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Raising the “I Mean Tiny” Dog
I was talking to a friend last week who has a litter of three Chihuahuas - they were 11 weeks old and the biggest one
was only 1.5 pounds! Raising a puppy that is less than two pounds takes a special skill and desire. Most do not  want    
to have “Tea Cup” dogs, but occasionally we get one in a litter. A recent conversation with a breeder who specializes in
tiny dogs made me realize how little information is available.

The less-than-two-pound puppy needs to get on food and stay on food.  They wean later in life, often near 8 weeks. Eating
is not different from other puppies, but with tiny puppies, they have little body mass for back up. They need multiple
meals a day, and missing a meal makes them prone to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is best prevented with high calorie
supplements two or three times a day, with soft food and granular vitamins several times a day.  They should also have
small kibble dry food in front of them at all times. There are several supplements that are helpful with weaning, and I
would not hesitate to put them into your regimen:  • Forti-Cal nutritional supplement – Give it to them twice a day
minimum, and be sure to feed them afterwards. The vitamins are what are important here; the calories are just a plus. It
can also be used for fast energy and strength if you do see hypoglycemia. Forti-Cal is not just helpful at weaning; it
should be used for several months after sale as well.  • Rice baby cereal keeps bulk in the diet and needs to be used after
the puppy is hypoglycemic. A three-day course  is best twice a day. The cereal moves easily through a syringe and you
can add Forti-Cal and granular vitamins to it if you want. This helps keep the intestine moving and appetite up. If they are
on a lot of high calorie supplement vitamins are important. • Puppies are born with a sterile gut – no bacteria. During the
first few days, the mother will seed the puppy with good bacteria (probiotics) while cleaning and mothering them, giving
them the ammo to fight against invading bacteria. That’s why it’s important to give probiotics to orphans or problem
puppies the first few days and whenever they have GI upset. It’s also helpful during weaning to prevent diarrhea. All
products are helpful so choose your favorite – I like Fastrack – and give it daily when needed.  • Stay away from
prophylactic antibiotics! Antibiotics interrupt the GI flora and good bacteria they need. If absolutely needed you can use
them - but not without reason. Vaccines can be a big confusion. The idea is to start with simplified vaccine antigens, then
build gradually until they are old enough to handle the combination vaccines. Wait until they are 7 to 8 weeks old and
over 1 pound to start vaccination, using only Parvo for the 8- and 10-week vaccines. Follow with a Distemper/Parvo
combination (DPv) at 12 weeks, and then you can use the 5-way vaccine at 16 weeks if desired. We don’t want to knock
them down with combination vaccines - the key is to simplify the number of viruses in the vaccine for success.  When
using intranasal vaccines, the most important thing to remember is to be gentle and keep the intranasal vaccine
intranasal. Their tiny nose needs to have a smaller volume of vaccine, so only use half of the liquid diluents to rehydrate
the freeze-dried virus/bacteria. With less volume, you’ll be less likely to push the vaccine into the trachea and cause the
puppy to cough. One easy method is to simply place the drops on the nose and let the puppy pull it in himself. By dripping
it over the nose, you don’t force the vaccine at all. Intranasal vaccines are very safe and cause few issues if you keep
this in mind.  Never half dose injectable vaccines. No studies have shown that splitting the vaccine is reliable - it results
in uneven levels of antigens in each syringe. Instead of half-dosing combination vaccines, we can reduce the number of
antigens we put into their small bodies with a simplified vaccine. This means fewer antigens but maximum protection,
and we need the whole vaccine to successfully stimulate immunity. We can then build on that protection with
combination vaccines.  Reactions can happen with all vaccines. If they become listless and you suspect a reaction, don’t
wait to treat - give them antihistamine right away. Liquid children’s Benadryl is one option, giving 1 mg/lb for dogs - only
a few drops.  Some breeders will pre-medicate with Benadryl, giving it 30 minutes before vaccination to reduce the risk of
reaction.  This is a good habit - we don’t want to lose them for reactions we know how to prevent! They do not react to
intranasal vaccines, so we only pre-medicate for injectable vaccines. One more thing to keep in mind: never give
intranasal vaccines while on antibiotics. Antibiotics will kill the modified live Bordetella in the vaccine and you won’t get
the immunity you need. Make sure your dogs are off any antibiotics 3 days before and after the vaccine. A week after
vaccination is best, but not always achievable.
The tiny dog demands special care and attention to thrive. By providing enough nutrients and simplifying their vaccines,
you can consistently raise healthy dogs and make sure they’ll provide someone with a new best friend!

Dr. B
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