Giardia in Mi-Ki Puppies

Giardia is an intestinal protozoan that is commonly found in puppies. It is so common in dogs and cats that it is generally considered to be part of the natural intestinal flora. Giardia is especially common in the western half of the United States and the Northeast, though it is found throughout the country.

Occasionally, puppies that undergo big changes (i.e. rehoming, traveling, or major diet changes) may experience intestinal imbalances which can lead to Giardiasis. Giardiasis is an active infection of giardia producing watery, mucousy light-colored stools. Diarrhea in puppies can lead to dehydration and lethargy, so supporting your Mi-Ki’s health is important to help your puppy get back to his or her playful self.

Human and Pet Safety

Generally, dogs and cats don’t become infected with the same type of giardia as humans contract. Most human cases of giardia infections come from contaminated water sources. Rarely, some cross infections between people and puppies have been reported, however. Any animal showing signs of infection (from giardiasis or any other illness) should be considered a potential infection source to humans. Children and immunocompromised individuals should take greater precautions.

The reverse is also true – people with any sort of infection should also be considerate of animals in their care. Use common-sense hygiene practices such as hand-washing after using the toilet, after food preparation, before feeding, watering, and handling your Mi-Ki. This will help keep your Mi-Ki healthy.

If you or someone in your family is in a higher-risk category with a compromised immune system, please let us know. If this is the case, we will use whatever tools are available to us to ensure your Mi-Ki puppy is as giardia-free as possible. Your puppy will always be given a deworming protocol before adoption.

Giardia Drug Treatments

There is currently no FDA-approved drug to treat giardia in Mi-Kis or any dogs or cats. Managing clinical signs of diarrhea should be the goal of treatment. Eliminating giardia from any puppy, adult dog, or kennel is unlikely as the organism is present in the environment, and your puppy will enjoy time outside. There are no known methods of disinfecting grass and soil from giardia cysts. Giardia cysts can survive for weeks and even months in almost any climate.

There are several off-label medication options that veterinarians and kennels have for minimizing the risk of infection for giardia. It is also important to manage other co-infectious organisms since other parasites may compound intestinal distress.

Fenbendazole

Fenbendazole is the least toxic drug used to manage giardia and other parasites and can even be safely used during pregnancy.

We have traditionally treated puppies with a 5-day regimen of fenbendazole before going home. This was to hopefully have fewer reports from our clients’ veterinarians of giardia-positive stool or an ELISA (antibody test.) We have since revised this regimen based on the latest research that the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) states, “the majority opinion of the CAPC Board is that asymptomatic dogs may not require treatment.”

Metronidazole

Metronidazole is another off-label antibiotic used to treat giardia in puppies. Many breeders would routinely administer this before puppies went to their homes in hopes of negative fecal test reports.

Unfortunately, metronidazole has been linked to brain and liver damage in puppies. Therefore, this treatment for giardiasis should only be done under veterinary supervision for safety.

For resistant strains of giardia, some veterinarians will recommend metronidazole in combination with fenbendazole. Again, this is not an FDA-approved drug combination.

Secnidazole – a promising option against giardia

Some Mi-Ki breeders believe the giardia they have battled has become resistant to fenbendazole and many have concerns about using metronidazole. Therefore, several breeders are starting to use Secnidazole which has shown a lot of promise against the pesky protozoan. Secnidazole has to be compounded and there isn’t much data on dosing yet. We are keeping an eye on this option as the risks associated with this product include reports of nausea and possible elevated liver enzymes.

Should your veterinarian decide that your Mi-Ki would benefit from any of these off-label treatments, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. Do not skip doses. Verify the correct dosages as they will be callibrated to your Mi-Ki’s weight.

Revival Animal Health has helpful tips regarding giardia and interpreting test results:

“Remember to treat the dog, not the test results. Recent treatment and lifestyle should be considered when developing a treatment plan. Unless a negative result on both microscopic evaluation and ELISA testing is required, as in the cases where a sub-clinically affected dog or cat lives in a home with immunocompromised people with high zoonotic risks, only treat if the dog or cat has clinical signs of abnormally soft stools or similar signs.”

Royal T Mi-Kis’ parasite & disease prevention protocols

We are aware that overtreating any parasite or germ may create drug-resistant forms, so we are hesitant to use routine or chronic antibiotics. We are hopeful that a regular safe deworming protocol and a more natural regimen with probiotics and good nutrition will have our Mi-Ki puppies’ immune systems functioning as they should to keep imbalances in check.

There are important things we do to limit our puppies’ exposures to parasites and other infectious organisms. For instance, we treat our entire kennel with Safeguard fenbendazole twice a year to keep Giardia and other parasites in check. This regimen is followed by bathing everyone!

