Dogs With Short Spine Syndrome: All You Need To Know

Short spine syndrome (SSS) is a rare genetic disorder that affects the shape and normal spinal development of canines. Its medical name is chondrodystrophy and it can affect both small and large breed dogs. Symptoms of short spine syndrome include a short, stunted spine, abnormal vertebrae configuration, an increased risk for scoliosis, and joint laxity. Pups with short spine syndrome have a broad head and forehead.

This condition can be caused by one of the following: abnormally short jaw-closing muscles due to malformed temporomandibular joint, dysplasia of the joints, or reduction in the number of ribs. It is most commonly seen in the Bulldog, Boston Terrier, and Pug breeds, and is believed to be inherited from both parents.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure or surgical treatment for short spine syndrome. Veterinary care can include therapeutic measures such as physical therapy, therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy, and nutritional supplements. There are medications that can provide pain relief and help control muscle spasms, as well.

Owners of dogs with short spine syndrome should be aware that these pets require regular veterinary care to help them manage the condition. They need to be evaluated for any orthopedic signs and monitored closely for any changes in their condition. Regular exercise, supplemented with pet ramps or other appropriate aids, is important to help keep the pet mobile and maintain the muscles that support the spine and joints. Owners must also monitor their pets for any signs of pain, discomfort, or weakness, and seek the help of a veterinarian if any of these signs develop.

Short spine syndrome is a serious condition and no two cases are exactly the same. With appropriate veterinary care and management, however, dogs with short spine syndrome can lead healthy lives.

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Short spine syndrome (SSS) is a rare degenerative disorder of the spine affecting primarily dogs, though it has been documented in cats. It is characterized by a shortening of the spine, the vertebrae compressed and fused abnormally together. This results in an inability to move the spine, leading to a variety of neurological symptoms, such as balance problems, abnormal gait, and difficulty controlling bladder and bowel movements. The cause of SSS is unknown, however, there appears to be a genetic predisposition, as the syndrome is more common in certain dog breeds such as the Boston terrier and Pug. Treatment usually includes non-surgical measures such as physical therapy, nutrition management, weight management, and medications to manage pain and other symptoms. Surgery may be necessary in some cases to help improve mobility.

What Exactly is Short Spine Syndrome in Dogs?

Short spine syndrome is an orthopedic disease that affects dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages, though it is more common in large breeds. This condition occurs when the vertebrae that make up the dog’s spine become shorter and thicker than normal, causing an abnormal curvature of the spine. This deformity can lead to a wide variety of skeletal and neuromuscular issues, including difficulty walking, pain, stiffness, and the spread of disc degeneration. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can provide effective relief and the chance to return to a more regular quality of life.

Short Spine Syndrome Animals

  • Basset Hound
  • Bulldog
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Dachshund
  • Saint Bernard
  • Beagle
  • Bloodhound
  • Chow Chow
  • Collie
  • Irish Setter
  • British Bulldog
  • Retriever
  • Pug
  • Bull Mastiff

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Short spine syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation of the COLQ gene. It is an inherited condition, so it affects certain breeds of dogs more than others. In general, short spine syndrome has been identified in toy and miniature breeds such as the Chihuahua, affenpinscher, pug, and shi-tzu. It is a congenital condition, meaning it is present at birth, and usually affects puppies when they are very young. Environmental factors, such as trauma or improper nutrition and care during the growth cycles, may also contribute to the development of the condition.

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Signs of Short Spine Syndrome in Dogs

  • Shortened stature: Dogs with short spine syndrome typically have a shorter and stockier stature compared to other dogs of the same breed.
  • Crowing gait: Dogs with short spine syndrome may have difficulty walking and may appear to have a crowing gait due to the shortening of the spine. This can cause difficulty with movement.
  • Difficulty with some movements: Dogs with short spine syndrome may have difficulty when trying to do certain movements, such as arching their back.
  • Abnormal spine curvature: Dogs with this condition often have an abnormal curvature of the spine, which can affect their range of motion and lead to pain.
  • Malformed chest: Dogs with short spine syndrome can have a malformed chest, which may cause breathing difficulties.
  • Spinal deformities: Dogs with short spine syndrome may also have malformations of the vertebrae or other spinal deformities.

