Stunted Growth in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/12/2017Updated: 01/20/2022
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Why is my dog not growing?

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.


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.


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 roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.

What to do if your Dog is Stunted Growth

If your dog has stopped growing and has not reached the breed’s standard weight and height, 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 they're consuming the right levels of proteins and calories 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 or probiotics 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.

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 Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Maltese, Labrador Retrievers, and Old English Sheepdogs.

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 $20 to $50. 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





One Year


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

2 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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Great dane lab mix




5 Months


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

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