Dog with Down Syndrome: 4 Important Facts One Must Know

The genetic disorder known as Down syndrome is carried on by improper cell division, which produces a second complete or partial copy of chromosome 211. This extra genetic material results in the physical traits and developmental defects of Down syndrome.

And apparently, Down Syndrome can also happen in dogs. The area of a dog with Down Syndrome is not studied properly, which is why there are no specific recognition tools and precaution techniques available. 

A Guide to a Dog with Down Syndrome

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Photo by Brosch on Unlimphotos

Human cells normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome comes from your mother and one from your father makes up each pair of chromosomes. Down syndrome is brought on by abnormal cell division linked to chromosome 21, and these mistakes in cell division result in a new complete or incomplete copy of chromosome 21.

There are different levels of intellectual impairment and developmental delays among people with Down syndrome2. It is the most common genetic chromosomal abnormality and the cause of the learning difficulties that kids experience.

It frequently causes gastrointestinal and heart disorders as well as other health problems. Down syndrome sufferers may struggle with moderate, mild, or profound behavioural and learning problems.

While some individuals struggle with major health conditions, such as serious heart problems, others maintain generally good health. 

1. Dogs with Down Syndrome

Dogs with Down’s syndrome are not genetically related to people in the same way. In the beginning, there are 39 pairs of chromosomes in dogs compared to 23 pairs in humans. Dogs are not born with the same amount of chromosomes that people do, hence they cannot have Down syndrome.

None of these illnesses is characterized by the existence of a copy of chromosome 21, but they may encounter hormonal and genetic disorders (such as growth hormone insufficiency, hydrocephalus, and many others) that seem to have symptoms that are analogous to those experienced by humans with Down syndrome.

The majority of dogs with chromosomal anomalies have a dismal prognosis, regardless of whether chromosome 21 is affected. Animals with hereditary diseases frequently find it challenging to protect themselves in a risky environment or to eat and drink enough.

Some veterinarians claim that Down syndrome may exist in dogs since they have seen some animals with extremely comparable physical traits, such as a plunging neckline, small head, loss of hearing, or impaired eyesight.

The fact is that there hasn’t been enough study on this topic in our canine pals and the parallels it has with humans.

The three following scenarios could explain why the dog doesn’t have Down syndrome:

  • Dogs frequently pass away at a young age as a result of these genetic abnormalities.
  • The required genetic testing to identify dogs with Down syndrome has proven to be impossible.
  • The disorder doesn’t even occur in dogs.

1.1 Causes of Down Syndrome in Dogs

If there is Canine Down syndrome, it is not caused by a specific disease or infection that can be transferred from dog to dog. Only puppies have duplicate puppy chromosomal sets because of a genetic anomaly3.

As a result, it is impossible to tell whether a puppy will likely develop Down syndrome or not, even though you bring the mother to the veterinary clinic for numerous tests and prenatal ultrasounds. Canine Down syndrome4 is commonly confused with other illnesses.

1.2 Symptoms of Down Syndrome in Dogs

Even though there isn’t any scientific proof to back up the belief that a dog may be born with Down syndrome, some genetic disorders that mirror it will give the same symptoms.

To track down their dog’s health, pet owners might look for the following symptoms:


  1. Growth impediment



  2. Urinary health issues



  3. Unusual weight increase



  4. Lack of reproduction instincts



  5. Poor vision and eye health issues



  6. Thin hair coat



  7. Heart disease is a possibility.



  8. Lack of muscular tone



  9. Convulsions



  10. Expressions of melancholy or depression on the face


2. Is Dog With Down Syndrome Similar to Down Syndrome in Humans?

Dogs, like people, can have chromosomal abnormalities, and several of the clinical indications are comparable to those associated with Down Syndrome.

Here are a few examples:

  • A smaller-than-average face and/or head
  • A delay in muscle growth and cognitive development
  • Hearing impairments
  • Physical flaws, which include short legs
  • Shorter limbs or body than normal
  • Incomplete development owing to thyroid growth hormone deficiency5
  • Poor eye health
  • Incomplete development owing to thyroid growth hormone deficiency
  • A larger-than-normal tongue

People with Down Syndrome frequently have a great quality of life. Unfortunately, the same cannot be stated for canines with chromosomal anomalies.

Many dogs with these kinds of problems die before or shortly after birth. Those who manage to survive frequently experience agony and are sometimes unable to eat.

2.1 Why Down Syndrome Isn’t Recognized in Dogs?

Dogs’ chromosomes are shared similarly to humans, with half going to the father and half to the mother, and each species has a different method of replicating its chromosomes.

There is no conclusive scientific evidence for an extra chromosome in the DNA of dogs, despite the possibility of such a chromosome in theory. There hasn’t been a thorough investigation of this inherited issue or genetic testing.

Contrary to human Down syndrome which has been thoroughly studied and documented, canine DNA defects are very challenging to detect. This is because the vast majority of dogs that have this genetic disorder pass away in their first couple months of existence or are prematurely born.

2.2 Other Conditions That Look Like Down Syndrome:

There are several conditions that, like Down syndrome, produce the same symptoms. In addition, a lot of them are genetic, implying that canines are born with them.