Diagnosing Dog Short Spine Syndrome

  • Consult a veterinarian: To diagnose a dog with Short Spine Syndrome, the first step is to consult a veterinarian. Your vet will conduct a physical examination and take a detailed medical history of the dog.
  • Collect Imaging: The veterinarian will then collect imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI scans, and CT scans to examine the structure of your dog’s spine.
  • Collect Bloodwork: The vet will also collect bloodwork to check for any abnormalities in the blood chemistry. This will help diagnose any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms.
  • Additional Tests: Other tests such as gait analysis, electrodiagnostic, or orthopedic specialty tests may be used to confirm the diagnosis of Short Spine Syndrome.

How Rare Is a Dog With Short Spine Syndrome?

Short Spine Syndrome (SSS) is a rare and extremely complex neurological disorder that affects both dogs and cats. On average, it is estimated that 1 out of every 10,000 cats and 1 out of every 20,000 dogs in the United States have SSS.

Short Spine Syndrome Dogs Life Expectancy

The specific life expectancy of a dog with Short Spine Syndrome will depend on the severity of the condition and the age of onset. Generally, a dog with mild Short Spine Syndrome can have a normal life span, while a dog with more severe Short Spine Syndrome may have a shorter life span. In any case, with proper management, care, and love, a dog living with Short Spine Syndrome can hope to enjoy a long and happy life with its family.

What You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog With Short Spine Syndrome

While there is no known cause for SSS and it is not yet curable, many dogs living with the syndrome can live long, healthy, and happy lives with appropriate care. Here are a few things prospective adopters should know before taking home a pup with SSS:

  • Research the Syndrome: Knowing what to expect from a pup with SSS is key before adoption. Become familiar with the common health issues associated with the condition and ask your veterinarian or a knowledgeable breeder about the best diet and exercise for your new pup.
  • Understand Challenges: Some physical challenges can come along with SSS, such as difficulty getting around and maintaining a healthy weight. Careful control of your pup’s diet and exercise can help even out any physical impairments.
  • Find a Vet Specializing in SSS: Your pup will have regular veterinary checkups to monitor its health. Having a vet that specializes in SSS or is otherwise knowledgeable about the condition can help provide the best possible care for your pup.
  • Exercise Caution: Dogs with SSS may need more help in moving around and protecting their spines. Be sure to use extra care when carrying, lifting, or playing with your pup to avoid any potential injury.
  • Consider Professional Training: Due to the physical restrictions associated with SSS, some pups may struggle with behavior outside of the average for their breed. Professional training can help teach your pup to use less energy around the house and how to more efficiently move around the yard or community.
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Although there is no cure for SSS, regular veterinary visits and specialized care can improve the comfort and quality of life of an animal with this condition.

  1. Work with a vet to perform regular check-ups and consult on treatment. Regular visits to the vet are important to monitor the progress of the disease and any changes to the animal’s health. It is also important to consult with the vet about any changes to the pet’s diet, medications, or lifestyle changes that may benefit the animal.
  2. Make environmental and dietary adjustments to help manage symptoms. As the disease progresses, animals with SSS may require reduced activity, changes to diet, or modifications to the home and yard. Talk to your vet about what environmental and dietary adjustments may benefit your pet. For example, low-impact exercises and a diet designed to reduce stress on the nervous system may be beneficial.
  3. Help keep your pet comfortable. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature and making sure your pet gets plenty of rest are important for managing SSS symptoms. Appropriate bedding, several cushions, or even a body bed can help your pet remain comfortable.
  4. Provide extra assistance and support as needed. Some animals with SSS require more help with mobility, eating, and other activities. Special harnesses, wheelchairs, and raised bowls are available to provide extra support and assistance.
  5. Monitor the pet’s condition and behavior. Regularly monitoring your pet’s condition and behavior is essential for ensuring it’s receiving the best care possible. Paying attention to any changes in behavior, such as depression, stumbling, and lethargy, should be addressed immediately.

