There are many conditions that could affect your dog, and it could range from something as common as leptospirosis to rare diseases like hypertrophic osteopathy.

Another example of a condition that could afflict your dog is short spine syndrome. Dogs with the condition have their vertebrae compressed together, resulting in an unusually short body. Even though their heads appear normal, it’s fused with their shoulders resulting in a short, broad neck.

As for the rest of the body, your dog’s back will be sloped, and its rear legs will be longer than its front legs. The tail could either be short, docked, or missing altogether.

Due to spine compression, a dog with short spine syndrome will be smaller than the average dog. And this is because your canine’s vertebrae will never mature into a proper bone and will remain in their cartilage form. 

What are the Causes of Short Spine Syndrome?

In the past, dogs with short spine syndrome were suspected of a rare genetic phenomenon. But recent studies show that improper inbreeding might be the reason behind the condition.

The theory first appeared in the book “Genetics of the Dog,” penned by American geneticist Elaine Ostrander. The book states that female dogs with short spine syndrome have a prolonged heat or reproductive cycle than normal canines. Canines with the condition seldom get pregnant, however. And when it happens, it’s usually only limited to a single offspring.

The prevalence of inbreeding, however, could make the condition more common than it should be. After all, improper inbreeding could cause congenital disabilities and health problems like:

  • Deafness
  • Heart disease
  • Decreased immune function
  • Abnormal development of these hips or hip dysplasia
  • Shorter lifespans
  • Problems with body structure

Is There a Cure for Short Spine Syndrome in Dogs?

Currently, there’s no known cure for short spine syndrome. The medical treatment for canines diagnosed with the condition revolves around improving their quality of life.

Consider the story of Cooperan American foxhound with the condition — and how he experienced trouble urinating properly because of his fused spine. His owner said that after undergoing surgery, Cooper was able to urinate without requiring assistance. It was also a struggle for Cooper to walk on hard surfaces, so his owner made sure that Cooper only walked around soft surfaces like carpets or grass.

Another example is Quasi, a purebred German shepherd diagnosed with short spine syndrome. In 2016, Quasi’s stunted neck was clipped to help the skin heal and improve his overall quality of life. 

How Rare is Short Spine Syndrome?

Short spine syndrome is extremely rare. Current data tells us that only 30 dogs in the world have been reported with the condition. However, improper inbreeding practices could make more pooches prone to this condition.

The sad truth is that dogs with short spine syndrome often end up abandoned. For example, Cooper was only rescued in 2017 by animal control officers who found him abandoned near a puppy farm in Halifax, Virginia. Quasi had also been abandoned and was already five years old when Secondhand Hounds took him in. 

A lot of families expressed interest in adopting Quasi, but Secondhand Hounds became his permanent home. Now, he acts as an ambassador for rescue and special needs dogs. May he serve as a living example for people to put an end to improper inbreeding. 

Short Spine Syndrome: Its Impact on a Dog’s Life

Even though dogs with the condition have a compressed spine, they can still live a happy life given the proper care. Quasi and Cooper are a testament to that.

Nevertheless, it can still be challenging for dogs to carry out menial tasks like:

  • Eating and bending properly
  • Retrieving objects & playing games like fetch
  • Turning the neck to scratch
  • Running and jumping properly
  • Urinating & defecating

But even with these challenges, dogs with short spine syndrome can stay happy, as the owners of Quasi and Cooper share. After all, they are just as capable of affection as any dog.

Other Dogs with Short Spine Syndrome 

Apart from Quasi and Cooper, other dogs have been diagnosed with the condition and live happy lives. 

  • Cuda is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier from New York and the only certified therapy dog in his close circle.
  • Pig is a mixed breed from Alabama that was rescued as a pup and raised as a healthy, happy dog by owner Kim Dillenbeck.
  • Polliwog is a Russian Borzoi who was taken under the wing of veterinarian Karen Dashfield. Russian Borzois already have an elongated body, making the condition more pronounced in Polliwog’s case.
  • Watson is a Border Collie-looking dog who passed away in 2016 at 13 years of age. After his death, the owner found another dog with the same condition named Spartacus, who has the longest recorded tail among dogs with short spine syndrome. 

As mentioned earlier, dogs with the condition often end up abandoned. But with the proper love and care, taking care of a pooch with short spine syndrome can be truly rewarding and fulfilling.

Adopting a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome

Taking in a dog with special needs can be a challenging journey for most pet owners. But adopting dogs with these conditions is worth it because they are also capable of unconditional love. To learn more about other dog conditions, explore the TPLOInfo blog.

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