Feline dwarfism sometimes occurs due to a genetic disorder passed along in cats, an underactive pituitary gland or selective breeding. Some kitties with dwarfism may have health concerns that cause a shorter-than-normal lifespan, while other cats with dwarfism live healthy lives in all their compact cuteness.
Osteochondrodysplasia is a bone disorder that occurs when there is abnormal bone development and cartilage present. For a kitten to acquire the gene that is responsible for osteochondrodysplasia, only one parent must carry the gene. The parent who carries it may or may not appear to have dwarfism. Symptoms of dwarfism in feline friends can vary and they may present some or only a few of these symptoms. Kitty may have a head that is a bit bigger than her other feline counterparts. A jaw that appears to be undershot with a larger nose and crooked teeth thanks to that shorter jaw could also be present. As a kitten, she may not grow at a normal rate. Joints may appear to be larger than normal. Her spine may deviate to one side, causing it to look crooked. Her forearms may also bow sideways. This is more likely to be present in the front legs than the back.
Pituitary dwarfism, also referred to as hyposomatotrophism, is caused by an abnormal production of the growth hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland. It is very rare in cats. This can be caused by an underdeveloped pituitary gland, cysts that are present on the gland, tumors or infectious diseases that directly effect the gland. Kittens with pituitary dwarfism will not develop or grow at the same pace of other kittens, but their head and body will be proportionate in most cases. Their soft kitten fur will remain. Teeth may be slow at developing. These cats may seem slow to respond to stimuli in their environment as they age. Before pituitary dwarfism is diagnosed, congenital hypothyroidism should be ruled out.
Selective dwarfism is sometimes carried out by breeders who encourage the genetic mutation. There are several different breeds that the Dwarf Cat Association currently recognizes, with the munchkin being the most notable. Dwarf cats come in many variations and mixtures of breeds of cats, which is always a munchkin mixed with another breed. These cats have been bred since the 1980s.
Risks and Treatment
For both osteochondrodysplasia and pituitary dwarfism, a full veterinary examination will be required where you will need to provide your veterinarian with a detailed medical history of your cat. Blood tests will be necessary to rule out any other possible conditions. For osteochondrodysplasia, the outlook varies depending on the severity of the individual case and there is no official treatment protocol. Kitties with pituitary dwarfism usually don't experience a normal lifespan because many of their organs also develop at a slower rate. There is no treatment plan that has been shown to effectively treat this condition so far.
- PetMD: Bone Deformity and Dwarifism in Cats
- The University of Sydney: Disorder - Dwarfism
- The Family Veterinarian: Kitten Diseases
- Fab Cats: Muscoskeletal Conditions
- Pet Assure: Specialty Cats: Dwarf, Miniature and Teacup Cats
- Dr Addie: Genetic and Hereditary Conditions of Pedigree (Purebred) and Domestic Cats and Kittens
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images