Do Dogs Have Down Syndrome?

Is there really any possibility of a pup being born with dogs down syndrome? If you have ever spent quality time around canines that are believed to have Down syndrome, you will be in a better position to understand the compatibility between humans and pups. The unique blend of the differences and similarities between the two makes their partnership to be so perfect.

However, these similarities come with a dark side sometimes, such as the ailments that commonly affect the two creatures, especially diabetes, cancer, congestive heart failure, epilepsy, and many more. For this write-up, we are going to discuss dogs with Down Syndrome and the possibility of the condition occurring in the canine community.

What Exactly Is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome refers to a genetic disorder that occurs as a result of abnormal cell division. That superfluous genetic material results in developmental changes that feature symptoms of this disorder, causing the eyes to slant and the face to flatten. Other things that might be observed are mild or serious intellectual disabilities, as well as delays in the sufferer’s developmental processes. The victims of Down syndrome are likely to suffer from hearing loss, heart defects, or eye disease.

Down Syndrome in Dogs – Can A Dog Be Born With Down Syndrome?

According to statistics from the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), one out of every 700 newborn babies in the US comes with down syndrome; however, the same cannot be said about the canines. If the condition actually occurs in pups, it will be much rarer.

Genetically, there are several similarities between humans and canines, but we also have distinguishing differences. For instance, dogs are born with 39 sets of chromosomes while we can only get 23 sets in humans. Thus, replication of part or all of chromosome 21 will result in different effects in both creatures. However, we should note that the preferred animal models used by scientists that are into Down syndrome research are genetically engineered mice.

These rodents have an additional part of their chromosome 16 that bears genes similar to the ones included on chromosome 21 of humans. What you get here is a mouse carrying a number of characteristics comparable to the human Down syndrome. It should be at the back of our minds that these mice are genetically engineered and not naturally occurring ones.

Even when you expand the meaning of canine Down syndrome to include all genetic duplication resulting in clinical abnormalities comparable to those observed in humans with the condition, the infirmity basically has never been described in canines. Below are three possible explanations:

  • These sorts of chromosomal aberrations naturally result in early death in pups
  • The kind of genetic testing required to discover canines with Down syndrome isn’t done
  • Truly, the condition does not exist

What Are The Symptoms Of Down Syndrome In Dogs?

Dogs that are believed to have Down syndrome may display the following symptoms;

Poor Eyesight

As a result of their poor development, canines with Down syndrome tend to have impaired vision. Also, they stand the risk of getting cataracts in one eye. Your pooch’s eyes should be constantly checked for cloudiness and if this is noticed, it may be signaling the development of cataracts.

Unusual Facial or Physical Features

Dogs with the condition are likely to have deformed facial features and a dwarf-like appearance. The common abnormalities to look out for include a flat-like face, short neck, upwardly slanting eyes, small head, as well as abnormally shaped ears. In addition, Down syndrome causes dogs to have dry and warm noses. Abnormal patches may be evident on their skins; other features include shedding or hair loss, and incomplete or deformed legs.

Hearing Problems

Though this symptom is not easily detectable, canine Down syndrome sufferers respond slowly to commands. This is more noticeable when they are paired with other dogs.

Congenital Heart Disease

The circulatory system in dogs with the condition is abnormal; thus, congenital heart disease is evident among them. These dogs were actually born with deformities.

Random Pain

Because the whole body of a pup with Down syndrome is affected by this disorder, its internal organs may also be abnormally developed. The dog may suffer from intermittent pains because of this.


Other diseases may be evident in canines with Down syndrome, causing them to eject bloody discharge from their anus. This may be noticed during the later stages of the condition.

Skin Problems

Several canines that suffer from Down syndrome have to contend with skin problems. What are considered minor irritants can make them be highly sensitive in addition to heavy shedding, and missing or abnormal patches on their coat. This can lead to health problems like allergies.

Thyroid Issues

The thyroid of a pup with Down syndrome may malfunction, leading to issues with both temperature and metabolism. Normally, they are expected to have a lower temperature relative to normal dogs.

Behavioral Issues

Odd personalities and behaviors are often evident in dogs with Down syndrome; they tend to howl a lot, wail as well as whine incessantly. An unusual reserve may also be observed. The disorder does not allow puppies to advance rapidly through their developmental stages. Feeding and potty-training them become rather difficult. This is due to the fact that they are not in control of their bladders. They may come into the house to eliminate on the floor after spending time outside. Dealing with their calls for loads of patience.

Down Syndrome in Dogs: How To Know If My Dog Has Down Syndrome

There is a set of established criteria through which we can establish if a dog has Down syndrome or not. This may necessitate genetic testing to get more definite results.

The affected pups are a bit different, though the condition is considered to be quite rare in canines. More often than not, the puppies die after birth as they don’t survive birth or even gestation. If a pup with Down syndrome survives over a few days, then, it would be seen as strange.

If you have reasons to suspect that your pooch might be one of the victims of Down syndrome, a few established clues might help you in coming to a conclusion. In addition to health issues like impaired hearing, thyroid problems, and bad eyesight, you will notice that the dog’s face is flatter compared to others. Important to note that, these clues might be pointing to other health problems apart from Down syndrome; however, it is not recommended for dog owners to diagnose the condition personally, a professional should be called in on such matters.

Other Conditions That May Be Mistaken For Dogs Down Syndrome

Dogs Down Syndrome
A dog with Pituitary dwarfism source

Pituitary Dwarfism

This occurs when the pituitary gland of a pup fails to produce sufficient growth hormones. Puppies will have normal appearances at birth, but later, they won’t be able to develop as fast as their littermates. They may also be predisposed to alopecia and hyperpigmentation. Pituitary dwarfism is inborn and is connected to a particular gene.

Read Also: What Is Cat Grass And How Do I Grow It?

Portosystemic Shunt (meaning liver shunt)

This is also inherited, but the development may come later in life. This occurs when the blood flow evades the liver, resulting in a lack of development in the liver, which shrinks progressively. All the liver functions in the body like supporting digestion, blood clotting, and detoxification will be impaired, leading to stunted growth.

Congenital Hypothyroidism

this occurs when the dog’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce the hormones it is expected to deliver. The condition breeds a shortage of or unresponsiveness to the thyroid-stimulating hormone, thyrotropin-releasing hormone, and/or iodine. The results are abnormal skeletal development, mental impairment, and dwarfism. Pups with congenital hypothyroidism, are marked by short spines and limbs.

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