Recently someone sent me a story that went viral on The Dodo website of a dog named Mojo who was in need of a new home after his owner was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Border collie mix has a rare genetic condition called Short Spine Syndrome that caused his spine to be compressed and hunched. It gave his body the appearance of a puppy with the head and legs of a full grown dog.
I read the article and then I couldn’t stop thinking about Mojo. I wondered how many other dogs were out there with the same condition and how it affected their lives. Did they live to old age and were there other disabilities associated with the birth defect? I write about paralysis, mobility issues and health problems of the spine all the time, but I was completely unaware that nature could contort a dog’s body in this way. So I started to research Short Spine Syndrome.
Is Short Spine Syndrome A New Condition?
First I found out that Short Spine Syndrome is not a new genetic condition, but it is extremely rare. According to the Short Spine Syndrome Dogs Facebook page (yes there is a fan page) there are an estimated 14-20 dogs in the world with the condition.
In addition, some of these dogs are famous social media public figures. There is a Pitbull named Cuda who has been featured on PeoplePets and American Dog Magazine and two dogs named Quasi. Quasi Modo lives in Florida and Quasi the Great has more than 270,000 likes on his Facebook page. There is also a Facebook sensation mixed breed dog named Pig who shows she can have a full life with this birth defect.
A story from The Daily Research points out that Short Spine Syndrome in dogs dates back to paintings from the 17th century. Unfortunately these pieces of artwork refer to the dogs as “gremlins or monster wolf dogs.”
Short Spine Syndrome dogs have been documented in many parts of the world. In South Africa a group of dogs with the condition were called Baboon Dogs and a dog from Japan was identified in 1956.
What Causes The Condition?
In 2001, Elaine Ostrander published a book titled “Genetics of the Dog” which looked into the cause of the syndrome. She looked at research papers on the subject and concluded that Short Spine Syndrome is a result of inbreeding. Some breeders believe that dogs who are closely related can produce puppies with the most sought after traits so season after season they continue to mate dogs with the same bloodline. Sadly, this practice can lead to genetic problems and defects like Short Spine Syndrome.
Dogs with the syndrome have a spine and ligaments that are shorter than normal and fused together. Their backs slope, their front legs are longer than normal, they have a bobbed tail and they do not have a neck. Many of the dogs cannot turn their heads from side to side causing them to have problems eating from a regular dog bowl.
The good news is that Short Spine Syndrome Dogs are typically healthy overall. They do not have pain associated with their condition and they live to old age.
Pictures courtesy of: Short Spine Dogs Facebook