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Health & Wellness

Does my dog have short spine syndrome?

Very few dogs are affected by short spine syndrome.

Dogs’ bodies grow in various shapes and sizes depending on their breed and age. But there’s an extremely rare condition called short spine syndrome, where a shortened spine makes full-grown pups look like they have a short torso and no neck.

Affectionately dubbed “frog dogs,” these pups are healthy and can usually live similarly to a regular-sized dog with a bit of support from their people.

If you think your pet has short spine syndrome, then they’re one of only a couple in the world. Keep reading to learn how to help these pups live comfortably. 

What’s short spine syndrome in dogs? 

“Short spine syndrome is a very rare genetic disease that causes fusion of vertebral bones in the spine and a shortened, compressed spine as a result,” Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

According to Dr. Singler, only 30 dogs worldwide are affected with this condition, and they often have a much shorter body length and appear to have almost no neck, while their legs and heads remain a regular size. 

Because of their unique size, dogs with short spine syndrome might find it harder to do certain things, like turn their heads to scratch an itch or climb onto furniture, so you’ll want to offer support where you can. But, despite their short spine, they’re known to act like any other dog and enjoy playtime, cuddles and meals. 

Causes of short spine syndrome in dogs

A genetic mutation is responsible for short spine syndrome, resulting in the vertebrae — or bones in the spine — not forming properly and later fusing together. Because there are so few dogs affected with the condition, the specific mutation isn't yet known, Dr. Singler explains.

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How is short spine syndrome in dogs diagnosed?

Since short spine syndrome is a genetic disposition, dogs with the condition will be born with it, which may be obvious in puppyhood. Diagnosis happens through a veterinarian's physical examination, which may include X-rays to further evaluate the bones in the spine and document fused vertebrae.

Does short spine syndrome affects a dog's quality of life?

“Short spine syndrome can result in pain, mobility challenges and possibly other problems,” Dr. Singler shares. “Affected dogs may not be able to be as active, they may need to rest more and a very soft, supportive bed to rest on.”

Dogs with short spine syndrome should regularly visit their veterinarian to be checked for any other problems, and their parents should monitor them closely for any signs of complications as they age.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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