What Health Problems Does a Papillon Have?

Papillions are named for the shape of their ears.
Papillions are named for the shape of their ears. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Papillon or “Pap” is a popular breed of toy dog developed in France. The breed’s name comes from the dog’s butterfly-shaped ears; “Papillon” is French for “butterfly.” Like any other purebred dog, the Papillon can be prone to certain genetic health problems, like progressive retinal atrophy. Any Papillon with a genetic health problem should never be bred or the puppies will inherit the condition.

Genetic Conditions

Papillons are prone to progressive retinal atrophy, which leads to blindness by the time the dog is 8. Both parents need to carry PRA before puppies will begin symptoms. Male Papillons may retain one or both testicles. Dogs can develop a condition of the kneecaps called patellar luxation. Papillon puppies may also inherit potentially lethal liver disorders such as shunts and micro vascular hepatic dysplasia.

Seizure Disorders

These disorders do not have a single cause, but could be due to trauma to the head, encephalitis, epilepsy or hypoglycemia. Encephalitis and epilepsy happens rarely in Papillons. Very small dogs, like Papillons, need supervision and a balance between meals and exercise to avoid developing seizures from sudden drops in blood sugar. Puppies 3 lbs. or less are most prone to hypoglycemia, according to the Papillon Club of America.

Tooth Problems

Many toy breeds develop tooth problems since their small jaws possess shallow tooth roots in comparison to larger breeds. Puppies may retain baby teeth, which need to be surgically removed, otherwise the baby teeth will rot. Other problems include gingivitis and tooth loss. Papillons need their teeth checked and brushed regularly. They also enjoy chew toys that help prevent plaque build-up.

Other Problems

Deafness occurs in one or both ears in Papillons, according to “The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Dog’s Symptoms.” All toy-sized dogs have difficulty with anesthesia, but Papillons should never be administered penicillin under anesthesia or they may die, according to “Small Dogs, Big Hearts: A Guide to Caring For Your Little Dog.” Puppies are born without closed skull plates, but need to be checked that the top of the skull closes. If a spot is left open, then the puppy may need surgery.

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