dwarf german shepherd

Dwarf German Shepherd: Can German Shepherds Have Dwarfism?

German Shepherd puppies are small, fluffy, and adorable. And so some might wish that their German Shepherds remain to be a cute puppies forever. Unfortunately though, a German Shepherd will most likely grow in size. That is unless it’s suffering from a condition called pituitary dwarfism.

Can German Shepherd Have Dwarfism?

Yes, German Shepherds can have dwarfism, specifically pituitary dwarfism, a genetic disorder characterized by the pituitary gland not making enough of the growth hormone. It results in a dwarf German Shepherd that’s plagued with a variety of health problems that may affect its lifespan.

To learn more about dwarfism in German Shepherds, do read further.

Pituitary Dwarfism In Dogs

Pituitary dwarfism, also known as growth hormone deficiency, is a genetic disorder wherein an abnormality with the pituitary gland, causes the deficient secretion of the growth hormone. 

Not only does it lead to a dog’s smaller stature, but it may also cause issues with the kidneys, thyroid glands, and sterility. Dogs with pituitary dwarfism also tend to be dull, unintelligent, and often have shorter lifespans.

Symptoms Of Pituitary Dwarfism

German Shepherds with pituitary dwarfism will grow more slowly than expected and will noticeably look smaller at 2 to 5 months of age. That said, they’re bodies will be proportionate, and they won’t necessarily exhibit shorter limbs. They will just, for the most part, look like puppies.

Aside from size though, German Shepherds with dwarfism will also exhibit developmental issues with other parts of their bodies. 

For one, they won’t grow their adult coats and retain their soft and easily removable puppy coats, which eventually leads to hair loss and eventual baldness in certain parts of their bodies. 

Their teeth will also be slow to erupt, and thus they will have a lack of them in the first months. 

And finally, their reproductive systems will also generally fail to develop, with males typically having smaller testicles that fail to descend into the scrotum and females not having enough progesterone to ovulate and be in heat..

The following are more symptoms of pituitary dwarfism:

  • Darkening of the skin
  • Skin infections
  • High pitched barks
  • Breathing difficulties

Causes Of Pituitary Dwarfism

As mentioned, pituitary dwarfism is a genetic disorder of the pituitary gland which affects the production of the growth hormone. It can, however, also be caused by tumors, cysts, and infections.


While it may be quite obvious to tell that a German Shepherd has pituitary dwarfism by size alone, to confirm the diagnosis, the veterinarian will have to do a variety of tests.

For instance, the vet may run an endocrine test and check for low concentration levels of Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-1), Growth Hormone (GH), and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). 

The vet may also conduct imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs to spot cysts. Or a DNA test to check whether there are mutations in both alleles in the dog’s LHX3 gene pair.


Treatment for pituitary dwarfism primarily involves replenishing and supplementing the dog’s deficient hormones. 

The affected German Shepherd will need to have weekly injections of porcine growth hormones to try and help increase the dog’s size and improve hair and skin. 

The issue with this treatment method, however, is that results vary and aren’t generally reliable. But if diagnosed early during puppyhood, it may have significant effects on a dwarf German Shepherd’s size and growth.

Another option would be the injection of progestins such as medroxyprogesterone acetate(MPA), which is a steroidal drug that stimulates the production of growth hormones. 

This one typically produces better results in terms of increased body size and the development of adult hair. But, it also causes a number of side effects like skin infections, skeletal deformities, tumors, and diabetes.

In the case of underproduction and problems with the thyroid function a dwarf German Shepherd may also receive thyroid hormone supplementation.

And finally, surgery may be an option, if image scans determine the presence of tumors and cysts in safe and operable areas.


Generally, untreated German Shepherds with pituitary dwarfism tend to die or get euthanized at an early age of below five years due to infections or diseases such as diabetes or kidney failure.

If treated and provided with a good treatment plan, the dog’s lifespan and quality of life are sure to improve. This, however, requires continuous treatment throughout the dog’s life and does not necessarily guarantee that the dog survives to old age.

Can Pituitary Dwarfism Be Prevented?

Yes, pituitary dwarfism can be prevented, but only by avoiding the breeding of two carriers of the gene. Note that, a recessive gene brings about pituitary dwarfism, and even normal-sized German Shepherds can be carriers. So, the key to preventing the disorder would be by running a genetic or DNA test on the parents before breeding.

Incidence Of Pituitary Dwarfism In German Shepherds

It is estimated that at least 20% percent of German Shepherds and other related breeds are carriers of the gene that causes pituitary dwarfism. This further emphasizes the necessity of conducting DNA tests before breeding to prevent spreading the disorder.

Ranger The Dwarf German Shepherd

Due to their short lifespans and breeders usually opting to euthanize dwarfs a few weeks after birth, it can be quite a rarity to find a German Shepherd with pituitary dwarfism. There is, however, a known German Shepherd dwarf named Ranger.

After noticing that Ranger wasn’t growing in size, his owner took him to the vet to check his thyroid hormone levels, which confirmed the diagnosis of pituitary dwarfism. And so, to counteract the hormone deficiency, he has to keep a regimen of thyroid medication to keep him healthy.

Despite the unfortunate condition, however, Ranger has grown to become a rather famous dog. He’s known as the German Shepherd that will forever remain a puppy and people love him for his cuteness.

You can check him out on Instagram here.

Final Thoughts

As cute as dwarf German Shepherds like Ranger may seem, the condition itself isn’t favorable and will ultimately affect quality of life. Thus, if possible, try your best to do tests before breeding to prevent the onset of the disease, and don’t try to explicitly breed a German Shepherd with pituitary dwarfism.

That said, if you do end up owning a German Shepherd with dwarfism, always remember that even if it may have a number of health conditions, it still is a pet that you should most definitely care for.

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