Pyrantel pamoate is also a safe dewormer that we use at two-week intervals on our growing puppies. It features a wide dosing safety margin and ensures puppies are protected against roundworms, hookworms, and pinworms (though we really haven’t seen signs of these parasites.)

Prebirth puppy protection and planning

We have previously used an end-of pregnancy fenbendazole protocol in an effort to reduce transmission to nursing puppies. While we’ve had fewer reports of giardia in puppies who were treated in utero with this regimen, we’ve also had some moms experience preterm labor and neonatal loss when using this protocol. We are still evaluating if fenbendazole during pregnancy is affecting litter outcomes negatively or positively.

We wash our Mi-Kis before labor to minimize giardia exposure.
Brighton and her International Litter in 2021.

Our pregnant mothers are bathed with a skin-safe germicidal treatment before delivery to provide a clean birthing environment for our puppies.

Keeping Mi-Ki Manor safe from giardia and other pathogens

We keep Mi-Ki Manor here at Royal T Mi-Kis meticulously clean and dispose of waste promptly. We use Rescue® Disinfectant Cleaner as a pet-safe solution to keep the floors and other surfaces clean and safe. We wash our dogs’ bedding with chlorhexidine solution rather than bleach as bleach has been implicated in fading puppy syndrome. Fabrics softeners are used sparingly due to the toxic chemicals in most brands. Our puppy pad holders are also misted with skin-safe chlorhexidine after being scrubbed with hot soapy water.

We have even been known to use UV-C sterilizing wands on our birthing boxes, pens, puppy pad holders, incubator, and bedding as an extra step to create a clean environment for our dogs!

With visitors, we will likely have guests slip their shoes off before meeting our Mi-Kis. If this isn’t possible, we offer shoe covers to be worn. This protects our unvaccinated puppies from unknown exposures, especially to parvo. Handwashing before and after visiting with dogs is also recommended.

Other causes of diarrhea or other intestinal distress

Not all diarrhea or loose stools are due to giardia. Some soft stools may be due to your Mi-Ki puppy experiencing stress, adjusting to a new diet, a new water source, or even having too many new treats, including people food . Too much Forti Cal or Karo syrup can also cause soft stools. (Karo syrup is often recommended to remedy puppy constipation!) Environmental exposures can also cause loose stools including lawn chemicals and household cleaners.

It’s always prudent to limit your Mi-Ki puppy’s exposure to new dogs. Only allow your puppy to socialize with animals that are known to have been fully vaccinated and that aren’t experiencing symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms. Infectious diarrhea can be spread from one dog to another.

Do not bring your new Mi-Ki puppy to parks, or areas where unknown dogs have been playing or defecating until they are fully vaccinated.

How to support your Mi-Ki’s health when experiencing diarrhea

Nutritional Care: If your puppy has an upset tummy, in the short term, feeding a bland diet of bone broth, rice, boiled chicken, turkey, or another easily-digested diet will calm your Mi-Ki’s GI tract.

Adding probiotics can also bring your dog’s intestinal health into balance. We like Life’s Abundance Wellness Tabs for a daily probiotic dose and nutrition for intestinal balance. For acute gastrointestinal upset, we recommend Proviable®️-DC Capsules by by Nutramax®️ to reestablish gut flora after antibiotic use. Kaolin-Pectin is also helpful for getting diarrhea under control.

Slowly reintroduce your puppy’s regular diet — hopefully, a high-quality one with probiotics already included. We recommend Life’s Abundance Small/Medium Puppy food. Life’s Abundance puppy food has prebiotic fiber and guaranteed live probiotics for a healthy gut biome.

Supportive Care: Giving your puppy good hydration with electrolyte therapy such as Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte, and additional treatment of symptoms with products such as Kaolin-Pectin will help your Mi-Ki bounce back quickly and shorten the course of the disease.

You may find other recommended products and suggestions for keeping your Mi-Ki puppy healthy on our Puppy Care and Recommendations Page.

Remember that parasites, protozoans, and bacteria have been around since the beginning of time. These organisms can’t be fully eliminated, but they can be managed and brought into balance so you won’t have to keep your Mi-Ki in a bubble!

Protecting Mi-Kis from Predators & Wildlife

Adult Mi-Ki dogs generally range between four to nine pounds, and puppies are even smaller. The small size of this toy breed makes Mi-Kis vulnerable to predators including coyotes, birds of prey, mountain lions/cougars, bobcats, and occasionally foxes. Wild carnivores could easily mistake a small Mi-Ki for a rabbit, and will gladly take your pet as a snack from your backyard buffet. It’s crucial that we learn how to protect Mi-Kis from predators and other wildlife.

Coyotes

Coyotes are highly adaptable and have been documented in nearly every environment across North America. They are comfortable in the wilderness, in the suburbs, and even in cities. Coyotes have learned that pets are easy prey. An online search will reveal that coyote-pet predation is on the rise and has become a frequent news topic.

