Why a Puppy Does Not Grow: WHAT IT CAN MEAN AND WHAT TO DO

The reasons why a puppy does not grow are varied and sometimes complex. In this article we will illustrate them one by one.

In caring for a puppy it is important to regularly monitor not only their health but also their growth. If it does not grow enough with the passage of time, in fact, it is vitally important to realize it as soon as possible so as to be able to determine the possible causes of this phenomenon and act appropriately to overcome it. If you are unfamiliar with this topic and would like to know more, about your puppy’s sake, this article is for you.

Anyone who has taken a puppy with them knows certain information regarding their growth – or at least they should be. It is in fact very important that you know the characteristics of your dog well and observes the variations over time, as his organism is developing and getting closer and closer to adulthood.

Each dog breed has particular traits that make it very different from the others, and one of these traits is represented by the age at which a puppy stops growing both physically and mentally. If it is true that every puppy is considered “adult” once it reaches the first year of age, this does not mean that its development has been completed, and indeed many dogs (especially large breeds) continue to grow well beyond that threshold.

The possible causes

But what if the opposite phenomenon occurs and your puppy stops growing or doesn’t grow at all? It is a situation that can have multiple explanations, sometimes even related to each other, and none of them should be taken lightly unless of course it can be determined that it has indeed reached the maximum possible development for the breed to which belongs. Otherwise, it is necessary to act promptly to unblock this growth arrest, obviously if this is possible.

Bad nutrition

Although feeding the dog is an aspect to be taken care of in a rigorous and absolutely decisive way for its well-being, especially when it is still a puppy, it is rare that incorrect management of its nutrition can actually cause an arrest of its growth.

It is therefore unlikely that the puppy will stop growing because you have made it too early to switch to adult dog food, or if you have perhaps realized that the portions you have dosed for him were slightly smaller than his needs: after all, even the treats for adults are designed to ensure that Bau is getting all the substances he may need, while not having smaller dogs as their main target.

This does not mean that there cannot be negative consequences on your health even for these kinds of mistakes, but when they are corrected instead of becoming a habit (or if you avoid going to the opposite extreme, that is to eat too much food or food too rich to your puppy) long-term damage can be prevented.

For a poor diet of the puppy to stop its growth we should be faced with a case of real malnutrition , typical of extreme situations and disadvantaged contexts. But a puppy who is welcomed and treated with love in a family that is attentive to his needs will not stop growing because of the way he eats, even if he is a little underweight compared to the norm.

Portosystemic shunt

The portal vein is a large blood vessel that collects blood from the gastrointestinal system, pancreas and spleen and makes it flow into the liver, where it is purified and freed from bacteria and toxins it contains. A hepatic or portosystemic shunt occurs when a connection is formed between the portal vein (or one of its branches) and another vein, causing blood to completely bypass – or bypass – the liver.

This disorder is congenital in the vast majority of cases. Every fetal mammal is provided with a large shunt called the venous duct, which quickly brings blood to the heart, avoiding passing through the liver and which closes automatically at birth because the baby no longer needs it. Hepatic shunt occurs if the venous duct remains intact after birth or if another blood vessel outside the liver opens abnormally after the venous duct closes.

The most obvious clinical signs of this disease, in addition to stunting in the puppy, are abnormal behaviors such as disorientation, a tendency to stare blank or press the head against the wall and seizures. There are other less common ones such as vomiting, diarrhea and a tendency to drink and urinate too often, which can occur later.

Some studies in this regard show a particular incidence of this disorder in dog breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier, the Bobtail, the Irish Greyhound, the Cairn Terrier and the Beagle; however it can occur in puppies of all breeds and can sometimes be noticed as they get older.

Congenital hypothyroidism

This expression indicates a rare congenital endocrine disorder that occurs in puppies of dogs and cats and whose incidence is not yet known due to the poor diagnosis made. It consists of the difficulty or inability to produce thyroid hormones, which sometimes begins in adulthood but more often affects puppies.

In this case, in fact, it results in a series of developmental anomalies (with poor ossification of the skeleton) and in particular dwarfism or slowdown in growth both from a physical and mental point of view. However, there are also in this case other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, hair alopecia, poor coordination of movements; these symptoms, initially mild, worsen over time.

Parasite infestations

Not everyone is aware of this, but the most common reason a puppy’s growth may slow or stop is a parasite infestation contracted through the mother or in contact with the surrounding environment. We speak in particular of:

  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms or worms;
  • Tapeworm
  • Giardia
  • Coccidia.

