If you already have your Great Dane Puppy, then you will have noticed how extremely fast it is growing. When your pup arrived at around eight weeks of age, you could pick it up and have a good cuddle. At ten weeks old you can barely lift the dog. This period of growth is the most stressful time in the life of a Dane puppy, as many things can go wrong during this critical time when the skeleton is fast reaching the adult height.
There are many problems that can occur while the Great Dane is growing. One of the most common is panosteitis. Usually, panosteitis develops while the pup is between four and nine months of age. Otherwise known as “wandering lameness”, it causes inflammation in the long bone of one of the legs and often moves from leg to leg. The degree of panosteitis can range between a mild, unnoticeable lameness to an excruciatingly painful condition that causes your dog to cry and not want to get up. You will notice limping on one leg this week, and another leg next week. By the time the puppy is a year old this condition has usually disappeared. Panosteitis is an example of one of many problems that can afflict a Great Dane pup. If you suspect that your puppy might have a medical problem then speak to your veterinarian. Early diagnosis of these issues is of paramount importance.
Even though a Great Dane puppy is large, do not be misled into confusing it with strength. A growing Dane pup is actually very fragile. Do not force your dog to exercise until it is at least a year old. The skeletal structure is growing at such an alarming rate that it needs time to set correctly so that it can support the future weight of the dog. By all means, take your puppy for walks and allow off-lead play in a secure environment – just do not overdo it. If you enjoy jogging, do not take your puppy with as the jarring of the bones, sockets and joints can cause later damage. Supervise activity with other dogs. Large dogs can play rough games and crash into the puppy with such force that your dog will go flying. This can seriously damage the bone structure of your dog.
It is also important to understand how to play with a Great Dane puppy. Some people like thumping, shoving and pulling a large puppy around while playing. This is decidedly a bad idea, as is jerking on your puppy’s neck while playing tug-of-war, and pulling the tail and legs during play. Pulling hard on a collar can have the same negative effect. These kinds of games can cause severe injury that will afflict the dog for life. Rather encourage your puppy to chase and fetch a ball. You can play tug-of-war together, but gently. Allow the pup to do all the pulling while you passively hold the other end.
You will certainly notice some oddities with your growing Dane puppy’s conformation. Growth spurts often occur. Suddenly the rear-end of the pup will be much taller than the front. Perhaps the front-end my rise higher than the rear. A cow hock (toes that turn outwards) may present itself in the hind legs, and sometimes in the front legs too. The rear of the dog might seem pinched, making the dog look very wide from behind. Sometimes, they seem wider down the entire length of the body too. It is rather frightening watching a Dane puppy go through what is known as the “ganglies”. Be assured that this is normal.
It is not uncommon for a puppy to “knuckle” over in the front pasterns (ankle joints). When the dog is sitting it will be particularly noticeable, as the front legs will seem as if they are bending over at the pasterns. Often this is a phase and if your pup is eating a quality premium food for large or giant breed puppies, then the dog will grow out of it. If not, perhaps you are making the food yourself (or if it is a poor quality dog food), then you need to contact your veterinarian, breeder or a nutritionist before making changes to the diet. Many experienced breeders lower the protein levels and increase the intake of vitamin C to correct this condition. Without proper experience, never attempt this alone!
Great Dane puppies are clumsy. Sometimes they fall over as they are not well-coordinated. However, a Dane pup should not fall down constantly. If you feel your puppy is toppling over excessively, is overly clumsy or very un-coordinated in the legs, then you need to visit your veterinarian.
When a Great Dane puppy is under a year old, you will notice that the front pasterns (ankles) appear “knobbly” and the joints seem enlarged. This is the case of the back pasterns as well, but it is not as pronounced. If you are a new Dane owner, this will seem abnormal. Before rushing off to your veterinarian, know that this is a completely normal phase of growth in the Great Dane. Throughout growth, these joints will be “knobbly”. As the dog matures, the pasterns will smooth out and blend nicely into the leg and the joints will not look large anymore. This is not a disease and must never be treated as such. It is known that some veterinarians have diagnosed this incorrectly and prescribed calcium to combat it. This is extremely dangerous as high calcium levels will cause serious bone problems.
Great Dane puppies often get juvenile acne. It is a common staph infection that is easily treated. Human teenagers suffer from this too. You can buy a medicated ointment for acne, use it the way you would yourself, and keep your puppy’s chin dry after drinking water or eating. Acne usually disappears in Danes when they grow past adolescence, which is at about one and one-half years old.
Bloat is a common and serious problem in Great Danes. It causes air to become trapped inside the stomach and is fatal if not treated quickly. Usually affecting dogs five years or older, bloat is a condition you need to understand. Prevention is better than cure. As your puppy gets taller, you can begin placing the food and water dishes above the ground, at the pup’s shoulder level. It is commonly believed that by elevating these dishes, the volume of air consumed by fast eaters and drinkers is much less, if any. There is no scientific evidence for this, but most Dane owners believe that it works. With bloat being such a killer of Danes, it makes perfect sense and can certainly not harm your puppy in any way.
Once your Great Dane reaches the age of one-half or two years, the awkward puppy growth spurts will vanish and your dog will no longer be so fragile. At the age of two years, your dog will be fully grown and you can switch its food from large or giant breed puppy, to large or giant breed adult. Keep your Dane on puppy food until it has reached the age of two. Your dog will continue to mature until three years old.
A Dane puppy needs plenty of friends to grow into a well-socialized dog. There are three that your dog can not go without – yourself, the veterinarian and a responsible, caring Great Dane breeder. It is a good idea to contact the breeder should you have questions. A Dane breeder is familiar with puppies of this breed and has experienced their growth phases many times. A good breeder will be able to tell you if something worrying you is normal – or not.