We used to hear coyote singing and feeding activities frequently when we lived in the suburbs. Thankfully, we hardly hear them at all in our new rural location. We wonder if this is because they are feeding on their usual wild prey out here or if it’s because they find it easier to eat in suburban corridors.

I’ve heard talk at social gatherings back in town of pets attacked by coyotes on off-leash walks. I’ve even heard of a few cases of problem coyotes attacking pets while being walked on leashes! Some municipalities are hiring hunters to deal with these particularly brazen coyotes.

Even if you are not on a walk and are just letting your Mi-Ki play in your fenced yard, coyotes can easily scale a 6-foot privacy fence. If you don’t have an HOA, you could install coyote rollers on the top of your fence to protect your tiny pup from coyotes and other large dogs that might enter your yard.

To protect your Mi-Ki from coyote attacks, the best protection is you. Don’t let your dog go on off-leash walks. Use a non-retractable leash. Supervise your Mi-Ki outdoors – even in your fenced yard.

Birds of Prey

Red Tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls are the prominent birds of prey here in Colorado. Hawks are concerning during the day, and owls are usually on the hunt from dusk until dawn. In some areas, eagles are the aerial predators of concern.

We know from experience the devastating loss that can happen in an instant with these silent flying killers. Our good friends lost their Mi-Ki Dexter to an owl attack at dusk. Dexter was one of our partner studs, and he was killed on December 1, 2021, just when we were just getting ready to borrow him again for our upcoming litters.

Dexter was our Isabelle’s “one true love.” She never liked any other males romantically other than Dexter. We’re still in shock and grieving with our friends over the loss of this 3.5-pound Mi-Ki prince. He was killed despite his owners having installed netting over their yard. Apparently, there was an opening, and the owl was able to get through it and it broke Dexter’s neck. Please watch your Mi-Kis carefully!

Several years ago, a large old, dead tree was removed from a ridge that towered over my old hometown. When the tree came down, there was a large nest in it with dozens of pet collars with IDs inside. It was a stark reminder that birds of prey find our pets to be a suitable food source.

Don’t have bird feeders on your property

Hawks and owls are attracted to properties that have bird feeders because songbirds are common menu items for birds of prey. Some bird watching sites have encouraged bird lovers not to have bird feeding stations in backyards because it’s an easy way for hawks and eagles to grab a distracted songbird. If your tiny Mi-Ki puppy is close by, an opportunistic bird of prey will easily grab your pet.

Make sure you are visible from the sky

Hawks and owls are much less likely to attack a small dog if they see a human nearby. This means you have to stand near your Mi-Ki during potty breaks and not under a covered porch, tree, or pergola.

Other predators that can harm your Mi-Ki

Depending on where you live, wildcats such as mountain lions and bobcats may also be a problem for small pets. These stealthy predators are skilled hunters and there are many, many cases of pets being taken by both cougars and bobcats.

Foxes and Racoons are less likely to have an encounter with your pet, but caution should be used around them as well. Since both are opportunistic feeders, be sure never to feed your Mi-Ki outside or have accessible trash available as a food source. Dogs being fed outside are easy prey for hunters and their food also attracts wildlife.

Vests to protect Mi-Kis from predators

Consider anti-predator dog clothing to protect your little dog if you are in high risk areas. These vests are equipped with spikes and optional nylon “quills” to deter hawks, coyotes, and larger dogs from hurting your pet.

This Coyote Vest will protect Mi-Kis from predators
This Coyote Vest will protect Mi-Kis from predators and is available at Amazon.*

Coyote vests not only protect Mi-Kis from coyotes and birds of prey – they also protect small dogs from aggressive large dogs. Protective vests will give you enough time to react to save your pet from a sudden attack.

Covered dog runs

If you can’t supervise your Mi-Ki while they are outdoors at all times, a practical solution is to have a covered dog run. Some people like to keep their small dogs in an outdoor enclosure similar to a “Catio” or a screened-in porch to give their pets fresh air without worrying about wildlife encounters.

An outdoor turf potty area in your covered enclosure is a great way to train your pet to the outdoors without exposing your pet to the open skies of your yard. A fenced in area with lattice and a pergola top is an aesthetically pleasing way to make a play area for your pup in the garden.

Other Mi-Ki Wildlife Hazards

Mi-Kis are also at risk for being harmed by other wildlife such as porcupines, venomous snakes, wasps and hornets, deer, elk, moose, and skunks. Lizards, frogs, and salamanders might also be toxic if your pet licks or ingests them.

Wildlife encounters can happen in your own backyard or while you are out camping or traveling in your RV.

Teach your Mi-Ki not to chase wildlife and to ignore them. Have high-value treats on hand to distract them and keep your dog more interested in you instead of the animals around them. Do not encourage interactions with wildlife and your pet. Do your best to encourage wildlife to leave. Wild animals can carry diseases that can harm your pet, so it’s best to keep your distance.

