Miniature dogs – malteses, poodles, pomeranians, chihuahuas, and the like – are so cute that they are aptly categorized as toy dogs. But has anyone ever seen a pint-sized adult German shepherd? Ranger, an adorable two-year old German Shepherd born with dwarfism, is fated to stay puppy-sized forever.
Owned by Shelby Mayo from Phoenix, Arizona, the special German shepherd has a permanently small stature caused by a rare genetic disorder known as pituitary dwarfism. The condition can appear in German shepherds, corgis, and basset hounds as a result of “autosomal recessive inheritance” — or recessive gene inheritance.
When Ranger was born, Mayo considered the pup the runt of the litter, and would eventually catch up to his siblings in size. She had no idea that the purebred German shepherd would stay small forever. “When we originally got Ranger from the breeder, he was smaller than all his other littermates, but we figured that was because he had a parasite.”
After a consultation with the vet, Ranger in fact had a parasite, among other things. The dog’s owners were informed that Ranger had Giardia and an “infection” on his neck. “During this time Ranger remained very small,” Mayo said.
“The vet had suspected that he may have pituitary dwarfism.” The recessive genetic disorder meant that both of Ranger’s parents must be a carrier of the mutation, even if they don’t exhibit it themselves.
She added, “After a few more months we got him neutered and that’s when we started to see big changes. He lost his appetite, started to lose weight, lost almost all of his fur and had extremely dry and flaky skin.” Additional consultations with the vet revealed Ranger’s thyroid problem.
The doctor placed him on levothyroxine and he was bathed with a special soap that allowed his fur to grow back and prevented dryness of the skin.
According to studies made by Utrecht University in the Netherlands, pituitary dwarfism is associated with growth hormone deficiency, and is a recessively inherited disorder in shepherd dogs. However, it is not confined to the dog’s size and physical appearance.
Pituitary dwarfism is a serious illness and dogs are likely to suffer from a range of illnesses, including various developmental impediments, behavioral problems, and a compromised immune system. Without proper treatment, they are not expected to live beyond four to five years old. However, pituitary dwarfism is easily preventable and a number of treatments are available for dogs with the condition.
Mayo has chronicled Ranger on Instagram and he has thousands of followers, from whom he gets a lot of support. “One of our followers, ‘Guardians Farm,’ a small company that makes handmade soaps [and] lotions . . . sent us goat milk soap, which ended up helping Ranger’s skin immensely,” said Mayo.
Despite the dwarfism and its accompanying challenges, Mayo reassured Ranger’s fans that the dog is loved, and doing well. “He is healthy and happy as can be as of now and loves jumping around and playing with his ball and squeaky toys with his two sisters Hazel and Jessie.”
Ranger is surely like any other dog, but he will continue to need plenty throughout his lifetime. Fortunately, he has a caring family who is ready to face his battles with dwarfism with him.