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Chondrodysplasia in Dogs

Canine Chondrodysplasia: What is it?

Chondrodysplasia, also known as canine dwarfism, is a recessive genetic defect found in purebred dogs. This disorder causes the abnormal growth of cartilage and results in the disproportionate growth of a dog’s limbs, which causes dwarfism. In addition, the chondrodysplasia gene changes the way joints develop and the speed at which they grow, resulting in disproportionate growth and other possible health issues. 

Symptoms of Chondrodysplasia in Dogs

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  • Legs proportionate to each other but not to the dogs body
  • Slow or total lack of growth in a puppy
  • Protruding lower jaw
  • Crowding teeth
  • Crocked spine
  • Bowed front legs
  • Short or disproportionate stature
  • Heart issues

Typically you won’t be able to notice the chondrodysplastic traits when the puppy is first born, and the physical symptoms will develop as the dog grows. This is because their bones will not grow at the same speed as a “healthy” dog. 

In some breeds, the truncated, shorter limbs are encouraged to meet “breed standards.” For example, this is often seen in dachshunds and corgis. However, this practice can negatively impact the breed and lead to severe health and mobility problems within the breed. 

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Is Canine Dwarfism Fatal?

Wally is a Corgi showing his proper fit in his Walkin' Wheels

Dwarfism is not fatal. Many dogs with chondrodysplasia have continued to be bred to encourage the recessive trait. This practice is common in breeds like Basset Hounds, Corgis, and Dachshunds. However, for dogs who aren’t specifically bred to be dwarfs, you will notice at 5-6 months of age that they have stopped growing and aren’t developing as normal.

Dogs can live extremely normal healthy lives with chondrodysplasia, but you will want to be extra cautious with your dog’s health; they are more likely to suffer from heart abnormalities, joint pain, and decreased bone density. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, canine dwarfism can shorten a dog’s life and impact its quality of life. Therefore, your dog must receive regular Veterinary care and treatment for the condition. A dog with minor complications from chondrodysplasia can lead a reasonably comfortable life. 

However, monitoring his weight is essential, as a dog with dwarfism is prone to obesity, making living with this condition a challenge. Excess weight will lead to more pressure on your dog’s joints which are already smaller and holding more weight than they should. Keeping your dog trim and exercising will help lessen the risk of arthritis and joint pain. 

Back Problems in Dogs with Chondrodysplasia

Dogs with Chondrodysplasia have an increased risk for disc degeneration and a condition known as IVDD. Calcification and premature disc deuteriation can begin in dogs as young as 1 year old. These spinal disc abnormalities are prone to herniate, which can lead to severe back pain and even paralysis. Pet parents caring for a dog with dwarfism need to be aware of this risk. Monitoring your dog’s weight and how they’re supported can help prevent back issues.

Treatment Options

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Dwarf dogs could have some of the symptoms of dwarfism corrected with surgery, but it is usually not rewarding and tends to only cause complications with early arthritis down the line. Your Vet may recommend pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, and joint supplements, as bone deformities can cause significant pain for your dog.

In some cases, chondrodysplasia can lead to mobility problems. In theses case, an assistive device or dog wheelchair can help keep the pet active and reduce joint pressure. The support of a wheelchair reduces the strain placed on a dog’s legs and provide the support they need to walk normally. Many dwarf dogs will need a full support wheelchair so that they are supported in the front and back legs. Unfortunately, there is no definitive treatment for chondrodysplasia, and every dog’s treatment plan will vary.

As dogs with dwarfism age, there can be an increased risk for severe arthritis, obesity, and joint pain. However, regular Veterinary care, a healthy diet, and lots of exercise can significantly improve their quality of life and overall health as they age.

One comment

  1. It’s important to note that some breeds are predisposed to chondrodysplasia such as the Basset Hound, Corgi, and Dachshund, but it can also occur in other breeds and even in mixed-breed dogs. I appreciate your article.

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