Always be vigilant to be near your Mi-Ki when outdoors. Because of their small size, they are counting on you to protect them. A sturdy leash and/or a nice pet carrier will keep your Mi-Ki at an arm’s reach. Teach your Mi-Ki the “lift up” command to know that it is time to get picked up when there is danger nearby.

Keep your emergency vet’s number in your phone in case the unexpected happens.

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How We Estimate Adult Size in Our Mi-Ki Puppies

You may have noticed in our Nursery that we give estimates for what a Mi-Ki puppy is charting to be at maturity. It is helpful for people to know how big their Mi-Ki puppy might end up being as an adult, particularly if they are going to function as an emotional support or medical alert dog that is regularly going to be carried. Or perhaps you have a family with young children or grandchildren visiting where a larger, sturdier Mi-Ki is going to be a better choice.

The best we can do is provide an estimate based on the parents’ size, the history of the pedigree, and use some of the tools that other toy dog breeders use as a guide. We list the parents’ sizes as a reference, but sometimes the puppies surprise us and end up maturing to be smaller or larger than their parents. Sometimes the same two parents can produce a wide range of Mi-Ki sizes within one litter.

The general rule of thumb is to triple the weight of an 8-week-old Mi-Ki and double the weight at 12 weeks.

We use two online resources to chart our Mi-Ki puppies’ sizes. For young puppies under a pound, we start by using a Yorkie Weight Chart originally found on pricelessyorkiepuppy.com, I believe.

Once our Mi-Ki puppies reach a pound, we start using the puppyweights.com online dog size predictor. Unfortunately, they don’t list the Mi-Ki as a breed. For a similar comparison, I use the Maltese as a reference since my Mi-Ki lines tend to have higher percentages of the Maltese breed, according to Embark.

Influences on Mi-Ki Size

There are several factors that can influence a Mi-Ki puppy’s birth weight and eventual size a puppy matures to. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Uterine placement
  • Litter size
  • Health of the mother
  • Environment/lifestyle

Genetics

Genetics are the single most important factor to influence a puppy’s eventual size as an adult. I’m always mystified at the variation in size of mature Mi-Kis from the same litter! I’ve had a litter of two puppies where the male ended up being 3.5 pounds as an adult, and his sister ended up being nearly 9!

It would be nice if dog DNA tests had more accurate estimates for predicting size. On the Embark DNA dog health and trait tests we use to screen our breeding dogs, we’ll often see a Mi-Ki has genetic markers to be small, intermediate, and sometimes even large because multiple genes influence size. It does explain some of the genetic diversity in sizes we’ll see in just one litter, depending on the genes each puppy inherited.

Uterine placement

Some puppies get a nice, plush spot in their mother’s uterus with plenty of available nutrients. These are the largest puppies at birth. It is thought that regardless of multiple mating dates, all puppies are the same gestational age as the eggs are all released at the same time. Very small puppies in a litter may not have had proper placenta formation to nourish the developing puppy or had less desirable uterine placement. These are known as “small-for-gestational-age puppies.”

Sometimes the smallest puppies at birth end up being the biggest dogs as adults and vice versa. This is one of the reasons we track the arc of every puppy’s growth and look for trends to give us a better prediction of how the puppy might end up developing.

Litter size

Some of our bigger Mi-Kis have 5 or even 6 puppies in a litter. With a larger litter, there has been more competition for nutrients both in utero and at the milk bar after birth. For this reason, puppies in larger litters may initially seem to be tracking smaller. Once supplemental foods are added, you can begin to see what a puppy’s true genetic programming is as far as size. This is why some puppies suddenly start trending bigger at around 4 weeks on their weekly size chart estimates.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is charming-litter.jpg
A healthy newborn Mi-Ki litter with fairly even-sized puppies.

Conversely, if there are only one or two puppies in a litter, they are going to have less competition for nutrients in the womb and while nursing. This means the puppies may seem larger on their weekly adult weight estimates early on. These puppies look like chubby little seals! They don’t tend to move a lot because they don’t need to. As these puppies get more active at around 4 or 5 weeks of age, their growth may start to stagnate. Once again, you’ll see where the dog’s genetics come in to play.

Genetics is definitely a bigger factor than litter size or uterine placement when influencing a puppy’s size that they will eventually mature to.

Health of the mother dog

We do our very best to make sure our dog moms get the very best care and nutrition. We also make sure they get exercise, sunlight, and regular veterinary checkups. Keeping our dog moms at an optimal weight helps them have a healthy litter.

We use Breeder’s Edge Oxy Mate prenatal vitamins as well as Oxy Momma postnatal supplements to ensure our moms are getting the extra support they need during their pregnancy, birth, and lactation.

