Every dog is special, but some enter the world with more needs than others. September 13 is Pet Birth Defect Awareness Day, a day that its founders hope will “increase awareness that birth defects are common, costly and critical,” and lead to safer breeding practices to prevent the most common forms of birth defects in dogs and cats.
In honor of this special day, we’ve rounded up eight inspiring dogs who are overcoming physical obstacles to show that a birth defect doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Some of them are certified celebrities (hello, Pig!), and some you’ve likely never heard of before, but they all have one thing in common: they lead full, happy lives in the care of loving pet parents who celebrate their dogs’ different abilities.
Derby the Bionic Dog
Derby zooms on his futuristic limbs (via imgur)
Derby was likely born with a form of antebrachial growth deformity, or abnormally shortened legs, a birth defect that can be passed down genetically and becomes evident as a puppy grows. After being surrendered by his first family and facing possible euthanasia, Derby was lucky enough to land in a foster home with a dog-lover who just so happened to run a 3D printing lab (source). Within months, he had custom-built, 3D-printed prosthetics that allow him to run, jump, and play like any other dog. In a video produced by the 3D printing lab, Derby’s adoptive dad says, “He runs with us every day…he never really tires out. He’s just so happy.” Go, Derby!
Mr. Moo the Surgical Pioneer
Mr. Moo was born with a severe cleft palate, an abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth that occurs if the tissue does not join together completely during embryonic development. Dogs born with cleft palates may suffer from respiratory issues, and can easily develop infections in their unprotected nasal cavity and sinuses. They typically need reconstructive surgery to correct the problem (source). Young pitbulll mix Mr. Moo is the first recipient of an experimental surgery created by a veterinarian-human surgeon team, and his newly-constructed soft palate will help researchers perfect the operation for canine and human patients alike. With dynamite medical care and loving parents helping him recover, Mr. Moo is on his way to a long, happy life.
Pig the Unusual Dog
Pig, who took the internet by storm last summer, was born with an unusually shortened spine. Spinal birth defects are common in several pure breed dogs, but Pig is a mixed breed, so we don’t know for sure why her spine developed the way it did. We do know one thing: she’s a downright adorable inspiration, and her popularity has called attention to other dogs with similar conditions. Dogs with severely shortened spines are at risk of compromised organ function, as their insides are crowded by their shortened body, but so far, Pig is thriving, happy, and social. In other words, she’s just a dog.
Chloe the One-Eyed Wonder
Chloe is a basset hound who had an eye removed due to glaucoma. Congenital glaucoma (high pressure within the eye) can lead to oversized eyeballs, and sometimes the pain and discomfort can only be relieved by removing the eye entirely. But that doesn’t have to slow a dog down! Despite losing an eye, Chloe here is happy, healthy, and obviously well-loved.
Chester the Happy Boston Terrier
Cataracts (the clouding or darkening of the eye lens) are common in older dogs, but did you know that they can also be a birth defect? Flat-snouted breeds like pugs and bulldogs are prone to congenital cataracts, which are present at birth and can lead to vision problems. Some dogs will undergo surgery to have cataracts treated or removed; others, like Chester here, live full lives despite their somewhat cloudy vision.
Duncan the Two-Legged Dog
Get ready to cry…Duncan is one of the most inspirational dogs we’ve ever seen! Born with a severely deformed pelvis and rear legs, Duncan was close to being euthanized. Birth defects affecting limbs can occur because of poor nutrition during pregnancy, and are sometimes too complicated to fix and ensure quality of life. But Duncan was one lucky pup: Panda Paws Rescue stepped in and gave him a new lease on life. After surgery to remove his “pretzel-like” back legs, Duncan has learned to get around on his forelimbs. He does have a wheelchair, and goes through regular hydrotherapy and exercises to keep his spine in shape. But as you’ll see in the video above, most of the time, Duncan gets around just fine on two legs.
Duke the Super Dog
Duke was born with Cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition caused when the cerebellum fails to develop before a puppy is born. Sometimes it’s caused by the mama dog getting an infection while pregnant, and other times it’s hereditary (particularly in Airedales, Chow Chows, Boston terriers, and bull terriers). The main symptoms of CH are tremors, clumsiness, and in severe cases, “flipping over.” Dogs with mild to moderate CH can lead long, happy (if somewhat wobbly) lives, and Duke is no exception. This blue-eyed boy loves to play, and although he occasionally falls down, he always gets back up. To see Duke in action, check out his Facebook page, and learn more about Cerebellar hypoplasia here.
Tiger the Small but Mighty German Shepherd
Certain breeds, sometimes referred to as “dwarf dogs,” are bred to have short legs and long bodies (think Basset hounds, Shih-Tzus, and corgis). Though they are prone to health concerns due to selective breeding, these short-featured dogs are considered normal. But once in a while, dogs that are typically long-legged develop proportions uncharacteristic of their breeds. Meet Tiger the German Shepherd, who has a rare case of genetic dwarfism caused by a defect in the pituitary gland. Dogs with genetic dwarfism appear normal as puppies, but by the time they reach adult age, it’s clear their growth is stunted. Dwarfism can also lead to behavioral issues (Tiger can be aggressive with strangers) and health trouble, and unfortunately, most dwarf dogs have shortened life spans. But that doesn’t mean they don’t make the most of the life they have. Tiger is almost five years old, and as his dad said in an interview with Vice Magazine, “[He] is the most affectionate and playful creature you could imagine. He’s a perpetual puppy.”
Tiger’s story is perhaps the most instructive when it comes to preventing birth defects in dogs: selective breeding for pure bred dogs has led to smaller gene pools, which means greater likelihood of inbreeding and detrimental genes being passed down. Pet Birth Defect Awareness Days exists to promote better, healthier breeding practices to prevent dangerous birth defects. Of course, it’s also a day to celebrate the individual dogs who show us how to make the most of life, no matter what. Dogs with birth defects run, play, swim, snuggle, and bring their pet parents loads of joy. In other words, they’re just dogs!
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