Keeping Your Miniature Schnauzer Healthy

I know you’ll agree with us when we say we all want to keep our Miniature Schnauzers healthy. It’s what we do as responsible dog owners. There’s so much information out there about general dog health, but most of it isn’t tailored specifically for Miniature Schnauzer health. We’ve put together a guide just for Schnauzer lovers, to help you keep your Miniature Schnauzer healthy for years to come.

Miniature Schnauzer puppy at veterinarian - Midnight Schnauzers - Arkansas

Vaccinations

Puppy vaccines are administered every 3-4 weeks from 6-16 weeks. When you bring your puppy home, he will have already received his first set of vaccinations. The next set will be administered by your vet, usually at 9-10 weeks, depending on your vet’s protocol. The rabies vaccine is given in the fourth month. Depending on the requirements of your grooming, training, or boarding facilities, additional vaccines such as Bordetella for kennel cough may be necessary.

Heartworm Prevention

This is a critically important part of your Miniature Schnauzer’s wellness routine. Veterinarians usually start heartworm preventive at 9-12 weeks. The frequency of dosage varies according to product. Some are given every thirty days, while others are given every six months. We do not recommend 3-in-one pills such as Simparica Trio, that cover fleas and ticks, internal parasites, and heartworm preventative in one pill. Administering multiple drugs in one pill has a much higher rate of reactions in dogs. Instead, choose separate options for fleas/ticks and heartworm preventative.

Flea Prevention

We recommend Frontline Gold flea and tick protection. It is a spot-on product that protects against fleas for 3 months and ticks for one month. That means you could wait up to 3 months between applications. But if you’re like me and live in an area where ticks are a problem, definitely consider applying it every month. Frontline is a safe, effective, and affordable option to keep your Schnauzer flea and tick free. We do NOT recommend using flea collars, due to the risk of toxicity in small breeds like Miniature Schnauzers.

Spay/Neuter

The decision to neuter or leave your Miniature Schnauzer intact is one that no one can make for you. We do recommend waiting until after your puppy’s growth plates have closed at around 12-14 months. Veterinary researchers have found that early neutering delays the closure of the growth plates, resulting in bones growing out of proportion to each other and putting the dog at higher risk of hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament tear. While early spay/neuter may reduce the risk of reproductive cancers in dogs, numerous studies have linked early spay/neuter with increased risk of bone cancer, lymphoma, cancerous heart tumors, and diabetes to name a few. A dog’s hormones affect far more than just reproduction. Do your research carefully, and come to a decision that is right for you and your dog. I’ve included some helpful links below to get you started.

 Reconsidering Early Spay/Neuter of Dogs

Spaying and Neutering Your Dog: Options and Alternatives

Podcast: Rethinking Spay/Neuter with Dr. Chris Zink, DVM

 

Weight

Canine obesity is a growing problem. As an adult, your Miniature Schnauzer female should be no more than 18 lb., and your male no more than 20 lb. Most weight issues are caused by free feeding, overfeeding, or feeding table scraps. The best option for your puppy is to set meal times and feeding amounts and stick with it. If you notice her getting a little chunky, either decrease feeding amount or increase exercise. A good rule of thumb in determining if your dog is at peak fitness is that you should be able to feel the ribs but not see them. A second thing to monitor is waistline; your dog’s body should narrow slightly just below the ribcage.

Ears

The main cause of ear infections is hair left to grow in the ears. Since Schnauzers do not shed, this hair must be removed from the ear canal by plucking. Ear plucking should be done by your groomer every time your Schnauzer gets a haircut. However, many groomers choose to only scissor the hair inside the ears, leaving hair to grow and block air flow to the inner ear. Or if they do pluck the ear hair, they’re in too much of a hurry and create an unpleasant, traumatic experience for your puppy. To give our puppies a positive first experience with ear plucking, we do the first plucking ourselves before they go home. If you’re unable to find a groomer patient and gentle enough to give to give your puppy good experiences with ear plucking in the future, we recommend DIYing this part of the grooming. You can do it just a little at a time in brief, gentle, upbeat sessions. The first step is to purchase ear powder and cleaner. Ear powder dries the hair follicles, making it easier (and less uncomfortable) to pluck. It also makes the hair easier to grip. Take it slow and do a very little at a time, feeding treats in between. If you have a helper, ask them to constantly massage the ear you aren’t plucking. This has been proven to promote relaxation and physically reduce discomfort. Hemostats are very helpful in removing hair from the ear canal. Hemostats are like a cross between scissors and tweezers. Most Schnauzers have small clumps of hair that grow downward a couple inches into the ear canal and are tough to remove without hemostats. After you finish, be sure to put several drops of ear cleaner in each ear. Rub the base of the ear a few seconds, then stand waaay back while the dog shakes like crazy! Gently wipe out the ear with a cotton ball. Plucking stimulates wax production, and you will likely need to do a few repeat cleanings within the first week after plucking.

