Pituitary Dwarfism in Dogs and Puppies
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Race Foster, DVM

Pituitary dwarfism is the result of inadequate production of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland. The lack of production of growth hormone may be due to a lack of development of the pituitary gland, cysts within the gland, infectious diseases which affect the gland, or tumors. Growth hormone has many effects within the body including controlling the growth rate, maintaining the hair coat, and bone and teeth development. Dwarfism is hereditary in many breeds, most notably German Shepherds, Weimaraners, and Spitz.

What are the symptoms?

A puppy or kitten affected with pituitary dwarfism will fail to grow at the proper rate and proportion. It will generally be much smaller than its littermates. Its teeth will be slow to develop as will its hair coat. Affected puppies retain puppy fur rather than growing their longer more adult-like coat. Many puppies and kittens are slow or unable to progress mentally as well as physically.

What are the risks?

Because so many organs are affected by a lack of growth hormone, normal life spans are not to be expected.

What is the management?

There are no effective treatments for pituitary dwarfism in the dog or cat. The growth hormone available for use in humans has been used in dogs with limited, varying degrees of success. The cost is extremely high and the owners should be aware of this prior to beginning any therapy.

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