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Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs

 
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. March 8, 2021
Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs
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Can dogs have dwarfism? Yes, dogs can experience dwarfism like other animals. This occurs when there is a lack of hormone production in our dog, leading them to experience dwarfism.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to explain what dwarfism in dogs is, how to detect it and its treatment. Keep reading to learn more about this endocrine disease.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Have Red Eyes?

Dwarfism in dogs

Dwarfism or pituitary dwarfism in dogs is an endocrine disease in which a deficiency of growth hormone (GH) occurs and sometimes appears together with deficiencies of hormones generated in the hypothalamus, such as TSH and prolactin. This results in dwarfism or lack of normal growth as the months go by.

This process is diagnosed when the dog is growing abnormally according to their breed and age. In addition, deficits of other hormones that lead to other endocrine processes, such as hypothyroidism or heat problems in females or testicular atrophy in males. These can occur at the same time in addition to dermatological problems and secondary infections. The diagnosis is made with the help of laboratory measurements and treatment is with progestogens, in order to increase growth hormone.

Dwarfism is a congenital disease, which means that puppies can inherit it from their parents under an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern. The most predisposed breed seems to be the German Shepherd, although it can also be seen in the Weimaraner, Pinscher and Spitz.

Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs - Dwarfism in dogs
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Signs of dwarfism in dogs

The symptoms of dwarfism in dogs appear when dogs reach two or three months of life, before that, they seem like normal puppies. However, from this moment on they continue having puppy hair, then they begin to lose it causing a bilateral alopecia on their trunk and they have a small but proportionate size.

In addition, a dog with pituitary dwarfism, the following signs can be observed:

  • Elongation of the closure of the epiphyses of the long bones.
  • Fontanelles open longer than in a normal puppy.
  • Calcification of the penile bone.
  • Delayed appearance of teeth.
  • Hyperpigmentation.
  • Thin and hypotonic skin.
  • Progressive peeling of the skin.
  • Comedones and papules on the skin.
  • Secondary bacterial infections of the skin or respiratory system.
  • Hypothyroidism at 2-3 years of life.
  • Reproductive disorders: anestrus (lack of heat) in bitches and testicular atrophy in dogs.

Although dwarfism is not fatal in itself, it does reduce life expectancy to less than 10 years. Nevertheless, by providing them with a healthy and happy lifestyle, we can help our pup have a happy life.

You may also want to read our article about when puppies stop growing.

Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs - Signs of dwarfism in dogs
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Diagnosis of dwarfism in dogs

The diagnosis of pituitary dwarfism is based on clinical signs and laboratory diagnosis.

Differential diagnosis

The differential diagnosis of dwarfism in dogs includes the following diseases:

  • Juvenile hypothyroidism
  • Hypoadrenocorticism
  • Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism
  • Juvenile diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Gonadal dysgenesis
  • Bone disease
  • Kidney disease

Clinical diagnosis

The clinical diagnosis is based mainly on the observation of a proportionate reduction in the size of the dog according to the characteristics of its breed and age, which commonly comes together with other clinical signs that we have previously discussed, such as skin disorders.

Laboratory analysis

The laboratory analysis will be based on a blood test with measurement of certain factors and hormones:

  • Hemogram and biochemistry: the hemogram and biochemistry in these dogs are usually normal, although there is the presence of hypophosphatemia, mild hypoalbuminemia and in some cases there may be azotemia (increased creatinine or urea), since the deficiency of growth hormone can affect to the development of the renal glomeruli, responsible for filtering urine.
  • Analysis of the hormones: the analysis of thyroid hormones usually reflects an increase in free and total T4 but unlike what is expected in hypothyroidism, which is an increase in TSH, in dogs with dwarfism there is a decrease in TSH due to lack of release from the hypothalamus in this disorder.
  • Insulin Growth Factor Assay: Insulin Growth Factor Type 1 (IGF-1) Assay is the best way to indirectly reflect growth hormone values. In dogs with dwarfism this factor is significantly reduced, being less than 50 ng / ml.

Other ways of diagnosis

Another way to reach the definitive diagnosis is by stimulating growth hormone release using xylazine or GNRH. In a healthy dog, the growth hormone will increase after this administration, however, in dwarfism this effect does not occur.

Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs - Diagnosis of dwarfism in dogs
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Canine dwarfism treatment

Many people also wonder if there is a cure to dwarfism in dogs. The answer is no, currently there is no cure for dwarfism. With that being said, there is a treatment for therapeutic use.

The treatment of canine dwarfism is carried out with the administration of progestins, such as medroxyprogesterone, at doses of 2.5-5 mg / kg every three weeks in 6 doses. Subsequently, if needed, it is repeated every 6 weeks. This drug induces the production of growth hormone in the mammary gland. Dogs should be monitored and checked every week as it can cause acromegaly or diabetes. Generally, clinical skin signs improve, adult hair grows, and weight gain.

Nowadays the treatment that was carried out with bovine, porcine or human growth hormone is not recommended, since in addition to having a high price, insulin resistance or hypersensitivity may appear. The administration of thyroid hormones or glucocorticoids should also be considered, if necessary. Talk to your veterinarian to see what treatment and lifestyle changes would benefit your dog if they are experiencing dwarfism.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Can Dogs Have Dwarfism? - Dwarfism in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

Bibliography
  • L. Alvarado. (2006). Growth abnormalities in canines. Available at: https://www.portalveterinaria.com/animales-de-compania/articulos/16929/anormalidades-del-crecimiento-en-caninos.html
  • J. Cerón, MJ Fernández, C. García, M. Hervera, SM Angulo, D. Pérez, C. Pérez, G. Santamarina. (2016). Small Animal Internal Medicine Clinical Manual I. ESVPS, Ed. SM Publishing Ltd. Sheffield, UK.
  • LE Fidalgo, R. Rejas, R. Ruíz, JJ Ramos. (2003). Veterinary medical pathology. Kadmos Printing House.

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