Because our Mi-Kis have planned births, we are able to influence the health of the litters including making sure the puppies achieve their optimal growth with mothers that have plenty of milk, etc.

In contrast, rescue puppies from mothers of unplanned litters may have smaller puppies that are less healthy. This is one of the reasons it is important to research breeders and support reputable ones.

Environment and lifestyle

Dogs tend to adopt a similar lifestyle as their humans. If your family is sedentary and is centered around snacks and meals, there’s a pretty good chance your Mi-Ki will be heavier.

If your Mi-Ki goes to doggie daycare and maybe plays a little too hard and doesn’t get enough calories, he or she may end up being smaller. Active, young, Mi-Kis need to be watched closely to make sure they are eating regularly (every 4 hours) so they don’t get hypoglycemic.

Making sure your Mi-Ki puppy has a balanced diet, sunlight, fresh water, exercise/playtime, and has minimal parasites will ensure your puppy grows to their genetic potential. This sets the stage for a lifetime of good health.

I have had smaller females I’ve been trying to “fatten up” to be big enough to breed. Despite my attempts to pack on some pounds, I’ve only had moderate success, so genes still have a bigger influence over size than environment and lifestyle.

A few words about “runts”

Sometimes people refer to tiny puppies as “runts,” a term which is often used disparagingly. I’ve had specific requests for a runt from our program either because they are looking for a particularly small “purse pet” or perhaps because they are looking for a discount because the puppy is “weak.” If a puppy has a true health issue causing them to be small, we’re not going to sell it to anyone. We’re responsible for every puppy we create.

Again, if the mothers are well cared for, if a puppy is charting small, it’s often more about the size genetics the puppy inherited than a sign of weakness or ill health. As a 5-foot human who has had every caloric advantage, I can personally attest to the power of genetics!

Mi-Kis naturally come in a wide range of sizes so a puppy that is charting 3.5 – 4 pounds is not usually truly a runt. Smaller Mi-Kis are likely to be just as healthy as a 9-pound Mi-Ki. Smaller Mi-Kis may be more vulnerable to injury and will be more sensitive to veterinary procedures, however, so that is a consideration when selecting your puppy.

No matter what size your Mi-Ki puppy ends up being, we know that you’ll love your new family member. All Mi-Kis are perfectly portable and are ready to fit into your lifestyle as a steadfast companion.

When should I spay or neuter my Mi-Ki?

Clients often ask me when they should spay or neuter their Mi-Ki. After all, they want to be a responsible puppy owner/guardian. In the U.S., traditionally, it’s recommended that dogs be spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, but that recommendation is beginning to change based on studies of the long-term health consequences of early neutering.

Some breeders are quite fussy about requiring a spay or neuter within a certain window of time. Some won’t even provide registration paperwork without proof of neutering. We understand that there have been people breeding irresponsibly and without authorization. We never want people to breed Mi-Kis casually without doing the proper health tests and inbreeding coefficients. We strive to promote a strong and healthy Mi-Ki breed for generations to come!

We’re hopeful that our screening process has eliminated unscrupulous buyers and would-be breeders with less-than-honorable intentions. We believe you want what is best for your Mi-Ki. After all, your Mi-Ki was an investment and you’ll want them to live a long and healthy life as a treasured family member.

This means taking another look at long-held beliefs about neutering (including spaying) because removing the gonads will forever alter their hormonal chemistry and can have significant implications for a dog’s health.

Our first advice would be not to go to social media to poll other Mi-Ki owners about the proper time for neutering your pet. You will get a million different answers and realize belatedly what a passionate group of people that dog owners are!

Science-based data

Fortunately, there have been some recent studies done on the spay/neuter conundrum so that dog owners can have meaningful conversations with their vets to determine the best course of action for their pet.

I recently attended a webinar on the topic given by the authors of a long-term-study at UC Davis. Their team combed the records of thousands of dogs from the last 15 years, sorting them by breed and gender. Then they categorized these patients as to whether they were intact (never neutered) or by the age when they were spayed or neutered: Early – 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12+ months, and 2-8 years.

They were looking for how this spay/neuter data corresponds with hip/joint disorders, metastatic cancers, urinary incontinence, and pyometra (uterine infections.) Sadly, no data was recorded regarding endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, etc. Other studies have suggested that neutering dogs has an impact on the endocrine system including metabolic function, thyroid function, etc.

Small Breed Findings

According to the UC Davis 2020 study, the big takeaways for Mi-Ki owners is that small breeds were not statistically impacted by neutering, including spays, at any age in regards to hip and joint disorders like so many of the larger breeds.

In small-dog breeds, the occurrence of cancers was low in both those kept intact and neutered. Two exceptions were the Boston Terrier and Shih Tzu where there was a significant increase in cancers with spaying and neutering.

