Osteomyelitis is the inflammation of the bone and its marrow, brought on by a number of varying factors. The most important step to treat osteomyelitis in your dog is timely, accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. You will need to provide your veterinarian with an accurate medical history for your dog.
Infection may occur in a number of ways, but the symptoms remain consistent. Intermittent lameness, lethargy, fever, muscle weakness or muscle wasting, limb pain or swelling in a limb can all signal osteomyelitis. The infection may be acute, or sudden in onset, caused by a traumatic incident such as a broken bone or a penetrating wound. Other cases may be chronic, with the infection residing in the dog's body over time and finally infecting his bones.
If osteomyelitis is suspected, your veterinarian will perform a number of tests to determine the nature of the infection. In addition to providing your dog's health history, including an accurate timeline for the onset of symptoms and possible causal factors, a thorough examination and laboratory tests should be expected. Your veterinarian may perform a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count and a urinalysis. Special tests may be needed if a fungal infection is suspected and x-rays of the affected areas may reveal signs of infection including changes in bone structure. Ultrasound imaging may allow your veterinarian to see pockets of pus in the bone and locate a source for fluid collection. (See Reference 1) If osteomyelitis is confirmed, your vet will then need to identify the causative organism involved in the infection.
Bone fractures are the most common cause of osteomyelitis, where the bacteria invade the dog's body via a traumatic, open wound or through a surgical incision. The first step in treating your dog is stabilization of the bone and healing of the fracture. Stabilization methods could include use of plates, pins, screws or prosthetics, which are removed once the bone has mended. Once the fracture has been stabilized, a course of antibiotic treatment will be administered. The antibiotic and dosage prescribed by your veterinarian will depend upon many factors including the nature of the causative organism, your dog's medical history, the severity of the wound and the effectiveness of your dog's circulatory system. Expect treatment to last for several weeks.
At the very least, your dog's limb will be tender to the touch and he may not want to bear weight on it. At worst, he will be recovering from a traumatic injury as well as infection. Create a suitable, quiet place for your dog to rest and recover where he won't have noise or other distractions that could cause him anxiety. Keep him separated from other pets and children, and away from windows, entry doors and high-traffic areas. Kennel rest may be an option, or you may find another way to comfortably restrict his movement. You may need to carry him outdoors so he can relieve himself until he is willing to bear weight on the limb, and your veterinarian may be able to recommend a diet and supplements that can help promote healing.
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