why is my Golden Retriever so small

Why Is My Golden Retriever So Small? Is There A Problem?

Golden Retrievers have an estimated adult size of 55 to 75 lbs. In terms of height, these charmers are between 21 to 24 inches. So if your Golden Retriever is way smaller than this, something is not quite right. Why is Golden Retriever so small, you ask? It can be anything from poor diet, genetic defect, illness, age, or the fact that you didn’t receive a purebred dog.

Below, I will discuss each of these points and what you need to do. Take note that stunted growth is a serious problem that must be addressed with the help of a veterinarian.

Why is my Golden Retriever so small?

Standard Golden Retrievers are large dogs. But if yours seem to be smaller than usual, the following might be the reasons why:

1. Age

why is my Golden Retriever so small

Before you jump to conclusions, you should consider your Goldie’s age first. Puppies are normally small, but they will get larger fast over the months. Some Golden pups may appear smaller than other puppies of the same age, but they will reach an ideal size later.

For the first year of your pet’s life, it’s best to wait for the dog’s normal growth. As long as the veterinarian doesn’t see any problems, there’s no need to panic just yet.

2. Poor diet

why is my Golden Retriever so small

A poor diet is the leading cause of stunted growth among animals and humans. If your Golden Retriever doesn’t receive the nutrition it needs, don’t be surprised if it will become small and frail.

On average, a Golden Retriever needs to consume 1,300 to 1,740 calories a day when it’s active. For sedentary Goldies, it will be a bit lower at 980 to 1,272 calories a day. The older your dog gets, the lower its calorie intake should be.

However, these are just rough estimations. You also have to factor in your dog’s health, activity level, and age. Usually, growing puppies need to consume higher calories to compensate for their bodies’ needs.

Aside from that, Golden Retrievers need ample protein to support their large bodies. They also need the right amount of calcium to help their bones achieve their ideal size and strength.

3. Genetic defect and illnesses

In rare cases, Golden Retrievers can have dwarfism. This is a genetic defect brought by irresponsible breeding, mutation, a poor diet during the mother’s pregnancy, and more.

The most common condition associated with this is Skeletal Dysplasia 2. Affected dogs will suffer from ‘disproportionate dwarfism’, characterized by short legs with normal body size and length. It will make your Golden Retriever’s bones thicker and slightly curved, with the front legs being more affected than the rear.

The biggest problem here is that the height of Golden Retrievers with Skeletal Dysplasia 2 is variable. This means that it varies widely and challenging to detect.

Legitimate breeders can identify a Golden Retriever with Skeletal Dysplasia 2 through rigorous genetic testing. It’s a requirement for most professional breeders, which guarantees that you’re going to get a healthy dog.

If you’re getting a second Goldie, it’s important to meet the two-parent dogs. If one of them is stunted or has dwarfism, the trait will be passed on to the litter.

On the other hand, Golden Retrievers can also have pituitary dwarfism. This condition isn’t caused by genetic mutation as with Skeletal Dysplasia 2. Instead, the stunted growth is due to growth hormone deficiency. Nevertheless, it’s also an inherited disorder like Skeletal Dysplasia 2, but quite rare on Golden Retrievers.

The onset of pituitary dwarfism is easily observable at a young age. It can also be a secondary condition due to other hormonal imbalances and conditions like benign craniopharyngiomas.

4. Worm infestation

Golden Retrievers can become stunted if their parasitic problems are left untreated for long periods. What happens is that the worms suck your dog’s nutrition. So even if your Goldie is eating the best food you can find, it will still become small and underweight. In the long run, the worms can steal enough calories from your dog to slow down its natural growth.

The good news is that worm infestations are very easy to address. You can talk to your dog’s veterinarian to know the suitable deworming options for your Golden Retriever.

5. Cross-breeding

Lastly, there’s a possibility that the dog you receive isn’t really a purebred Golden Retriever. Many dog owners fall into the bait-and-switch scam of shady breeders. They will often show you a picture of a healthy dog online then send a different puppy.

Take note that there are also the so-called ‘Miniature Golden Retrievers’. It’s a cross between a standard Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, and a Poodle. This is a real breed, and if you’re lucky, it might be the one you’re raising.

Still, the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize Mini Golden Retrievers as an official dog breed. This means they don’t regulate breeders. It’s important to be meticulous if you’re planning to get a Mini Goldie as a pet. While their size might be cute, improper breeding can lead to a slew of health problems.

Growth timeline of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers experience multiple growth spurts in their first year of life. To know if your Goldie is on the right growth track, you should know these milestones:

Golden Retriever Growth Chart (First Year)

Average Expected Weight
7 weeks
9 lbs. (17 lbs. as the largest)
8 weeks
10 lbs. (17 lbs. as the largest)
10 weeks
15 lbs. (22 lbs. as the largest)
11 weeks
17 lbs. (22 lbs. as the largest)
3 months
22 lbs. (43 lbs. as the largest)
4 months
30 lbs. to 35 lbs. (44 lbs. as the largest)
5 months
40 lbs. (58 lbs. as the largest)
6 months
44 lbs. (73 lbs. as the largest)
7 months
46 lbs. (67 lbs. as the largest)
8 months
52 lbs. (67 lbs. as the largest)
9 months
52 lbs. (68 lbs. as the largest)
10 months
60 lbs. (68 lbs. as the largest)
11 months
65 lbs. (80 lbs. as the largest)
1 year
70 lbs. (90 lbs. as the largest)

As you see, a Golden Retriever will have a massive growth spurt between its third and sixth month. This coincides with the teething phase. Depending on the specific puppy you have, its weight at 7 weeks can be as small as 5 lbs. So far, the smallest Golden Retriever has an average weight of 50 lbs. to 55 lbs.

