A while back I wrote a short blog about exercising puppies and the need to be cautious. Too much and/or too intense exercise can damage growing puppy growth plates especially in larger breeds of dogs. Recently I wrote a blog about the effects of early spay and neuter on the growth plates of puppies. A double whammy for puppies that are spayed early and given too much exercise, such as starting agility too soon. This can have a disastrous impact on a puppy’s skeletal system. Their bones are surrounded by layers of soft cartilage that is still developing and growing. This is found at the end of long bones and are called growth plates. New bone grows at the end of long bones where the growth plates are. If you want a happy and healthy adult dog who has good structure, you need to protect your puppy when he is young. It is critical that bones go through growth that occurs as close to the same rate as possible. This means that in the legs where you have two bones, they need to grow at the same pace. Otherwise, you have a dog that is bowlegged. Puppies are susceptible to injury because they are not as coordinated as an adult dog and their muscles are not as strong. Puppies are also at risk of injuring themselves in a fall or other accidents. My daughter had a lovely 8-month-old female Bouvier de Flanders puppy that took a fall and injured her shoulder. That injury required surgery and was a problem for the lifetime of the dog. Another reason that injury was such a problem was that the puppy had already been spayed.
In a study involving 203 agility dogs, it was found that the tibia, radius and ulna were significantly longer than the femur and humerus, respectively, in dogs that were spayed or neutered at or prior to 8 months of age as compared to intact dogs.( Source: M.C. Zink)
In my blog post, “The Problems With Early Spay and Neuter” that I have linked below, I talk about the need for the sex hormones in the growth and development of the bones and growth plates of your puppy. Read that blog to better understand the need for hormones.
“The effects of neutering during the first year of a dog’s life, especially in larger breeds, undoubtedly reflects the vulnerability of their joints to the delayed closure of long-bone growth plates, when neutering removes the gonadal, or sex, hormones.” ~Benjamin Hart
I want to encourage you to give your puppy the best possible start in life. Be careful with their exercise. Play with them gently, no need to over stimulate them. Give them the rest they need (which is actually more than you would think) And last, do not spay or neuter before the growth plates close. Not sure when that is and you are really antsy to get in the agility ring, have your vet do an x-ray to be sure.
The Problems with Early Spay and Neuter – Joyfully Healthy Pets