Miniature Schnauzer Health & Genetics

The following information and articles are intended to raise awareness, not to prescribe medical treatment or offer self-diagnostics. If you have encountered any medical condition described here, we encourage you to discuss it and/or print out the information and take it to your Veterinarian. The Miniature Schnauzer Club of Canada assumes no responsibility for your failure to obtain proper Veterinary care.

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Does the breed have any health problems?

Yes, as do all pure-bred dogs, and for that matter, mixed breeds as well. Purebred dogs are bred from a confined gene pool. This means that veterinary science can identify diseases that are known to occur in a given breed, and breeders can work to screen carriers of the known diseases out of their breeding programs. Mixed breeds, on the other hand, can carry the genetic diseases occuring in each of their ancestral breeds. This makes for a totally unknown "genetic soup", in terms of both health and more importantly - temperament, appearance and behavior.

Because purebred dogs have closed, limited gene pools (most breeds descend from only a few original dogs) different breeds may have a higher incidence of some inherited diseases, and nearly no incidence of others.

Before we go into a short summary (below) of the more notable health problems in this breed, it should be noted that Miniature Schnauzers are overall a pretty healthy lot. Responsible breeders will be aware of the potential for hereditary problems and will try to eliminate known problems from their lines.

Mycobacterium Avium Infection
Important Notice (February 2012): American Miniature Schnauzer Club: Health Committee Position Statement and Recommendations Regarding Systemic Mycobacterial Infections (PDF)
Mycobacterium Avium Infection in Miniature Schnauzers.  A relatively new and deadly disease discovered in Miniature Schnauzers.  Additional Information
C.J.C. or Congenital Juvenile Cataracts
are present at birth and progress to cause blindness. Surgery is available but costly. Today there is no excuse for a puppy to be born with this disease. A huge problem just 25 years ago, research and cooperation among breeders resulted in hundreds of Miniature Schnauzers being retired from breeding. Today this defect is extremely rare among dogs from show lines. A warning, no such efforts were made in commercial puppy mills, so dogs who descend from pet store stock are still at risk! This is one defect where having Champion parents is a plus! A Veterinary Opthamologist can diagnose puppies at an early age. Good breeders routinely have all their litters eyes checked.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy - P.R.A.
causes the retina of the eye to deteriorate slowly. Symptoms may not show until the dog is three years old or older, beginning with night blindness. P.R.A. eventually blinds the dog. It is incurable. An Electroretinograph can be used for early detection, but this tool is not available to most breeders. Annual eye certification of breeding stock is a must if breeders are to reduce the risk.
Urinary Tract Infections - Urolithiasis
occur at a higher rate in Miniature Schnauzers than other breeds. Clinical signs include frequent urination and blood may be present in the urine. Untreated, they can lead to bladder stones. If severe enough this may cause urinary blockage, which is a medical emergency. To muddy the waters, this problem can occur in dogs for reasons unrelated to heredity. Treatment involves prescription diets, antibiotics and/or surgery. Few breeders would risk breeding any dog with a history of these problems. Also refer to Canine Urolithiasis, An Owner's Guide.
occurs with increasing frequency in Miniature Schnauzers. The exact mechanism is poorly understood, but appears to be associated with the fact that many Miniature Schnauzers have high blood serum lipids (fats). Clinical signs generally include vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy and depression. It is an emergency situation which warrants immediate veterinary care. Treatment includes intravenous fluids, antibiotics and dietary control. The dog will probably have to be on a low fat diet. Also refer to Pancreatitis, An Owner's Guide to Pet Care.
Cushings Disease
is also encountered with some frequency. Females are more affected than males and often fall within the six to eight year age group. Initial clinical signs are increased thirst and urination and an increase in body weight. Later observable is a change in body type, a pot bellied appearance, thinning of the dog's coat and other changes involving the skin. Sudden blindness is also associated with this condition. Cushings is related to over production of adrenal cortex hormones. Various medications are available to help control the disorder.
is the number one inherited disease of dogs in general. The metabolism is affected, causing depression, weight gain, hair loss, lethargy and an intolerance to cold. Untreated, it can lead to immune system, cardiovascular, and reproductive problems. Testing and treatment is relatively easy and inexpensive. Daily medication can give good results and many dogs live healthy lives. When it occurs in young dogs or several members of a family, a genetic cause (autoimmune disease) is likely.
Schnauzer Bumps (blackheads along the back) or other skin problems.
Some can be related to allergy, metabolic disorders or simple lack of good care. Good quality diet and attention to cleanliness and grooming go a long way in preventing skin problems.
Dental problems.
Many Miniature Schnauzers are very susceptible to periodontal disease. Food and plaque are trapped, leading to infection and receding gums. Some individuals may require frequent dental cleanings - or you can get into the good habit of brushing your dog's teeth; Your breeder or veterinarian should be able to show you how to clean and inspect the mouth for problems.
Other genetically caused problems
also include hepatic shunts, (abnormal routing of the blood vessels in the liver) epilepsy, juvenile kidney failure, autoimmune and heart defects. These problems occur frequently enough to be mentioned.

If you purchase a Miniature Schnauzer with these or other major disease that your Veterinarian feels could be inherited, you should notify the breeder. If any breeder tries to deny breed problems, or claims that "We haven't had any problems, so don't need to do any testing"; they are on very shaky ground. Miniature Schnauzers have their share of inherited problems. As do all purebred dogs - or humans for that matter (there are more than 3,000 known genetic diseases to affect human beings.)

The following links include articles and links which will be of more interest to breeders and Veterinarians;

  • Avium Tuberculosis information
  • Retinal Dysplasia information
  • Myotonia Congenita symptoms - Dr. Martin Deforest
  • HealthGene Myotonia testing.
  • HealthGene "e" testing for allele that creates "white" Miniature Schnauzers.


    What about white Miniature Schauzers?

    White (and other "off colours" frequently advertised on the internet) are not accepted under the breed standard in Canada. More importantly, the practice of breeding for disqualified colours is almost always associated with breeders who are profit driven. Some go so far as to claim their rarity makes them more valuable.

    Exactly the reverse is true. When determining an appropriate price, value is determined by the quality of the dog, the guarantees, the investment of time and money in health testing, care and socialization, and the willingness of the breeder to devote whatever time is required to ensure you have guidance after the sale.

    These links have more information about colour inheritance in Miniature Schnauzers:

  • Basic colour inheritance
  • Why not white?


    Updated March 1, 2010 - All rights reserved