When Do Dogs Stop Growing?

My youngest dog, Sirius is an 11-month-old Newfoundland puppy. She is adorably fluffy, huge — and still growing!  It seems like everywhere we go, people stop to ask about how much she weighs. Many of the people we meet are surprised to learn that she’s not her full size yet — even at almost a year old. To answer the question “when do dogs stop growing?” we spoke with Dr. Jeremy Klein, the Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club, to learn more about the ways dogs grow and the stages of growth for dogs and puppies.

Rate of dog growth

A puppy wagging his tail.

When do dogs stop growing? That depends on a few different factors. Photography ©MirasWonderland | Thinkstock.

Different dogs grow at different rates, based mostly on the size of dog they will be when they reach adulthood. Small dogs grow much quicker than large dogs, and reach maturity at a younger age. “Toy breed dogs may reach full growth as early as 9-10 months of age, while some of the giant breeds of dogs may take up to 18-24 months of age to fully attain their final mass and growth,” Dr. Klein explains.

Dog growth and mental maturity

Small dogs mature quicker mentally, too. “As a rule, smaller breeds mature more quickly than larger or giant breeds,” Dr. Klein says. Since I’m raising a large-breed puppy, this is something that is always on my mind. Even though Sirius is much larger, and nearly twice as old as her best friends (a pair of six-month-old Border Terriers), she is actually significantly less mentally mature than they are.

How puppies develop 

While all puppies develop at different rates, there are a few consistent stages of growth for all puppies. From the day they are born until about three weeks old, puppies are extremely fragile and reliant upon their mothers. At this age, their “eyes remain closed at birth and stay closed until two weeks of age,” explains Dr. Klein.

From three weeks to eight weeks, puppies become much more mobile; engaging with their littermates and the world around them. Between two and three months of age  “a puppy encounters different situations, which could cause apprehension …x Positive reinforcement is needed to prevent future mental anxiety,” cautions Dr. Klein. “From 3 to 6 months of age, puppies start their ‘terrible twos,’ as they are teething, active and challenging. Ages 6 to 12 months can be understood as a puppy’s ‘teenage’ years,  awkward mentally and physically. They are at their most active and playful and, in some breeds, may start to develop sexual maturity.”

Factors that determine how quickly dogs grow

A variety of factors contribute to how quickly dogs grow, and when dogs stop growing. “Genetics certainly are a huge factor, but also environment as well: proper nutrition, health and stimulus, such as exercise/training, even lighting, has been known to affect growth,” explains Dr. Klein.

It’s no surprise that food is high on the list of things that factor into puppy growth — both the quality of the food the puppy is eating and the quantity. While your puppy is growing, be especially attentive to how much you feed him. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you are raising a large-breed puppy, you don’t want to necessarily feed him a lot. “Studies have proven that obesity in puppies, especially in rapidly growing larger breeds, can greatly contribute to the development of hip dysplasia and other orthopedic issues,” Dr. Klein advises.

Caring for a puppy’s growing joints:

Puppies have a lot of energy, but be thoughtful about how much exercise they get, and how strenuous those activities are. Dr. Klein explains that, for example, “there are risks of pushing an extensive, prolonged jogging program on an immature dog as it could cause stress on the joints and growth plates and mean long-term health problems.”

Things like hiking, or more high-impact dog sports like agility or disc dog, should also be approached very cautiously with a growing dog. It’s important to only work on foundation skills that are low impact until your puppy is done growing. Dr. Klein advises to tailor exercise for puppies to the “individual dog, size, age and breed” after consulting with your veterinarian.

Is my puppy done growing? How big will my puppy get?

“The question many dog parents want to know is if their puppy is done growing,” Dr. Klein remarks, before advising that “a good way to know if a dog has stopped growing is when you can no longer feel the ‘knobs’ on their ribs” He also suggests consulting directly with your breeder (if you have a purebred puppy) and/or with your veterinarian to help you determine if your puppy is still growing. Each breed, and each puppy, grows differently.

As puppies grow, their growth plates close, and until that happens, you don’t want your puppy doing any strenuous activity. Many parents of large-breed puppies who intend to train/compete in sports like dog agility, will have x-rays taken of their young adult dogs to confirm if their growth plates have closed. This signifies that it’s safe for the dog to begin jumping and begin learning other more physically demanding skills.

How big will a mixed-breed puppy get? When does a mixed-breed dog stop growing?

Unfortunately, Dr. Klein confirms that there is no way to know for sure how big a mixed-breed puppy will get when he reaches adulthood. “One can try to ‘guestimate’ the future size of a mixed-breed dog if you have an idea of the parents or breeds behind a dog, but unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that you will be 100 percent accurate, as many mixed breed dogs come from a combination of multiple types of dogs,” he says.

