Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome?

Do Canines Inherit Down Syndrome?

Do you think your dog might have down syndrome? Can dogs be born with down syndrome? Read on for the facts.

What Is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder which occurs when there is a problem with cell division resulting in an extra pair of chromosomes.

Chromosomes are thread-like structures inside the nucleus of each cell which contains tightly-coiled DNA.

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but sometimes an error results in an extra 21st chromosome, so the person would have three copies or partial copies of the 21st chromosome and more than 46 total chromosomes.

This causes downs syndrome in humans and can result in cognitive ability impairment, mild to moderate developmental disabilities, growth impairments and health problems. It can also affect a person’s physical, intellectual and overall development.


Features Of Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is not an illness and therefore it does not have symptoms. People with down syndrome may have some of the following physical characteristics.

  • Slanted eyes
  • Flat-looking face
  • Low muscle tone
  • Short stature
  • Short neck
  • Flat nasal bridge
  • Protruding tongue


Development In Children With Down Syndrome

Development and intellect vary widely between different people with down syndrome.  Often, children with Down syndrome will take a little longer to achieve milestones – such as sitting, crawling and walking – and may require speech therapy if there is a delay in learning to speak.

While Down syndrome can affect a person’s intellectual ability and IQ, many people with Down syndrome are able to go to school, get jobs, live alone and contribute to society.

Do Dogs Get Down Syndrome?

There is very little evidence to suggest that dogs can have Down syndrome.  While humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, dogs have 39 and their 21st chromosome doesn’t contain the same DNA as the human equivalent.

This means that if the 21st chromosome was duplicated in dogs, it would affect them differently. We don’t tend to test chromosomes in individual dogs and so it’s hard to say whether or not they could have Down syndrome


Does Down Syndrome Exist In Dogs?

It is possible that dogs who have the dog-equivalent of Down syndrome die before they are born or only live for a couple of days after they are born.

Puppies that are born with birth defects may be euthanised by vets, they may be unable to feed themselves, they may suffer organ failure, or their mother may neglect or even kill them.

However, we don’t know for sure if dogs with Down syndrome exist. It could be that this condition does not affect dogs, or maybe we just don’t know that it does yet.

Conditions That Have Similarities To Down Syndrome In Dogs

Have conditions are mistaken for Down syndrome or may look like Down syndrome. Congenital hypothyroidism, which is caused by low or no levels of thyroid hormone in early life, can cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Slow growth
  • Broad head
  • Large, protruding tongue
  • Short limbs
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Delayed opening of eyes and ears

Other conditions which bear a similarity to Down syndrome are growth hormone deficiency, pituitary dwarfism and portosystemic shunt.

Developmental Conditions In Dogs

Your vet may not be able to tell you whether or not your dog has Down syndrome, but there are still things you can do to take better care of a pet that has some sort


of genetic condition. Some of the symptoms that you should look out for include:

  • Poor eyesight
  • Unusual physical features
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Heart disease
  • Pain
  • Skin problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Behavioural problems

How To Manage A Dog With A Developmental Condition

If you and your vet suspect your dog has a developmental condition, there are things you can do to help prolong their life and make sure they are fulfilled and comfortable.

  • Rich protein diet. This will help strengthen and repair the muscles.
  • This includes walking, sports and training. Check with your vet if your dog has a heart condition to plan an appropriate exercise regime.
  • Regular check-ups at the vet
  • Clear away clutter to make sure your dog has space to move around
  • If your dog can’t be house trained, make sure you cover the floor with newspaper/paper/plastic coverings to improve sanitation
  • Lots of love and attention.

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