Can Dogs Have Down Syndrome?

down syndrome dogs

When it comes to diseases and health issues, there are many overlaps between humans and dogs. Both suffer from seizure disorders, cancer and diabetes, and many others. But what about down syndrome dogs?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition associated with cognitive delays and physical characteristics. It carries a high risk of health issues.

If you notice that your pooch has some traits of Down Syndrome, you might be wondering whether it is possible for dogs to have down syndrome.

We will answer all your doubts in this post. Keep scrolling.

Before jumping onto whether dogs have down syndrome or not, let’s take a quick overview of what down syndrome really is.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused due to abnormal cell division resulting in a partial or full copy of Chromosome 21. This extra genetic material leads to developments and physical feature changes.

People with down syndrome have slanting eyes, flattened faces with minor to major intellectual disabilities, and developmental delays. These people may also suffer from other medical issues like heart defects, eye disease, hearing loss, etc. 

Can dogs have down syndrome?

There is no exact answer to this question. Scientists have speculated that dogs, tigers, apes, and other animals have genetic clusters defect which resembles down syndrome. Few veterinarians say that down syndrome exists in puppies and dogs; however, it is different from Down syndrome in humans.

Usually, a down syndrome puppy dies either before or right after birth. The trauma experienced during birth is too intense for the puppy causing his death. 

Down syndrome symptoms in dogs start to appear after one or two years; in puppies, it starts as minor physical abnormalities and mental slowness in the early stages. The disorder does not have any impact on their survival rate, but it causes poor development of body parts and organs. 

The down syndrome puppy may end up dying in a few days because of his incapability of feeding himself. Another reason for death at a young age is because their mother neglects them. In certain cases, the mother even kills the abnormal puppy.

In general, the average life of dogs with down syndrome is five years, while the healthy ones live for 10 to 15 years. 

Conditions that Look Like Down Syndrome in Dogs

Congenital hypothyroidism is caused due to low or absence of thyroid hormone in early life or from birth. This results in a combination of symptoms, as mentioned below.

  • Slow growth resulting in small stature
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Short limbs
  • Large, protruding tongue
  • Cognitive delay
  • Delayed opening of the eyes and ears

Other conditions in dogs that are easily confused with Down syndrome are:

  • Pituitary dwarfism
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Growth hormone deficiency
  • Congenital hydrocephalus

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above in your pet, take them to the vet. They will recommend a proper diagnostic plan to check if they have any health issues and what treatments are required. 

Signs and Symptoms

Aside from the above-mentioned points, there are some other common symptoms of down syndrome in dogs. It is important to detect these symptoms early so that you can take proper actions in the initial stage. 

While it becomes a little difficult to detect these signs, you need to be observant. For instance, a healthy dog always has a moist nose while sick dogs have dry noses. 

If you want to see whether your dog has down syndrome, note the following symptoms:

Poor Eyesight

As down syndrome dogs have poor development, they tend to have poor eyesight. A down syndrome puppy is also at risk of developing cataracts in one or maybe both eyes. Check for any sign of cloudiness in the dog’s eyes, as it may be an indication of a cataract. 

Unusual Physical or Physical Feature

Down syndrome dogs have dwarf-like or deformed features. Some common abnormalities like a flat face, short neck, upturned slanting eyes, small head, and abnormally shaped ears. In addition to this, they also have abnormal skin patches, incomplete or deformed legs, and also suffer from hair loss.

Hearing Problems

While this is hard to notice symptoms, a down syndrome dog will have the slowest reaction to your commands.

Congenital Heart Disease

Heart diseases are evident in down syndrome dogs as they suffer from an abnormal circulatory system and are born with malformations. 

Random Pain

The entire body of a down syndrome puppy is affected, which is why they develop abnormal internal organs. This can at times cause them extreme pain in different body parts. 


As they are prone to getting other diseases, in some cases, dogs with down syndrome experience blood discharge from the rectum. This usually happens at the later stages of the syndrome. 

Skin Problems

Many dogs with down syndrome also suffer from various skin problems. Aside from having missing patches and abnormal areas, they also shed heavily. Usually, they are allergic to minor irritants and can develop other health issues.

Thyroid Issues

Down syndrome dogs suffer from malfunctioning thyroid, which causes them to have temperature or metabolism issues. Generally, these dogs have low body temperature as compared to normal dogs.

Behavioral Issues

Down syndrome dogs show odd behaviors and traits like howling, wailing, and whining. A down syndrome puppy does not advance as quickly through development stages. They are difficult to potty train and feed. Also, it is difficult for them to control their bladders. These dogs may go out and come back into pee on the carpet. You need a lot of patience to deal with such dogs.

How To Take care of your special needs dog?

If your dog is diagnosed with special needs, here are some of the steps that you can take to keep them safe, healthy, and happy.

  • Schedule regular vet visits 

Special needs dogs need frequent checkups to stay healthy. Make sure to get regular appointments with your vet and do follow-up tests, checkups and treatments. 

  • Safeguard your environment

If your dog suffers from intellectual delays, make sure that you keep them in a safe environment. Your dog should have easy space and be free of any dangerous obstacles. Try to put gates near stairs to prevent any fall or injury. 

  • Feed them a proper diet

Like any other dog, down syndrome dogs need proper nutrition. Remember to feed a well-balanced diet so that your body gets enough nutrients to function at the highest possible level.

It’s okay if your dog has special needs.

Having a special needs dog or pet is okay! While you would want them to stay tip-top with their health, there is no reason why a down syndrome puppy cannot live a long, happy life. Remember to keep an eye for any symptoms so that you can start early treatment and give them special attention and love to feel their best. 


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