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Clinic
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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