Short spine syndrome is, as you might have probably guessed, a condition that affects the spine. There is a severe shortening of the length of the spine, which usually leads to physical deformities and some reduction in agility. Different cases will come with differing levels of severity.
Thankfully, the genetic condition is classed as rare. According to reports, only around thirty cases of short spine syndrome in dogs have ever been reported across the globe.
- What Exactly is Short Spine Syndrome in Dogs?
- Signs of Canine Short Spine Syndrome
- Can Canine Short Spine Syndrome Be Cured?
- Treatments for a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome
- How to Take Care of a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome
- What is the Life Expectancy of a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome?
- Famous Short Spine Dogs
What Exactly is Short Spine Syndrome in Dogs?
Scientists and researchers are actually in a debate over what short spine syndrome actually is. For the longest time, it was considered to be a generic condition, but there seems to be a link between inbreeding and short spine syndrome, too.
Being a ‘supposed’ genetic condition (an abnormal genetic mutation), dogs are born with short spine syndrome. It is not something that arises as a result of trauma.
According to research, the vertebrae in the spine are made up of bone and cartilage. In the case of short-spine dogs, the cartilage doesn’t turn into bone, a process known as ossifying. Because of this, some of the individual vertebrae then come together and end up fusing together, causing the shortening. It also causes serious stability issues, not only with mobility but also in the spine itself.
Signs of Canine Short Spine Syndrome
In adult dogs, the signs of canine short spine syndrome are obvious: the shape of the dog resembles that of the classic hunchback look. The neck is reduced, almost missing entirely, and the dog almost looks ‘squashed’ in nature. This is all down to the shortening of the spine, a condition that can affect humans too. Cats and horses can also be afflicted with short spine syndrome.
Although the symptoms of the condition are a little less obvious in puppies, they are still quite clear. Dogs will have short spine syndrome from birth.
Other common symptoms in both puppies and adult dogs include:
- Hunchback appearance;
- No discernible neck;
- Very short, missing, or spiraled tails (particularly when unnatural for the breed);
- Large, oval chest shape – often described as ‘barrel-chested’;
- Reduced agility compared to other dogs;
- Fewer ribs;
- Inability to turn the head left/right.
Short Spine Syndrome or Kyphosis in Dogs?
Although the two conditions can seem similar at first glance, kyphosis in a dog is different from short spine syndrome. Kyphosis is usually temporary and indicates that the poor pup is experiencing either spine or back pain or gastrointestinal problems.
Can Canine Short Spine Syndrome Be Cured?
A dog with short spine syndrome cannot be cured as such. Medical procedures can be done to target and resolve certain aspects of the condition, but for the most part, because of how rare and complex the condition is, treatment is mostly maintenance related.
Short spine syndrome starts in the genes, so gene therapy and manipulation would be required to cure it. Maybe one day medical science will get there, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.
Treatments for a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome
Although there is no cure for short spine syndrome in dogs, your vet will likely recommend a range of treatments to make life easier and happier for both you and your pet. This might include physiotherapy and surgery, pain relief and other types of medication, and perhaps even modifications around the home.
As the pooch ages, it is likely that the condition will become more debilitating. Paralysis, either partial or complete, can become a problem in later stages and ages.
How to Take Care of a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome
If you are considering adopting a puppy or dog with short spine syndrome, there is a very high chance that you will need to make modifications around your home. Constant monitoring, for example, is sometimes necessary, so you may need to invest in an interactive pet camera that allows you to check on your pet in real time, no matter whether you’re at home or not.
Pets with this condition will often struggle to get around, aren’t able to eat from bowls on the floor, and sometimes aren’t even able to scratch their own itches. This means you/your household will be responsible for taking over those tasks.
Dogs with short spine syndrome often need raised feeding bowls, bedding that allows them to find comfort and warmth (you may need to try a few), and toilet training pads. The inability to squat or sometimes raises a leg means that going to the toilet is almost impossible. Doggy diapers might be necessary.
Limited movement and agility will obviously make exercising more difficult, but your dog will still need exercise, so you’ll need to find a way to make that work. Your vet will be able to advise you, of course, but a lot of it will come down to your pet and their specific case of short spine syndrome. The symptoms of the condition in one dog aren’t always exactly the same as the symptoms in another.
Read more: 7 Critical Signs Your Pet Needs Immediate Veterinary Attention
What is the Life Expectancy of a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome?
The life expectancy of a dog with this condition will differ from case to case. Some dogs will lead long, healthy, and happy lives; but others will succumb to the condition and the symptoms that come with it.
According to reports, the highest age reached by a pup with this condition is 14 years. That is pretty typical for most dog breeds, which goes to show that life-altering conditions do not always equate to a shorter life expectancy.
It is, sadly, sometimes recommended to have a dog with short spine syndrome put to sleep. This will be the advised course of action when the poor pooch has no or reduced quality of life or is in constant pain that doesn’t seem to respond well to pain relief. This condition can also affect eating,sleeping, and even breathing, with differing levels of severity.
Famous Short Spine Dogs
There are a few famous (or infamous) short spine dogs, especially on social media. If you do a little search for terms like ‘short spine dog TikTok’ or ‘dog with short spine’ on Instagram, you’ll likely meet one or two doggos that have amassed quite the following.
Here are a few accounts raising awareness for the canine short spine condition:
Danko – a golden retriever with short spine syndrome.
Coopie La Poop – a hound with short spine syndrome.
Squishy – a Utah-based pup with short spine syndrome, taking the internet by storm.
Ivy – a pit bull with short spine syndrome that has the grumpiest face!
Momo – just a pup living the Florida-loving’ life with short spine syndrome.
Disabilities in dogs can be life-altering, but it doesn’t mean that they need to be life-ending. There are several healthy pups with short spine syndrome living around the world, and the more researchers come across and learn about it, the more they can discover about the seemingly unknown condition.