Top 14 Healthiest Small Dog Breeds

Before getting a dog, you should consider the cost of veterinary care. Just like a human needs medical care, dogs need veterinary care. Costs can add up, even for owners who have pet health insurance. This is why it is essential to research how healthy different dog breeds are. Small dogs generally live longer than older dogs and suffer fewer musculoskeletal issues.

When looking for small dogs to add to your family, make sure a breeder can tell you the medical history of the puppy and the parents. Providing a full health history is a sign of a reputable breeder. Additionally, working dogs, or dogs that were bred for hunting or herding, are usually healthier overall. Finally, older breeds are healthier because genetic issues have been bred out over the generations.

These are 14 small dog breeds with the least health problems. They are prone to fewer genetic or physical abnormalities. Some breeds have health concerns that can be tested for.

1. Affenpinscher


Affenpinschers are small black dogs with big personalities and irresistible faces. Their life expectancy is 12-15 years and they are generally healthy. Since these dogs max out at 10-12 pounds, they are less likely to deal with musculoskeletal issues, like hip dysplasia.

One condition that can affect Affenpinschers is luxating patellas or floating kneecaps. This condition can occur at any age, but it usually affects older dogs.

2. Border Terrier

Border Terrier

Border terriers grow up to 15 inches tall and weigh up to 15 pounds. The Border Terrier Club of America works hard to keep the breed healthy. All participating breeders have their dogs health checked for any concerns or genetic markers before breeding. Puppies are also checked to confirm that they are in top health before being placed with a family.

The most serious condition that affected border terriers is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS). There is no genetic test for this illness that causes epilepsy-like symptoms.

3. Fox Terrier

Fox Terrier

Fox terriers are known for their white and brown wire-haired coats. They have a lifespan of 12-15 years and grow up to 20 pounds. These high-energy dogs love to explore their environments and get into trouble. They do great with kids and will run around the yard endlessly.

All the activity is good for keeping the fox terriers healthy. This breed is considered generally healthy. Some genetic predispositions can affect fox terriers, but they can all be tested for.

4. Lakeland Terrier

Lakeland Terrier

The Lakeland terrier is a lesser-known breed that looks similar to a fox terrier. These dogs stay under 20 pounds and 15 inches in height. Lakeland terriers come in a variety of color variations.

Lakeland terrier breeders should screen for some hereditary conditions, including eye problems and Von Willebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder). A minor health condition that many Lakeland terriers suffer from is distichiasis, which is when eyelashes grow from the inner corner of the eyes. In most cases, the rouge eyelashes can be removed easily.

5. Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk terriers are small family dogs that do great with children. Since they max out at 10 inches tall and 12 pounds in weight, they make excellent companion dogs in smaller homes. The Norfolk Terrier Club works to screen all breeding dogs and puppies for common and genetic health issues.

One common health concern in Norfolk terriers is mitral valve disease (MVD). It is estimated that 60% of Norfolk terriers have evidence of mitral valve breakdown by the end of their life. Mitral valve disease can be diagnosed early if a murmur is detected by your veterinarian. Additionally, there are several treatment options as the disease progresses.

6. Miniature Poodle

Miniature Poodle

The poodle breed has been around for over 400 years. These popular dogs are considered hypoallergenic and can live up to 18 years. The miniature variety weighs up to 15 pounds and stands 15 inches tall. Poodles of all sizes are mixed with other breeds to produce popular “doodle” dogs. By breeding specifically with a miniature poodle, these mixed breeds can avoid the musculoskeletal issues that plague larger dogs.

Poodles can be affected by some rare disorders, but they are generally a healthy breed. Hereditary conditions have been bred out of the breed through generations of careful breeding practices.

7. Welsh Terrier

Welsh Terrier

The bearded Welsh terrier is a small black and tan dog. They grow up to 15 inches tall and weigh up to 20 pounds. Welsh terriers were originally bred to take on animals like otters and badgers.

Glaucoma and thyroid disorders can affect Welsh terriers, but these conditions can be screened for. This breed can also be prone to epilepsy and allergies, but quality breeders will not breed any dogs that have health concerns.

8. Basenji


Basenjis are unusual dogs that do not bark and groom their coats like cats. They are in the hound family, but their unique characteristics and small size set them apart. They have a lifespan of up to 14 years, which is most likely due to their high activity level.

Basenjis are considered generally healthy dogs and they are not prone to many ailments. The Basenji Club of America tracks breeding dogs for health conditions to maintain the quality of the breed.

9. Beagles


Like poodles, beagles have been around for a long time. There have been records found before the 1500s. All that time means that reputable breeders have been able to “breed out” hereditary conditions, making beagles fairly healthy dogs.

Since beagles are short-legged dogs, they can end up with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Keeping your beagle at a healthy weight, preventing them from jumping off of high furniture, and using a harness instead of a collar can help prevent IVDD. A beagle’s large ears can also become easily infected. Regular ear cleanings can prevent infections from forming.

10. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

The bichon frise is a white, fluffy dog. They are easy to train and make fabulous family pets. Bichons frises can grow up to 12 inches tall and have a lifespan of up to 15 years.

One health concern to watch out for is dental issues. Proper oral care is the best way to prevent your bichon frise from needing to get teeth removed. You should brush at home regularly and schedule dental cleanings when your veterinarian recommends.

11. Chihuahua


Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed. They were originally bred by the Aztecs in the 12th century, but they rose to fame thanks to celebrities in the 90s. What they lack in size, they make up for in spunky personality.

Chihuahuas don’t have many (if any) health concerns when they are younger. Most issues arise in older dogs since chihuahuas can live to almost 20 years old. In geriatric chihuahuas, you may see musculoskeletal or dental issues.

12. Miniature Pinscher

Miniature Pinscher

Commonly confused as a Doberman/chihuahua mix, the miniature pinscher is an aggressive-looking dog that comes in a small package. They weigh up to 10 pounds and can live up to 16 years. These dogs are high-energy and all that activity keeps their body strong and healthy.

Miniature pinschers are not too prone to many health concerns, except those that can affect any small dog. One concern is mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS VI), which can lead to deformities. Luckily, MPS VI can be screened with a DNA test to prevent passing it on to puppies.

13. Pomeranian


The smiling Pomeranian is a popular lap dog. These dogs grow up to 7 inches tall and weigh up to 7 pounds (though many are smaller). Like other small breeds, Pomeranians have a long lifespan, up to 16 years.

Pomeranians can suffer from eye conditions and skin issues. Your veterinarian or a canine ophthalmologist can check your dog’s eyes regularly. Skin issues can be mitigated with regular grooming and brushing.

14. Havanese


Havanese dogs were originally bred in Cuba, so they do well in warm climates. These dogs have a friendly demeanor. They can live up to 16 years.

One hereditary condition that affects havanese is deafness. Luckily, this does not affect their quality of life or overall health. Breeders have taken great care not to pass on genetic predispositions within the breed, so havanese are generally healthy dogs.

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