There is a high percentage of Shih Tzu in the Mi-Ki breed profile

One of the tools we use in our kennel to better understand our breed is the Embark DNA breeder’s program. Embark results tell us the traits that our Mi-Kis have (such as coat type, hair color and patterns, and even muzzle length and size estimates.) They also test for hundreds of genetic diseases.

Recently, Embark has also given us access to their data on what breeds are in the ancestors of the Mi-Ki. Remember that all pure-bred dogs came from other breeds at one point!

Here are some screen shots of a few of our Mi-Kis in our program and their breed makeup:

This breed breakdown may be surprising to some of you who have heard that the Mi-Ki is made up of other breeds (especially the Japanese Chin) but the DNA doesn’t seem to bear this out much according to Embark and to the Mars Wisdom Panel.

The health director of the American Mi-Ki Club, Geri Wojeck, is of the opinion that the Bichon Frise that Embark identifies in the Mi-Ki background is probably actually the Coton de Tulear – a close cousin of the Bichon. But I digress… The point is that Shih Tzu genetics are notable in the Mi-Ki!

Shih Tzu spay/neuter recommendations, according to UC Davis

This is the quote regarding the Shih Tzu breed from the 2020 UC Davis Study. The brackets and bold emphasis points are mine.

“The study population was 104 intact males, 112 neutered males, 77 intact females, and 139 spayed females for a total sample of 432 cases. In this small-dog breed there were no occurrences of joint disorders in either intact or neutered males and females, revealing virtually no vulnerability in this regard. There was no occurrence of the cancers followed in intact males and females. In neutered males there was no occurrence of cancers. However, in females, the occurrence of cancers for those spayed at 6-11 mo. was 7 percent and at 1 year this measure reached a significant 18 percent (p <0.01). MC [metastatic cancers] occurred in 3 percent of intact females. PYO [pyometra] occurred in 5 percent of intact females. UI [urinary incontinence] was not reported in any females. Lacking a noticeable occurrence of increased joint disorders or cancers in neutered males, those wishing to neuter should decide on the appropriate age. The picture is very different for spaying females where the increased risk of cancers started with spaying at 6-11 mo., reaching 18 percent with spaying at year 1. The suggested guideline for females is to delay spaying until the female is 2 years of age. Another possibility is to spay a female a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.”

So for small-breed males, including Mi-Kis, it really is your choice with your vet for when the time is right to neuter your dog, at least according to what this particular study is suggesting. Neutering males is often performed around 6-9 months in hopes of minimizing marking and humping behaviors.

For female Mi-Kis, particularly if your pup has a high percentage of Shih Tzu in her background, it might be wise to delay her spay until after 24 months.

Since the Mi-Ki is much smaller than the average Shih Tzu, I would not recommend following their suggestion of spaying a female “a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.” Mi-Kis are simply too small and vulnerable at 4-5 months of age to undergo such a major procedure.

I’ve even had one client’s girl get so stressed (with a temporary increase in blood sugar level) just doing the pre-surgery bloodwork, that it was determined that she probably wasn’t a good candidate for the elective spaying procedure. Remember, spaying is a major surgery requiring general anesthesia and a two-week recovery period.

Alternatives to Spay and Neuter Procedures

Thankfully, there are more options today for people who prefer less invasive procedures for their dogs while ensuring there are no unplanned pregnancies. There are ovary-sparing spay procedures for females and vasectomies for males that allow dogs to keep their hormones intact.

For a nonsurgical option for males, you can use belly bands to keep them from marking inappropriately. The belly bands also serve as a barrier against breeding but are not foolproof! The use of crates, pens, or separate rooms is also recommended for keeping males and females apart during her cycle.

For females, there are cute small dog underpants to use during her heat cycle. These also provide a secondary barrier against breeding (again, not foolproof!)

Keep in mind that there really isn’t that much discharge with a toy-breed dog during her cycle. You can line both the boy’s and the girl’s undergarments with cut-up sanitary napkins to prevent leaks.

What about the Mi-Ki heat cycle?

Should you and your vet decide to delay your Mi-Ki’s spay, or even forgo the procedure entirely (i.e., for very small Mi-Kis, or those with underlying health issues) you should know that the average female Mi-Ki will cycle every 6-9 months starting at around 9 months of age. The heat cycle will last about three weeks, and one of those weeks, she will be especially fertile and flirty. She must be watched very carefully during her entire cycle to make sure she doesn’t get loose.

The heat cycle shouldn’t ruin your schedule, your camping trip, or anything important. I’ve even had Mi-Ki females in full heat compete in conformation dog shows without much fuss. In fact, Truffle gained her championship with the UKC during her cycle.

