"Chondrodysplasia" is a mouthful, but it you break it up, it's easier to say and understand. "Chondro" means cartilage and "dysplasia" refers to abnormal growth. Otherwise referred to as canine dwarfism, chondrodysplasia is abnormal development of a dog's bone and cartilage. Short limbs are one of the distinguishing traits of a dog with chondrodysplasia.
What's in a Name?
It's expected for a basset hound or dachshund to be a "low rider" -- short-legged with a long body. However, it's a different story if your Labrador retriever doesn't gain height as he grows. As "chondro" refers to cartilage, add an "osteo," referring to bone, in front of chondrodysplasia and you'll get a broad term for arrested bone and cartilage development. Chondrodysplasia, or achondroplasia, is a type of osteochondrodysplasia where the dog's bones don't grow to their potential size. This genetically transmitted disorder impacts the dog's growth and development, resulting in canine dwarfism.
The Look of Chondrodysplaysia
There are some telltale clues a pup has chondrodysplasia. His legs, though proportionate to each other, will be shorter than normal. His overall appearance will look out of proportion, however, because his body will likely be normal-sized. Often, the dog's head is larger than it would be if he hadn't picked up this genetic variation, and his jaw might be a bit different. Dogs with chondrodysplasia often have a protruding lower jaw, an unusually short upper jaw and an underbite with crooked teeth. It's not unusual for a dog with dwarfism to have bowed front legs, a crooked spine or some breathing problems.
Born This Way
The effects of dwarfism make for some interesting-looking dogs, such as bulldogs, pugs and shih-tzus, which are examples of selective breeding to ensure their unique looks. Other dogs who have been been selectively bred to encourage the dwarfism trait include Welsh corgis, dachshunds, Scottish terriers and basset hounds. These breeds have short legs, but fairly normal skulls. Since chondrodysplasia is a genetic abnormality, some dogs pick up the trait because it's in their gene pool. Breeds at risk for dwarfism include miniature poodles, Norwegian elkhounds, cocker spaniels, Alaskan malamutes and Irish setters.
Complications and Cautions
A puppy who isn't specifically bred to have chondrodysplaysiac traits will look normal when he's born. However, as he grows, you may notice he isn't growing as expected by about 5 or 6 months of age. He may also retain his puppy teeth and not develop sexual organs as he should. Some dogs with chondrodysplasia suffer from heart abnormalities, joint pain and decreased bone density. A dog with minor complications from chondrodysplasia can lead a fairly comfortable life. However, it's important to monitor his weight, as a dog with dwarfism is prone to obesity, which can make living with his condition challenging.