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What is Stunted Growth?

If your puppy stops growing, it can be cause for concern. While some dogs just grow differently than others due to their breed, others may have a medical condition which can be treated. Reasons which may cause your dog to stop growing include:

  • Genetics
  • Portosystemic/liver shunt
  • Malnutrition
  • Internal parasites

    Why Stunted Growth Occurs in Dogs

    There are several reasons why your dog may suddenly stop growing. Always take into consideration your dog's age and breed first, and if they are still falling behind, there may be something else going on.

    Genetics

    Due to their genetic makeup, different breeds can mature at different rates. Larger breeds tend to mature at slower rates than smaller ones, often taking a year or longer to grow into their full adult body. There are also certain breeds who may carry genetic markers for conditions that appear as stunted growth, such as pituitary dwarfism in German Shepherds.  

    Portosystemic shunt 

    Usually a congenital condition, a portosystemic shunt is when the blood vessel that normally takes blood into the liver for cleaning bypasses it and returns the blood directly to the circulatory system. When the blood does not have a chance to be detoxified in the liver, toxins and nutrients normally processed by the liver go right back into the body, causing symptoms such as stunted growth, poor muscle development, and abnormal behavior like head pressing or circling. Some dogs may show symptoms as puppies, while other dogs may manifest symptoms as they age. In some cases, a portosystemic shunt may develop as a result of progressive liver dysfunction.

    Malnutrition

    In order to fully mature, puppies need the proper nutrition that helps muscles and bones grow. If they don't get the right amounts of certain nutrients and protein, their growing can be affected. Finding the right puppy food to feed your puppy based on their breed and nutrition requirements is key to ensuring your dog grows properly.

    Internal Parasites

    Internal parasites feed off of the nutrients inside their host's body, essentially eating what the host needs to grow. This can cause weakness, lethargy, and stunted growth. Parasites that can cause stunted growth include roundwormshookwormswhipworms, and tapeworms.

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    What to do if your Dog is Stunted Growth

    If your dog has stopped growing and has not reached the breed’s standard, it is time to take him to a veterinarian for a check-up. Your veterinarian will want to know your dog’s history, and will conduct a full physical examination. Be sure to relate your dog's symptoms, any medications they may be taking, their current diet, if you have any other pets in the household, and anything they have recently been exposed to, such as new places or animals.

    Likely, your veterinarian will discuss the proper nutrition for your puppy, and may suggest a change in their diet to ensure the right levels of proteins and nutrients they need to grow. Your dog's breed will certainly be a factor, as will any genetic issues that may be present.

    For a portosystemic/liver shunt, your veterinarian may conduct a complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistries, urinalysis, and bile acid test in order to evaluate any abnormal findings. They may also order additional testing to help pinpoint a diagnosis of a portosystemic/liver shunt, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, portography, MRI, and laparotomy. Your dog may also be prescribed antibiotics in order to alter the bacterial population in the intestines to promote healthy bacteria. A portosystemic shunt may be able to be repaired surgically, but that will depend on the location. 

    Internal parasites can be diagnosed through a fecal examination done by your veterinarian, and can be easily treated with anti-parasitic medications that include oral pills and chews, injections or topical treatments.

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    Prevention of Stunted Growth

    Ensuring your puppy receives the proper nutrition as they grow can prevent most cases of stunted growth. There are several varieties of puppy food formulated for different breeds that can help guide you, but always consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

    Preventing internal parasites can be accomplished through regular administration of anti-parasitic medications which are generally given throughout a dog's lifetime. Monthly topical treatments, and oral pills or chews, are the most popular ways pet parents can protect their dogs from these invaders. Routine testing with your veterinarian during check-ups is encouraged.

    Since portosystemic shunts are usually a congenital condition, you cannot prevent it from occurring. There are, however, certain breeds that are predisposed to this condition, such as Yorkshire TerriersCairn TerriersMalteseLabrador Retrievers, and Old English Sheepdogs.

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    Cost of Stunted Growth

    Treatment for your dog's stunted growth depends on the medical condition your dog is experiencing. For instance, eradicating intestinal parasites can range anywhere from $200 to $500. On average, the cost for diagnosing and surgically treating your dog with a portosystemic shunt ligation is $3000.

