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What Is Bully Whippet Syndrome? – Facts, Genetics & DNA Test

What is bully whippet syndrome

Have you ever seen a Whippet that is affected by the so-called Bully Whippet Syndrome? These Whippet dogs appear overly muscular and way larger than the usual Whippet.

While Whippets are known to be healthy and can live up to 15 years, these dogs are unfortunately prone to the Bully Whippet Syndrome. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this genetic mutation from happening to a dog.

If you’re planning to own a Whippet or a dog in general and are curious about this genetic health condition, keep reading to find out its cause, signs, symptoms, prevention, and detection.

What Is Bully Whippet Syndrome?

Bully Whippet Syndrome, also called Myostatin Deficiency, is an autosomal inherited recessive trait that makes a Whippet dog appear heavily muscled or double-muscled. This trait only manifests physically and does not affect the naturally sweet disposition of the breed.

In simpler terms, a Bully Whippet may have twice the muscle mass of a normal Whippet because of mutations in the myostatin (MSTN) gene that results in double-muscling.

The myostatin protein is a negative regulator of muscle mass and helps determine the size and composition of muscle fibers. The mutation in dogs leads to a premature stop codon, which results in a less functional protein.

Dogs who possess a single defective copy of the MSTN gene or heterozygote dogs are considered normal overall. However, they have more muscles than a typical Whippet.

On the contrary, dogs carrying two copies of the myostatin gene or homozygous are seen as abnormal physique-wise, as they become heavily muscled, comparable to an overly muscled bodybuilder in humans.

Which Dog Breeds Are Affected?

Regrettably, purebred Whippets are the only ones affected by Bully Whippet Syndrome. Other breeds belonging to the hound group have not been noted to suffer from this mutation.

In fact, similar tests conducted on some Mastiff or muscular types of breeds and racing breeds like Greyhound and lurcher revealed negative results — meaning the MSTN mutation is unique to the Whippet.

However, the same mutation that results in double muscling has similarly been observed in cattle, sheep, mice, and even a human. 

Not surprisingly, the name “bully” in Bully Whippet was derived from bull or male cattle since double muscling has been previously found in some cattle breeds.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bully Whippet Syndrome?

Since their muscle mass is doubled compared to that of normal Whippets, Bully Whippets will exhibit an abnormally hefty and bulky physical appearance. This will be easily recognizable when compared to other dogs.

While the Whippet is considered a medium dog breed, those affected by the myostatin mutation will be considerably more muscular. 

However, the musculature of heterozygotes is considered to be within the breed’s standards, while those of homozygous dogs will be so severe that some even consider them to be “freaks of nature.”

Compared to the Whippet’s lean body, a Bully Whippet will have a distinctly “ripped” build, usually more pronounced than the muscular Pitbull.

It will have a thick and short neck and substantial muscles in its chest, midriff, upper arms, and legs.

At least 50% of affected dogs will also have a recognizable overbite, a condition in which the lower jaw is shorter than the upper jaw. 

Here is a video of Wendy the Whippet, which is perhaps the most famous dog known to have this gene mutation:

Strongest dog in the World, Wendy the Whippet (By Animal planet)

When Do Signs and Symptoms Develop?

Bully Whippet Syndrome usually manifests in the dog’s early years. As it is linked to genetics, Whippets with this condition will exhibit double-muscling from the get-go.

Though the mutation does not necessarily affect the overall health of Bully Whippets, they might experience muscle cramping in the shoulder and thigh area.

As there is no exact age when the symptoms start to show, it’s important to be observant and take note when you notice your Whippet has more muscles than usual or suffers from an overbite.

What Are the Consequences of Bully Whippet Syndrome?

Even if only their appearance is affected by the MSTN mutation, there are still several concerns that might arise for Bully Whippets, some of which can be detrimental if not addressed properly. 

