Panosteitis in Dogs

by Betty Lewis
    German shepherds are particularly vulnerable to panosteitis.

    German shepherds are particularly vulnerable to panosteitis.

    Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

    Puppyhood isn't all rainbows and unicorns; sometimes it literally hurts. If your pup is feeling the effects of growing up, he's likely experiencing panosteitis. Though it's not dangerous, you should definitely take Rufus to the vet if he's having growing pains. Your vet can prescribe medicine to help him cope with this temporary condition.

    Growing Pains

    Panosteitis is a painful condition that typically affects dogs between 5 months and 14 months of age. Basically, the outer surface of at least one of your pup’s leg bones is inflamed. The inflammation can move from leg to leg. Sometimes referred to as “growing pains,” panosteitis may occur out of the blue, making Rufus lame. Any dog can be afflicted by the sudden onset of pain; however, large-breed dogs such as Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, golden retrievers and Doberman pinschers are more prone to suffer its effects. German shepherds are the most affected breed. Some dogs who acquire panosteitis may experience pain as young as 2 months old, while others may have their first pain as late as 18 months. Usually a dog will have multiple episodes until about the age of 2 years, when the condition resolves itself.

    Knowns and Unknowns

    No one’s really quite sure what causes panosteitis. It is known that the fatty bone marrow in the affected leg is replaced with fibrous tissue, which is replaced by woven bone. The woven bone can take over most of the marrow cavity; however, the usual cells that build your dog’s bones eventually take over. In the end, new bone is developed where it belongs, with the rest of the misplaced bone dissolving -- everything gets back to normal. There are various theories about why all this happens, including infection, too much protein in the diet and genetic factors. However, nothing has been proved to cause the temporary changes in the bone marrow.

    Lame Gait, Lame Appetite, Lame Disposition

    The primary sign of panosteitis is lameness, specifically difficulty walking on the front legs, where the inflammation is more common. A dog may have a decreased appetite, fever, weight loss and depression. Rufus may experience mild to severe pain for days, or cycles of pain and improvement over months. In extreme cases, a dog who doesn’t move much because of the pain can experience muscle atrophy. A visit to the vet will involve an X-ray -- cloudiness in the bone marrow cavity can point to panosteitis -- as well as blood work to rule out other ailments.

    Time, Patience and Pain Relief

    Rufus could have a rough go for a while, but have no fear: He will grow out of it if it’s panosteitis. That doesn’t mean you should do nothing, though. You can, and should, help him through his pain with medication provided by the vet. A host of anti-inflammatories, such as Metacam, Rimadyl, Previcox and Deramaxx can provide relief, but each of them requires a prescription. Steroids may also help reduce inflammation in his bones. During his challenging spells, reduced activity will help minimize pain. Discuss regular followup visits with your vet to determine if and when he’ll need additional X-rays to track the condition’s development. By the age of 2 years, he should have outgrown the condition and be a healthy, happy dog.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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