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    Stunted Growth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

    Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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    Ask a Vet

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    Boerboel

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    One Year

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    Unknown severity

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    1 found helpful

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    Blood In Urine

    I help from you guy I don't no what do to help my dog it one year and she doesn't grow in size and also she does urine blood and I don't no why. Pls is there anything I can do to help grow and stop the blood urinating. Pls I need your feed back I will really appreciate.

    Sept. 27, 2020

    Owner

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    Dr. Michele K. DVM

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    1 Recommendations

    Thank you for your question. . She may have a urinary tract infection, and she may need medications. She may be the size that she is supposed to be, or that may be making her eat less. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any treatment that they might need.

    Oct. 13, 2020

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    Athena

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    Great dane lab mix

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    5 Months

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    Moderate severity

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    0 found helpful

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    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Underweight

    My puppy was a rescue from the animal shelter. She is almost 6 months old and she is a Great Dane lab mix. The shelter found her and called the owners and they didn’t want her back but they confirmed that her breed was Great Dane lab mix, but for being 5 months (almost 6) she only weighs 21 pounds, which is significantly less than what they should be for that age. She has had all her shots, the vet says she is in perfect health but I’m still concerned.

    Sept. 22, 2018

    Athena's Owner

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    Calli

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    Chocolate Lab mix

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    8 Months

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    Moderate severity

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    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Ribs Showing But Acts Like She'S Fine
    Has No Lethargic Behavior
    Drinking Plenty Of Water
    No Issues Eating

    I just got a dog recently she's a chocolate lab mix she seems small for her age. She's around 8 months old and when I got her she did have a flea problem but no walking in circles. She eats fine and acts like a puppy I'm just worried she might have had a malnutrition problem she does have ribs showing but the lady I got her off of said that was normal

    June 25, 2018

    Calli's Owner


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    You should visit a Veterinarian for an examination to check Calli over to determine if she is the right height, weight, good body condition score etc… for her age; without examining her I cannot comment. Some dogs are smaller for their age and may be due to various different factors, not always due to malnutrition; but your Veterinarian will be able to tell you more after an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

    June 26, 2018

    My border collie lab mix is about 4 months old and only 12 lbs...i got him in San Diego from the first owners but have a feeling that he is from a puppy mil. He had parvo...im wondering if maybe he is not a border collie lab after all,or maybe he has some parasites that are hard to detect.i HE Definetly has traits of his breed.wonder what parasites are common from puppy mills...

    July 7, 2018

    Aimee

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    Basil

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    Morkie

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    8 Months

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    Moderate severity

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    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Frequent Urination
    Extreme Thirst
    Stunted Growth
    Very Hungry
    Poor Muscle Tone

    My dog Basil has been a medical mystery for some time to us and currently my vet. We got him from a local family at 8 weeks. He had just been weaned off breast milk. At about 2 months we began to notice his growth was odd. He would grow in one area of his body at a time (exp. just his legs, then his head, then his torso etc.). We've had puppies before and it seems there is such a small amount of time they really are a puppy so this stood out. We didn't take any action then. Over time Basil developed excessive thirst and urination. His appetite seemed never-ending. He ate his food in record time and no matter the amount fed he wouldn't put on any more weight. At 6 months we really became worried. I reached out to the lady who sold him to us and it turns out she had kept a puppy from the same litter herself. I asked her to weigh him. He was 12 lbs. and at the time Basil was only 4.5. We brought him in to the vet and had multiple tests done. A complete blood-work workup, fecal test, urine analysis and a followup Bile acid test. His blood-work came back relatively normal, his fecal showed no signs of any parasites, his urine test detected a small amount of red blood cells and his bile acid showed a resting level of 53 and a post level of 52. She added on a random cortisol to rule out Addison's disease and that too came back normal. Our next step was to do an ultrasound to see if a liver shunt could be detected. Not only could they not detect a shunt, but his liver was normal sized. They also found that one of his adrenal glands was smaller than the other and his prostate was above average in size. Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism have also been ruled out based on his initial blood-work and urine analysis. We are at a loss with what could be the issue and Basil continues to not grow. His teeth have come in pretty well and relatively on time although they seem too big for his head. Any advice or theories would be so greatly appreciated.

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