Big Dog Basics: Everyday Issues For People With Giant Breeds

Mobility Issues

A giant-breed puppy might look big enough to go jogging with you when he’s only a few months old, but he won’t reach skeletal maturity until he’s between 18 months and 2 years old. Jumping and running on hard surfaces are a sure way to cause orthopedic problems. It’s important not to let giant breeds jump on and off the furniture or to pound their joints by running on hard surfaces.

Stairs can also be a hazard for giant breeds. Some breeders advise against letting leggy breeds such as Scottish Deerhounds or Irish Wolfhounds use the stairs as puppies as they can break bones if they fall. That means carrying your puppy up and down stairs, using a ramp or limiting where he can go in the house.

Stairs can also be a difficulty for owners who aren't professional body builders, particularly if you live in an apartment and might not have the option of the elevator in an emergency. Are you prepared to carry your Mastiff up and down the stairs if he is old or sick? And housetraining a giant-breed puppy is not the easiest task to manage if you need to get him downstairs and outside quickly. Even at four months, he may already weigh more than you can comfortably carry.

Your dog's size isn't just an issue at home; taking him on the road can be an adventure, too. A giant-breed dog won’t necessarily fit into your Honda FIT — at least not when he reaches physical maturity. Plan on upgrading to a larger vehicle. To get him in your new vehicle, you may need a ramp or steps he can walk up. Look for something that's sturdy and stable with a nonskid surface.

Spay/Neuter Timing

Finally, as with diet, giant breeds have special needs when it comes to spay/neuter surgery. Studies show that spay/neuter surgery performed too early may increase the incidence of certain diseases that can affect giant breeds, including osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Talk to your veterinarian about the best time to schedule the surgery based on the risks.

And if you have a deep-chested breed, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about having the dog's stomach “tacked” — a procedure called gastropexy — at the same time as the spay/neuter surgery, to help keep the stomach from twisting and causing gastric torsion or bloat.

Having said all that, giant breed dogs can be amazing companions—as long as you know what you are getting into.

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