You might have seen images circling the internet that show “Photoshopped” images of dogs with unnaturally short backs and no necks. While it’s easy to think the images have been tampered with in some way to make them go viral, these dogs actually have a condition called Short Spine Syndrome – they haven’t been Photoshopped into weird goblin-like creatures.
What exactly is Short Spine Syndrome?
Short Spine Syndrome is a condition that affects very few dogs in the world (there have been less than 20 named). It’s where the vertebrae have been compressed together to shorten the vertebral column, and are sometimes even fused together, making it impossible for the spine to flex.
Often, dogs who have Short Spine Syndrome have normal sized heads, but they’re fused onto their shoulders so it looks like they have no neck. Towards the back of the body, the spine curves downwards and the tail tends to be much shorter than in other dogs.
Though dogs with Short Spine Syndrome might have difficulty running, jumping, and eating because of their shortened, inflexible bodies, they can expect to live a normal lifespan and rarely have any pressing health issues besides the deformity.
Short Spine Syndrome has been documented since the 17th century, when paintings created by David Klocker Ehrenstrahl included subjects he referred to as “monster of wolf and dog.” Now, it’s easy to see these animals had Short Spine Syndrome, evident in their shortened, sloping bodies.
Later, a paper by Hans-Jorgen Hansen emerged called “Historical Evidence of an Unusual Deformity in Dogs (‘Short Spine Dog’)”. It touched on these paintings which were blasted by critics for including “evil, fantasy creatures”.
At the time, Short Spine Syndrome was explained as a genetic phenomenon, but later findings show it might be more of a problem with inbreeding.
In 2001, Elaine Ostrander published a book titled “Genetics of the Dog”, which traced the issue of Short Spine Syndrome back to its early days. Combining a selection of papers on the topic, it concludes that the syndrome is actually a result of inbreeding, which leads female sufferers of Short Spine Syndrome to have longer heats than other dogs and, if they are able to get pregnant, only produce one puppy at a time.
This theory is also prevalent in “Animal Genetics”, a 1982 veterinary textbook that referred to “The Baboon Dogs of De Boom in South Africa.” The conclusion was that the dogs often inbred with each other because of their close proximity, causing genetic mutations like Short Spine Syndrome.
Inbreeding has become an issue in recent years, as breeders try to create purebred dogs. Using closely related dogs is thought to increase the chance of producing offspring with the most desirable traits, but often the undesirable traits in a bloodline become apparent soon after birth – which is thought to be the case with Short Spine Syndrome.
Dogs With Short Spine Syndrome
Though the viral images circling the web have been touted as Photoshopped monstrosities, they actually depict several well-known dogs that suffer with Short Spine Syndrome.
Cuda the Pitbull was one of the first dogs to become an internet sensation, and there have been more that followed in quick succession. Quasi the Great is a popular German Shepherd who also suffers from the condition, Mojo, a spaniel crossbreed, Pig, a Chow crossbreed, and Cleo, a border collie mix. These are just a few of the 14 or so dogs that have been recognised as suffering with Short Spine Syndrome in the world, and all of them feature similar physical traits – shortened spines, sloping backs, and no necks.
Despite their unusual appearance, dogs with Short Spine Syndrome can be perfectly healthy, as proven by the characters circling the web today. So, next time you see an image of a “Photoshopped” dog that’s gone viral online, remember it’s probably real and another special case of Short Spine Syndrome.