By following these tips, you can help keep your pet with SSS as comfortable as possible and ensure it is receiving the best care possible.

Treatments for a Dog with Short Spine Syndrome

  • Provide Supportive Care: Dogs with Short Spine Syndrome require supportive care and specialty treatment plans. This should include a combination of rest and exercise, proper nutrition, and regular veterinary check-ups.
  • Physical Therapy: Dogs may greatly benefit from physical therapy sessions and low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and stretching that help improve mobility, strength, and flexibility. It is important to find an experienced canine physical therapist to create an individualized plan for your dog.
  • Pain Management: Pain can be managed in dogs with Short Spine Syndrome with either pharmaceutical pain medications or alternative treatments like acupuncture, cold laser therapy, or massage.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be recommended if deemed necessary for some patients. Surgery can help improve posture and reduce pain, but should only be done in very severe cases.
  • Weight Management: Properly managing your dog’s weight is very important for any breed, but especially for those with Short Spine Syndrome. Depending on the individual and their specific situation, this may require reducing food intake or increasing physical activity.

Preventing Dog Short Spine Syndrome

Dog short spine syndrome is a complex disorder that affects multiple components of the dog’s body. Unfortunately, it is not fully understood and there is no known prevention method. However, there are some precautions that owners can take to help reduce the risks of their pet developing the condition.

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight: Obesity can be an underlying condition that can lead to the onset of this disorder. Therefore, the best way to help your pet stay healthy and avoid this disorder is to keep him or her at a healthy weight. If necessary, consult a veterinarian for nutrition advice and portion control.
  • Provide adequate exercise: Dogs need regular exercise and stimulation to stay healthy. Keeping your pet active can help keep their body in balance and reduce potential skeletal problems.
  • Take your dog for regular check-ups: Being familiar with your pet’s medical history can help you spot any potential issues early and get them treated quickly. It is especially important to take your dog in for routine examinations so that any early signs of this condition can be monitored and managed quickly.
  • Follow breeding guidelines: Responsible breeding is important for any type of animal, and ensuring that you have healthy, genetically sound stock can go a long way toward preventing certain hereditary issues. Before breeding any dog, research its lineage and be aware of any potential health issues that can arise.
  • Regularly check your pet’s spine: Checking your pet’s spine on a regular basis can help you to spot any potential issues that may arise. Check your pet for any changes in posture, or unusual hunching of the spine, as these are symptoms of this disorder.
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Although a preventative measure for this disorder cannot be guaranteed, taking these precautions can lead to a less stressful life for your furry friend and ensure that he or she is in the best of health.


Q. How does short spine syndrome affect dogs?

A. Short spine syndrome affects dogs by causing abnormal spinal cord and vertebrae development. This leads to various physical abnormalities and problems with mobility, balance, coordination, breathing, and heart function.

Q. How common is short spine syndrome in dogs?

A. Short spine syndrome is an extremely rare congenital deformity that affects only a few dozen dogs in the world.

Q. What is the name of the dog with short spine syndrome?

A. The breed of dog most commonly associated with short spine syndrome is the Dachshund.

Q. How rare is short spine syndrome?

A. Short spine syndrome is very rare. It is estimated to affect less than 1 in 500,000 live births.

Q. How many dogs have short spine syndrome?

A. There is no definite answer as the exact number of dogs with short spine syndrome is unknown.

Q. Is short spine syndrome painful for dogs?

A. Yes, short spine syndrome can be painful for dogs. It can cause difficulty walking, skeletal deformations, and other painful symptoms.

Q. Can Canine Short Spine Syndrome Be Cured?

A. No, Canine Short Spine Syndrome is a congenital condition that cannot be cured.


Dogs with Short Spine Syndrome, while rare, can pose major challenges both physically and emotionally for their owners. Owners must be prepared to provide long-term care and specialized treatments in order to keep their pets as healthy and happy as possible. Veterinarians should be consulted for a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan as this condition requires specialized knowledge and expertise in order to properly manage it. With much patience and dedication to caring for a dog with Short Spine Syndrome, these animals can still live a full and happy life.

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