Breed breakdown: An in-depth look at the miniature schnauzer
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Derived from the German word for muzzle, it is no wonder that schnauzers have distinctive beards and eyebrows. Schnauzers come in three sizes, the smallest, the miniature schnauzer, is the most popular.
The miniature schnauzer was bred down from the standard schnauzer — medium-sized — by adding in miniature poodles and Affenpinchers. Miniatures were developed as ratters but also as companions. They are described as “alert and spirited yet obedient to command.” Being watchful dogs, they can also be good alarm systems as many love to bark.
Pictures of schnauzer-like dogs can be seen as far back as the late 15th century. However, the miniature schnauzer was created in the late 1800s and recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1926. Because they were bred to chase rats, miniatures are considered terriers. The larger cousins, the standards and the giants, are in the working dog group.
Miniature schnauzers should be between 12 and 14 inches at the shoulder, according to the breed standard. With their proportionate straight backs and legs, they are often described as square.
While it is a low shedding breed, miniature schnauzers need regular grooming. The dogs have a double coat with wiry outer hairs and a soft undercoat. Dogs used for show usually have stripping of the coat to remove loose hair, and most pet owners opt for shaving.
Miniature schnauzers have three color patterns allowed by the breed standard: solid black, salt and pepper, and black and silver. Miniatures can also come in white, but since there is no white in the standard and giant relatives, the AKC does not recognize this color.
In addition to their distinct look, miniature schnauzers have distinct health considerations. Many breeders do genetic testing to try to eliminate certain diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy, causing blindness; von Willebrand disease, affecting blood clotting; persistent Mullerian duct syndrome, affecting male dogs’ reproductive tract; and myotonia congenital, which affects muscle size and contractions.
Miniature schnauzers also tend to have high lipids in their blood and a high risk of pancreatitis. Without aggressive treatment, pancreatitis can be deadly. Miniatures are also prone to diabetes.
Miniature schnauzers can develop urinary bladder stones, many of which require surgical removal. In most cases, special foods are needed to help minimize recurrence.
Skin conditions seen in miniature schnauzers include allergies and related ear infections as well as comedones. Comedone syndrome is similar to acne that tends to occur along the back. Special shampoos and medications are often needed to manage this lifelong condition.
With their outgoing personality, good looks, and trainability, miniature schnauzers make great pets. Researching healthy parents will help you find a healthy pup. But watch out, some miniature schnauzer owners cannot have just one.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.