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When you own a misunderstood breed, you hear a lot of strange things. Poodle owners regularly have to explain that their prim-looking pups are actually one of the most intelligent breeds, and chihuahua owners hear plenty of comments about how their beloved pet isn’t a “real dog.” And Rottweiler owners, of course, regularly have strangers warn them about how their gentle giant will “turn on them” one day.
Why? Because (supposedly) Rottweilers’ brains keep growing until they press against their skulls and cause aggression. But is this bizarre biology actually the case, or is it as far-fetched as it sounds?
Do Rottweilers’ brains keep growing?
The myth that Rottweilers have continually growing brains that result in aggression is entirely false. While it is possible for any dog to develop brain swelling as a result of medical conditions such as encephalitis, this breed has entirely normal and healthy brain development in most circumstances.
This article will explain the origins of this myth as well as cover brain development and diseases that can cause a Rottweiler’s brain to swell.
Why Do People Think Rottweiler Brains Keep Growing?
As with the rumor that Rottweilers have locking jaws, the specific origin of this myth is unknown. Similarly, it’s cited by many to explain why a variety of bully breeds are “dangerous” or “aggressive,” including Rotties.
The myth of dogs becoming aggressive due to brain swelling is commonly attributed to another breed, the Dobermann. With their undeserved infamy and narrow, wedge-shaped heads, it’s not surprising that a false correlation was drawn between the assumption of aggression and small head-size.
And, as a possible descendant of the Rottweiler, Dobermanns are often compared to their equally misunderstood bully counterparts. As a result, many people falsely believe that Rottweilers have brains that outgrow their skulls, furthering discrimination against the breed.
How Do Rottweiler Brains Grow?
Rottweiler brain and skull development is just like that of any other large breed, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple! Thankfully, the timing of both of these events works in the favor of these gentle giants.
When Do Rottweiler Brains Stop Growing?
Although different dog breeds are known to have anatomical differences in their brains, the basic development of a Rottweiler’s brain is the same as even a chihuahua’s.
Like humans, dogs are altricial, meaning that they are born in an undeveloped state. Along with quite literally being born deaf and blind, a newborn puppy’s brain is considerably smaller and less developed than an adult dog’s.
Within their first year of life, a puppy’s brain has rapid and dramatic changes in the size and shape of their brains. By 6 weeks, a puppy’s brain stem and cerebellum are fully grown, and by 36 weeks a dog’s brain is at its adult size. But just because the size of a dog’s brain is fully grown doesn’t mean it’s done developing.
Your dog’s brain continues to remodel and reshape itself as it learns and develops, with adult behavioral and cognitive development finally maturing at around 2 years of age. In other words, by the time your Rottie is 36 weeks old, its brain has stopped growing in size, and by the end of 2 years, your dog’s brain is fully mature.
When Do Rottweiler Heads Stop Growing?
When a dog stops growing primarily depends on their breed. Smaller breeds such as chihuahuas predictably stop growing early on. As covered in depth in our article on Rottweiler growth, a Rottweiler continues to grow up until they are around two years old. That said, the last 12 months of a Rottweiler’s growth are typically in weight rather than height.
By the time a large breed such as a Rottweiler is a year old, most of the growth plates in their bones have closed. In simple terms, this means that the skeleton of a rottie– including its skull– has grown to its full potential at around 12 months, significantly after their brain has reached its full size.
Can Rottweiler Brains Swell?
Although a Rottweiler’s brain doesn’t naturally outgrow its skull, several disorders can cause their brains to swell. While these conditions are dangerous and often life-threatening, aggression is not a primary symptom.
Encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain tissue, is often the result of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Many areas of the brain can be affected, meaning that a dog’s symptoms can be highly varied depending on the location of inflammation. Signs include seizures, walking in circles, fever, head tilting, neck rigidity, and more.
Treatment for encephalitis depends on its cause, so narrowing down a diagnosis is often the first course of action if inflammation is suspected. As with any other neuralogical condition, timely veterinary intervention is always critical to your dog’s health.
Cerebral edema, or brain swelling, is an unfortunate symptom of many brain injuries. Whether it’s caused by trauma, tumors, or any other condition, cerebral edema can cause reduced consciousness, disorientation, seizures, abnormal behaviors, and more. Treatment for this condition is dependent on its cause and often requires several diagnostic tests.
Hydrocephalus is a rare disorder that is caused by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaking into the skull and causing brain swelling. It can be caused by head trauma but is more often the result of a birth defect. While it has been seen in Rottweilers, the disease is much more common in smaller breeds, especially those that are small brachycephalic breeds like Chihuahuas.
Symptoms include a noticeably dome-shaped head in puppies due to CSF buildup as well as seizures, strange behavior, and difficulty walking. Treatment typically involves the surgical placement of a shunt in the brain, but may vary depending on what your veterinarian recommends.
The myth that a Rottweiler’s brain can outgrow their skull is just that– a myth. Though the origins of this rumor and other similar ones are unknown, their prevalence can be attributed to unfair discrimination against Rottweilers and other bully breeds.
While the timeline for brain and skull development is dependent on a dog’s breed, Rottweilers are known to have completely normal and healthy growth. In rare instances, a dog’s brain may swell or become inflamed, but these conditions are medical oddities that require treatment rather than commonplace occurrences for this breed.