March 1st, 2000
As the veterinarian stepped into the exam room, she couldn’t help but notice the litter of adorable puppies snuggled up together in a small crate. The breeder had brought them in for their first check-up, and the vet was eager to ensure their health and growth were on track.
As the consultation progressed, she couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps she should have growth charts for the puppies, like in human medicine. After all, it was always an essential component of pediatric check-ups when she brought her own children to the doctor. The idea made perfect sense. What better way to monitor healthy growth than to collect quantitative data like weight and height, and compare them to the standard values listed in the charts her doctor used.
It would be a great tool, just like growth charts in human medicine that could provide valuable insights and early detection of any potential issues for these puppies.
To her knowledge, no such tool existed in veterinary medicine, but hey, this would certainly be a game-changer.
March 1st, 2023
Growth charts for puppies and kittens are a reality that is available to all veterinarians, breeders, and pet owners.
The Importance of Growth Charts for Pet Health
I previously mentioned them in my blogs, and I stand by it: they are game-changers.
Monitoring the growth and development of our furry friends is just as important as it is for human children when it comes to their health.
We used to say “puppies/kittens need to grow harmoniously,” but we were mainly looking at it from a qualitative aspect, unable to objectively quantify what it meant.
Now that we have growth charts, we can.
Yet, we are still facing the same challenge that human medicine faces.
We have the tools, but we do not always use them.
In human medicine, time constraint is often cited as an excuse for underutilization of growth data, despite the fact there is a whole body of literature showing how beneficial growth charts are for promoting health.
True in humans… and certainly true in pets as well.
Overcoming Obstacles to Using Growth Charts
As I was going through the literature on pediatric growth charts in human medicine, I noticed that one obstacle to implementing them in a country is ensuring that… doctors actually take the time to use them.
This “time constraint” excuse is frequently used by doctors, despite the wealth of evidence showing the benefits of growth charts in promoting children’s health.
However, in human medicine it is clearly established that underutilization of growth data can have severe consequences, such as missed opportunities for early detection of growth disorders and inadequate monitoring of treatment effectiveness.
Therefore, making time for thorough analysis and monitoring of growth patterns is essential, and it would be time well invested!
True for human doctors…. and true for veterinarians, breeders and pet owners I guess.
Sure, they have some limitations.
We don’t have growth charts for giant dogs because the study showed significant variations in giant breeds.
The charts for kittens are based on domestic short hair kittens, and one can argue that in Bombays or Maine Coons, we might be looking at very different growth patterns.
But think of the story at the beginning of the post.
Twenty years ago, we had nothing at all.
And in our data-driven world, I am sure that, with time, those puppy and kitten growth charts will be perfected.
After all, even in humans, they did not get it right immediately; they constantly revisit and adapt their models.
There is no doubt that, in veterinary medicine, we will get there as well.
Making Growth Charts an Atomic Habit in Veterinary Medicine
Despite these limitations, growth charts can still be a valuable tool for monitoring the health of puppies and kittens.
When used in conjunction with other assessments, such as physical exams, they can provide a more comprehensive understanding of a puppy or kitten’s health and development.
As mentioned earlier, we are fortunate to live in an era where we have numerous resources to help enhance the well-being of puppies and kittens.
On this topic, I refer to James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits.”
This evaluation should be a standard aspect of every pediatric appointment. We must transform it into an atomic habit of veterinary pediatric consultations.
When “atomic habits” become ingrained, they bring about significant changes.
Growth charts are available, so let’s make the most of them!
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It can be very frustrating… even heart-breaking.
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