Dogs are frequently diagnosed with congenital or developmental disorders that have certain clinical traits with Down syndrome.

Dogs with the following diseases might also be misdiagnosed as having Down syndrome:

  • Congenital Hypothyroidism:

The real frequency of congenital hypothyroidism, an uncommon and poorly recognized congenital endocrine condition6 in dogs and cats, remains unclear.

This disorder is brought on by low or missing thyroid hormone levels at birth and in the first few years of life, which causes sluggish development and, eventually, tiny height, a large and projecting tongue, gangly limbs, poor muscle tone, intellectual impairment, and premature eye and ear opening.

  • Pituitary Dwarfism:

Pituitary dwarfism is a hereditary autosomal condition7 in some breeds that can be brought on by a tumour, an infection, or a cyst. Small legs, a long torso, a short jaw, protruding eyes, and skin diseases including alopecia and fungal skin infections are common adverse effects that are detected within the first few months.

  • Congenital Hydrocephalus:

The characteristics of congenital hydrocephalus, a birth condition, include a dome-shaped skull, a big fontanel on top of the head, and eyes that seem to be looking downward.

Some signs include difficulties learning new skills, diminished awareness of or lack of responsiveness to stimuli, visual deficiencies (frequently blindness), an abnormal gaze (eyes focused downward and away), convulsions, head pressure, and other things.

  • Growth Hormone Deficiency:

The significant dwarfism caused by congenital growth hormone deficit is accompanied by the preservation of puppy hairs and the absence of primary guard hairs.

  • Portosystemic Shunt:

When an aberrant link between both the pulmonary veins or one of the branches and another vein persists or arises, it allows blood to bypass or shunt around the liver.

Congenital portosystemic shunt is the most common birth abnormality that results in a liver shunt. Due to the liver’s inability to filter and store these molecules after they are reabsorbed, dogs with hepatic shunts have higher blood levels of bile acid.

3. How do Special Needs Dogs Get Along with Others?

Many pets with special needs rarely find a caring home, making them some of the hardest animals for organizations and rescue organizations to place for adoption. Your ideal partner, though, may just rely on her own set of wheels to go about or use visual orders rather than vocal ones.

Pets with special needs can adjust to their new lives and homes and still have love to share. Though adopting one might be more gratifying, a dog with special needs can be similar to any other pet in most ways.

Since the animal wants nothing in return save a little extra sensitive loving care, you are performing a task that many people would not.

The finest service you can do for special needs dogs besides extending your arms and home to them is to offer them regular veterinary treatment. Special needs pets deserve the same love they give you unreservedly.

There are other ways to help these incredible creatures even if you aren’t ready to adopt a special needs dog or cat. No matter how a dog got to be a special needs pet—through birth, sickness, accident, aging, or abuse—they have a lot to teach us about perseverance and unconditional love.

Some ways to help these adorable creatures:

1. Managing Your Special Pup’s Condition:

There will undoubtedly be ups and downs in owning a pet, but caring for a handicapped pet can carry a far heavier burden.

Although there are many substantial benefits, the difficulties might be too great. Because disabled animals need extra supervision and care, the owner and the pet have a special attachment.

The requirements of your pet will necessitate more resources and, frequent, changes in your way of life. The safety of dogs with special requirements may often necessitate special measures within the home. This could entail setting up internal security cameras, closing off staircases, and more.

You should have compassion, time, and additional love since it takes a lot of time for them to adjust. Making ensuring you have a backup is important when you own a dog who requires particular care. Ensure someone is present to take care of your pet in case of an emergency while you are gone.

2. Planning Health Care For Your Special Needs Dog:

Pet owners must first determine what exactly their canine buddy is afflicted with to provide the proper treatment for a dog with a condition like Down’s, and for that purpose genetic testing is accessible.

Most canines with an aberrant chromosomal count will require lifelong care. Adopting a dog with a congenital heart condition, dwarfism, or hydrocephalus entails a lot of care, effort, and money, as every pet owner should be aware.

You may prepare for adequate care in several ways for your special needs dog or dog.

  • Improve Their Living Space:

Persons who care for people with special needs also live in a safe environment. Likewise, take care of them by first protecting their dwelling space.                                                                                                        Remove any impediments or obstacles that the dog could encounter and run into that could damage them.   

Allow your dog to roam freely throughout the home, but be certain to always keep a close watch on them in case they get into mischief.

  • Regular Check-ups:

While the majority of mature, healthy dogs need to see the vet once a year, this is not the case for dogs with illnesses similar to Down syndrome in people. The ideal schedule for this is about once three to four months.                                                                                       

That may appear to be a lot, but it’s impossible to predict what changes the puppy’s brain will undergo, especially as it becomes older. Canines with either complete or partial neurological or hormonal problems have a reduced life expectancy since they often live only about half as long as healthy dogs.   

Regular visits to the veterinarian help pet owners extend their dog’s life since all medical issues are simpler to address when they are caught early.

