Down syndrome occurs when a human is born with an extra chromosome, and you might wonder if it is something your dog can be born with. The simple answer to this question is no; dogs can’t have Down syndrome. However, some genetic and congenital conditions bear similarities to Down syndrome, which means you might recognize some characteristics in your dog, in which case you’ll need to contact your vet.
Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome?
There are obviously differences between a dog’s and a human’s genetics; while dogs have 39 sets of chromosomes, we have 23. Down syndrome occurs when there is a full or partial copy of chromosome 21, but a duplication of this chromosome will have different results in two different species.
Arguably, there are various reasons why we have never seen Down syndrome in dogs. For example:
Conditions That Mimic Down Syndrome
In people with Down syndrome, the extra genetic material can have a wide range of effects. Signs can include cognitive delays, certain physical characteristics and an increased risk of some health issues. Just because we’re not entirely sure that Down syndrome exists in dogs doesn’t mean there aren’t some conditions that bear clinical similarities to it, such as:
Congenital hypothyroidism, for example, is a rare condition that results in absent or low levels of the thyroid hormone from birth, with signs apparent during your dog’s early life. Affected pups can show a variety of signs including:
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, take them to the veterinarian, where they can run tests to detect health issues and formulate a treatment plan.
Taking Care of a Dog With Additional Needs
Caring for a pet with additional needs might seem overwhelming at first, but there are certain things you can do to ensure that your dog receives the best care to keep them healthy, happy, and safe.
Dogs can’t have Down syndrome, but they can be born with several other conditions which could display similar signs, such as congenital hydrocephalus and congenital hypothyroidism. Caring for a dog with a disease that affects their mobility and cognitive function requires pet parents to maintain ongoing veterinary appointments and modify their homes to ensure their pets enjoy the highest quality of life. With the proper care and love, dogs with chronic conditions can live happily and comfortably.