Although more needs to be known about dwarf cat health issues, this group of short-legged cats are said to be generally healthy partly because of careful breeding. However, there are two health problems which are known to exist in dwarf cats. They are present in the founding dwarf cat, the Munchkin. All dwarf cat breeds carry the Munchkin genes. The health issues mentioned below are congenital i.e. inherited diseases. Because they are inherited it has to be argued that dwarf cats are less healthy than regular moggies.
This is an inward curvature of the spine. The spine drops inwards around the shoulder blades. It causes misalignment in the thoracic region of the spine, which is the upper part of the spine including the vertebrae connected to the ribs.
As the spine dips it compresses the heart, lungs and trachea. In severe conditions the kitten dies at 10-11 weeks of age. Kittens appear swaybacked or humpbacked. In mild cases it can cause infections, breathing and cardiac distress and pneumonia. In mild versions of this condition the cat can live a normal life.
This is also a congenital deformity. In a healthy cat the chest cavity is oval while in a cat suffering from pectus it is narrower from top to bottom and the sternum is displaced upwards (see on this page).
In severe cases of pectus the reduced chest space results in the compression of the heart and lungs. This leads to an aversion to exercise, coughing, weight loss, failure to gain weight and breathing difficulties.
We don’t know the prevalence of the above congenital conditions. More work needs to be done. I presume that dwarf cat breeders do their utmost to breed out these conditions, which they refer to as ‘LP’ (Lordosis Pectus). Clearly, therefore, they are a notable issue in their breeding programs. They are rarely spoken about.
Both these conditions are also seen in humans.
The founding dwarf breed, the Munchkin, has a normal head and body but short limbs and therefore it has been decided that this breed suffers from a condition called pseudoachondroplasia (source: Sarah Hartwell). The two health conditions referred to above are associated with this form of dwarfism.
P.S Dwarf cat owners say dwarf cats jump almost as well as normal cats.
Sources: Various – please click on this link and go to the base of the page.
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