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News Article

Puppy growth charts developed

A series of evidence-based growth standards have been developed to facilitate charting of bodyweight in healthy dogs.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool collaborating with University College London, Banfield Pet Hospital and the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition have developed evidence-based growth standards, based on bodyweight, for male and female dogs across 5 different size categories. Although the standards are valid for most dogs, they do not apply to dogs with an adult weight >40 kg. The study is published in PLoS ONE.

The researchers had access to the historical health records of over six million dogs visiting Banfield hospitals. Statistics experts refined the data until they were left with measurements from 50,000 dogs that met a list of stringent criteria, including being less than three years of age, in ideal body condition and with no health complaints.

The researchers then began by grouping dogs by breed, but for many of the less popular breeds there weren’t enough dogs in the list to generate breed-specific curves. On further analysis of the data, the scientists concluded that dogs of various breeds with a similar adult weight had a tendency to grow at the same rate as one another.

They then grouped the dog data into five weight ranges and created curves that followed the growth rate for dogs in those ranges. This size-category approach made the curves suitable for more than just the breeds initially included and, crucially, also to mixed-breed dogs.

The data showed that male and female dogs grow at different rates, with males growing more rapidly than their female counterparts. Separate male and female curves for each weight range were created to account for this difference.

The detailed health records also allowed researchers to study the impact of neutering on growth rate. They found that neutering before 37 weeks of age was associated with a slight increase in the rate of growth, whilst neutering after 37 weeks was associated with a slight slowing of the growth rate. However, these changes were small enough to conclude that separate curves for neutered dogs were not needed.

Alex German, Professor of Small Animal Medicine at University of Liverpool, said: “The growth phase is fundamental to the lifelong health and wellbeing of dogs.

“Growth standards for babies and children have become an essential component of the human paediatric tool kit but until now there’s been limited information available on what constitutes optimal growth in dogs. This is a real step forward.”

The researchers say that further work is now required to validate these growth standards and provide training to veterinary professionals, so that they can be used as a clinical tool for objective monitoring of growth in pet dogs. Work is also required to develop standards for dogs >40kg.

Read article: Growth standard charts for monitoring bodyweight in dogs of different sizes by Carina Salt, Penelope J. Morris, Alexander J. German, Derek Wilson, Elizabeth M. Lund, Tim J. Cole and Richard F. Butterwick, published in PLoS ONE (2017) 12(9): e0182064, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182064

Article details

  • Date
  • 14 September 2017
  • Source
  • University of Liverpool
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals