Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mastiff Growth Plate Closure

I get inquires about how much exercise is "OK" for a Mastiff puppy or an adult.  My response usually is based on the age of the dog. The above diagram is one of the best I have found that helps explain  why most dogs do not need to be doing extensive running on hard surfaces until after the age of 16-18 months.  If you review the diagram it show the growth plate closures on the long bones in the legs and in the shoulders are the last to close.

Due to the rapid growth of these pups, under no condition should extensive road work (running) type exercises be done until after the age of 18 months. Joints and growing bones are too prone to injury. Same applies to any jump training;  all training should be at a lower height until your Mastiff in > 18 months--esp. important for rally and obedience work and training. 

Although Mastiffs and other giant breeds grow rapidly--final bone grow is slow and these bone remain soft and prone to green-stick Fractures until fully mature. Ask any Vet--it's not uncommon to see St. Bernard, Great Dane,  and  Mastiffs puppies   10-16 weeks of age present with fractured front legs from simply jumping off an elevated surface of  two (2) feet. They could also damage their shoulder joints. Likewise, puppies should not be allowed to play or spend significant time on slippery surfaces (i.e. wooden, tile or linoleum floors) in order to prevent joint injuries.  Slipping sliding may look cute, but it can cause trauma to his hips which may lead to poor hips or elbows as an adult.

Do not allow the Mastiff puppy to become overweight as this places stress on the growth plates of its bones.  Puggy puppies may look cute, but excessive weight is not good for a growing pup.  Likewise, do not keep your puppy crated for long, extended periods of time. Lack of exercise is just as bad as too much exercise. Your puppy will need to exercise to develop proper muscle tone and bone structure to carry its adult weight and be a strong healthy, active dog.

Although your puppy may look big, do not allow children to pull on the legs, jump on, or lie on your puppy. Long term permanent injury could result. Always supervise your children (both the very young and the older) and teach them proper interactions with your puppy. Teasing, hitting at, and causing harm can cause your puppy to have a permanent antisocial temperament. A puppy should receive love and positive reinforcement from all members of its family.

Because Mastiffs are large, fast growing dogs and their joint development is slow; the dog’s level of exercise must be monitored closely until the age of 18 months to prevent injuries. You must monitor activity level to avoid over-exertion while insuring that the dog receives sufficient exercise. This can normally be accomplished by such means as   short walks or play sessions with toys. Be careful to stop when the dog shows signs of fatigue; don’t take young puppies on long walks unless you can carry them home! 

 Mastiffs are Stoic--they will endure a great amount of discomfort/pain before showing symptoms.  So just because you dog is happy and appears to enjoy running doesn't mean it's not causing him harm.  I have begun to screen my dogs hips and elbows with OFA pre-lim x-rays before allowing them to train for jumping or before they do  daily running exercises.

FYI--my first Mastiff was an 16 month old rescue who would run 2-4 miles per day with my husband--he loved to run.  After a few months, he pulled up lame one day.  When I took him to the vet, x-rays showed he had SEVERE hip dysplasia.  I was horrified that we had allowed this dog to run with such severe CHD.   Of course, his running days were over.  He would stand at the window each day and cry as he watched my husband jog off on his run:  although it would cause him pain , he still wanted to run. These dogs will endure just about anything in order to be with their families.

 Particular care must be taken to insure that a puppy is not injured or over-tired by play with a mature dog. Never leave a puppy under the age of 6 months alone with adult dogs. Always supervise any Interaction to prevent injury to the puppy.  Once again, trauma or injuries at a young age can lead to hip and elbow injuries.

Remember, the time, expense, and care you provide these first few months determines a great deal of the overall size, health, soundness, and longevity of your puppy. Proper loving care will produce a most devoted companion. As Mastiff breeders and owners, we want the Mastiff to be as we call them “gentle giants” and loyal guardians with loving temperaments and proud demeanor who can physically meet the needs of a companion dog.

Cathy (Catie) Arney