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The Papillon Information Center       
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Papillon Health


The Papillon is, overall, a healthy breed however several elements will affect this including the care that the dog receives at home, genetic predisposition to certain health issues and Injuries that may occur over the course of the Pap’s life.

This section will discuss:
  •     Signs of a healthy young Papillon puppy
  •     How to keep your Papillon in good health
  •    How to help prevent injuries common to this breed
We will then discuss the health problems associated with the Papillon, along with helpful guidance should any of these develop. 

Knowing what to expect and keeping a close eye on your Pap will offer him or her the best chance of reaching full life expectancy (13 years on average).

Young Puppies

Reputable breeders will sell puppies with a health guarantee, which should show proof of all veterinarian visits up until the point of sale.  It is common for there to be a stipulation that guarantees good health for a certain amount of time, usually a year. This is nice to have, however most often the resolution for this is to receive some of the initial payment back or to exchange the puppy for another, and neither of these options will help owners who have fallen in love with their Papillon nor help the sickly pup.

Some health contracts only stipulate that a puppy is promised to be free of a genetic health condition that is life threatening”.   What is considered “serious” and what is considered “life threatening” is sometimes up for debate.  Read the fine print carefully, some contracts state that a veterinarian, and sometimes two, will need to declare that the puppy has a fatal disease or has such a serious medical condition that euthanasia is recommended.

Most often, guarantees do not cover: hypoglycemia, dehydration, parvovirus (this can be contracted the same day a puppy goes to his new home, bone fractures, dog flu, kennel cough and more.

Alternatively, approximately 30% of owners obtain their puppy from friends, family or acquaintances, in which case there may be no health papers at all.  

Signs of a Healthy Puppy

Let’s go over signs of a healthy puppy, which will also pertain to young puppies not yet chosen for new homes.
Eyes – While every now and then an “eye booger” will be present, both eyes should be bright and shiny, without any thick, colored or running discharge.   There should be no swelling on the rims or lids. The whites of the eyes should be white, with no yellowing or bloodshot veins.

Nose - 
A sign of good health is a nose that is moist but without discharge. Any crusting, colored mucus or odor is not normal.  Most doggie noses are cool to the touch.  Some factors can affect the temperature of the nose leather, and therefore one would want to look for other symptoms as well in regard to health.

Ears - These should be clear of any thick wax. The skin inside the flap should be clean, without any excess wax buildup. There should not be any sort of unpleasant odor.

Breathing – Holding a Papillon puppy’s chest up to your ear,  you should not hear any rasping or rattling. Expect to hear a strong, fast heartbeat, as toy breed such as the Papillon have a heartbeat roughly twice the rate of humans.

Steadiness - Puppies learn to walk by 3 weeks of age and by 7 weeks should have good footing and excellent mobility.  There should be no signs of weakness or limping when walking or running.  It is not uncommon for a Papillon to shake, however should be looked into further since it can be due to nervousness or an underlying medical issue.

Health Care for Papillon Puppies

Vaccinations – Immunization shots begin at the young age of 5 or 6 weeks old and continue until the age of 14 to 16 weeks, depending on a veterinarian’s preferred scheduling of the shots. It is vitally important for owners to make sure that their Papillon receives all recommended vaccinations.  These will protect the Pap from hepatitis, rabies, distemper and parvovirus.  Depending on where you live, additional protection may be given for Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and/or kennel cough.

Booster shots will keep your Papillon protected as he or she grows into an adult.  Some are given every year, some every 3 years.  The risk of a negative reaction outweighs the risk of contracting a serious or fatal disease, however owners should be prepared to look for any signs of reaction.  Have shots scheduled on a day that you will be home with your Papillon.  Signs are: swelling (often around the face – lips, eyes), labored breathing and/or weakness.  If this happens, the puppy must be immediately brought back to the vet’s office.

De-worming – Breeders will have (should have) newborns de-wormed. If an owner obtains a newborn from another source, it will be important to de-worm the puppy under the supervision of a reputable veterinarian.

Environment -  Papillon puppies are full of energy and this means that they require nutritious food opportunities to release energy and a place to rest and sleep comfortably.  Read more about What to Feed a Papillon

Since canines have strong urges to investigate and explore, dogs should  be given the opportunity to sniff and examine the world around them; to attain the goal of proper heeling, this should be offered via additional outdoor play.

During this time, allow your Papillon to carry out what his canine instincts are telling him to do: sniff around, chase butterflies, roll on the grass, etc.   Time in a safe outdoor area for interactive play with the owner – This can range from tossing a ball for fetch to running around a sprinkler on a hot day.  

This is, of course, easy to offer on warm, sunny days. But what about when it is cold, raining or snowing?  For purposes of being socialized to outdoor triggers, time spent in light rain (with warm temperatures) is not detrimental, as long as the owner accompanies the Papillon.

If this dog is always shielded from rain, he will never become accustomed to it, which can be hampering as the dog matures.

In moderate to extreme cold weather, time outside may need to be limited to perhaps ½ that offered otherwise.  The use of doggie boots and a canine coat will help protect the Papillon from harsh winter elements and allow for some much needed outdoor exercise.

Sleep and Rest - Dogs of all ages take naps and while young puppies may nap many times throughout the day, even adults tend to take at least one nap, often in the afternoon.  Making sure that your Pappy receives proper sleep is an important part of Papillon care. While some owners prefer that their dog sleeps in the bed with them,  giving your Papillon his own area to rest and sleep will be beneficial.  Young Papillons can become overwhelmed and it is helpful to have a quiet, comfortable place to retreat to.  This is especially helpful in household with young children, where a Pap may simply want to take a break from attention and play.

Papillon dogs like to be near their owners,( a true companion dog) and therefore most do not do well when isolated.  The location chosen to place down a cozy dog bed should be in the corner of a room offers a view of family members but is out of the way of foot traffic and any loud noises.

Collar or Harness

Just about all toy breeds are vulnerable to collapsed trachea due to their size and the issue of pressure on the neck.  While genetics may play a role, the size and density of a toy dog’s bones and cartilage play a role. 

The trachea is comprised of rings of cartilage and if too much pressure is put on this area, it can cause damage to those rings, and sometimes partial collapse, in which the rings are actually crushed.  Therefore, to help prevent this health issue, it is highly recommended to use a harness as opposed to a dog collar.

When on leash, it allows pressure to be evenly distributed across the back, chest and shoulders,  as opposed to the dog’s neck.  Using a harness to walk your Papillon will be a tool in maintaining good health.

Disease and Health Ailments

Each dog breed has certain health issues that the breed, in general, is prone to and the Papillon is no exception.  This does not mean that a Papillon is sure to develop any of them; however it does mean that owners should be aware of the most common problems for this breed in order to know the early signs.  

As discussed above one is Collapsed trachea. Other known Papillon health concerns are:

Patellar Luxation (a slippage of the knee cap), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (an eye disease), Liver Shunt (a blood vessel carries blood around the liver instead of through it), Hypothyroidism (over active thyroid) and Hypoglycemia (sometimes serious, rapid drop in blood sugar levels), intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) , allergies and a sensitivity to anesthesia.

We discuss each of these in detail here, in our Papillon Health Problems section.