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Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome - What a Pet Owner Needs to Know

Updated on July 30, 2015

Dogs and humans share a number of diseases which are treatable. Some of these are epilepsy, diabetes and cancer. There are some genetic conditions that even dogs can have, too. One of these is Down Syndrome and article covers can dogs have down syndrome

What Is Down Syndrome

It is a genetic condition most known for its main symptoms; abnormal physical qualities coupled with learning difficulties and/or developmental issues. This happens when an extra chromosome is present in Chromosome 21, leading to slow mental and physical development. This becomes evident a year or two into the dog's life. It will show mental slowness and physical abnormalities. The missing chromosome affects the developing fetus in the womb.

It doesn't affect its survival rate directly but it causes poor formation of body parts and organs. Down Syndrome is the only defect, related with chromosomes, that can affect any mammal. It is not contagious or can be developed; it is passed on through genes. It is rare in dogs because puppies with Down Syndrome are naturally aborted during pregnancy, in the early stages.

Down Syndrome Treatment and Facts for Dogs
Down Syndrome Treatment and Facts for Dogs | Source

Question: Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome?

Simple answer for Question- Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome? is Yes, dogs can have down syndrome just the same as humans. It is possible to tell if your dog has down syndrome although signs and symptoms are not immediately noticeable in some cases. Signs, even the physical ones, don't usually appear until after a few years from birth.

Down Syndrome - Signs and Symptoms

It can be difficult to tell whether a dog has down syndrome or not. This is mainly because the symptoms it shows are similar to that of other illnesses. For example, healthy dogs have moist noses while those who are sick have dry ones. No matter what the condition or disease is, the dog will show this symptom. In determining whether the dog does have down syndrome, observe its general behavior and look out for these signs:

Poor Eyesight
Because of poor development, dogs with down syndrome have very poor eyesight. There is even when a dog develops cataract in one or both eyes.

Down Syndrome - The Unusual Physical or Facial Features

Those with down syndrome have a common symptom which is deformed, almost dwarf-like, facial features. Certain abnormal face features include:

  • Short neck
  • Unusually small head
  • Flat-like face
  • Eyes that slant upward
  • Abnormally-shaped ears

Dogs with down syndrome always have dry and warm noses. Some have abnormal skin patches while others suffer from frequent shedding or hair loss. Most dogs also are born with deformed legs or incomplete ones.

Hearing Problems
This symptom is not easy to notice but in a pack, a dog with down syndrome is the slowest to react or follow commands.

Congenital Heart Disease
This condition appears in dogs with down syndrome because the circulatory system developed with an abnormal formation.

Random Pains
Since the development of a dog with down syndrome is greatly affected, most of its body parts may have formed abnormally, including the internal organs. This causes the dog to wail in pain occasionally.

Discharges
A dog with down syndrome may suffer from a gamut of diseases and may have bloody discharges, mostly from the rectum. This usually appears during the late stages of the syndrome.

Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome - What a Pet Owner Needs to Know
Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome - What a Pet Owner Needs to Know | Source

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Down Syndrome - Treatment and Management

Unfortunately, down syndrome in dogs cannot be treated. It is a slow but progressive condition that veterinarians can't stop or reverse. Other diseases that are developed through down syndrome like thyroid problems and heart diseases can be managed accordingly. With the indication of a veterinarian, the following management should be given for dogs with down syndrome:

  • A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle will ensure a longer life span. Dogs with down syndrome can live a normal life, even without a specialist treatment, but is more reserved in nature.
  • Daily exercise like morning walks, dog sports and dog training will help strengthen the dog's muscles, heart and bones. It will help prevent or manage heart disease. Dogs with down syndrome are also prone to have weak skeletal structure. It is best to ask the veterinarian as to the type of activities that will work best for your dog since too much exercise can trigger heart problems.
  • Vital nutrients will be needed to sustain the dog's daily functions and the veterinarian may give this in the form of vitamins or other medication. If the dog has a congenital heart disease or thyroid problems, proper medication will be prescribed. The medication may be expensive depending on the severity of the disease but it will greatly help in keeping the dog's system well-functioning.
  • Protein-rich food should be part of the dog's diet. Mashed beef and meat jerkies are advisable, unless the dog is allergic to certain ingredients found in processed foods. The protein will help repair and strengthen the muscles, enabling the dog to achieve mobility.

Regular checkups are a must for a dog with down syndrome. It will help the veterinarian assess whether or not the current management or medication is working well. The veterinarian can also determine whether or not surgery will be required for severe cases.

Pet Health Insurance for Dogs with Down Syndrome
Pet insurances are not common among owners but some are able to take advantage of this investment. A pet health insurance for dogs does cover a lot of the procedures that a dog with down syndrome may undergo. Prescriptions, veterinarian's fees, surgeries and hospitalization treatments are included in the pet health insurance.

Generally you may have question - can dogs have down syndrome? before owning and caring for a dog with down syndrome or without down syndrome
A dog that has down syndrome may live an average of 5 years while an unaffected dog may live up to 12-15 years. It goes to say that the bond of the dog and owner will be short-lived.

Taking Full Responsibility
There is also the subject of sacrifices and taking the time to care for the affected dog. At home, the owner of a dog with down syndrome must be prepared to care for his pooch in every way possible. He should be responsible for all necessary measures in keeping the dog healthy.

Isolation
There is also the issue of keeping the sick dog away from children, sick family members and other household pets when it is starting to have bloody discharges. There is a possibility that the excretion contains potentially harmful substances. With other dogs in the house, it's important that they are potty trained, to avoid them eating excretion from the sick dog and get bacterial infections.

Sanitation
In order to keep other pets and family members healthy and safe from possible viral infection, it is necessary to regularly clean the areas where the sick dog spends its time.

Comfortable Space
Dogs with down syndrome are most likely to become incapacitated, especially with the lack of exercise and proper nutrients. In cases where the affected dog starts becoming more immobile, a comfortable bed or space should be provided.

A Chance to Mingle with Other Dogs
Socializing with others is just as important for a dog with down syndrome as getting daily exercise. It should not be hindered from other dogs in the house or neighborhood for its condition. In fact, other dogs can find out but don't mind if another dog has down syndrome.

Down syndrome itself is not contagious so there is no need to worry about having other pets in the house affected. However, the discharge of the affected dog may carry bacteria or virus and should be quickly removed and the area sanitized.

Interesting Fact

Puppies born with down syndrome already show symptoms. However, it is very difficult to notice. At birth and in the first two years, it is impossible to tell that they have the condition because they look as normal as every other puppy and symptoms are difficult to spot. One symptom for example is hyperactivity and frequent bouts of energy, ironically. The puppy does start slowing down in terms of development and physical capacity as it matures.

Down Syndrome Signs and Symptoms for Dogs
Down Syndrome Signs and Symptoms for Dogs | Source

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