Some people love them, others aren’t fans of them, but you can’t deny that short-spine dogs are certainly eye-catching. The syndrome is still very unknown, but you can see it with your own eyes on social media. You’ll find a link or two as you peruse this post. But let’s have a serious conversation about short-spine syndrome in dogs and what it means for pet parents.


  1. What is Short-Spine Syndrome
  2. What Causes Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs
  3. Signs of Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs
  4. Managing Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

What is Short-Spine Syndrome

Short-spine syndrome is rare, according to vet Dr. Emily Singler at Fetch, who describes it as a “very rare genetic disease” that has only affected a total of 30 dogs across the world. There are only thought to be 14 cases of the syndrome globally right now.

The bones in the spine, known as vertebrae, do not form as they should. Rather than hardening like the rest of the vertebrae, one or more of them stay in a cartilage-like form, fusing and becoming tightly compressed. The spine is, therefore, shorter than it should be, and the doggo will have limited movement.

What Causes Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs

This syndrome can affect humans, horses, and cats, as well as dogs, but there are so few cases around the world that the condition hasn’t been well studied. It’s thought to be a genetic mutation, but why it happens isn’t known.

You can get to know your pet and catch the warning signs of something that’s not quite right by using modern pet technology. Around-the-clock monitoring is possible with the incredible range of pet cameras, and GPS trackers allow you to know where they are all the time. Who knows how helpful your footage or information might be?

The condition was first documented in the 1960s or 1970s, in a “Japanese breed,” and was noted as “short-spine,” as shown by NCBI records. Since then, there have been so few cases that scientists haven’t even had the chance to investigate further. What we do know is that it is a skeletal anomaly, officially recognized by vets and experts, and probably genetic.

Signs of Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs

Short-spine syndrome manifests itself from birth, and it will be obvious that the puppy doesn’t look quite the same as the rest. If it’s not obvious right away, the deformity will soon make itself apparent within the first few weeks of the pup’s life.

The spine is shortened to the extent that you’ll notice, and the dog’s neck might be nonexistent. They will appear hunch-backed; have a missing, very short, or tightly spiraled tail; and have a wide, large chest, often referred to as a “barrel chest.” You might not realize it at first, but an X-ray might show one or more missing ribs in your dog’s rib cage. Some dogs (but not all) have a change to the shape of the jaw too – longer, elongated, and unusual-looking. Take a peek at your pet camera right now; does your puppy seem to show any of those signs?

Ivy is a Pitbull cross who suffers from short-spine syndrome. Her leaps are smaller and shorter than those of her siblings, and her movements are often described by faithful followers as “frog-like.” She, just like other short-spine doggos, is at a greater risk of developing tail issues, such as infections or even ingrown tails, and her wonderful little life is helping with future studies on the syndrome. Hopefully, in time, we can learn more about this curious condition.

Managing Short-Spine Syndrome in Dogs

With the right modifications to your home and lifestyle, a dog with short-spine syndrome can live a relatively happy, healthy, and carefree life. Quasi the Great is a German Shepherd with short spine syndrome, and he gets the name from Quasimodo in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. As you can see from his joy-inducing videos, he might look a little strange, but he lives a very happy life now that he’s been rescued.

Doggos with this condition will require assistance around the home, particularly when it comes to stairs, getting on couches or beds, and even moving around on particularly bad days. Pain relief, physiotherapy, water therapy, surgical procedures, and other approaches can make life more comfortable for your pet, but there is no cure for short-spine syndrome in dogs, humans, cats, horses, or any other animal.

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Do dogs with short-spine syndrome feel pain?

Unfortunately, yes, the short-spine syndrome is thought to cause dogs great pain, along with serious mobility problems and potentially long-term complications. In cases where life expectancy and quality are severely reduced, your vet might recommend that you consider euthanasia.

How long do dogs with short-spine syndrome live?

One doggo with short spine syndrome reached the age of 14 years, which is actually fairly typical for many breeds. The British Bulldog has a life expectancy of between 10 and 12 years, for Poodles, it’s between 12 and 15 years, and for Cocker Spaniels, it’s 13 to 15 years, according to the American Kennel Club’s studies. It is wise to remember that, typically, dogs do live shorter lives with this syndrome.


Many budding pet parents look over dogs with short-spine syndrome and other medical conditions and deformities because they aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as their fully-abled counterparts. As shown by our four-legged friends on social media, though, they can still live perfectly happy lives, giving you every bit as much love as any other dog.

If you think there’s something not quite right with your pet, don’t be afraid to seek advice from a vet. It’s often nowhere near as bad as you think, and the sooner you get a diagnosis, the easier – and cheaper – treatment will be.

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