One of the most important considerations to make when choosing a breed of dog is health. Does the breed have a good health history? What are the health conditions the breed has a history with?
These are good questions to ask when you’re doing your “should I get this dog?” homework. If you’re considering bringing home a Miniature Schnauzer, the good news is that overall, they have a good health history and live a decently long lifespan (12 to 14 years). However, Miniature Schnauzers do have a track record of encountering certain canine health problems, so it is best to familiarize yourself in case your dog develops any of these conditions.
While there is no guarantee that your dog will or won’t inherit any health conditions, you should always ask your breeder about his line’s health history. If you get a rescue, you may not be able to get such family information, so the list below may be all you have to go on. But being able to identify any Miniature Schnauzer health problems early will go a long way if they require any treatment.
Common Miniature Schnauzer Health Problems
Although the Miniature Schnauzer is a relatively healthy dog breed, it is not as healthy as its larger counterpart, the Standard Schnauzer. Miniatures are more prone to certain health problems than Standards, some of which are serious conditions. Here are some of the Miniature Schnauzer health problems that have been seen often in this breed.
A Miniature Schnauzer’s expressive, small, dark, sunken eyes covered by their bushy eyebrows are one of their most signature features. Unfortunately. the Miniature Schnauzer is airly genetically predisposed to several diseases related to those trademark eyes.
Cataracts in dogs occur when the eye lens is gradually covered by an opaque cloudiness. Miniature Schnauzers are prone to severe cataracts, which can appear anywhere from birth to six years old.
The condition will affect the dog’s vision and can lead to complete canine blindness. However, sometimes the condition can be corrected and vision can be restored with surgery.
When cataracts are present at birth, the condition is called Congenital Juvenile Cataracts (CJC). The surgery to correct this form of cataracts is costly, but luckily, this defect is rare. Not long ago, CJC was a huge issue, but breeders retired dogs that had the condition from breeding.
Good breeders will always have puppies eyes checked when they have a new litter, and a Veterinary Ophthalmologist can diagnose cataracts in Miniature Schnauzers at an early age.
Progressive Renal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs is a condition that causes the dog’s retina to slowly deteriorate. PRA is an inherited disease that appears when the dog is still young, at around three years old. It begins with night blindness, but will eventually develop to completely blind the dog in both eyes within a year or two. Although the condition is not painful for the dog, there is no cure for PRA.
There is a simple DNA test available for PRA in Miniature Schnauzers, that enables you to find out if your dog has PRA, is a carrier, or is clear of the disease. Breeders should have their breeding stock checked annually to help reduce the frequency of the condition, so be sure to ask for an eye certification before you get a Miniature Schnauzer from a breeder.
Entropion in dogs is a condition where a dog’s eyelid will invert and roll inwards toward the eye, causing the lashes to rub against and irritate the cornea. This is a painful condition that will require surgery to correct it.
Other Eye Conditions
Other less common eye conditions that have been seen in Miniature Schnauzers include retinal dysplasia, glaucoma in dogs, and lens luxation. Since Miniature Schnauzer’s are so susceptible to eye issues, you should never get a puppy whose parents have not been certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). While this isn’t a guarantee your puppy will not develop an eye condition in his life, it at least gives you the comfort that eye diseases do not run in his family, so he should be less genetically connected to these health problems.
Miniature Schnauzers are more prone than other breeds for the development of bladder or kidney stones at some point in their lifetimes. In fact, urinary stones are more common in Miniature Schnauzers than any other breed. A study posted in the American Journal of Veterinary Research (1998-99), stated that Miniature Schnauzers accounted for 47 percent of all small dogs reported having stones.
If you’ve ever encountered any kind of kidney or bladder stone yourself, you know how painful they can be to pass. Miniature Schnauzers can develop several different kinds of stones, the most likely of which include struvite and calcium oxalate stones.
Struvite stones are more common in females, typically appearing at the same time as a canine urinary tract infection. It is believed that Struvite stones occur frequently in Miniature Schnauzers because of breed-related weakness in their urinary tract. When the urinary tract infection that caused the stones is treated with antibiotics, the stones should go away, but sometimes they may require surgery.
Calcium oxalate stones are more common in older male dogs, occurring when the dog’s body cannot handle calcium correctly. This problem can be managed through diet but may require surgery to remove. Urinary stones can be especially dangerous in males because their narrow urethra is more easily blocked. This is a life-threatening emergency.
If you have a Miniature Schnauzer, talk with your veterinarian about a preventative diet to help keep stones from forming.
And if you notice any blood in your dog’s urine, if your dog is having trouble peeing or can’t go at all, it is a medical emergency and you need to get him into a veterinary hospital immediately.
