The closing of growth rates in puppies varies greatly in dogs of differing sizes and differing breeds.
This makes your puppy’s diet and exercises very important factors when it comes to proper growth rates of bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons etc ensuring that each aspect grows at a complimentary rate to each other.
As a puppy grows, their joints, which contain loads of cartilage initially, go through a process called endochondral ossification. This is the process where cartilage turns to bone. This growth process differs greatly among dog breeds of differing sizes, depending on the adult size of your puppy.
The rate at which growth plates close (complete ossification has occurred) in different sized dogs can be between 3 months in toy breeds and 24 months in large breeds.
Factors affecting the growth rate of our puppies and their age of maturity are vast! A common example is how many males mature slower than their female counterparts (I know my male has remained a puppy in his head for much longer than my daughters female).
There are differences in periods of ‘growth spurts’ in different dogs of differing sizes too. Growth spurts can range from birth to 11 weeks in small and toy breed dogs and from birth to 20 weeks in large breeds (Hawthorne et al 2004).
Too much exercise and incorrect or “over-zealous” nutrition during these periods may result in conformation abnormalities, malformation of bones or even incorrect growth rates between soft tissue and skeletal development. All these may lead to your puppy developing osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease which could easily have been preventable.
The rule of thumb for recommended exercise levels for puppies is 1 minute for every week of their life, twice a day. This should be low impact at a steady pace. So at 6 months, a young Labrador puppy should only be receiving approximately 30 minutes of exercise. Of course, the type of exercise is very important too! 30 minutes of jogging with a 6-month-old puppy is a recipe for degenerative joint disease such as hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis etc. Repetitive impact exercises for puppies must be avoided.
If you are aiming to train for a sporting career such as flyball, agility or protection sports or even any working career such as search and rescue, it is recommended that any jump training is avoided until all the growth plates are closed, i.e. complete ossification has occurred.
If you would like to know how best to raise your working or sporting puppy safely, please contact me at The Biokinetic K-9. I would love to help you!
Catherine Marshal Veterinary Physiotherapists