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Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome? What You Should Know

Whether you think your dog may have down syndrome or you’re just interested if canine down syndrome is a thing, we got you covered.

Handling down syndrome-like symptoms in dogs can be quite difficult and stressful and we’ve compiled the latest research on whether or not dogs can get down syndrome and what to do with similar symptoms.

What Science Says About Down Syndrome in Dogs

In every cell of living organisms, including humans and dogs, there is a nucleus in which genetic material is present in the form of genes.

Genes are present on the chromosomes that carry genotypic codes and can be passed on to the next generations.

The nucleus of human cells contains 46 chromosomes that are in pairs, while the nucleus of the dog contains 78 chromosomes in pairs.

In humans, Down syndrome occurs as a result of an abnormality of chromosome 21 in human cells.

Down syndrome-like symptoms occur in rare cases, but there is no known chromosomal abnormality like that in humans.

Science has given evidence about the occurrence of Down syndrome in chimpanzees and some other related animals.

But in the case of cats, dogs, and other four-legged animals, no complete evidence is found that supports the occurrence of Down syndrome in these animals.

However, science has proved many genetic anomalies that are found in dogs and also some genetic diseases that are closely similar to Down syndrome.

Pet owners and other people who are closely related to the dogs know that there is a close resemblance in the nature of humans and dogs in some ways.

Some dog owners also stated that their dogs look different from other canines and have some facial, body, and behavioral features similar to the features of Down syndrome.

Many other clinical conditions also raise doubt regarding Down syndrome in dogs.

This condition occurs in about 1 in 700 babies in humans, but it’s even rarer in our furry companions.

In dogs, Down syndrome usually causes an early death, so proper genetic testing has not been done.

Dog diagnosing another dog.

Symptoms of Dogs with Down Syndrome

In most cases, dog owners do not understand the unusual behavior of the dog.

Dogs with Down syndrome usually show symptoms of serious health disorders and abnormal activities that are similar to signs of Down syndrome in humans.

Some of the symptoms that may occur in dogs due to Down syndrome are:

1. Dogs that have round eyes and flattened faces may be suggestive of Down syndrome.

Other unusual facial features may also be present such as short neck, small head, abnormally shaped ears, and eyes.

Dogs with Down syndrome may have dry and warm noses, deformed and undeveloped legs, shedding, and hair loss.

2. Canines suffering from Down syndrome have strange behaviors and traits, which may include whining, howling, and wailing.

Small dogs do not pass quickly through developmentals stages and may be unusually reserved.

Owners feel difficulty in feeding and training such types of dogs because they are unable to control their urination due to bladder problems.

Training dogs with Down syndrome is much more difficult and requires patience.

3. Hearing issues are common in dogs suffering from Down syndrome. It is difficult to hear and follow any commands for these dogs.

4. Congenital heart diseases are evident in dogs with Down syndrome due to malformations and abnormal circulation.

5. Down syndrome affects the whole body, so all the organs and body parts may be affected, which results in random body pain. At times, pain may be very severe.

6. Bloody discharge from the rectum may occur in later stages or chronically ill dogs.

7. Dogs suffering from Down syndrome have small size and stunted growth.

8. Disorders regarding vision may be found due to abnormal development that may affect the eyesight in dogs with Down syndrome.

It increases the risk of the formation of cataracts in the eyes of dogs.

Pet parents should examine if there is cloudiness building in the eyes because it is an early sign of cataract formation.

9. Dogs with Down syndrome have small-sized limbs, less muscle strength and coordination.

10. Abnormal walking and running, problems with the teeth, such as tooth eruption, and eyelid problems causing difficulty in opening the eyes are also quite common.

11. Slow growth eventually resulting in small stature, broadhead, a large tongue that protrudes out of the mouth, and decreased muscle tone.

Similar Conditions to Down Syndrome in Dogs

Several developmental and congenital abnormalities are common in dogs that have symptoms similar to Down syndrome.

Symptoms are apparent not by looking at the dogs but examining the behavior and nature of the dog due to specific disorder.

