Panosteitis In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Panosteitis In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Author WDF Staff


We've all heard the term "growing pains," and when it's applied to dogs, it usually refers to panosteitis. Growing pains in children are leg pains of unknown origin that typically resolve when the child reaches adolescence. If you have a puppy, especially a large breed puppy, who appears to be in pain, it could be panosteitis. Here's what you should know about panosteitis in dogs.

What is panosteitis in dogs?

Panosteitis, also known as pano, is a condition affecting the long bones of the legs in dogs. It has been dubbed "growing pains in dogs" because it most commonly affects large-breed dogs under the age of two.

Although it may not appear to be a serious matter, touching a dog's bones can be extremely painful and result in severe limping. Unfortunately, it can occur in more than one leg and shift to a different leg after the first leg heals.

goldie on beach

It's a self-limiting disease, which means it will go away on its own, but you should see your vet to get pain medication until it does.

RELATED: Is Your Dog Limping? Here's What it Means

Which breeds are at risk?

Panosteitis is a disease that primarily affects young, rapidly growing dogs. Although it can occur in any dog breed, larger breeds appear to be more susceptible to this problem. Affected dogs are typically between the ages of 5 and 14 months, but symptoms can occur as early as 2 months or as late as 18 months. Males appear to be more affected than females, though either sex can develop panosteitis. Affected dogs frequently have recurrent episodes of panosteitis until they reach the age of two. At this point, it will resolve spontaneously. The following breeds are responsible for the majority of panosteitis cases in dogs:

What causes it?

Panosteitis in dogs is comparable to growing pains in humans.

This disease has a genetic component because large-breed dogs, particularly German Shepherds, are prone to it. Still, there is no identifiable gene mutation that causes it. It usually appears between 6 months and 2 years, but it has been observed in German Shepherds older than 2 years.

The disease affects the midshaft of the long bones and causes bone formation within the marrow cavity. Fortunately, it has no effect on the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells. There is no long-term damage to the bone marrow.

great dane puppy

High-protein diets may predispose large-breed dogs to panosteitis, so feeding your dog a high-quality large-breed puppy food can help prevent it.

What are the symptoms of panosteitis in dogs?

Limping and leg pain are the most common symptoms of panosteitis. The pain can strike suddenly and then subside quickly. Usually, there are no visible signs of injury or trauma - your dog simply wakes up limping one day.

It can also be challenging to tell when your dog is in pain. When you gently squeeze the long bones of your dog's leg, they may cry out or pull the leg away in pain. It may be so painful that they refuse to use the affected leg.

The humerus (upper arm) is the most commonly affected bone. Still, panosteitis can affect the radius and ulna (both foreleg bones), the femur (thigh), and/or the tibia (lower rear leg).

Panosteitis is cyclical. That means it has periods of worsening symptoms followed by periods of improvement. The pain frequently shifts from one leg to the other. Each episode of lameness can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and the time between episodes is usually about a month, but this can vary.

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How do vets diagnose it?

Veterinarians start with your dog's medical history and a physical exam to diagnose panosteitis. The health information about your dog, such as being a young, large-breed dog with a sudden onset of limping, is often the most telling.

For the physical exam, your veterinarian will first observe your dog walking to determine which legs are affected. The veterinarian then performs an orthopedic examination, pressing firmly on all parts of the legs, back, and neck to check for pain reactions. They will flex and extend all of your dog's joints as well.

When the vet presses on the long bones in the dog's leg, it causes pain. When the veterinarian squeezes the bone, your dog may tense up or even cry out and look at the painful area.

gsd on floor

X-rays can also aid in the diagnosis of panosteitis in dogs. Normally, the bone marrow is darker than the bone's outer layer, known as the cortex. The cortex bone can be seen extending into the dark marrow cavity in panosteitis.

However, because pain symptoms can appear up to 10 days before x-rays show changes, a normal x-ray does not necessarily mean your dog does not have panosteitis. However, x-rays can help rule out other causes of dog bone pain, such as infections, tumors, and broken bones.

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When the condition is resolved, the bone density returns to normal, and the bone appears normal on radiographs.

How is panosteitis in dogs treated?

Although this disease is self-limiting and will resolve independently, it is excruciating during episodes of lameness. At these times, treatment is primarily supportive, with analgesics (pain relievers) and/or anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., meloxicam) administered as needed.

In order to make your pet more comfortable, pain relief should always be administered; denying your dog pain relief is inhumane.

great dane in wind

Exercise should be limited during episodes of lameness. Light to moderate exercise should be encouraged in between episodes. Still, hard or vigorous exercise, as well as very long walks, should be avoided.

Some dogs with panosteitis have a poor appetite; in these cases, it is critical to provide them with a well-balanced and palatable diet. Nutraceuticals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants may be beneficial in some cases.

RELATED: Can Dogs Take Tylenol for Pain

What is the prognosis?

Panosteitis is a self-limiting disease, which means it will go away independently. By the time the dog is 18 - 24 months old, the condition should be completely gone. Each episode of lameness should last no more than three weeks. If your pet's lameness persists without relief for more than 4 - 5 weeks, the dog is most likely suffering from another bone disorder.

World Dog Finder team

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