I’ve had friends believe they were adopting Chihuahua mixes only to find that they have a large, 60-pound dog a year later! One option to aid in trying to estimate how big your puppy will get is to do a DNA test. While this still can’t guarantee the size of dog your puppy will grow into, knowing what breeds your puppy is a mix of can give you a better idea of what to anticipate in terms of adult size.

Big or small, puppies are a lot of work. It’s key to remain patient and consistent in your training while they are growing. “Raising a puppy is like raising a child,” Dr. Klein says. “They go through the infant stage, [then] the ‘terrible’ stages of chewing and reckless adolescent behavior, until they eventually settle into their own maturity.”

Thumbnail: Photography ©WilleeCole | Thinkstock. 

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author. Her novels have been honored by organizations ranging from the Lambda Literary Foundation to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix and a Newfoundland puppy, along with two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at http://ift.tt/Y662SU.

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Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

When people think of dogs, the feature that often first comes to mind is their tails! For many of us, a dog’s tail is part of what makes dogs, well, dogs! From the tightly curled tail of a Shiba Inu to the feathery tail of a Golden Retriever to the stubby tail of an Old English Sheepdog, there’s a lot of diversity in how dog tails look. So, why do dogs have tails in the first place? Let’s take a look:   

Dogs Have Tails for Communication

Closeup of a dog tail.

Closeup of a dog tail. Photography ©ulkas | Thinkstock.

The most obvious answer to “Why do dogs have tails” is that dogs have tails for communication. A wagging tail is synonymous with a happy dog, but not all dogs who wag their tails are actually happy. A study published in Current Biology discovered that the direction of your dog’s tail wag has more meaning.

Researchers found that dogs wag their tails in different directions based on their moods. A dog wagging her tail to the left may be more anxious and stressed, while a dog wagging her tail to the right is likely to be more relaxed. These are social cues that dogs read in each other.

A low-set or tucked tail may indicate that your dog is anxious or afraid. And a dog whose tail is erect may be alert, but not necessarily happy.

Why Do Dogs Have Different Kinds of Tails?

Another answer to “Why do dogs have tails” has to do with what that particular dog was originally bred to do. A tail helps Newfoundlands and Labrador Retrievers swim. Many types of terriers, including Carin and Border Terriers, were bred to go underground to hunt vermin. These dogs have a thick base to their tails so that the hunter was able to grab and pull the dog out of the hole if they needed support.

Beagles were bred to have high-set tails with white tips to help with identification during a hunt. Pugs are an example of a dog whose tail has been selectively bred into a corkscrew. Many sighthounds like Wolfhounds and Greyhounds have long, narrow and low-set tails that they can utilize as air rudders while running at high speeds.

Some herding dogs like Border Collies have drop-set tails referred to as “shepherd’s lanterns,” and were specifically bred so that shepherds could see their dog guiding them home after a long day of working with livestock. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes have thick, plumed tails that they carry over their backs. The tails are not just visually striking, they actually are part of what kept these sled dogs safe in extreme weather conditions. When sleeping outside, they will wrap their tails around their faces to protect their noses and eyes from blowing snow and freezing temperatures.

Some breeds of dogs, including Old English Sheepdogs and Australian Shepherds, have naturally bobbed tails, meaning they are born with very short tails or no tails. Other breeds of dogs commonly have their tails docked or cut when they are very young puppies, such as Miniature Schnauzers and Rottweilers.

Can You Identify Different Dog Breed Tails?

There are 202 breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club, and the different breeds have very specific breed standard requirements for the shapes and sizes of tails, as well as information about the reasoning behind the desirability for a particular sort of tail, based on the work that kind of dog was bred to do.

Think you can you identify the breed of dog based just on the tail? Take this fun quiz on akc.org and see how you do!

Thumbnail: Photography ©Mike Watson Images | Thinkstock. 

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author. Her novels have been honored by organizations ranging from the Lambda Literary Foundation to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix and a Newfoundland puppy, along with two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at http://ift.tt/Y662SU.

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Chewbacca is Based on a Dog

With about a week to go until the premiere of The Last Jedi, I’m fully on board as a Star Wars fan after many years of being less into the films than just about everyone I know. My new conversion is a result of learning that the inspiration for Chewbacca was a dog. Specifically, this lovable wookiee is based on George Lucas’ Alaskan Malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, Indiana would sit in the front seat of his car like a co-pilot and was regularly mistaken for a person. (On a side note, his dog is responsible for the name of one of Lucas’ other famous characters—Indiana Jones.)

