German Shepherd Dwarfism Complete Guide

If you seek to get a small German Shepherd, you may be shocked to find that a small purebred German Shepherd does not exist unless the dog is experiencing pituitary dwarfism.

Can German Shepherds have dwarfism? German Shepherds can have pituitary dwarfism much the same as humans can. It’s a congenital disease in which the pituitary gland does not make sufficient growth hormone. This causes the dog’s slow-moving growth and causes various health issues and a limited life span.

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Can German Shepherds Have Dwarfism?

Can German Shepherds Have Dwarfism?

When I first listened to the term “Miniature German Shepherd,” I naturally pictured a smaller sized variation of a purebred German Shepherd. I was believing to myself, what if you might buy a German Shepherd, and also it stayed as charming as a puppy– forever.

I was wrong! The only small purebred German Shepherd is one struggling with pituitary dwarfism. In contrast, a Miniature German Shepherd is an outcome of cross-breeding a healthy German Shepherd and a smaller sized dog type, typically a Poodle or Border Collie. I can see why you may get puzzled with both.

However, this post is exclusively concerning German Shepherds with pituitary dwarfism, and also, I have to advise you, what you will certainly find out may damage your heart. However, look at this inspiring little German Shepherd called “Ranger” that refuses to allow dwarfism to obstruct living life to the maximum.

He was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and is referred to as the dog that will “permanently be a puppy.” Regardless of his health battles and difficulties early in life, as you can see from this short 3-minute video clip, Ranger lives gladly along with his family members and does not allow anything to obtain him down!

What is Dwarfism in Dogs?

What is Dwarfism in Dogs?

Pituitary dwarfism in dogs is an autosomal recessive inherited condition that influences the function of the pituitary gland. It occurs largely in the German Shepherd type and its loved ones, for instance, the Saarloos Wolfdog and the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.

So what exactly is the pituitary gland? This is a pea-sized endocrine gland found at the base of the brain and plays a significant duty in controlling important body features and general health and well-being.

It is called the “master gland” as the hormones it creates are responsible for various procedures in the body, as an example, growth, recreation, metabolic rate, high blood pressure, and regulating blood sugar degrees, to name but a couple of.

Both the impacted dog’s parents have to be carriers of the defective gene, and it is approximated that 20% of German Shepherds and also their relevant breeds currently bring the defective gene:

What is known is that 20% of German Shepherds and also their derivatives such as the Saarloos Wolfhound and also the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog are now carriers of pituitary dwarfism

When two carriers are mated with a recessive gene, usually, 50% of their children will be carriers, and 25% of their offspring will certainly tower over.

Pituitary dwarfism related to growth hormone deficiency in German Shepherd dogs has been seen for years and towers over are born around the world; however, the problem has been reported to have actually lately spread quite quickly in Europe, and this is for 2 factors:

Through the breeding of unsuspected carriers. The problem is that German Shepherds that are carriers of the recessive gene do not have any noticeable signs and symptoms; therefore, the reputable dog breeder would be none the wiser.

Deceitful breeders realized that they could sell a small German Shepherd much more expensively if they attempted to pass it off as a smaller variation of a purebred. This is also the major reason for the confusion between a German Shepherd suffering from dwarfism and the Miniature German Shepherd crossbreed.

Other Causes of Pituitary Dwarfism

We have actually learned that pituitary dwarfism in dogs is caused by the absence of growth hormone created by the pituitary gland because of a congenital disease. Yet, what else can create dog dwarfism?

  • Tumor
  • Cysts
  • Infection

These other causes are also due to the lack of growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland.

Could Dwarfism be Prevented? A Growing Problem

Pituitary Dwarfism in German Shepherds needs to be taken very seriously as we concern about Curly tail problems when breeding, as this is an incurable incapacitating illness that can quickly be stopped. As long as breeding in between 2 carriers of the anomaly that causes pituitary dwarfism is prevented, no overshadows will certainly be born.

The only way to stop this disorder is by an analysis of the DNA test as scientists as the LHX3 have already determined the mutated gene.

This diagnostic DNA test is readily available, adhering to 15 years of extensive study by The Companion Animals Genetics Expertise Centre of Utrecht University. It is one of the few examinations offered for genetic conditions.

