Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Pomeranians: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Pom Poms and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Highly intelligent, playful, and energetic
- Outgoing and friendly personality
- Alert, curious, and busy
- Protective of family: good watch dog
- Highly trainable and eager to please
- Sweet, gentle, and sensitive
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- May have a tendency to bark excessively
- Can be possessive of toys and food, tending to show dominance
- Prone to boredom and separation anxiety when left alone and will find trouble
- Can be difficult to housetrain
- Fragile and easily injured because of her small size
- Can be snappy with children
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is a loving and docile companion, but she can be independent and willful. With early socialization and consistent leadership, she is a lively and loyal addition to any family.
The Pomeranian originated in Germany during the 16th century as a large Spitz breed used for sheep herding. They were then bred down in size for companionship. The smaller Pomeranians became popular pets when Queen Victoria imported them to Britain in the late 19th century and established a breeding kennel. Poms enjoy close human companionship and bond quickly, but do not tend to be overly clingy. They demand to be the center of attention and enjoy entertaining with their comical tricks and vivacious outlook on life. The Pomeranian is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 15 years.
Your Pomeranian’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Pom. By knowing about health concerns specific to Pomeranians, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Pomeranians to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Pomeranians. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Pom Pom looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Pomeranian
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Pomeranian is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Pom’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Pomeranians are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Pomeranians. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Pom Pom’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Pom is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Pomeranians
Pomeranians are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram, depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.
Poms are susceptible to a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosis, in which a small vessel that carries blood between two parts of the heart does not close shortly after birth as it should. This results in too much blood being carried to the lungs, fluid build-up, and strain on the heart. Outward signs may be mild or you may see coughing, fatigue during exercise, weight loss, shortness of breath, or weakness in the hind limbs. We listen for a specific type of heart murmur to diagnose this problem during his examinations. If your pal has this condition, we may recommend surgery to close the problematic vessel.
Heart failure is a leading cause of death among Pomeranians in their golden years. Most heart disease in dogs is caused by weakening of a valve. A heart valve slowly becomes deformed so that it no longer closes tightly. Blood then leaks back around this valve and strains the heart. Pets with heart valve disease (sometimes called mitral valve disease) have a heart murmur. If your dog has a heart murmur or outward signs suggesting heart problems, we’ll perform testing to determine the severity of the disease. The same tests will need to be repeated at least every year to monitor the condition. If heart valve disease is diagnosed early, we may be able to prescribe medications that could prolong his life for many years. Veterinary dental care and fatty acid supplementation can help prevent heart disease and weight control can help diminish symptoms.
Sometimes the sinus node, which is the part of the electrical system that signals the heart to beat, doesn’t work properly. If your Pom has this condition, called sick sinus syndrome, he will have a very low heart rate and may faint with exercise. Mild cases can be treated with medication. If his symptoms are more severe, he may need more advanced care. We’ll perform a test of the electrical activity of the heart (ECG screen) each year as well as before he undergoes anesthesia to provide the best care for your friend.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Pomeranians can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Poms. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea (surface of the eyeball). This is an extremely irritating and painful condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. It can happen in any dog breed; however, your Pom is especially at risk for this heritable disorder. Surgical correction is usually successful if performed early.
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Pom is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Bone and Joint Problems
A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in Pomeranians. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering. With diligent observation at home and knowledge about the diseases that may affect your friend’s bones, joints, or muscles you will be able to take great care of him throughout his life.
Sometimes your Pom’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Pomeranians are more likely than other breeds to have instability in the first two neck vertebrae (called the atlantal and the axial vertebrae). This can cause a sudden spinal-cord injury in the neck. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump up or go up stairs, cries for no apparent reason, or tries to turn or lower his head when you pick him up, he is in pain. Call us immediately! We’ll control the pain with medication, and sometimes surgery is recommended. As with so many other diseases, weight control helps to prevent it. With this breed, it’s important to use ramps or steps from the time your dog is a puppy so that he doesn’t spend a lifetime stressing his neck by jumping on and off of the furniture.
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common condition in Poms. The disease is caused when the jelly-like cushion between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disc to press on the spinal cord. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump up, go up stairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, cries out, or refuses to eat or go potty, he is likely in severe pain. He may even drag his back feet or be suddenly paralyzed and unable to get up or use his back legs. If you see symptoms, don’t wait. Call us or an emergency clinic immediately! For less severe cases, rest and medication may resolve the problem. In many cases involving paralysis, we’ll recommend surgical removal of the ruptured discs (within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms to get the best results). As with so many other diseases, weight control helps to prevent this problem. You should also use ramps or steps from puppyhood on so that your dog doesn’t spend a lifetime stressing his back by jumping on and off of the furniture.
