Can dogs have dwarfism? The answer is yes, dogs can experience dwarfism like many other animals. The main cause of this is a lack of hormone production in our dog, leading him to experience dwarfism at birth.

In this article we will explain in detail what dwarfism is in dogs, how to detect it and its possible treatment. Read on to learn more about this endocrine disease.

Dwarfism in dogs

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

This process is diagnosed when the dog grows abnormally according to its breed and age. In addition, there are 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.

Furthermore, dwarfism is a congenital disease, which means that puppies can inherit it from their parents under an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern. And which races are the most prone to suffer from it? The most predisposed breed seems to be the German Shepherd, although it can also be seen in the Weimaraner Braque, Pinscher, and Spitz-type breeds.

How to detect dwarfism in dogs?

The symptoms of dwarfism in dogs are much more evident when dogs reach two or three months of life, before that, they can be seen as normal puppies.

From that moment, in a dog with pituitary dwarfism, the following signs can be observed:

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

Although dwarfism does not have to be dangerous to the health of the animal, it can reduce life expectancy to less than 10 years. However, by providing them with a healthy and pleasant lifestyle, we can help puppy dogs to have a happy life.

Diagnosis of dwarfism in dogs

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

Differential diagnosis

The differential diagnosis of dwarfism in dogs may include the following diseases:

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

Clinical diagnosis

The clinical diagnosis is based mainly on the observation of a proportional reduction in the size of the dog depending on the characteristics of its breed and age, which is usually accompanied by other clinical signs that we have discussed previously, such as various skin disorders.

Laboratory analysis

The laboratory analysis will be based mainly 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 the development of the renal glomeruli, responsible for filtering urine.
  • Analysis of hormones: 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 of 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 ml.

Other ways of diagnosis

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

Is there a cure for dwarfism in dogs?

Many people wonder if there is a cure for dwarfism in dogs. The answer, sadly, is no. At the moment, there is currently no cure for canine dwarfism. That said, it is important to let you know that there is a treatment for therapeutic use.

The treatment of canine dwarfism is carried out mainly with the administration of progestogens, such as medroxyprogesterone. This drug induces the production of growth hormone in the mammary gland. At all times of treatment, dogs should be monitored and controlled every week, as they can cause acromegaly or diabetes. Generally, the clinical signs of the skin improve, adult hair grows, and weight gain.

Talk to your trusted vet to see what treatments and lifestyle changes would benefit your dog if he experiences dwarfism.