Teeth

There are several options available for tooth care in Miniature Schnauzers.  The most common option is weekly brushing to prevent plaque from building up. There are also products available for use on adult dogs such as Plaque Off, a tasteless water additive which prevents plaque buildup, or Brush Free, a plaque-preventing gel which is rubbed into the gums. If plaque has already built up, you can opt for professional cleaning by a vet, or you can purchase a metal scraping tool and gently remove the plaque yourself. This is more time consuming, but it does not require the dog to be sedated. If you keep your Schnauzer supplied with hard chews they enjoy, such as goat horns or Nylabones (never rawhide), the chewing action will help keep plaque down and teeth healthy. Keeping your puppy on purified water will also help prevent plaque build up.

Exercise

Puppies will have brief periods of vigorous play interrupted by looong….(yawn)….naps. The main rule is to allow your puppy lots of off-leash play where he can stop if he gets tired. If you go for a walk, allow him to noodle along, sniffing and exploring at his own pace. No structured walks for young pups. If you want to go for a long walk or run, bring along your puppy in a stroller (yes, they really do have strollers for puppies!) or front carry pack.

As adults, most Miniature Schnauzers do not require extensive exercise to keep them happy. They do, however, enjoy space to run, fetch games, and daily walks. They are boundlessly curious and adventuresome, and they love exploring nature. Schnauzers love teamwork sports with their owners such as competitive obedience, rally, and agility.

Breed Specific Health Issues

Each of our sires and dams at Midnight Schnauzers has tested clear/non-carrier for Miniature Schnauzer breed-specific genetic disorders. However, there are a few non-genetic illnesses in Miniature Schnauzers, which can be caused by their environment in later life. Fortunately, these are easily preventable.

A health issue which sometimes affects Schnauzers is kidney or bladder stones. These are usually caused by the local water supply. Giving your puppy purified water such as reverse osmosis (available at Wal-Mart in bottles or gallons) or spring water is the most important thing you can do to prevent kidney or bladder stones. Pancreatitis, another illness that has been found in Miniature Schnauzers, is almost always related to diet. Avoid feeding table scraps and dog food or treats that contain sugar. In the Food section below, I’ve outlined our feeding recommendations.

Skin Issues and Allergies

With correct diet and supplementation, you don’t have to deal with dry itchy skin, allergies, or “Schnauzer bumps.” We recommend that all our puppy owners supplement with fish oil starting at 6 months. Just one soft gel per week (not per day) is enough to prevent skin issues from occurring in puppies. An adult Miniature Schnauzer should get 2-3 fish oil soft gels per week to maintain healthy skin and coat. You can find a link to the brand we use on our Recommended Products page. Many veterinarians and vet schools agree: supplementing fish oil is a wonderful solution for skin issues and overall health. There is no need to go the expensive route of prescription diets, allergy medications, extensive testing, and chemotherapy when you use the simple remedies of proper diet and fish oil supplementation.

Food

We feed and recommend Bil-Jac Puppy Select formula for puppies and Bil-Jac Adult Select formula for adults. Bil-Jac contains 12 lb. real chicken in every 15 lb. of dog food. Our Miniature Schnauzers love it, and it keeps them healthy and thriving. We highly recommend keeping your puppy on Bil-Jac for their entire life. However, if you prefer another food, please avoid switching within the puppy’s first year. Note: We do NOT recommend Science Diet (even the formulas prescribed by vets). If you research Science Diet on DogFoodAdvisor.com, you will find it is extremely low rated due to the high content of corn and soy. Schnauzers seem to be particularly sensitive to Science Diet, and over the past 30+ years we have spoken with numerous Schnauzer owners, who have experienced health issues in their Schnauzers after feeding Science Diet. 

 Some puppies will self-regulate their food amounts and only eat what they need, leaving the rest in the bowl. Others will eat everything in sight as quickly as possible, especially if there are other dogs in the home who could take their food. For these dogs, you will need to feel their tummies, and if they’re getting “tight” remove the bowl. As an adult your Schnauzer will eat about 1 cup (plus or minus) of food daily. You can divide the amount into two feedings or feed it all at once. It is helpful and fun to use the food for training rewards. Schnauzers also enjoy eating their food out of a Kong toy or other interactive food puzzle. This provides endless entertainment and brain stimulation, reducing destructive behaviors caused by boredom. 

We hope this guide has simplified your job of keeping your Miniature Schnauzer healthy. Want to learn more about keeping your Miniature Schnauzer healthy with mental and physical exercise? Read our blog post about it here.

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