Can Exercise Damage A Puppies Growth Plates

Can Exercise Damage A Puppies Growth Plates
Exercise is vital in ensuring your dog grows and develops to the best of its ability. As well as a healthy and balanced diet, dog walking is a crucial part of your puppy’s development. As soon as a puppy is fully vaccinated, it can tackle its first considerable milestone, going outside for a walk. You can then begin to train your pet to walk slowly by your side while wearing a dog collar, lead and a harness. In this article, I will explain why it is so important to protect your puppy’s growth plates and what exercises your dog can enjoy in the meantime until the plates have fully closed.

What Are Growth Plates?

Growth plates are areas of developing cartilage tissue found at the ends of a puppy’s long bones. These areas are typically made of cartilage when the puppy is born and are filled with cells that enable your pup’s bones to become longer and denser by dividing themselves until each growth plate is filled. The growth plate begins to close and harden into a solid bone as the puppy grows and matures. However, the growth plates of a young puppy are highly vulnerable to injury and can become easily fractured as they are the last portion of the bones to harden.

How Long Does It Take For Growth Plates To Close?

Most dogs fully mature at around 18 months; however, it can take a little bit longer for larger breeds. Around this time, the growth plates close and become a stable and permanent part of the bone. The growth plates in the knees and the wrist generally close around the same time, whereas the rest of the plates will all fuse together at various times.

Can Exercise Be Harmful To A Puppy’s Growth Plates?

As odd as it sounds, exercise can, in fact, be harmful to a puppy. Now, although we know all dogs need a reasonable amount of exercise to thrive, too much at an early age can damage a puppy’s growth plates. This works by preventing the bone from growing normally and in some cases, stops it from growing altogether. A clear sign that a growth plate has grown incorrectly can usually be spotted when a dog’s wrist is not straight but starts to turn to the inside of the leg instead.

If a plate stops growing altogether, this can result in severe problems and complications. Shortening of the limb and even deformities can be the devastating result. While a dog’s growth plates are still soft, it is essential they are exercising at a level that is suited for them. Activities that are considered high impact should be avoided until the growth plates are fully closed, as should any activities that involve leg twisting, vigorous play and chasing frisbees.

What Activities Are Suitable For A Puppy?

While your puppy’s growth plates are maturing, you can encourage them to participate in low-impact activities, such as; lead walking, exploring their surroundings by using their senses and socialising with other dogs. Monitoring your dog and its activities while encouraging these low-impact exercises at a younger age will help protect its delicate growth plates.

Why not begin with a slow and steady walking routine using a collar, lead and harness. You can then introduce more exercises that are suitable for your puppy’s age and development. This will still enable your dog to get all the necessary exercise they need while protecting their young and delicate growth plates. Avoiding high-intensity exercise does not mean exercising with your dog can't be fun and enjoyable.

Simple games such as hiding a ball and swimming can be enjoyable. Nose work is a game that involves hiding a treat in one box and leaving the other five boxes empty. The dog then has to sniff out which package contains the treats. This is a gentle game that never gets old and encourages the dog to use its senses and brain, as well as some delicate manoeuvring around to find the box with the treats. Never underestimate how problem-solving games have the potential to stimulate and wear your puppy out as much as an active play session.

And of course, as most dogs enjoy just being outside, a calm walk and allowing your dog to explore its surroundings is enough for your curious canine to thrive and exercise safely.

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