  • Food, Water, and Comfort:

A dog with specific requirements must always have access to tasty treats and fresh, high-quality pet food. They may occasionally eat excessively or consume too much water.                                                                   

You must be careful since it can be the other way on the following day. These animals frequently experience pain, thus the dog’s resting arrangement ought to be as cozy as possible.

  • Patience:

Along with any physical limitations, animals with Down-like disorder can be challenging to teach.                                                                 

In reality, training seldom works in their situation, therefore patience is very important. Do not attempt to push your dog to perform tricks; nervousness is more likely to develop in dogs with genetic issues.

  • Attention:

Humans and special needs Dogs can coexist peacefully, but you do need to take into account that since their mental development is different from that of typical dogs, they might occasionally become hostile.                                                                                                       

Any natural items you might use to comfort and relax your dog should always be considered. If you own a dog with a violent past and some young children live in your home, try to keep a watch on the dog’s activities as much as you can to be on the safer side of things. Teach your children to play safely.

  • Enough Exercises:

Exercise may be a little challenging for dogs with any genetic abnormality, but that doesn’t imply you should ignore it entirely.

They could also be in poor heart condition. So, even if dog owners shouldn’t overdo it, a dog still needs to get some modest exercise to maintain a healthy physique.

Give your dog as many walks and massages as you can during the day, take it slow and go cautiously. A dog with unique requirements can be kept satisfied significantly with the correct toy.

4. Best Down Syndrome Treatment Options

Because homeopathy treats so many different facets of your dog, it has its classification of treatment. And it’s specially designed for pets with a variety of ailments.

It’s a non-invasive method of managing your dog’s continuing health under the direction of a knowledgeable homeopath. This includes discomfort, orthopedic concerns, digestive and organ problems, hormone deficits, and more. Regularly seeing your homeopath reduces the need for ongoing medication treatment.

There are several medications your regular vet may recommend for issues with your dog who has Down syndrome which include:

  • It’s advisable to avoid using them though. The health of your dog is already in danger. Instead of testing it, you want to increase his stamina, range of motion, immunity, and organ performance.
  • While antibiotics may appear to address your dog’s issue, this is simply a temporary fix. In the long term, they might make the disease worse and spread it further.
  • Because vaccinations are only given to healthy dogs, giving them to your dog if his health is already poor might make things worse.
  • Additionally, unpleasant responses are a possibility with any immunizations. Because vaccinations are only given to healthy dogs, giving them to your dog if his health is already poor might make things worse. 

You may use herbs, either fresh or dried, as appetite stimulants if the dog lacks appetite. Alfalfa, dill, mustard, ginger, and peppermint help entice dogs with specific needs to eat.

As additional flavorful and nourishing ingredients, you may also add garlic, green tripe, or even bone broth. You should do frequent detoxes if your dog has to take any prescription drugs or has had vaccinations.

So your dog would benefit from a detox performed many times a year. It purifies the kidneys, skin, liver, and gastrointestinal tract—systems the body employs each day to keep itself clean. Some complementary therapies may work well together to provide your dog with the long-term respite he requires.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can an animal have Down’s syndrome?

Even while certain animals can experience the same chromosomal problems as humans, they cannot develop the same type of Down syndrome found in humans.

2. Can animals have autism?

Some animals do exhibit characteristics of autism, such as an impulse for repetitive behaviour or unusual social tendencies.

3. Can a dog be autistic?

Dogs can develop autism spectrum disorders, which are known as CDB – Canine Dysfunctional Behaviour.

EndNote

You must nourish your dog’s microbiota if you want to maintain good intestinal health. This is how beneficial bacteria keep harmful bacteria in check.

Additionally, if your dog is infected, use natural therapies rather than antibiotics, which upset your dog’s microbiome’s delicate equilibrium. You can improve your dog’s general health by treating all of his symptoms, not just his discomfort.

  1. Hattori, Masahira, et al. “The DNA sequence of human chromosome 21.” Nature 405.6784 (2000): 311-319. ↩︎
  2. Antonarakis, Stylianos E., et al. “Down syndrome.” Nature Reviews Disease Primers 6.1 (2020): 9. ↩︎
  3. Peck, Sheldon, Leena Peck, and Matti Kataja. “The palatally displaced canine as a dental anomaly of genetic origin.” The Angle Orthodontist 64.4 (1994): 250-256. ↩︎
  4. Keinan, David, Patricia Smith, and Uri Zilberman. “Prenatal growth acceleration in maxillary deciduous canines of children with Down syndrome: histological and chemical composition study.” archives of oral biology 52.10 (2007): 961-966. ↩︎
  5. Diaz-Espineira, M. M., et al. “Thyrotropin-releasing hormone-induced growth hormone secretion in dogs with primary hypothyroidism.” Domestic animal endocrinology 34.2 (2008): 176-181. ↩︎
  6. Bojanić, K., E. Acke, and B. R. Jones. “Congenital hypothyroidism of dogs and cats: a review.” New Zealand veterinary journal 59.3 (2011): 115-122. ↩︎
  7. Tsai, Kate L., Leigh Anne Clark, and Keith E. Murphy. “Understanding hereditary diseases using the dog and human as companion model systems.” Mammalian Genome 18 (2007): 444-451. ↩︎

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