They are deposited inside the intestine or the heart of the puppy, multiplying and progressively worsening his state of health to the point of threatening his survival. Since they take away from the puppy the substances necessary for its sustenance, it is not surprising that they are also able to block its growth.

Although contracting parasites of this type are considered quite common for a dog, in the case of a puppy it is even more important to try to prevent this situation with frequent checks by the vet, or to solve it well before they manage to affect its development. If you notice any suspicious signs such as the bloated abdomen, lethargy, and loss of appetite, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.

Pituitary dwarfism

From the most common cause to one of the rarest: pituitary dwarfism is another congenital and hereditary disease that results in the insufficient secretion of somatotropin, a growth hormone produced within the pituitary gland (or pituitary).

Symptoms begin to manifest in the puppy around two months of life and, in addition to an evident slowdown in development, consist of hair problems with possible alopecia, skin infections in the hairless regions, atrophy of the testicles in males, and prolonged anestrus in the females, poor kidney development. Furthermore, over time, the lack of pituitary hormones causes poor thyroid activity resulting in hypothyroidism.

This disease mainly affects German Shepherd puppies or breeds derived from it (Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and Saarloos Wolfdog) but has also been found in Weimaraner, Dwarf Pinscher, Karelian Bear Dog, and Spitz.

Other health problems

Not to be underestimated are other common pathologies affecting the metabolism or other aspects of the functioning of the puppy’s organism; they can develop even in the first months of life and have a delay in growth among the secondary consequences.

This category includes, for example, various intestinal and kidney disorders, especially as regards the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and diabetes mellitus, since a correct development of the puppy can also depend on adequate production of insulin.

Causes to be excluded

Some dog owners are convinced that spaying their puppy too much can result in stunted growth. This is not strictly true, but it is true that sterilization or castration too early could contribute to the joint problems in large breed dogs.

This happens as this operation delays the closing of the growth plates in the puppy’s bones, leading him to grow more than he should and definitely compared to dogs spayed at a later time. A consequence of this process, as the growth plates close naturally at different times, could be a disproportionate development of the dog, with related joint problems.

In this regard, not even an excess of physical exercise will alone be responsible for a growth block for your little friend; but it too could contribute to damage to the growth plates of long bones resulting in abnormal limb development.

Remember that both of these problems mainly affect large breeds of dogs, but do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian to know exactly when to spay or neuter your puppy and how much physical activity to do before it reaches adulthood.

What to do in case of stunted growth

As it will be clear to you from what has been said so far if you notice that the puppy has stopped growing or that in any case, its growth proceeds at a much slower rate than normal, it is advisable to take it very seriously: therefore immediately go to the vet. together with your little four-legged friend to run for cover and remedy this situation.

Since they are sometimes complex pathologies and, as previously mentioned, sometimes interconnected, it is not easy to arrive at a diagnosis, which often requires various series of even particular tests. So do not wait to be able to deduce on your own and with certainty the causes why the dog is not growing, because it is very likely that you will just waste time, perhaps taking away from your puppy the possibility of completely recovering. Much better therefore to immediately rely on an expert who already knows in which direction to proceed.

In the case of parasitic infestations, an examination of the feces may be sufficient to determine what it is, even if the specific therapies are varied depending on the type of parasite responsible for the problem. The good news is that very often it is possible to successfully deworm the puppy so that he can grow back healthy and happy as before, although prevention is definitely preferable to cure.

Regarding hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, the only solution is represented by the administration of thyroid hormones for the duration of the puppy’s life, with periodic visits to the vet to adjust the dosages gradually and check that the therapy is having the right effect. A similar treatment also concerns pituitary dwarfism, which unfortunately cannot be completely eradicated and will affect the dog’s lifespan; however, it is possible, with this therapy, to greatly improve its quality.

The case of the portosystemic shunt is more complex: in the congenital variant, surgical treatment accompanied by drug therapy prior to surgery, aimed mainly at reducing symptoms, and a low-protein diet to reduce the potential number of absorbed toxins is much preferred. from the intestine. It is important in this regard to choosing a carefully balanced diet so that the puppy, already in difficulty, is not further deprived of the most important nutrients for its subsistence.

Further protection from any toxins is provided by the administration of antibiotics and lactulose: the former has the function of altering the number of bacteria present in the intestine and preventing their proliferation; the second is a sugar that helps to modify the pH of the large intestine and consequently reduce the absorption of ammonia and other toxins, making this organ a less favorable environment for the bacteria that produce them.

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