Virbac India

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Disorders due to unadapted nutrition in puppies, and the impact of neutering

Beware of obesity in small breed dogs

At the time of his adoption, around 2-3 months, a small breed dog is already quite well developed compared to his adult size. The needs related to his most intense growth period will have been covered by maternal milk and weaning food. Even if the puppy’s later diet is not completely in line with his needs, his skeleton and joints theoretically will not be likely to suffer too much.

On the other hand, a puppy diet that is too rich in energy may predispose him to obesity: his adipocytes (the cells that make up adipose tissue) are multiplying rapidly, and overfeeding will encourage the development of adipose tissue, and thus excessive weight. It will be very difficult to keep the dog at his ideal Body Weight during all his life. Dogs that are too fat between 9 and 12 months of age have a 1.5 times greater risk of obesity in adulthood than dogs that have remained slim during their growth.

Beware of orthopedic disorders in large breed dogs

For large and giant breed dogs, there is a long way to their final size as they have to multiply their birth weight by 70 to 120. Large breed puppies grow fast and for a long time; their growth is particularly intense between 3 and 6-7 months of age, at which time a giant breed puppy can gain 150 to 200g per day, i.e more than 1 kg per week! 

In these large and giant breed dogs, energy excess promotes rapid growth, and excessive biomechanical loading on the immature articular cartilage can lead to secondary orthopedic disorders (e.g. elbow and hip dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans). 

Controlling the growth rate and providing nutrients in amounts adjusted for energy intake can help decrease the risks of skeletal abnormalities caused by rapid growth in large-breed puppies.

Influence of neutering

Neutered dogs have a greater risk of being overweight than do sexually intact dogs, especially during the first 2 years after gonadectomy. The prepubertal sterilization of dogs has become common in many countries. In large breed dogs, sterilization before the age of 1 year is associated with more orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia or cruciate ligament disease. For example, in male golden retrievers, sterilization before 6 months of age increases the risk of osteoarticular disease by a factor of 6.