Keep your Mi-Ki intact for showing

Speaking of showing, only intact dogs (that are not spayed or neutered) have full options for being exhibited in conformation dog shows. While it is true that there are special classes for altered dogs, neutered dogs won’t be able to compete against unaltered dogs. If you have big plans for showing your dog, it’s best not to spay or neuter them!

It’s a personal decision between you and your vet

The Mi-Ki is its own breed. Although it shares some traits with the Shih Tzu, the Maltese, and other small breeds, your Mi-Ki is probably genetically different enough from the Shih Tzu that it is safe for you to get your female Mi-Ki spayed if that is what you and your vet decide is best for your family. But there may be benefits with neutering alternatives.

Toy breeds mature faster than large breeds, so having your Mi-Ki spayed or neutered in the 6-12 month range will likely not be as impactful health wise as it would be for a slow-growing large breed.

But toy breeds can also be some of the longest-lived dogs, so you’ll want to be sure to discuss this important aspect of your pet’s health with your vet to ensure that all of those years spent together are as vibrant as they possibly can be. Your dog’s hormonal function can be an important piece of the puzzle for your dog’s long-term health. Delaying the spay or neuter until your dog is fully mature allows your dog to develop as nature intended.

We are grateful for the recent studies to help inform our choices in being our pets’ guardians! Find a vet you feel comfortable with who stays current on the latest studies and procedures. Together, you’ll find the best health path for your Mi-Ki.

Our featured image includes our chocolate smooth-face Quigley who lives with Ms. Lisa, and our lovely Isabelle.

Why Male Mi-Ki Dogs Make Wonderful Pets

This summer, we’ve been blessed with an unusually high number of male Mi-Ki puppies – eight out of nine are boys! Since 55% of our waiting list has indicated they are interested in a female, it won’t be surprising if our only girl is reserved soon.

Many of us would say that males make the best pets. Here’s why you might consider one of our “boys of summer.” Visit our Mi-Ki Puppy Nursery to see if we have any availability.

Females love you. Males are in love with you.

It’s been our experience and has also been expressed repeatedly on various social media pages that males are more likely to be cuddle bugs than females.

Even my very dignified Moses will always be the one to quietly follow me everywhere, whether it’s when I’m cooking in the kitchen or headed to the restroom to “powder my nose.” He’s very devoted. Sometimes he abandons his dignified ways and gives me a full-on face wash, which is always appreciated.

Male dogs are less moody

Males tend to be more happy-go-lucky. They love everyone. They are just so friendly!

Our girl Mi-Kis are also friendly, but they have to be in the mood. Let’s not forget, there is a reason female dogs are called b*tches.

We’ve had folks that have had both male and female Mi-Kis. Of course, they say they wouldn’t play favorites, but if circumstances only allowed for them to have one dog, most would choose their male.

Why people tend to want female dogs

Some people have always had females so that’s what they gravitate towards. There are other reasons people might shy away from male dogs including:

1. Concerns about marking

The main reason males are often overlooked is that people have concerns about males lifting their leg in the house. It’s true that an intact male will feel the need to mark their territory.

If you can find the sweet spot to neuter your male when they’ve attained most of their growth but not developed marking and humping behaviors (at approximately five months) you will likely prevent the marking behaviors from developing.

Keep in mind that both male and female dogs will mark their territories with urine. It’s just a way for dogs to communicate with each other, as weird as a “urine calling card” may sound to us humans.

Marking can be trained out of dogs and generally prevented with age-appropriate neutering.

Should you still be concerned about accidents, male wraps, also known as dog manner bands and belly bands are a great solution. There are disposable versions and washable styles that can be lined with a sanitary napkin to prevent leaks. This is a great idea, especially when visiting other places where your dog may feel the need to mark over other scents. This way, you and your dog will be sure to be invited back!

2. Concerns about wandering

Bred as companion animals, it’s highly uncommon even for intact males to go wandering. Again, many people opt to neuter their pets to prevent the desire for wandering and looking for a mate.

Many European countries will not ever spay or neuter their dogs because they feel it is cruel and unnatural. Yet, these countries are not overrun with unwanted litters.

People take their dogs with them everywhere, and they are not wandering unattended. European dogs seem to be well trained. I think this is a topic for a future article!

3. Fashion

It’s hard to believe, but many wonderful male puppies are passed over in the name of fashion! It’s true. With the humanization of our pets, many of us like to dress up our pets like little children. I know this because I work for BaxterBoo.com where the vast majority of our most popular products are actually dog clothes!

Thankfully, the dog clothing industry has listened and there are more and more fashionable dog clothes and fashion harness options for male dogs. In fact, I know one Mi-Ki breeder, Julie Lancaster, of Off the Cuff Stuff for Pets, who designs made-to-order dog clothing and has really fun designs for males.

Two of our recent chocolate Mi-Ki boys!

Our Mi-Ki boys will win you over!

