The owner of a dwarf German shepherd has warned against dog inbreeding which caused a rare genetic condition in her dog meaning he'll look like a puppy forever.
Ranger suffers from pituitary dwarfism which caused him to grow to only a third of the size of his littermates and will affect his life expectancy.
Even though he is now four years old, he is still only the size of a puppy.
His owner, Shelby Mayo, who lives in Arizona in the US, expressed concern that she received requests to breed the “forever puppy,” despite the condition leading to health issues and a short life expectancy for the dog.
Shelby, 20, a student nurse from Phoenix, said: “Ranger is very cute and he’s a great dog, but ultimately this is the result of inbreeding and we want to stop that. Breeders need to be aware that this can occur and they need to try and prevent it.
“Ranger has had a good life so far but that's not the case for all.”
Dwarfism is more prevalent in German shepherds, basset hounds and corgis and can shorten a dog’s life to only three years.
PDSA vet Lynne Janes explained: “Dwarfism is an inherited genetic condition whereby both parents have to be carriers of the gene for a puppy to be affected.
“The lack of growth hormone results in slow growth from about two months of age. Affected puppies are very obviously smaller than their littermates, and also fail to grow an adult coat – their fur remains soft and woolly.
“In many cases while the coat may recover, the dwarfism is irreversible and these puppies do not grow to their expected adult size.
“Unfortunately, the condition is life-limiting, and many dogs with the condition sadly die before they are three years old.
“Inbreeding can be a factor and dogs who are known to have produced a puppy with dwarfism should not be bred from again.”
Ranger was noticeably the smallest of his litter when owner Shelby first spotted him.
She recalled: “He was definitely the runt of the litter as he was half the size of his littermates. We didn’t know at the time what condition he had but we assumed he would grow bigger.”
But the puppy soon developed an infection on his neck which turned out to be Giardia, a small parasite which attacks the lining of a dog’s intestine.
“We thought that’s why his growth was stunted,” Shelby said.
But a vet later confirmed that the puppy was suffering from pituitary dwarfism.
Due to low thyroid levels, Ranger lost all of his fur as a puppy, but he was able to grow it back thanks to thyroid medication.
The dwarf German shepherd initially had difficulty eating but has since developed a healthy appetite.
Sisters Shelby and Darcy first launched an Instagram page for Ranger in 2017 when they first adopted the puppy and it has since gained over 131,000 followers including American actress and dog lover Lili Reinhart.
The account was initially created to track Ranger’s progress, but Shelby has since used the platform to raise awareness of the issue of inbreeding.
Shelby said: “The Instagram page has really been a reflection of his journey, but we had no idea what it would turn into.”
Though Ranger is adored by his owners and fans, Shelby wants to warn breeders about the life-altering condition and discourage attempts to breed dwarf dogs.
Despite the initial challenges with his health, Ranger is a happy, healthy dog who is getting the best care possible.
Though he is small in stature, Ranger is feisty and far from intimidated by his fully-grown German shepherd sister, Jessie, who he lives with.
“Jessie is three times the size of him but Ranger is very much the dominant one and the alpha dog,” Shelby laughed.
“He is very dominant so he does not get picked on, so his size does not stop him at all.”
You can follow Ranger on his Instagram page here.
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