PUPPY'S GROWTH PLATES
What are Puppy Growth Plates?
When it comes to puppies, it may be tempting to exercise them so to drain that boundless puppy energy, but it's important to consider the impact exercise may have on puppy growth plates. When can I take my puppy jogging with me? When can my puppy start competing in agility classes? When can my puppy follow me on a bike? These are all important questions that puppy owners often ask.
While there's no question about the fact that puppies love romping and moving about, even up to the point of exhaustion, as with most things in life, too much of a good thing can have an impact, and in this case, the impact can have deleterious effects to the the pup's developing skeletal system.
Puppy bones are surrounded by layers of soft developing cartilage tissue that are found towards the end of most long bones. These areas of soft cartilage are known as growth plates or more technically, epiphyseal plates.
As one may imagine, since growth plates are made of soft, developing cartilage, they are vulnerable and can be quite prone to injury.
Puppy Growth Plate Damage
When it comes to the skeletal development of puppies, it's important that the puppies' bones go through even growth, basically, synchronized growth that occurs evenly and as close to the same rate as possible.
If an injury to a growth plate occurs, the growth of damaged cells may slow down and come to a halt meaning that there may no longer be growth on one side. When the growing of the affected side is delayed and stopped, the unaffected, healthy side may continue to grow and this unevenness may lead to potential deformity.
Puppies are particularly prone to injury during strenuous exercise because they lack coordination and don't have a lot of muscle strength. In addition to excessive strenuous exercise, injury to a puppy's growth plates may occur from a fracture as can happen from a fall. While these fractures may heal, the bone may grow unevenly.
If you therefore suspect injury to your pup's growth plates or witness any abnormalities, see your vet at once.
Preventing Puppy Growth Plate injuries
Puppies need proper exercise as they grow and develop, but moderation is key.
It's therefore important to be careful especially with high impact activities such as repeated jumping, hurdling through obstacles or jogging, especially over hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete.
Turf or carpet offers a more forgiving surface and better traction compared to hard cement or asphalt. Sustained vigorous exercise, leg-twisting activities or very rough play should be avoided.
When can my puppy start competing in agility? Many puppy owners may find it surprising when trainers tell them that their puppies are too young to start competing in agility.
However, puppy owners may start their puppies on some pre-agility basics such as getting familiar with agility obstacles and other skills/ foundation exercises that aren't high impact and therefore won't put strain on those delicate growth plates. Consult with your vet and agility trainer for when you can get started.
When Do Puppy's Growth Plates Close?
As puppies develop, their growth plates close as calcium and minerals harden the soft areas but exactly when do these puppy growth plates close? Since dogs develop at different rates based on size and breed, there is no one rule that fits all.
Growths plates in Havanese will close much sooner than a larger breed dog. Generally most skeletal growth occurs when puppies are between 4 and 6 months of age. Afterward, longitudinal growth decreases and most growth plates have fused and closed.