Hartpury University

Research into keeping our dogs healthy

If dogs are over-fed and over-exercised during the early stages of their lives, they may develop conditions such as obesity, stunted growth, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis, according to research from Hartpury University PhD candidate Georgia Lewis, supported by lecturers Aisling Carroll and Dr Alison Wills.

The findings from the research are as follows:

It is important that breeders, owners and veterinary staff are aware of the factors affecting a dog’s development to reduce the likelihood of issues arising in later life.

Puppies need to have a sufficient diet containing nutrients and vitamins that meet their high energy requirements, as under-feeding can cause stunted growth, and overfeeding can result in obesity which can cause further complications.

Owners should avoid allowing puppies the use of stairs and should also prevent them from playing on slippery surfaces to avoid harsh impact on growing bones and joints

Young dogs’ bones are not fully developed and are unable to sustain stress or force, so exercise therefore must be limited until dogs have reached maturity to prevent injury.

They should also be mindful when children, and other dogs, interact with the puppy to ensure no injury is caused.

It is advised that a dog is exercised for five minutes per day, per month of age.