Here are some consequences associated with the Bully Whippet Syndrome:

  • Extremely muscled appearance: As mentioned, affected dogs will experience double muscling, making them look strangely bigger than other dogs of the same breed. Not everyone will be accepting of this, and unkind remarks like “monsters” or “mutants” can be expected.
  • Potential cardiac and respiratory issues: Bully Whippets appear more massive than normal Whippets but have the same heart and lung size. This could affect the delivery of blood and oxygen to its abnormally large body and adversely affect its cardiac and respiratory systems.
  • Reproduction problems: The mutated gene that causes Bully Whippet Syndrome can be passed down to its offspring. This means that mating two carrier dogs can result in each litter having a 25% chance to be either affected or unaffected or a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier or heterozygous.
  • Short life: Since those severely affected by the syndrome are not ideal for breeding and cannot be registered under the American Kennel Club (AKC), most breeders euthanize them at a young age. A shorter life is also possible because of the aforementioned strains on their internal organs.

Keep in mind that these are just some noted risks caused by the Bully Whippet Syndrome. As science evolves, more discoveries can be made to improve an affected dog’s life.

Can Bully Whippet Syndrome Be Prevented?

Since it is hereditary, the only known way to prevent Bully Whippet Syndrome is through responsible breeding — a significant aspect of which is knowing all about genetics.

However, since cardiac and respiratory issues could result in Bully Whippets, it would be useful if they only get the exact amount of exercise and their energies are not exhausted to have healthy hearts and lungs.

This is also why it’s crucial as a potential dog owner, whether you’re looking to buy a puppy or adopt, to factor in the background of the breeder and facility you’ll be getting your pet from.

How Is Bully Whippet Syndrome Treated?

Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for Bully Whippet Syndrome at present, but it can be detected through genetic testing.

This test usually allows an owner to learn more about their dog’s genes, including its heritage as well as genetic variants linked to a trait or disease. It’s vital, especially for future breeders who aim to produce better breeds.

Usually, a dog DNA test requires a simple mouth swab, mostly from the cheek of a dog, to acquire a sample. A few labs may require a more qualified person to perform this, but it’s not usual. 

In general, though, Bully Whippets can still lead healthy lives despite their heavily muscled appearance. This is especially true if they are provided with utmost care and regular health checks. 

Is Your Dog at Risk? Dog DNA Test for Bully Whippet Syndrome

Now that you know everything about Bully Whippet Syndrome, it’s time to determine whether or not the signs point to your pooch having a myostatin deficiency.

As mentioned, genetic testing can help reveal whether your dog is a double muscle Whippet, and here are some laboratories that you can choose from to get your pooch tested:

  • Embark Embark is composed of experts in dog genetics, claiming to have tested over 350 breeds of dogs. Their dog DNA test kits allow an owner to trace the ancestry, relatives, and traits of their pet, while an additional health kit can screen a pup for potential health issues, including Bully Whippet Syndrome.
  • DNA Diagnostics Center – Located in Fairfield, Ohio, this testing lab does not only cater to humans but also canines. Their website offers easy browsing through hundreds of breeds as well as available tests, including those for Whippets.
  • Paw Print Genetics – Another viable option, this facility employs competent geneticists, veterinarians, and technicians who process and analyze dog DNA samples to detect canine genetic diseases, including mutations in the myostatin protein.

All of these options are available online, which would be convenient for those looking to have their pooches tested as soon as possible. You can also read reviews before proceeding to ensure the lab’s credibility.

Final Thoughts

Bully Whippet Syndrome is a genetic defect that causes a normal Whippet to look extremely muscular. However, aside from their physical deviation, they are basically the same likable, athletic, and intelligent dogs.

Responsible breeding should be practiced to mitigate the occurrence of this deficiency in Whippets. Eliminating this mutation can reduce complications in the cardiac and respiratory health of the Whippet breed.

Despite not having available treatments, the syndrome can be detected through DNA testing.

So, have you seen a double-muscle Whippet before? Let us know in the comments below your thoughts about the Bully Whippet Syndrome.