I recently wrote a quick Facebook post bringing up the term growth plates in dogs. I want to speak more on this subject and provide you with some helpful links so you could read further if you like. This is something that every dog owner with a puppy or adolescent dog should know about.
What are growth plates in dogs? Growth plates are the soft areas that are located at the ends of the longs bones in puppies and still-growing dogs who have not reached full size (typically 1 year for smaller dogs and 18 months for larger dogs). These soft areas allow the bones to grow longer because the growth takes places at the ends of the bone. As your puppy matures and reaches full size, these soft parts then hardern until they finally close signaling physical maturity.
Why is this important for puppy parents? During puppyhood and adolescence, the areas around these soft parts of the long bones are more prone to injury. Injury that could could cause the limb associated with that bone to become misshaped in someway (like a shorter limb for example). Unlike a same-type of injury to an adult dog, where the area heals, the long bone could be permanently affected for the same injury to occur in a puppy or young dog who’s growth plate has not fully closed.
What kind of physical activity should puppy and young dog parents monitor? For dogs of these ages, parents should refrain or keep at minimum, long periods where their little, four-legged ones are engaged in activity where there is repetitive pounding. Examples are long walks, hikes or jogs (jogs of any distance). I do not recommend jogging dogs until they have reached maturity.
What kind of physical activity is fine for puppies and young dogs who have not reached maturity? Good exercise is normal puppy play with other dogs (of same age and size) is very much encouraged. Examples can be like chasing each other and wrestling. Also, natural play that puppies engage in like digging and chasing a ball is fine. It’s actually good to exercise your puppy because it will help strengthen their bones (in addition to letting then release all that puppy energy). You just have to be cognizant of the types of physical activities that may be harmful to puppies and yound dogs do to their growth plates.
For information on my sources and for further reading, please visit these links: