Zeus, the Guinness World Record-Holder for Tallest Dog Ever, died this past week. He was five years old. News reports claimed that Zeus died from “old age.” Really?
Now I realize that Great Danes and other large-breed dogs are lucky to make it to age 10, but to claim that death at age five from “old age” is really, er, stretching the truth a bit. Could his death be due to osteosarcoma, very common among large breed dogs? Could it be a result of crippling arthritis from his obvious abnormal structure, that hastened his demise?
I examined a few photos of Zeus that I found on the web. No testicles are evident in any of those pictures. Now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that when a dog is neutered before maturity, he will not have the proper hormonal balance for closure of the growth plates on the long bones of the body. In other words, dogs who are neutered as a puppy will often suffer from a rangy, weedy growth pattern. The long bones often become excessively long. They will more often suffer from problems like hip dysplasia and patellar luxation than their intact counterparts.
Could Zeus's tall, rangy conformation possibly be due to being neutered as a puppy?
None of the news reports of his death mention whether or not Zeus was neutered. I did a search and found a discussion in an online forum in which one of the participants was a member of the family who owned Zeus, the world's tallest dog. *
Here's an excerpt:
Q: Has Zues (sic) been (or is he going to be) a father of giant puppies?
A: He has not, nor will he ever be. We did get him neutered when he was a puppy.
Q: Do you regret neutering him?
A: Not really. We got Zeus for a family pet--we never had any intention of breeding him when we got him.
Remark: Thank goodness, or else we'd all be serving our new great Dane overlords
Someone later in the thread gently informed her:
I know somebody already mentioned it, but waiting on neutering would have "bulked" him up more. Large breed dogs do not stop growing until at least two years old. Cutting off the hormones too early, can give the "gangly" appearance and cause them a host of problems. But I know it is becoming standard to neuter and spay early, because of many reasons. Yet there are just as many pros to waiting.
Lest you think this abnormal growth can be chalked up to genetics; it is possible, but unlikely. Further in the thread, we find that Zeus was one of 15 puppies, and that none of the others were abnormally huge. Additionally, Zeus himself was normal-sized as a puppy. There is no other explanation for his "tallness" than early neutering.
Q: Was he an unusually large puppy?
Q: Did you ever hear about how the rest of the litter grew up? Are they also ridiculously large?
A: As far as I know, we've only met two others from the same litter, and they're normal sized Danes. No idea how we got to be the lucky ones!
The adult owner said in an article from a couple of years ago that she was “thrilled” to own a Guinness World Record-holding dog.
Again, we don't know precisely what Zeus died from, except reportedly "old age", but osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is a common cancer in large breed dogs, and the risk of osteosarcoma is doubled when the dog is neutered.
I don't suppose life was quite so “thrilling” or “lucky” for the dog who died an untimely death.
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