their dinner. An enzyme in the pineapple called Bromelain apparently makes the output less desirable and is usually enough to stop them.
This problem is usually first noticed when a Pom starts scooting or rubbing its rear on the carpet or up against something. Closer investigation will usually reveal a hot area with a lump near the anus. This is caused from an impacted anal gland and an abscess has started which will eventually burst. It's advisable that you have a vet check the abscess - usually they burst within a day or so, you will be advised to clean the area twice daily with an antibacterial mix like Hibiscrub. If the abscess is slow to burst, sometimes a vet will recommend a poultice to put over the area.
It's a good idea to check this area when grooming and to regularly express the anal glands to prevent them from becoming impacted. Vets can do this for you - or you can do it yourself. Here is a link to a website which shows you how to do it yourself -
Some Poms develop eye disorders, apart from complaints experienced by many other breeds there are a couple of conditions worth mentioning. Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Retinal Dysplasia are tested for in the UKs German Spitz but not in Poms. These complaints are hereditary. In America many breeders have eye tests done prior to sale of puppies or stud work and offer the results to potential clients. Here is a link to a UK site explaining more about the conditions and testing available.
I have one elderly Pom with detached retinas in both eyes and another 11 year old over-sized lad with PRA and Iris Atrophy. It is very important if your dog is visually challenged to make sure they know if you have re-arranged any furniture in your home or there are temporary obstacles in place - in doing so you will avoid mishaps. Many aging Poms develop cataracts - this can happen any time after about 8 years of age.
This is when with one or both of a male dog's testicles have failed to descend into the scrotum. A vet will be able to tell upon examination of a puppy if is a cryptorchid. This trait is hereditary - it is recommended the dog is neutered as statistics show there is a higher risk of cancer due to retained testicles.
Poms often lose adult teeth while still fairly young and it is important that you make every effort to keep their teeth as clean as you can. Some youngsters retain a few of their first set of teeth and in stubborn cases these may have to be extracted by your Vet. Older Poms often have virtually no teeth and special care must be taken about what they are fed as chewing is out of the question. I like to pre-soak the food for my Poms who have missing teeth. Geriatric tooth loss often results in Poms keeping their tongue out permanently on one side (usually the right side).
Poms and some other small breeds can sometimes have problems from anaesthetic. The very first book I read on Poms in 1997 (The Pomeranian by Happeth Jones) noted ‘For some reason, most deaths of Pomeranians while under anesthesia seem to happen when the vet performs two procedures at the same time: such as spaying and teeth cleaning’. We tragically lost a healthy 4 year old during a routine teeth cleaning some years ago. Discuss any concerns you may have with your veterinarian. Apparently the best anaesthetic for Poms is Isoflourane.
Like all dogs, there are other hereditary and non-hereditary illnesses that Poms can get such as Leggs Perth, PSS (liver shunts), Hernias and Tumours. we have just tried to include some of the more common problems. This page will be updated as new information is found.
If you are concerned about a health issue – I strongly recommend to anyone that they be their own best friend and combine discussion with your veterinarian with your own personal research via Google. There is a lot of misinformation floating about – especially with regard to the nature of hereditary conditions – so always look at as much as you can to get the most informed opinion. Websites operated by veterinary teaching hospitals (usually associated with a University) are a very good source of facts as are sites operated by individual specialists and veterinarians.