Pet Insurance Blog

Is Pet Insurance Worth It For Small Dogs?

Ricky Walther, DVM
Dr. Ricky Walther
pet insurance for small dogs

Small dogs are popular with many owners due to their small size and big personalities. Breeds like Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Boston Terriers are cute and cuddly, but they’re also at greater risk for specific health issues that primarily affect small-breed dogs.

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This post will explain some of the most common conditions in minor dogs and how pet insurance can help cover the costs of diagnosing and treating those conditions.

Here’s what we’ll focus on:

What is considered a small dog?

Dogs that are considered “small” generally weigh up to 25 pounds, but there are more specific weight categories for teacup, toy, and small dog breeds.

Small dogs weigh about 20 to 25 pounds as mature adults with a height of 10 inches or less (measuring from the top of the shoulder to the ground). Some of the most popular small dog breeds include:

Toy dogs are small dog breeds that weigh between 10 and 22 pounds when fully grown. Some examples of toy dogs include:

Teacup dogs are pocket-sized versions of breeds that are already small. They’re selectively bred from small breeds and weigh between two to nine pounds. Some teacup dogs include:

injured yorkie at vet

Are smaller dogs easier to care for?

While smaller dogs may require less exercise and have higher metabolic rates, that doesn’t mean that they are easier to care for.

The health of small breed dogs is more precarious. If a small dog ate garlic, the consequences could be worse. Smaller dogs are easier prey targets for wild animals and suffer from whelping complications. Many of them shed a lot and require plenty of grooming.

Do small dogs live longer than big dogs?

Yes, but not necessarily because they’re healthier. Smaller dogs usually have higher metabolic rates, leading to longer life spans. Small breeds have an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years; for large breeds, the expectancy is eight to ten years; whereas, for giant breeds, the life expectancy is five to eight years.

Common health problems in small dogs

Some of the most common health issues in dogs of smaller breeds include:

Temperature regulation

If you notice your little friend gets too hot when the sun is shining or shakes in mildly cold weather, it’s because small dog breeds are less capable of regulating their internal body temperature. As a result, they’re more susceptible to temperature sensitivities.

Learn more about how you can prevent heatstroke in dogs and keep them safe during winter.

Tracheal collapse

Brachycephalic dog breeds like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus are prone to tracheal collapse, a progressive disease of the trachea. Surgery can correct some issues, but these dogs will have breathing difficulties, especially during the summer months or if they’re overweight.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a hereditary condition that causes respiratory problems due to the flattened shape of a dog’s skull. Symptoms include excessive panting, rapid breathing, excessive snoring, difficulty eating, and collapsing. Mild cases can be managed with lifestyle changes, whereas more severe cases might require surgery.

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition where the kneecap dislocates out of the groove in which it’s supposed to sit. This genetic condition usually presents early in life and has varying degrees of severity, from Grade 1 to Grade 4. Patellar luxation primarily affects small dogs, especially breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Poodles, and Pomeranians.

Intervertebral disc disease

Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD can be described as a slipped, herniated, or ruptured disk. The condition is most commonly seen in Dachshunds, Beagles, Pekingese, American Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Shih Tzus** **but can occur in dogs of any breed.

sick beagle


Carrying extra weight increases your dog’s risk of developing other medical conditions like pancreatitis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It has also been associated with breathing problems.

Behavioral problems

Small dogs tend to mount objects or people more often than their larger counterparts. They are more sensitive to touch and tend to have more separation anxiety, fear, hyperactivity, and excitability. They also display a higher rate of owner-directed aggression. Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are among the breeds most prone to attack.

Note: There’s no such thing as small dogs with no health problems, but Chihuahuas are considered the healthiest among small dog breeds.

Why are small dogs so aggressive or anxious?

Tiny breeds may be more likely to react defensively because their small size makes them more fearful. Their aggression or anxiousness can also result from the fact that owners tend to be overly protective of small dogs. They might lack adequate socialization as puppies, so they never learn how to react appropriately to stressful situations.

Because of this, small breed dogs are more likely to need behavioral consultation, which may be reimbursable through pet insurance.

It should be noted, though, that not all small dogs have behavioral issues. Some small dog breeds, such as the Maltese and Bichon Frise, are known to be very calm, gentle, and highly trainable.

Is pet insurance cheaper for small dogs than large dogs?

Generally speaking, yes. Larger dogs cost more to insure because they are thought to age faster and have a shorter life expectancy. Some larger breeds, like Rottweilers, are very energetic and therefore considered more likely to injure themselves accidentally.

However, the exact cost of pet insurance depends on many other factors, such as your dog’s age, postcode, and medical history.

Where to find the best pet insurance for small-sized dogs

Dogs of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the right pet insurance, and Pawlicy Advisor can help you compare plans based on your pet’s specific breed. See options from top pet insurance companies with easy-to-read breakdowns of coverage, cost, waiting periods, unique features, and more.

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Key Takeaways

  • While all dogs can experience health issues, certain conditions are more common among small breeds, including tracheal collapse, IVDD, patellar luxation, and behavioral problems.
  • Pet insurance can help you to better position yourself to give your pint-sized pup the care he needs. In general, smaller dogs are less expensive to insure than their larger counterparts, although the price of your plan will also depend on your dog’s age, location, and health history.
  • Pawlicy Advisor can help you find the best pet insurance for small dogs.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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