Determining if your dog has Down syndrome isn’t easy since it’s rarely detected in canines. This genetic disorder often times worries pet parents who notice their dog has unusual features or characteristics. Continue reading to find out the answers to the popular question, “Can a dog have Down Syndrome?”
What is Down syndrome?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Down syndrome is known as a genetic disorder that involves abnormal cell division. During the cell division process chromosome, 21 in humans is partially or fully duplicated which leads to developmental and physical changes. Dogs have 39 chromosomes and there’s a chance that a similar issue can happen during the cell division process in canines.
Currently, scientists are conducting research on genetically modified mice to learn more about the chance of Down syndrome in canines and other animals. Scientists fully expect that it is possible to have down syndrome in a dog.
Is there Down syndrome in dogs?
There haven’t been any Down syndrome cases in dogs reported by medical professionals yet. However, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible or doesn’t exist. Scientists are discovering that the duplication of any canine chromosome can cause abnormalities in dogs. This abnormality can lead to down syndrome in dogs. Research needs to continue to confirm the exact cell duplication that causes specific symptoms of Down syndrome. Since duplication of chromosomes can be duplicated in humans, it’s a big possibility that the same can happen in dogs. In addition, there are also reports of symptoms of cats with down syndrome.
How to Tell if Your Dog has Down Syndrome
If you notice any of the following symptoms or signs in your dog, it’s wise to visit the veterinarian immediately.
- Growth delays
- Eye problems
- Short limbs
- Mental issues
- Developmental delays
- Poor muscle tone
- An unusually shaped forehead
- Skin issues
- Abnormal facial features
- Hearing problems
- Unusual behavior
- Abnormal gait
- Delayed tooth eruption
- Mental dullness
Dogs that experience any of the symptoms listed above can be experiencing a form of canine Down syndrome or other canine illnesses that produce the same signs such as congenital hypothyroidism.
Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition that begins at birth or during the early life stages. It’s caused by absent or low levels of the thyroid hormone. This condition often causes symptoms such as a broad head, large tongue, and a slow growth rate. As a pet parent, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when your dog is experiencing similar symptoms and it’s easy to diagnose them with Down syndrome when it might not be the case.
Avoid misdiagnosing your dog with Down syndrome by visiting a veterinarian who will conduct a full exam and make a professional diagnosis.
How to Care for Your Dog with Down Syndrome
Whether your dog is diagnosed with Down syndrome or not, they are still living with similar abnormal symptoms. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to care for your dog properly and provide them with everything they need to live a full and happy life up to their best abilities. The following information will help you create a healthy and safe lifestyle for your dog.
- Veterinarian care – Find a trustworthy and professional veterinarian that understands your dog has special needs and has experience with dogs with Down syndrome symptoms. Create a bond and open dialogue with the veterinarian so you are both on the same page when it comes to your dog’s needs. Be prepared to schedule follow up and/or frequent appointments with the veterinarian office for regular tests, check-up, and treatment adjustments.
- Create a safe environment at home – Chances are your dog has developmental issues. Creating a safe home environment is essential to their daily well-being as they navigate their way through your home. Always take into consideration your dog’s specific issues such as blindness. Arrange the furniture so it has plenty of space around each piece and gives your dog plenty of room to explore their surroundings. Also, remove any sharp objects, toxic plants and small objects that are choking hazards.
- Provide a healthy diet – Nutrition is essential to maintaining good health. Provide a healthy diet that meets the nutritional needs of your dog’s current life stage. If you aren’t sure what to feed your dog seek professional advice from a dog nutritionist or veterinarian.
- Meet exercise requirements – Every dog breed requires a specific amount of exercise, some more than others. Learn more about your dog’s exercise needs by reading their body language. If they get tired, stop immediately. Avoid pushing your dog over their physical limits.
- Provide a stimulating playtime – Dogs are highly intelligent and need mental stimulation which is often achieved by playing with toys. There are a variety of toy options which include plush, squeaky, ropes, and interactive toys. It’s essential to your dog’s mental wellness to have access to a wide range of toy options to help keep them busy and mentally stimulated.
- Bedding – Every dog needs their own bed to call their own. They need the security of knowing they can go rest in the same bed at the same spot in the house every day. This sense of security helps keep your dog calm and reduces anxiety.
How are Chromosomal Conditions like Down syndrome in Dogs Diagnosed and Treated?
A veterinarian will need to conduct a series of tests on your dog to diagnose a chromosomal issue. Once the diagnosis is made the veterinarian will discuss the issue and the impact it has on your dog’s mental and physical health. A daily health care regimen will be established by the veterinarian and frequent visits to the office could be required depending on the severity of your dog’s health condition.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Down syndrome in dogs since it’s a genetic disease that is part of your dog’s DNA. The best treatment available to date is caring for your dog to the best of your abilities and following a medical professional’s advice.
What to do If You Think Your Dog has Down Syndrome
Noticing abnormalities in your dog can feel overwhelming as a pet parent. In your eyes your adorable dog is perfect but it’s best not to ignore signs of a possible health issue. Acknowledging there can be a health issue and visiting a veterinarian is the first step to improving your dog’s quality of life.
What to Expect From a Special Needs Dog
Just like every special need human, special needs dogs each have their unique personalities. Dogs are often unaware of their special needs or the fact they are not like other dogs. Pet parents often report their dog plays, eats and have a great life even if they have special needs.
Knowing what to expect from your special needs dog will help you customize a daily regimen and provide a healthy and happy lifestyle for your dog. Unfortunately, many pet owners often become scared and don’t know how to make things great for their special needs dogs.
How to Improve Your Dog’s Quality of Life When They Have Down Syndrome
Being the owner of a special needs dog can feel scary, stressful, and overwhelming. Sometimes the thought of the vet bills alone can make being a pet parent unbearable. The important thing to remember is your dog is part of your family and your responsibility. Your dog is depending on you to take care of them and make their life safe and happy.
There are a variety of things you can do to improve the quality of your special needs dog such as the tips listed below:
- Set your fear aside – Dogs sense their owner’s emotions and if you feel scared all the time or worried that something will happen to your dog it will emotionally have a negative impact on your dog. Do your best to focus on all the great things about your dog such as their cute personality, soulful eyes, ability to have fun playing with toys any time of the day and the fact they are the best couch potato buddy in the house! Feeling a sense of love, acceptance and peace about your dog will ease the tension in the house and help your dog feel good on a daily basis.
- Be affectionate with your dog – Making your dog feel extra special and cared for boosts their self-confidence and helps them to feel happy. Make sure you spend time with your dog petting them, playing a game of fetch, and allowing them to be by your side when you are relaxing around the house. This close connection builds a strong bond and helps your dog be their best!
- Live an active lifestyle – It’s easy to come home from work, eat and sit on the sofa all night but try to add some activities to your evening even if it’s for only 10 minutes. Take a brisk walk with your dog, teach your dog how to swim, visit a dog park a few times a week, play outdoors with your dog. A fun summer activity involving the entire family in running around in the sprinklers during a hot summer day and letting your dog cool down in the water.
Conclusion for Can A Dog Have Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome in dogs might not be a popular topic at this moment but research is being conducted and it’s very possible that your dog has Down Syndrome, but may not be diagnosed correctly. If the studies reveal Down syndrome does exist in dogs it will make diagnosis and treatment in the future easier for pet owners. Contact a veterinarian today if you think your dog has Down syndrome!
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Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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