An adorable dwarf German shepherd has become a social media superstar but his owner warns against the inbreeding that caused it.
Little Ranger lives with a rare genetic condition called pituitary dwarfism meaning he'll look like a puppy forever.
His owner, Shelby Mayo from Phoenix in Arizona, US, runs an Instagram account for her five-year-old pet which now has 135,000 adoring followers.
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While Ranger's “forever puppy” cute looks have made him a fixture on so many fans' social media feeds, Shelby has urged dog lovers to not demand a lookalike.
Shelby, 21, a student nurse, 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 largely 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.
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“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.”
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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.
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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.
Shelby said: “The Instagram page has really been a reflection of his journey, but we had no idea what it would turn into.”
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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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