Genetic disorders affect humans and animals alike, dogs included.
There is still a lot of fuss linked to research as to whether dogs, like humans, can suffer from down syndrome. However, many agree that other genetic abnormalities in dogs mimic human Down syndrome.
Both humans and dogs have different genetic materials meaning down syndrome can never occur in the same way.
Genetic defects in dogs haven't been confirmed to be the exact piece of repeated genetic material that is down syndrome in humans.
Down syndrome has been well researched, but what do we have to say about this condition in dogs?
Can a dog have Down's syndrome?
There is no solid answer as to whether genetic deformity causes down syndrome issues for dogs, but if so, it is different from that in humans.
Dogs and humans have many similarities genetically, but there are a few differences, like the number of chromosomes for each.
Both human and animal cells keep their genetic materials in pairs. Dogs have 39 sets of chromosomes while people have 23.
Chromosomes are DNA and proteins in the nucleus of animal and plant cells organized into genes which can be passed to offspring. It condenses DNA molecules to fit into the respective cells.
These chromosomes are the primary determiners of physical appearances and the tendency to develop particular diseases.
Down syndrome is a hereditary chromosomal condition meaning it is present at birth.
It is caused by a full or partial copy of chromosome 21 when cells don't divide properly, giving 47 chromosomes instead of the regular 46.
An extra chromosome produces an embryo that can't grow or develop. Still, an additional 21 partial or entirely copied chromosomes results in an embryo that grows into a baby with certain unusual features.
A wrong number of chromosomes affects physical and psychological development in humans and animals.
How do you know when a dog has Down Syndrome?
The down syndrome condition has not yet been described in dogs, but dogs with chromosomal peculiarity, whether linked to chromosome 21 or not, have low chances of survival.
It is difficult for these dogs to defend themselves from lurking dangers and eat and drink properly.
No particular cause of down syndrome in dogs is revealed by studies, such as diseases or transmittable pathogens. It is just a genetic disorder making puppies have an extra copy of standard chromosomal sets.
The first signs of down syndrome appear early but are evident at 1-2 years, when the puppy should be fully grown. It exhibits slowness and physical defects which may not affect its survival.
Down syndrome symptoms in dogs include:
- Poor eyesight, which cataracts may accompany
- Hearing difficulties make them slow reacting to cues
- Congenital heart disease
- Thyroid issues are imposed by unstable body temperature and damaged metabolism.
- Poor muscle tone and abnormal organ growth, which may be painful
- Urinary health issues such as kidney failure
- Bloody discharge from the rectum caused by poor digestion and excretion
- Odd behaviours such as wailing, howling or whining excessively
- Skin problems due to the weakened immune system and liver functions
- Incomprehensible weight gain
- Infrequent diarrhoea and vomiting
- Abnormal physical features of a small head and neck, odd skin patches, dry and warm nose, incomplete or deformed legs, upwardly slanting eyes, constant hair loss, unusual ear shapes and definite facial features of a broad nose.
How long do Down syndrome dogs live?
Most puppies with chromosomal disorders die earlier in life or before they are born; if they are, doctors don't let them live for long.
Sometimes puppies cause their death due to trauma they experience during birth.
In other instances, the puppy may die from being neglected by its mother, who tends to isolate the sick puppy from the others. Sometimes she may kill them
If a dog is struggling with growth or cognitive delays, there could be several other genetic abnormalities affecting them similar to down syndrome, including:
- Congenital Hypothyroidism: It is caused by low levels or no thyroid hormone at birth or early in life. It affects organ development, functions and metabolism. When the thyroid responsible for T3 and T4 hormones fail to produce them, the dog's metabolic rate-controlling energy regulation is lowered.
Its symptoms include; a sizeable protruding tongue, short limbs, poor muscle tone, poor eyesight, hearing problems, cognitive delays, thin hair coating, retarded opening of ears and eyes, broad head and odd facial features, irregular gait, delayed tooth eruption, sudden weight gain, slow heart rate and small stature because of slow growth.
Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Airedale Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer and Dachshund are some of dog breeds prone to this condition.
- Pituitary Dwarfism: It is a recessive disorder caused by growth hormone deficiency. Dogs with this condition are small in physical stature. Another hypothesis is that hormones decrease impairing functions of the thyroid, reproductive system and adrenal glands prone to kidney failure.