When I first found out that the character is based on a real dog, I assumed that his name, as well as his nickname (Chewie) was a reference to the chewing behavior that we all know so well in our own dogs. However, the name Chewbacca is actually a derivation of “sobaka”—the Russian word for dog. The character was visualized by creators as a mix between a monkey, a dog and a cat, and his voice comes from bear vocalizations mixed in with sounds from other species, including lions, badgers, camels, rabbits and walruses. Still, there is no doubt that his behavior is extremely doglike, in the sense that he is Han Solo’s best and most loyal friend. It’s no surprise that he is considered one of the top 10 movie sidekicks of all time.

Though Chewbacca is not actually a dog, it’s easy to get pulled into a game of guessing which breeds would lead to a Chewbacca-like individual. My picks are a Briard crossed with a Brussels Griffon. With apologies to George Lucas, I see no signs of an Alaskan Malamute, though perhaps the resemblance to his own beloved dog is more behavioral than morphological.

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Your Dog Ate a Sock — What to Do Next

Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t, and many of those things are not necessarily food. Dogs can chew and gulp down almost anything. So, if your dog ate a sock, you’re not alone — it’s a commonly swallowed item.

“Dogs seem to love cloth,” says Kelly Diehl, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, scientific communications advisor for the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that funds animal health research. “I’ve pulled out a lot of socks and underwear. Amongst us gastroenterologists, people kick around the idea that sometimes dogs eat inappropriate materials because they have some kind of GI problem, whether that’s a food allergy or intolerance. I also think there’s a behavioral component to it, which we can’t really explain, but some dogs just seem to be sock eaters.”

If Your Dog Ate a Sock, Here’s What Happens to That Sock

A dog eating a sock.

What are your next steps if your dog eats a sock? Photography ©Barna Tanko | Thinkstock.

When dogs swallow items they have no business swallowing, several things might happen. If the dog is big and the item is small like a sock, the dog might simply vomit it back up — either right away or a day or two later. If that doesn’t happen, it’s possible that the dog might pass the sock and eventually poop it out. This could take several days, and you will want to take a close look every time your dog poops to check for the sock.

In some cases, the item might even become stuck in the stomach. “When the stomach empties, food will go first and indigestible objects go last,” Dr. Diehl explains. “Items can stay in a dog’s stomach and cause periodic problems. They got them down but they can’t throw them up, and they’re too big to go into the intestine, so they bounce around and cause some discomfort. These dogs usually become chronic vomiters.”

What If You’re Not Sure If Your Dog Ate a Sock?

Because some types of items are difficult to see on an x-ray, and because dogs sometimes swallow things without their owners realizing it, your veterinarian might elect to take a look at the stomach with an endoscope. “Sometimes, I go down there with a scope because I think they have bowel disease or chronic inflammation, and I say, ‘Oh! Look, there’s a ball down here!’” Dr. Diehl says.

One outcome you really hope to avoid is an intestinal obstruction, where the sock lodges somewhere in the intestines, causing a blockage. An obstruction is serious and it requires surgery to remove the item. The tricky thing about intestinal obstructions is you might not realize your dog has one if you didn’t actually witness him swallowing a sock or something he shouldn’t.

What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed a Sock

If you were lucky enough to witness your dog swallowing a sock or other item, one option is to bring him directly to the veterinarian to see if the item can be removed from the stomach with an endoscope. This is an especially good option if your dog is small and the item is large.

“One thing about socks in the stomach is they’re really easy to pull out with an endoscope,” Dr. Diehl explains. “It’s going to cost you some, but it’s less expensive than a surgery. Once they get in the intestine, it’s a problem because you can’t get a scope down that far and then they can swell from the gastric and intestinal juices and they can get stuck.” Your regular vet might be able to remove a sock with an endoscope, but if not, he or she can refer you to a specialist who does endoscopy.

According to Dr. Diehl, many dogs, especially large dogs, will either throw up socks or pass them in their stool. If your dog is not acting sick and isn’t throwing up, one option is to wait and see if it comes out on its own. If you don’t see the object come out in a few days, or if your dog starts acting sick, it’s time to see the vet.

Did Your Dog Swallow a Sock… Or Another Object?  

A dog eating or play tug of war with a sock.

Not sure if your dog ate a sock — or something else? Photography ©CreativaImages | Thinkstock.

If you’re not sure whether your dog ate a sock or another inappropriate item, but you notice telltale signs of an obstruction, go to the vet to have him checked out. “If your dog starts vomiting profusely, especially if he’s not eating or drinking, and he just keeps vomiting and vomiting, that’s often a classic sign of obstruction and that’s definitely a medical emergency,” Dr. Diehl explains. “Additionally, if your dog isn’t typically a barfer, but starts vomiting several times a week, it could be because something is stuck in the stomach.

If your dog swallows a sharp object, a battery or a very large object, see the vet immediately, as these types of objects may cause serious problems. And if your dog swallows underwear, take him in to try to remove it with an endoscope before it gets to the intestine, where the elastic band can cause problems.

