Can Dogs Get Down Syndrome?

There are many conditions that dogs and humans share. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down Syndrome occurs in every one in 700 human babies each year. This comes to about 6,000 children a year. Down Syndrome in humans is a chromosomal condition. It is caused by an abnormality in the number of chromosomes a baby has when they are born. Human babies are typically born with 46 (23 pairs) of chromosomes, while babies with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome 21. This can cause many different physical characteristics. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these characteristics include:

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose

  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up

  • A short neck

  • Small ears

  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth

  • Tiny white spots on the iris (colored part) of the eye

  • Small hands and feet

  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)

  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb

  • Poor muscle tone or loose joints

  • Shorter in height as children and adults

Humans also have mental characteristics caused by Down Syndrome. Many adults with Down Syndrome function at the level of a 9-year-old child.

Can Dogs Get Down Syndrome?


The answer to this question is not quite as clear as some of the other conditions that humans and dogs share. Dogs (because they are a different species and all) do not have the same chromosomal makeup as humans. Dogs, like any other living being, are capable of having chromosomal abnormalities while the fetus is growing, but the condition is not necessarily called ‘Down Syndrome’. There is not much research comparing this condition in humans and dogs.

Does My Dog Have Down Syndrome?

One of the sad reasons that a chromosomal condition is rarely seen in dogs is that they often do not survive the puppy stage. The harsh environment of the world is hard on the health of these puppies because they typically do not have the same organ development that other puppies have. If the puppy survives these factors, the veterinarian caring for the puppy often humanely euthanizes the animal because of the complications that can come with this condition.

Because your dog can’t talk to you, and because it is so rare, diagnosing a chromosomal abnormality in your dog can be hard. There are several signs to look for. If the puppy does live to be an adult dog, physically, he or she might have irregular facial features. Mentally, these dogs will exhibit slow learning and motor functions. Health conditions that are directly related to this condition are congenital heart disease, hearing problems, poor eyesight, and thyroid problems. These are all good indicators that your dog might have a disease much like Down Syndrome.

Although this condition is fairly rare in dogs, there are more cases of missing or added chromosomes in both dogs and cats. 

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Down Syndrome?

Like many hereditary conditions, Down Syndrome has no cure. Because this condition causes low functioning organs, you can take special care in your dog’s diet, being very careful to read the labels of your pet food. You can also be aware of any of the above-named symptoms (congenital heart disease, hearing problems, poor eyesight, and thyroid problems), and treat each one of these conditions separately. There are many supplements and medications for these conditions. You can visit with your veterinarian to see what combination of these would be best for your specific dog.

Here are some ideas of how to treat some of the symptoms listed above:

Heart Defect (Congenital) in Dogs

Hearing Loss in Dogs

Thyroid Gland Disorder in Dogs

Because of their slower mental function, it is important to train your dog with this in mind. Be patient and remember that your dog takes special care. Most importantly, care for your special needs dog with as much love as possible. Remember that it is rare for these dogs to live to adulthood and treat your situation as such.

How is Down Syndrome Similar in Dogs and Humans?

The similarities in Down Syndrome across the board, from dogs to humans, are in the physical and mental symptoms. These symptoms or characteristics are:

  • Abnormal facial characteristics

  • Slower developing/functioning organs

  • Inhibited mental capacity

  • Slower learning, cognitive skills

One of the most significant similarities between dogs and humans with this condition is that it is a chromosomal disorder, and cannot be treated or cured.

How is Down Syndrome Different in Dogs and Humans?

The most notable difference with this condition is that it is not always called Down Syndrome in dogs. There is little research about actual condition, Down Syndrome, in dogs, but quite a bit of research about chromosomal abnormalities. Different species have different genetic makeup, therefore this condition will not be compatible from dogs to humans. In animals, like cats, it mostly deals with reproductive health.

Case Study

The veterinarian administers several hearing and vision tests that result in the diagnosis that a puppy suffers from partial deafness and blindness. The dog also has abnormal facial features.

The case veterinarian diagnoses these symptoms as a chromosomal abnormality. The veterinarian prescribes special dog food with a vision supplement.

The owner uses special training and regular veterinarian checkups to help the dog live a happy life.

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