Dogs suffering from congenital hypothyroidism may be similar to Down syndrome. Hypothyroidism occurs as a result of extremely low or absent levels of thyroid hormones during birth and early lifetime.

Many other disorders have similar clinical features like that of Down syndrome, which include portosystemic shunt, genetic mutations or anomalies, congenital hydrocephalus, decreased level of growth hormones, and dwarfism.

So, it is important to consult with a veterinarian if you observe any critical symptoms that are suggestive of Down syndrome.

How To Care For Dogs With Down Syndrome

Genetic mutations can not be totally cured in dogs. For dogs with genetic disorders like Down syndrome, a number of remedies can be implemented to improve their quality of life and decrease the severity of symptoms.

Feed your dog high-quality foods and avoid foods containing fillers and meat products. Properly check the labels pasted on dog foods and do extra effort for your special canine friend.

Fresh vegetables and meat can help dogs because vegetables boost immunity, and meat contains high protein for efficient muscle repairing.

Fresh water with a low amount of salt is helpful in relieving thyroid issues in dogs suffering from Down syndrome.

Dogs suffering from Down syndrome may have finicky eating habits, so vitamins should be given to them that increase the appetite.

Food items such as chicken, turkey, and others with strong scents may also be helpful.

Skin allergy is a common condition in dogs suffering from Down syndrome, so do not take them outside during pollen gains season.

If your dog hurts himself, immediately clean the wounds to prevent skin infections.

Avoid physical barriers because your dog has poor eyesight in the case of Down syndrome, and he may injure himself by bumping into objects or furniture.

To make the potty training process a little bit easier, consider investing in puppy pee pads or diapers for female or male dogs.

Provide soft pillows an orthopedic dog bed if your dog is suffering from joint pain. Make his sleeping area as comfortable as possible.

Regularly visit or consult the vet concerning your dog’s condition. He/she will be able to guide you through possible treatment methods and tips.

Dogs having Down syndrome may become aggressive, so they should be handled with caution to avoid them from bitting and keeping yourself safe.

Dog gently handled by owner.

Physical Exercises for Dogs Suffering from Down Syndrome

Growth and development of dogs with Down syndrome are abnormal and require proper exercises with precautions to avoid any secondary anomaly.

They may suffer from heart, muscle, and limb problems, so they are unable to perform and withstand hard exercises.

Discuss suitable physical training for your canine friend to ease the symptoms of Down syndrome. Here are some of the exercises:

Tug of war: Different tug of war toys are available for dogs in various sizes. You can choose a proper size for your dog and teach your dog to pull it straight back to help strengthen his leg muscles.

Walking: A short walk is also an effective way to support the bones, muscles, and heart of your dog suffering from Down syndrome.

Roll-over: Tempt your canine friend to eat the treat by placing it near the nose, then shift the treat in a circular and clockwise movement so your dog will move sideways. This exercise is easy and helps to build strong muscles.

Scratch dance: A dog will wriggle by dynamically scraping the upper and the lower end portions. It is a fun activity and also the best exercise for dogs suffering from Down syndrome.

Physioball exercise: Place a physioball under the front legs of your dog. This exercise also strengthens the hind legs.

Your Dog Might Be Affected? Do This!

Down syndrome is not a common condition, but it is a dreadful one, so you should take measures in order to prevent your canine friend from having the aforementioned disorder and many other canine diseases.

Regular visits to the vets and checkups of your dogs can keep him healthy and ensure early diagnosis of any ailments.

Follow the vet’s advice and perform tests or treatments prescribed by the veterinarian.

An uncluttered and clean environment is essential for the proper growth and development of dogs.

If you have small puppies at home, take extra care of their developmental and mental growth.

If you are observing any delays in development, consult a veterinarian, and provide a safe environment for them.

Adequate space should be available for the dog to walk around and avoid dangerous objects in his space that could harm him.

Put gates around the stairs to prevent your canine friend from falling and harming himself.

Feeding a proper diet with adequate nutrients and calories improves your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.

Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet immediately.

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About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.