How To Expect Growth In Dogs

You may have some questions about the development of a new puppy that has recently joined your family. When will her growth stop? What does it mean when she has big feet? Answers are provided by Dr. Susan O’Bell of Angell Animal Medical Center, Boston, and Dr. Matthew Rooney owner and board-certified surgeon at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists, Longmont, Colo.

How big will my puppy get?

Doctors say that the growth plates of most dogs close around nine to eleven months. O’Bell says that by this time, you will have an idea of the dog’s final height and length. Giant breeds grow until they’re a bit over one year, he adds. Rooney says that smaller dogs will reach their full size between 6 and 8 months.

O’Bell notes that many medium-sized and large breeds retain a “juvenile” appearance during their first year or two of life. However, they’re not technically growing. Although your dog may still have a puppy-like demeanor, with soft, round ears, facial features, and hair, it should stop growing once your pet turns two.

Rooney says that if you are familiar with the parent dogs of the dog, or the breed, then you may be able to estimate the size of the dog. It can be difficult to estimate the size of your dog if you don’t know its breed or parents. O’Bell believes that your dog’s brothers and sisters are the best indicators of their ultimate size. You can get an idea of what size your dog will be by looking at a litter from the same dam and sire. She says that there are general sizes for purebreds.

While pet parents often comment on the size and shape of a pup’s ears or paws, these measurements don’t really tell us how large a dog is likely to be. O’Bell says that while we often make comments about the size of a pup’s ears or paws, these measurements aren’t reliable. Rooney also agrees with Rooney that while ears and paws may seem large or small at first, it does not indicate the size of a pup.

What Are Some Conditions Common to Growing Dogs?

The most common problems are orthopedic. Larger dogs, weighing 50 pounds and more, are most likely to have problems with their elbows, shoulders, or hips. Rooney notes that even very small dogs may have problems with their hips or knees. Most growing dogs are not affected.

O’Bell says that young dogs can suffer from panosteitis – a painful but temporary bone inflammation. This condition is usually treated with medication. Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a painful swelling in the growth plates on the legs of large and giant breeds. It’s often associated with fever. She says that the condition will usually go away on its own.

Hip dysplasia, (when the ball-and-socket of the joint is not aligned properly) and osteochondrosis are some of the inherited or congenital diseases. O’Bell says that surgery is often required to treat these conditions. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, large breeds like German Shepherds Labradors, or St. Bernards can be prone to this condition. Contact your vet or surgical specialist if you notice your dog is limping, or that the leg of your pet appears twisted.

Does your dog experience growing pains?

O’Bell states that puppies don’t appear to have growing pains. Some orthopedic conditions, such as those mentioned above, can produce symptoms in puppies, which include: limping or an abnormal gait, an unwillingness to engage in regular activities, and reluctance. There may be swelling, heat, and/or discomfort around the area. She adds that some inflammatory conditions can be accompanied by fever which may make your pet lethargic or dull their appetite.

She notes also that puppies have more energy and are more susceptible to injuries, especially from rough play.

Do Care Requirements for Growing Dogs Differ?

O’Bell advises that all puppies need to be seen by their vet on a regular basis. This is usually three or four times during the first year. Your vet will evaluate your puppy’s weight and condition during these visits. Rooney advises that you should use common sense to monitor your puppy’s health. Pay attention to his normal behavior, discuss any worries with your veterinarian, and watch for anything out of the ordinary.

Rooney recommends that you feed your puppy a high-protein diet to help fuel its growth. These products can also help large-breed puppies avoid rapid growth which increases their chances of getting orthopedic disorders. Doctors say that your veterinarian can tailor the diet of your puppy to ensure she gains enough weight while receiving adequate nutrients. Young dogs require more fat and vitamins than adults, as well as adequate amounts of protein. O’Bell says that your veterinarian can be a great resource for questions regarding the best diet.

O’Bell says that when it comes to exercising, dogs should get at least one hour of moderate exercise a day. However, anyone who has had a puppy or two knows how much exercise is needed. Your dog may only be able or interested to play for a short time before she needs a nap, depending on her breed and age. Some puppies need longer periods of stimulation.

O’Bell says that vigorous exercise poses only a hypothetical risk for young dogs. However, she recommends caution, especially with large breeds and dogs who are predisposed to hip dysplasia. She says, “We don’t want their growth plates to be damaged while they are growing.”