Several of our best breed advocates and referrals come from people who have brought home one of our boys. I repeatedly hear that “this is the best dog we’ve ever had,” from both male and female owners. But more often than not, it’s the males that make the most zealous converts to our breed, and they’ve encouraged their friends to get a boy from us as well.

Should you be able to come and visit our home (which we encourage) resist the temptation to “check for parts.” Let our puppies’ personalities help you decide which one is right for your family!

Preventing Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in Mi-Ki Puppies

Now that our latest batch of puppies are ready for their new families, we want to provide resources for our new and future Mi-ki adopters. We know you’ll want to provide your new puppy with the very best care.

The most important thing to be aware of is that your Mi-ki puppy may suffer from low blood sugar if not fed small meals throughout the day. Young puppies, especially toy breeds, can quickly burn through their energy reserves with even a heavy play session.

We wait until our puppies are about 2 pounds or are around 10 weeks old to make hypoglycemia less of a risk, but we still recommend letting your puppy free feed with access to their favorite kibble at all times.

If your puppy is particularly small, you may have been instructed to have a nutritional gel or liquid on hand to dose your puppy every morning, every night before bed, and after vigorous play sessions. We recommend Tomlyn Nutri-Cal high-calorie nutrition gel for puppies as well as Revival’s Forti Cal Gel. These supplements will give your puppy long-acting and short-acting nutrition to help them through periods of rest, play, or travel. Our puppies like the taste of it and will lick the gel right off of your finger.

Speaking of kibble, what is my Mi-ki eating again?

Our puppies are currently being sent home with the Royal Canin X-Small Puppy Dry Dog Food as well as a couple of trays of Puppy Mousse or other wet food to ensure your puppy eats well. Previously, we’ve used more exotic/expensive puppy kibble, but in an effort to help people with products that more readily available, we’ve switched to Royal Canin puppy products. The Royal Canin puppy foods are more highly rated than their adult products, so keep in mind that it may be a temporary food that you can start with before doing your own research. Brands we love include Stella & Chewy’s, Merrick, Honest Kitchen, and Victor brands. Grain-free diets are no longer recommended due to the FDA’s concerns with heart problems popping up with the exotic ingredients in grain-free foods.

Refer to the Dog Food Adviser when making your food selections. They also keep subscribers up to date with any pet food recalls.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in Mi-ki puppies

It can be tricky to spot the signs of puppy experiencing low blood sugar. Look for any one or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Glassy unfocused eyes
  • Sudden sleepiness
  • The puppy appears lost or disoriented
  • Your puppy walks unsteadily or wobbly
  • Shakiness or twitching
  • Head tilts to one side (not the cute, alert kind)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness without the ability to wake

Treatment of hypoglycemia in puppies

As mentioned earlier, the best treatment against low-blood sugar in puppies are regular small meals and/or snacks. But even an active play session or walk can deplete your puppy’s energy (sugar) quickly, so it is important to be vigilant and prepared.

Hypoglycemia is a serious condition and without acting quickly, your puppy could get into trouble fast and possibly even die. Fortunately,  you should be able to recognize the signs early in the process and the low blood sugar is easy to treat at home or on the go.

If your puppy is being transported home by plane, you or the puppy nanny will be given a two oral syringes. One will have Forti-Cal liquid as a pretrip nutritional booster as a hypoglycemia preventative. The other will contain Karo syrup in case your puppy starts looking a little spacey or lethargic despite the pre-trip nutritional supplement. Should your puppy look overly tired or weak, squeeze a little Karo syrup in their mouth or rub a little on your puppy’s gums to give them a quick sugar boost.

In almost all cases, your Mi-Ki puppy will respond very quickly to this treatment — usually within five or ten minutes. Repeat the treatment if necessary. However, if the Karo syrup doesn’t reverse the symptoms within ten minutes, take your puppy to the veterinarian immediately as something else could have caused the signs (such as ingesting something poisonous or contracting a disease.)

Keeping your puppy fed and hydrated on the go

If you’re taking your puppy out and about (hopefully in a sling or carrier until their shots are completed) always have puppy snacks and/or kibble on hand in case your errands take longer than anticipated. You should have received a collapsible dog bowl in your puppy starter pack to help keep your puppy hydrated.

Keeping your puppy safe when you’re gone

If you are leaving your puppy alone at home for more than a couple of hours, we recommend using a puppy playpen or a large crate with room enough for kibble, water, a potty pad with a grate to prevent shredding, and a small dog bed.

The traditional crate training method for housebreaking puppies is not advised for long stretches of time for tiny breeds due to the risk of hypoglycemia.

Of course, your veterinarian is your first resource for information about preventing and treating hypoglycemia, but we’re here to support you throughout the life of your Mi-Ki. Call or email us with any concerns:

Mary Parker: 303-246-3196, mary@royaltmikis.com