Raiden is 5 1/2 months old now and she has been swimming since 8 weeks of age and is LOVING it!! Originally I had started swimming for socializing her to water…it is such a safe and nurturing environment and very positive. Unlike tossing her into a river or lake and encouraging her back. Tried that with my last dog and didn’t work so well! I definitely don’t recommend it. So when Radien was 10 weeks old she had a sick belly and had to go to the doctors to be checked. Luckily it was nothing but when the vet had checked her back legs it hurt her so bad she actually tried to bite him.
He had said she was going through growing pains. Which makes sense. Large breed puppies grow so quickly that it is painful at times and can cause problems later on in life. So she started swimming every week 2-3 times a day. We focused more on her swimming than going into daycare or off-leash parks. During her rapid growth periods I had also noticed that she would limp on her back legs and it was predominately in her back right leg. I decided it was time to do some research and find ways to help prevent problems for when she is full-grown.
OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) is one common skeletal disease in growing puppies which causes lameness or limping in the front or rear legs. This is when there is a defect on the smooth cartilage surface within one or more joints. In some cases, the defect is either a flap of cartilage or crack in the cartilage end of the bone. Sometimes it can correct itself with strict rest but most commonly needs surgery. It is excruciatingly painful. Causes include jumping up and down from things and chasing and stopping abruptly.
Panosteitis also known as growing pains may occur in more bone at one time and cause a shifting of lameness. It occurs in fast growing dogs and may keep recurring until rapid growth is over.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) is an inflammation in the growth plates of the long bones. Symptoms include swelling and pain in the joints which may lead to fever and loss of appetite.
Elbow Dysplasia is an abnormal growth or development in the elbow joint.
Hip dysplasia is an improper formation of the hip joints.
Luxating patella is a condition that affects the knee. The patella or kneecap is attached to the inner surface of the patellar ligament which sits over the middle of the knee joint and glides back and forth. A luxating patella pops out of its groove and moves to one side or another.
So how does swimming help? When puppies are growing the growth plates are soft cartilage, not yet fully formed. If the puppy is jumping around or playing too hard it can cause damage to these growth plates. Swimming in warm water helps to lubricate the joints, keep the pressure off the rapidly growing joints and help to realign the body, naturally! The warm water helps to relieve any pain the puppy may be experiencing and helps improve circulation. The puppies are also massaged to help relax the muscles and to release toxins. They are cuddled and loved while in the pool and encouraged to swim. The water is a safe, nurturing and an entirely new experience for them!
Since Raiden has been swimming for months now she has had absolutely no symptoms of growing pains since she was about 4 months of age. Her gait has improved and she is in excellent body condition. She LOVES the pool. Every morning, the first thing she does is run up on the deck in hopes that it is a swim day!