Ask the Vet: How do puppies develop?

I had the best new puppy visit at work that I’ve had in a long time. It was a 6-week-old boxer male who was yet to be named. He is the replacement puppy for another wonderful boxer, named Jake. Jake passed away not too long ago, leaving his family devastated. They know this puppy will never completely fill the paw prints of their old dog, but they are excited about all the new possibilities this little guy will bring them.

I had lots of questions, about the puppy’s breeder and the medical care he had received and their expectations for the puppy. But they had even more questions for me about basic puppy-rearing issues. It had been a good nine years since they had a puppy in the house.

Internally, an evil giggle spontaneously launched in my head, as I knew their calm, happy lives were about to be completely thrown out the window for the wacky, sleep-deprived existence of new puppyhood living. I played it cool and only smiled.

Of all the things they asked, I liked their questions about growth the best. How big did I think he was going to be? Boxers are classically a large-breed dog; adult females can weigh 40 to 70 pounds and males can weigh 65 to 80 pounds, according to the American Kennel Club Breed standards. This little guy was around seven pounds, and his owners said both parents were on the larger end of the size chart and looked healthy to them.

As a large-breed dog, he should gain around 2 pounds a week eating a well-known large-breed puppy diet from a trusted dog food company. That number is different for toy-breed dogs, which should only gain around 5 ounces a week on regular puppy food. Small- and medium-breed dogs will gain between those numbers each month.

I recommend weighing puppies weekly, especially when they are so young, to be sure they are growing appropriately. It is really easy to overfeed or underfeed puppies, and proper growth now will lead to healthier adult dogs later.

Also, as a large-breed dog, the boxer puppy will keep growing longer than his smaller counterparts, such as my beloved Scottish terriers did. They were full-size early, at around 8 months old. Mr. Baby Boxer will continue growing until he is 18 months old.

What is funny is that in both large-breed and small-breed dogs, their bodies may seem full-grown, but their brain and maturity don’t fully develop until a full 2 years old. Ugh! See, dogs are slow to mature, just like lots of humans.

Lastly, I was glad to remember a fun formula from a website, thehappypuppysite.com, that can help to guesstimate a puppy’s adult weight based on breed size. They say if you take a large-breed puppy’s weight at 20 weeks and divide that weight by 20, then multiply that answer by 52 (weeks in a year), you will get an estimate of his final weight as an adult.

So if a puppy weighs 30 pounds at 20 weeks, his final weight could be around 78 pounds as an adult. This formula is different for different breed sizes; toy breeds are calculated at 12 weeks and medium breeds at 16 weeks.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to predict puppies’ growth and development. Hopefully we all get to develop beautiful, strong and healthy puppies that keep us company far into their golden years. It starts on Day One. Good luck.

Send questions for Dr. Allison Dascoli to “Ask the Vet,” Charleston Gazette-Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301 or email them to askthevet@wvgazettemail.com. Comments or suggestions can be submitted the same way.

Funerals for Saturday, December 14, 2019

Akers, Trela - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Mount Hope.

Cochran, Jacob - 3 p.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Cosby-Matthews, Hattie - Noon, First Baptist Church of Charleston, Charleston.

DeMarino, Jane - 1 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.

Gunther, Jewell - 1 p.m., Calvary Baptist Church, Chapmanville.

Hall, Betty - 1 p.m., St. Andrew United Methodist Church, St. Albans.

Holbrook, Linda - 1 p.m., St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Pinch.

Johnson Jr., Delbert - 11 a.m., Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

King, Edna - Noon, St. Christopher Episcopal Church, Charleston.

Kiser, Kenneth - 6 p.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Lawrence, Mamie - 2 p.m., O’Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

McCutcheon, Alice - 1 p.m., Old Greenbrier Baptist Church, Alderson.

Mills, Melinda - 5 p.m., New Baptist Church, Huntington.

Rannenberg III, Thomas - 2 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Ray, Sandra - 1 p.m., Crooked Creek Church of Christ.

Roach, James - 1 p.m., First Baptist Church, Ravenswood.

Tyler, Gloria - Noon, Grace Bible Church, Charleston.

Ulbrich, Sandra - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Williams, Laura - 2 p.m., Stockert-Paletti Funeral Home, Flatwoods.

Wood, Ruby - 11 a.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.