“Really be careful about leaving socks and underwear out,” Dr. Diehl cautions. “It’s almost like a habit with some dogs. It’s much more common in young dogs because they’re often sampling stuff and eating things they shouldn’t. A lot of dogs will grow out of that habit, but some dogs persist.”

Thumbnail: Photography ©dosecreative | Thinkstock.

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The Real Costs of Treating Dog Diseases and Injuries

Bringing your dog to the vet can be nerve-wracking as you wonder just how sick he might be. Worrying about how much your bill will be only adds to the stress. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, dogs can now receive tests and treatments for almost anything that humans do. While lifesaving, many of these treatments come with some steep costs. Depending on the illnesses or accidents, some of the expenses associated with dog diseases and injuries are downright shocking.

Is Pet Insurance for Dogs Worth It?

A dog getting his teeth checked out at the vet.

Treating dog diseases and injuries can be costly, but you want the best for your best friend. What do you do? Photography © vadimguzhva | Thinkstock.

Pet insurance is one way to worry less about the costs of your dog’s medical care. With an accident and illness policy, the fees for your pet’s care will be reimbursed to you when he is sick or hurt (pet insurance doesn’t cover routine care like vaccines or teeth cleaning unless you purchase a special wellness add-on). The actual out-of-pocket costs you’ll see with pet insurance vary depending on the specific policy you choose, including the policy’s annual premium, deductible, coverage, exclusions and reimbursement percentage, but in general, you can save a lot if your pet experiences an illness or injury. (Read more about pet insurance here.)

Lots of dog owners wonder if pet insurance is really worth the cost of the annual premium. “I’ve seen claims that have crazy dollar amounts attached to them,” says Jenna Mahan, a registered veterinary technician and director of claims for Embrace, a pet insurance provider based in Cleveland, Ohio. “A pet who gets a case of pancreatitis, and then is hospitalized, and if it’s over a weekend or holiday, you could have easily a $4,000 bill.”

To get an idea of the costs associated with veterinary care for dog diseases and injuries, let’s take a look at some common and unusual insurance claims from 2016 to Embrace.

Top Dog Diseases and Injuries on Pet Insurance Claims

The most common claims vary from gastrointestinal upset like diarrhea (13,239 claims in 2016) and vomiting (11,184 claims), to ear infections (9,586 claims), cranial cruciate ligament tears of the knee (7,562 claims) and urinary tract infections (7,224 claims). The costs associated with some of these common claims are less, and for others, more. Take a look at these examples:

Illness/Injury Average costs of care without pet insurance   Average costs of care with pet insurance*  High cost of care based on claims
Intestinal issues $861.18 $172.24 $7,181.22
Ear infections $324.01 $64.80 $5,994.00
Urinary tract infections $522.84 $104.57 $11,673.89
Allergic reactions $520.12 $104.02 $13,167.96
Cruciate ligament injuries $4,503.72 $900.74 $21,047.00

Pet Insurance Saved Big for These Dog Injuries and Illnesses

Some types of accidents and illnesses occur less frequently, but when they do happen, they can be costly. For instance, a 5-year-old mixed breed dog from Ventura, California, was bitten by a poisonous snake. Because the dog was insured, the dog’s owner was reimbursed $6,712.26.

A retired show Cocker Spaniel named Ori was bitten by a tick and contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She became gravely ill and nearly died. Thankfully, Ori survived her ordeal but the treatment was extraordinarily costly. The final bill was $15,232.76, but thanks to insurance, Ori’s owner was reimbursed $11,426.21.

A 2.5-year-old rescue dog named Buddy was diagnosed with early onset cataracts. Rather than allow the dog to lose his eyesight, his new owners chose cataract surgery on both eyes. The surgery was a success, but he later developed cherry eye (a protrusion of the third eyelid), which required another surgery. Buddy also has chronic allergies that require monthly medication. Over the years, Buddy’s owner has amassed vet bills amounting to close to $10,000, but has been reimbursed $7,554.56.

The Bottom Line on Pet Insurance for Dogs

So, is pet insurance worth it? Every situation is different, but paying a little bit each month might save a lot in the long run.

“The whole point is peace of mind,” Mahan says. “You don’t have to depend on what you’ve saved or what you have available on your credit card to care for your pet. With pet insurance, you know you have coverage and that helps you make your decisions based on what’s best for your pet medically and what’s best for your family, and not what’s in your pocketbook.”

As with any decision as a pet parent, do your homework and choose what’s best for you and your dog!

* Actual costs will vary depending on the insurance provider and specific policy.

Thumbnail: Photography ©monkeybusinessimages | Thinkstock. 

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