If your Pom has an inherited condition called Hyperuricosuria (HU), he will have more uric acid in his urine. Uric acid acts like fertilizer for bladder stones and sometimes kidney stone development. A DNA test is available to test for the specific mutation associated with the disease; however, once stones are present they often must be removed surgically. By testing early, we can identify whether this is a health risk for him, and start appropriate dietary therapy to prevent problems. Without a DNA test, we may recommend frequent urine analysis, x-rays or ultrasound to make sure he doesn’t have these painful stones.
Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME)
GME is an acute, progressive inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) of dogs. It can cause severe and often irreversible damage to the brain. Middle aged, small breed dogs such as Pomeranians are more susceptible. The cause is unknown. Three syndromes of GME have been recognized, and symptoms may be acute, leading rapidly to death, or they may chronically progress over several months. Sometimes only the eyes are involved. Treatment includes corticosteroids. Response to therapy is variable and the prognosis is generally poor.
Water on the Brain
Hydrocephalus occurs when fluid builds up inside the skull and puts pressure on the brain. This condition is most common in breeds with dome-shaped heads, like your Pomeranian. It is often present when the skull bones don’t fuse properly. Signs include seizures, difficulty training the puppy, dulled mental function, circling, and a spastic gait. It is usually diagnosed early in life, but occasionally we diagnose it in adult dogs. We’ll keep this risk in mind during her visits and recommend early testing and discuss effective treatment options if symptoms develop.
The trachea, or windpipe, is made up of rings of cartilage, making it look something like a vacuum cleaner’s ridged hose. Just as in the hose, this structure provides flexibility and strength. In Pomeranians, the cartilage rings are sometimes weak or have formed incorrectly. The trachea can collapse and become too narrow, which leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Most cases of tracheal collapse are mild and are treated symptomatically with medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be an option.
Teeth abnormalities are often genetically induced and are relatively common in dogs, especially in purebred dogs like your Pom. An overbite or underbite is called a malocclusion, or a bad bite. Oligodontia is a condition where only a few teeth are present. Misaligned teeth can also occur and cause lots of problems, but can usually be corrected with braces or extractions. (Yes, dogs can get braces!) We want to keep your buddy’s teeth healthy so we will be watching his developing teeth closely.
Poms are prone to a variety of skin problems, including one called sebaceous adenitis. You may notice that your dog has dry, scaly skin with patches of hair loss along the top of his head, back of the neck, and back (typically you’ll first notice it when your dog is between one and five years of age). Treatment is generally long term, and we’ll likely try a combination of approaches to determine what is most effective with your dog. The response to treatment is highly variable, but you’ll almost always need to give fatty acid supplements and use special shampoos to remove dead skin and hair. The earlier the skin is checked out, the better his results.
Alopecia X or adrenal sex-hormone imbalance is known to causes patchy hair loss. It can also cause a fuzzy or woolly coat on each side of your friend’s body. Neutering often resolves the problem. This disease can sometimes be treated with the same medications that are used for Cushing’s disease, another disorder involving the adrenal glands. Alopecia X is more a cosmetic problem than a serious medical issue, but responsible Pom breeders recommend not using affected individuals for breeding.
Poms are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Poms. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Pom Pom live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Regular brushing and grooming is needed to keep her coat beautiful.
- Pomeranians often have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She is well suited to apartment life as long as she is given daily walks and frequent play sessions.
- She is highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep her mentally stimulated.
- Due to her assertive nature and small size, she is not recommended for homes with small children.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Pomeranian needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
- Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest
- Unwilling to jump, cries when moving head
- Seizures, dull demeanor, spastic gait
- Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Pom counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 May 8]. Available from: http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/pomeranian
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 May 8]. Available from: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=pomeranian
Very intelligent, alert, and curious.
Excitable nature, often accompanied by excessive barking.
Prefers the company of adults.
Originally the Pomeranian was a much larger dog used for herding. It was discovered in the Pomeranian region of Germany, from which it also derived its name. It is a member of the Spitz family, which includes Samoyeds, Malamutes, and Chow Chows. Through careful selection of breeding stock, the dog from Pomerania was reduced in size from 30 pounds to its present day weight. The breed underwent most of the size reduction in Victorian England, but saw continued miniaturization in the 20th century. The Pomeranian has been recognized in the United States since 1900.
A dwarf member of the Spitz family.
Erect, pricked-ears are not altered.
Upright tail tilts forward over the body.
Expression is described as foxy.
A heavy, double coat that stands out from the body. The undercoat is short and thick, and the outercoat is longer and coarse.
The feel of the Pom’s coat is somewhat harsh.
Colors and combinations of colors are numerous.
Solids of any color are allowed with or without shadings of sable.
Parti-colors and black-and-tan bi-colors are also permitted.
Show classes are divided by color.
Red is the most commonly seen color.
The profuse coat takes three years to reach maturity.
Health and Wellness
Patent ductus arteriosis.
What You Should Know
In the top ten of American Kennel Club (AKC) breeds.
The most popular toy dog in the United States.
Queen Victoria was a great champion of the breed. The breed flourished in England during her reign.
Alert nature and tendency to bark at strange noises makes the Pom a tiny but capable watchdog.