Moreover, males tend to be larger than females. When comparing Golden Retrievers, it’s important to check the gender of the other dog. It’s normal for the opposite sex to have 10 lbs. to 15 lbs. of weight difference.

How to help your Golden Retriever achieve its ideal size

Proper care is necessary to raise a healthy and happy Golden Retriever. To ensure that your Goldie will achieve its full size, you should add these steps to your list:

1. Give the right food for every life stage

Golden Retrievers need different diet plans for every life stage. For its first 12 to 14 months of life, your dog should be eating a puppy formula. In the 15th month, you can start switching your Goldie to an adult food product.

Puppy food has higher protein content to support their rapidly growing bodies. Once your Golden reaches adult age, its protein requirements will be slightly lower. This is why switching the pup to an adult food product is necessary.

Aside from giving the right nutrition for the adult stage, it will also prevent kidney problems due to protein overconsumption.

2. Schedule regular vet visits

Take note that visiting the vet’s clinic isn’t just for emergencies. It’s also important to schedule routine checkups to ensure that your Golden Retriever is in good health. Their first year is the most crucial part in terms of growth, so it’s best to have the professional guidance of a veterinarian.

At the vet’s clinic, your dog will be weighed and examined. This way, the veterinarian will know if the dog’s weight is suitable for its age. It’s also an excellent opportunity to diagnose health problems while they are still easy to cure.

During the vet visit, don’t hesitate to raise your concerns about your dog’s growth. This will help the vet provide a more accurate diagnosis of your dog.

3. Provide ample exercise

Exercise is very crucial for Golden Retrievers. It helps drain their excess energy while providing mental stimulation and physical exertion. This way, your dog will not grow obese.

Long walks around the neighborhood, playtime in your backyard, and swimming at the lake are just some of the fun activities for Golden Retrievers. As much as possible, choose low-impact activities as large canines like Goldens are prone to orthopedic problems.

4. Provide preventive care against parasites

Prevention is always the best cure when it comes to parasitic infections. Your Golden Retriever can receive its first deworming treatment at 2 weeks old. Succeeding treatments will be done at 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks. However, this should be conducted by a veterinarian or a professional breeder.

After that, your Golden Retriever pup will be put on a heartworm preventive treatment. This treatment will also prevent the occurrence of whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

5. Beware of abnormally rapid growth

Rapid growth among Golden Retrievers isn’t always good. If it happens too fast, your dog will suffer from life-threatening consequences. The extremely rapid growth can make your dog’s bones long yet brittle.

The dog’s diet is the main factor involved here. This is why you should pay attention to the life stage and the quality of the food you’re serving.

Also, don’t overdo supplements. While Golden Retrievers need ample calcium, too much will cause weakness, frequent urination, and listlessness. Prolonged consumption of excessive calcium will lead to kidney stones and hypercalcemia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: At what age is a Golden Retriever considered fully grown?

A: Golden Retrievers are considered fully grown once it reaches two years of age. However, some of them may need two to three months to achieve their full size. Nevertheless, all Golden Retrievers, regardless of size, are considered adults once they reach 16 months old.

Q: How long do Golden Retrievers stay small?

A: Large breeds like Golden Retrievers grow big fast. On average, their small puppy size will only last for six months. After that, the Goldie will experience a massive growth spurt. However, some may stretch their small size up to the last quarter of their first year.

Q: Why does my Golden Retriever have short legs?

A: One of the main reasons why some Golden Retrievers have abnormally short legs is a condition called osteochondrodysplasia. This is an umbrella term for various hereditary disorders that cause the skeletal system to grow disproportionately. Depending on the specific condition of your Golden Retriever, the short legs can have other complications.

Q: How tall should a Golden Retriever be?

A: On average, Golden Retrievers grow from 21 to 24 inches. Others fall at 19 to 20 inches, which is still considered normal. However, if your Golden Retriever is much shorter than that, it’s best to bring it to a veterinarian. Your dog might be suffering from dwarfism.

Q: Is it normal for a purebred Golden Retriever to be small?

A: Golden Retrievers must meet the AKC standards to be considered purebred. If it’s smaller than usual, it may not be given a certification. It’s important that you only deal with legitimate breeders to ensure that you’re getting a healthy and properly bred dog.

Q: When do the growth plates of Golden Retrievers close?

A: Growth plates of Golden Retrievers usually close once the pup reaches its 14th to 16th month. However, if the puppy has been spayed or neutered in its first year, you may need to wait a little longer. This means you can’t subject your puppy to extreme exercise.

Final words 

Why is my Golden Retriever so small? If you’re asking this question, it’s best to assess your dog’s diet to know if your pet is receiving ample nutrition. Other factors like illnesses, genetic defects, parasites, and breeding will also impact your dog’s size. When in doubt, you can always consult your dog’s veterinarian.

About Tom Thorpe

Tom Thorpe has overtime interacted with different species of dogs mostly through breeding and training; according to him, man’s best friend is yet to find solace in the company of man, as they are continuously mistreated. He, therefore, runs a rescue center that provides shelter to stray dogs, and has been advocating for the rights of animals; the Golden Retriever dogs are among his favorites, the reason he came up with the extensive excerpts to help educate the society on the right treatment and care of the respective breed. Tom spends most of his time running his dog shelter; he is a husband and proud father of two boys and loves to go fishing during his free time.

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