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What Causes a Puppy to Stop Growing?

Puppies that fail to grow at a typical rate or appear smaller than expected for their age are considered stunted. Stunted growth in puppies can be attributed to various factors, including intestinal worm infections and genetic predispositions. This article will explore the primary issues linked to stunted growth in dogs and evaluate whether these concerns genuinely hinder a puppy’s growth.

Does Worm Infection Cause Stunting?

The primary cause behind a puppy’s growth being stunted often stems from hookworms or roundworms infesting their system. These intestinal worms are prevalent among puppies in the United States, as they can either inherit them from their mother or pick them up from their surroundings. When a puppy harbors a significant worm infestation, the parasites can siphon off enough calories from the puppy, thereby hindering its growth. Puppies with a heavy worm burden typically exhibit signs of poor health: they may have a lackluster coat, suffer from diarrhea, sport a distended belly, and remain small and frail despite having a hearty appetite.

Fortunately, once the puppy is rid of the worms, its body can recuperate and resume normal growth and development.

To shield your puppy from worms, adhere to the deworming schedule recommended by your breeder and/or veterinarian. In case of conflicting schedules, defer to the worming regimen outlined by your veterinarian.

Does Malnutrition Cause Stunting?

A frequently asked question among puppy owners is whether transitioning a puppy to adult food too early can impede its growth. The straightforward answer is no; switching to adult food prematurely or slightly underfeeding will not stunt a puppy’s growth. Puppy food is specifically formulated to facilitate normal growth and development. While not optimal, many dogs thrive on diets formulated for all life stages, which are deemed safe for puppies.

Conversely, overfeeding or administering supplements during a puppy’s growth phase can significantly compromise its long-term joint health. According to Purina’s lifetime studies on Labrador Retrievers, dogs tend to live approximately two years longer and experience fewer chronic diseases if they maintain a slim physique throughout their lives. Consult your veterinarian regarding your puppy’s ideal body condition and receive guidance on the appropriate feeding regimen to maintain its optimal condition.

Similar to human children, puppies undergo growth spurts during their first year. There will be days when they require more food than they will as adults. For instance, my 75-pound Goldendoodle consumes two cups of dry dog food daily, but during her growth phase (around eight months old), she consumed up to four cups a day. Flexibility in feeding quantities is necessary at times to support a puppy’s growth and development.

Another common inquiry pertains to whether malnutrition itself leads to stunted growth. While puppies subjected to extreme circumstances like starvation are indeed at risk of stunted growth, most puppies raised in caring environments with pet owners who provide appropriate nutrition to support bone, muscle, and tissue growth are unlikely to experience stunting from malnutrition, even if they maintain a slim physique.

Does Strenuous Exercise Cause Stunting?

Participating in vigorous exercise with your puppy won’t stunt his growth, but the intense impact associated with activities like running can potentially harm the growth plates of long bones, leading to abnormal development and a predisposition to joint issues later on, particularly for large breed dogs due to their heavier weight.

Allowing your puppy to engage in activities like playing fetch and running around until tired is perfectly acceptable. However, it’s advisable to refrain from jogging or running with your puppy until they have finished growing. For clients interested in having their medium or large breed dog as a jogging companion, my standard recommendation is to wait until after 15 months to ensure proper bone growth.

Does Strenuous Exercise Cause Stunting?

Participating in vigorous exercise with your puppy won’t stunt his growth, but the intense impact associated with activities like running can potentially harm the growth plates of long bones, leading to abnormal development and a predisposition to joint issues later on, particularly for large breed dogs due to their heavier weight.

Allowing your puppy to engage in activities like playing fetch and running around until tired is perfectly acceptable. However, it’s advisable to refrain from jogging or running with your puppy until they have finished growing. For clients interested in having their medium or large breed dog as a jogging companion, my standard recommendation is to wait until after 15 months to ensure proper bone growth.

Are Certain Breeds at Risk for Stunting?

Is there any particular breed more susceptible to stunting than others? There exists a rare condition known as pituitary dwarfism in German Shepherds and, in certain cases, Labrador Retrievers, which carries a genetic component. However, these conditions are exceedingly rare and are not typically observed in companion animals.

 

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