Its symptoms are; bilateral alopecia, retarded growth, small physical stature (mostly short limbs), and urinary health problems. It is prone to some dogs of hybrid breeds and german shepherds.
- Congenital Heart Disease: This condition develops over time, and causes can vary from genetic to environmental. Electrocardiogram (electrically recorded heart activity), physical examinations, echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) and x-rays help diagnose this condition and gauge its severity.
Its symptoms depend on how severe the condition is; for example when fluids gather in the lungs, the dog coughs a lot, and if they are in the abdomen, the dog will be plump.
This causes difficulty when breathing, and the dog becomes less active.
- Congenital Hydrocephalus: This is an unusual amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, causing a lot of pressure on the dog's central nervous system. Dogs can acquire this condition or develop it from fungal and viral infections. Nervous system tumours can also cause it.
Its symptoms include; depressed and sad facial features (wide-set eyes), domed or font el skull appearance, convulsions, spasms or seizures, housetraining difficulties, extremely poor eyesight or complete blindness and erratic behaviour (pacing, circling and restlessness).
- Portosystemic Shunt: This condition can be acquired or congenital. It is an abnormal vessel that allows normal digestive blood to divert to the liver and flow into the systemic circulation.
Its symptoms are; poor muscle tone, periodic vomiting and diarrhoea, random disorientation, cycling and other behavioural signs, and increased urination due to excessive water consumption.
- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: This behavioural syndrome is mainly evident in older dogs. They show signs of disorientation and change communications with their owners, other pets and their environment.
Generally, genetic testing to point out dogs suffering from down syndrome hasn't been done yet, but another genetic disorder testing is available in special facilities.
Chromosomal abnormalities are congenital, meaning they have no cure. A veterinarian only conducts examinations to confirm if your dog has special needs. Palliative treatment is often done to ease the dog's pain and upgrade their health.
Always notify your vet of possible clinical signs seen in your dog for immediate attention.
How do you care for a down syndrome dog?
Unfortunately, dogs have no cures for genetic disorders, but this should not stop pet owners from treating their dogs and giving them the special care needed.
- Enhance the dog's living space by removing barriers that may hinder their movements. You can install baby gates and dog-friendly furniture.
- Take the dog outside more often to curb understanding potty training challenges and use dog diapers while indoors.
- Feed the dog a high-quality, balanced diet, mainly proteins and raw diets, providing enough amino acids for strengthening and repairing muscles. Digestive enzymes and probiotics also help their digestive system absorb nutrients.
- Regular checkups by a vet for maintenance and keep up with tests and medications.
- Routine exercises with guidelines from a vet to help strengthen the dog's heart and bones
- Use dog-safe cleaning products, especially on floors and beddings
- Apply sunscreen to the missing hair patches on your dog
- Assist your dog's gut health
- Consider giving the dog constant attention as their brain development differs from regular dogs. You ought to be patient with them and be aware of demanding behaviour.
- Try avoiding vaccinations as they may worsen the already present disorders in your dog.
- Detox your dog several times a year with spring water, glutathione, antioxidants, B-Complex vitamins and milk thistle.
- Please do not use your dog for breeding because they will likely die from the pregnancy.
- Ensure to put the dog's containers in the freezer to kill allergens
How safeguard may help:
Safe Guard soil-based pre+probiotics are essential for promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the dog's gut responsible for hormone and enzyme production that assists digestion.
Good bacteria control the harmful illness-causing bacteria, improving the dog's gut balance.
Immunity organic mushroom mix is a vet-approved blend containing antioxidants, vitamins B and D, and minerals that help strengthen a dog's immune system.
Dogs with down syndrome and genetic disorders, in general, are few and need love, affection and constant medical care.
There is no specific cure for these conditions, but there are ways to manage them. It is important to note that dogs with genetic defects will require lifetime care, and a lot of hard work, effort and money will be involved.
Apart from the primary defect, the dog may develop other health problems which may affect them to a point when they are unaware of what they are doing.
The dog owner must try and help their dog whenever and wherever with regular vet checkups, diagnostic and medication plans, routine exercises and healthy balanced diets.
Dogs with genetic abnormalities are special dogs which can lead happy and healthy lives with extra love and care.