However, I also found an additional company based in France that performs DNA testing for dwarfism in dogs worldwide. They specify that around 11% of purebred German Shepherds in Europe are carriers

I uncovered that Dutch legislation currently forces German Shepherd dog breeders to use this genetic testing in the Netherlands.

If this DNA examination were mandatory for all German Shepherd breeding and applying a correct breeding policy, pituitary dwarfism would be eliminated.

Sadly in the real world, screening all prospective German Shepherd breeding is unwise and hardly ever happens. It could likewise be argued that as a result of the reduced prevalence of the disease, testing is unnecessary, even though we have the statistics for the number of carriers.

Obviously, this is subjective, particularly as we do not understand the number of influenced dogs either pass away whilst in the womb or soon after birth. However, it is thought that 90% of all pituitary dwarfism influenced dogs won’t make it through, and also, this would discuss why dwarf dogs are hardly ever seen.

Several of the ones that do make it through are typically sold, often before the condition is identified.

Likewise, the terrible breeding technique wherein unethical dog breeders operating puppy farms (typically called puppy mills) cares more regarding revenues than puppies. These breeders do not care if their underhanded techniques lead to the inescapable suffering of dogs.

How Can You Tell if a Dog has Dwarfism?

One of the most obvious indicators of a German Shepherd struggling with dwarfism is their small stature, and also this generally ends up being noticeable in puppies between 8-16 weeks old. The dog’s attributes are in percentage and do not display shortened deformed legs as in achondroplasia dwarfism, which is a separate problem.

Dwarf puppies will maintain their puppy coat for a lot longer than their much healthier littermates; however, in their first year, the coat will certainly be lost as the dog suffers from alopecia and will come to be hairless, except the head and lower legs.

Pituitary dwarfism in German Shepherds is a major health problem, and scientific indicators are not restricted to physical look. There are also many various other surprise troubles that a dwarf German Shepherd may experience. These are some of the heartbreaking signs and symptoms:

  • Microbial skin infections because of alopecia
  • Renal failing as a result of underdeveloped liver and also kidneys
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Taking breath problems
  • Slow and also plain knowledge to an underactive thyroid gland
  • Undescended testes in male dogs
  • Small testes and penis in male dogs
  • Irregular or missing warmth cycles in women
  • Neurological symptoms as a result of unusual cervical vertebrae
  • Second Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).
  • Delayed dental eruption.
  • Puppies commonly have a raucous bark.
  • May have the appearance of a fox.

How Long Do Dogs With Dwarfism Live?

Without proper treatment, German Shepherds’ long-term survival rate with dwarfism is poor, and many will certainly not live to more than 3 to 4 years of age. This figure has actually been obtained from the University of Utrecht and gained from over 20 years of research in Europe.

However, some dogs do live longer, possibly because, in some cases, the pituitary gland still creates a very percentage of hormones. Although your German Shepherd may display apparent visible indications of dwarfism, the medical diagnosis of pituitary dwarfism in dogs is through endocrine examinations (blood and urine). Imaging examinations may additionally be conducted to look for cysts.


New approaches to treating dwarfs have likewise become available in the last few years, mainly involves replenishing the missing hormones. There is no canine growth hormone, but these are some other options available:

Porcine (pig) growth hormone. This is pricey, and results vary.
Progestins. These are steroidal medications that stimulate the production of growth hormones.
Thyroid hormones, e.g., synthetic levothyroxine, have actually been found to have some success. However, the results vary.
Although treatment can substantially enhance a dog’s life, aggravating adverse effects can also be triggered. Unfortunately, there is no treatment to cure them.

Which Dog Breeds Can Have Dwarfism?

There is a typical mistaken belief that pituitary dwarfism is rare, but this is not the situation as it influences many dogs worldwide. These are believed to be a few other dog breeds that can be influenced.

  • Border Collies
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Samoyed
  • Labradors
  • Spitz
  • Irish Setters
  • Weimaraners
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Karelian Bear Dog 


If you came here trying to find a small German Shepherd and also this short article has actually thawed your heart, you could contact The Saartje Foundation in the Netherlands that can help with adopting and also rehoming a dwarf German Shepherd. Please understand that due to the dog having very detailed health needs, there will certainly be a possibly very high expense involved. You can also call them in confidence if you have a dwarf dog that you feel you cannot maintain as the foundation has a handful of experienced individuals in different countries ready to give a dwarf a new residence.

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