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Bowed Legs in Puppies

Bowing of the legs is an occasional issue with fast-growing, large breed or heavy breed dogs. What causes bowed legs and how can it be treated?

What Causes Bowed Legs in Puppies?

Is it normal for puppies to be bow-legged? Many breeders think that bowing of the legs is genetic, but aside from the genetic predisposition for fast growth in certain breeds, genetics is seldom the cause.

Fast-growing puppies, especially heavy breeds, experience considerable pressure on the long bones of their legs during growth. The scaffolding of protein and cartilage is laid down at the growth plate, and this framework is soft and susceptible to bowing under pressure. Calcium and phosphorus, along with other minerals, solidify this framework into bone. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium and phosphorus from the gut, while Vitamin C helps incorporate these minerals into the bone.

If the diet is deficient in any of these essential vitamins, minerals, calcium, or phosphorus, the puppy's bones will remain soft for longer periods, leading to bowing.

How Do I Know If My Dog is Bow-Legged?

Most issues with bowed legs start within five to 12 weeks of age, as this is when puppies undergo rapid growth. Breeders often notice that the legs appear normal in the morning but show signs of bowing by the end of the day due to the pressure of romping and jumping. Early detection is crucial, as timely intervention with the right vitamin and mineral supplements can correct the issue.

Early Detection and Prevention is Key

The problem with bowed legs arises when a puppy grows faster than its diet can support.

Steps to Prevent and Treat Bowed Legs:

  1. Diet Adjustment: Transition the puppy to an adult diet (not puppy food) and begin weaning. Some large breeds are still nursing at this stage, and milk is rich in calcium. A maintenance diet or a giant breed diet will slow down the growth rate slightly, allowing the bone structure to catch up without pushing for maximum growth.

  2. Exercise Limitation: Limit the puppy's exercise until the bones harden. Pressure from excessive romping and running can cause the soft long bones to bow. Usually, restricting activity for about a week is sufficient.

  3. Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation: Ensure the diet includes adequate vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin D and Vitamin C, to support proper bone calcification.

Early detection and appropriate dietary adjustments can effectively prevent and correct bowed legs, ensuring your puppy grows up healthy and strong.

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bowed legs in puppies
bowed legs in puppies


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