Pancreatitis in dogs is a common condition in Miniature Schnauzers that involves an inflammation of the pancreas. It is an emergency situation which will require your dog to be hospitalized and given supportive care, including intravenous fluids.
The dog will then need to stay on a low-fat diet for the rest of their life. If your dog has pancreatitis, symptoms may include, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Myotonia is a genetic muscle disease that is sometimes found in Miniature Schnauzers. When a dog has Myotonia, their muscles will contract easily, which causes them to be stiff. The condition causes their muscles to become hyperactive, making them grow too large, bulging muscles that make it difficult for them to get up and move around. Myotonia will also cause difficulty when swallowing because their tongues will swell.
There is no cure, but Myotonia can be treated with medication. However, affected dogs won’t be able to exercise or eat normally. A small portion of Miniature Schnauzers have this condition, and breeders should know to test for Myotonia before breeding any dog.
A simple DNA test is available to test for myotonia, so you can find out at any time whether your dog has the disease, carries the disease, or is completely clear of it. You should never get a Miniature Schnauzer puppy without seeing the documentation that his parents have been tested for this condition.
The number one inherited disease of dogs in general, canine hypothyroidism is another condition commonly seen in Miniature Schnauzers. Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when a dog doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone, which regulates many of the body’s systems.
It affects a dog’s metabolism, leading to depression, weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and even an intolerance to the cold. If Hypothyroidism goes untreated, it can lead to issues with the immune system, cardiovascular system, and reproductive system. Luckily, testing and treatment are both relatively easy and inexpensive.
Cushing’s Disease in dogs is another condition seen with some frequency in Miniature Schnauzers. It affects females more than males and typically occurs in middle-aged dogs between six and eight years old. Cushing’s Disease can cause increased thirst and urination as well as weight gain. It is also connected to an overproduction of adrenal cortex hormones, which can cause sudden blindness.
Miniature Schnauzers can encounter some skin conditions that may include allergies, non-tumorous growths, and tumors, especially sebaceous gland tumors.
Most commonly, they develop a skin condition called Comedo Syndrome, in which the dog develops blackheads along its back.
In fact, the condition is so common it is commonly referred to as “Schnauzer bumps.” In addition to the blackheads, some dogs will also have scabbing and dog hair loss.
The blackheads may feel crusty and are a blockage of the dog’s hair follicles. Comedo Syndrome can be prevented through a healthy diet, consistent dog grooming, and regular bathing.
Just like with human acne, you should not squeeze these bumps. Miniature Schnauzers can also get Malassezia dermatitis, a yeast infection that causes hair loss, itchiness, a foul smell, and can also lead to other infections. Other conditions may be triggered by allergies, metabolic disorders, or a lack of grooming or bathing. Pay close attention to your dog’s diet and maintain consistent grooming habits to help prevent skin problems.
Miniature Schnauzers are more likely to develop some forms of heart disease in dogs, including mitral valve disease, sick sinus syndrome, and pulmonic stenosis. Mitral valve disease causes the valve to wear out, sick sinus syndrome will cause the heart to beat irregularly, and pulmonic stenosis is an obstruction of blood flow to the heart.
Have your dog’s heart checked annually, and if heart disease is found early, there are medications that may be able to prolong your dog’s life for several years. A healthy diet and exercise to control your dog’s weight and good dental care can both go a long way to preventing heart disease.
Miniature Schnauzers are very susceptible to periodontal disease in dogs, in which food and plaque are trapped in their teeth, causing them to develop an infection in their gums and the roots of their teeth.
This is a serious condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it can lead to heart disease (see above), kidney or liver damage, and weakened joints, not to mention your dog may lose teeth and have difficulty eating. Not taking care of your dog’s teeth can actually reduce his lifespan.
Frequent dental cleanings, or cleaning your dog’s teeth yourself at home, can go along way to maintaining a healthy mouth. You can ask your veterinarian and/or breeder for tips on how to clean your dog’s mouth as well as how to inspect it for issues.
Miniature Schnauzers are known to get ear infections in dogs, which can be quite uncomfortable for the dog. The infections can be caused by allergies, bacteria, and yeast. If you notice your dog scratching or shaking their head more than usual, or they are sensitive about having their ears touch, it may point to an ear infection. The earlier you catch an ear infection, the less pain your dog will suffer.
Any dog can develop health issues, regardless of their genetics. Miniature Schnauzer health problems can usually be dealt with when discovered early, and many can be prevented altogether. However, when they do develop health problems, it can be difficult to tell because they are stubborn dogs who don’t want to let anything slow them down.
Pay attention to your pet so you can notice if anything is out of the ordinary, and take your Miniature Schnauzer in for regular veterinary checkups to catch things early. If you are proactive with any health issues and maintain a healthy diet, and exercise your dog regularly, you may have a pet that can live for up to 15 years or more.