Panosteitis in Dogs (Growing Pains)
Panosteitis, also known as growing pains, refers to a self-limiting yet painful bone condition involving the long leg bones of young large breed dogs generally between ages 5 and 18 months. Panosteitis may occur in more than one bone at a time or may move around, causing a shifting leg lameness. The lameness tends to occur very suddenly and usually occurs spontaneously and without a history of trauma or excessive exercise.
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Panosteitis is a condition that affects young, rapidly growing dogs. Although it can occur in any breed of dog, larger breeds, such as German Shepherds (most common), Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Basset Hounds, are more prone to this problem.
Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs
The underlying cause of panosteitis is unknown, but genetics, stress, infection, metabolism, or an autoimmune component may be factors. Since German Shepherds seem to be particularly predisposed to panosteitis, there may be a genetic component to the disease, at least in this breed. Inappropriate nutrition may also predispose some dogs to this condition.
Symptoms of Panosteitis in Dogs
The typical symptom is a sudden, unexplained, painful lameness (limping) of one or more legs. The lameness may be mild or severe. The most common bone that is affected is the humerus (upper arm), but panosteitis may also be found in the radius and ulna (both bones in the foreleg), the femur (thigh), and/or the tibia (lower rear leg). The affected bone will be painful to the touch. Other symptoms such as fever, decreased appetite, lethargy, or weight loss may be noticed.
Panosteitis tends to have a cyclic nature, with periods of worsening symptoms followed by periods of improvement. The pain often shifts from leg to leg. Each episode of lameness may last for a few days to a few weeks, and the period between episodes is often about a month but may vary.
How will the vet know if my dog is having growing pains?
When your vet examines your dog, panosteitis will be suspected if the patient shows pain when pressure is applied to the affected bone(s). The diagnosis is confirmed by radiographs (x-rays), which usually show a characteristic increase in the density of the affected bones. The degree of change may not correlate to the severity of the lameness. In some cases, radiographic evidence may not be present for up to ten days after lameness begins; in these cases, repeat x-rays taken 2 weeks later will confirm the diagnosis. After the condition has resolved, the bone density normalizes and the bone looks normal on radiographs.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Panosteitis
Although this disease is self-limiting, and will spontaneously resolve, during episodes of lameness the condition is very painful. At these times, treatment is supportive, using pain medications and/or anti-inflammatory drugs as needed.
During episodes of lameness, exercise should be restricted. Between episodes, light to moderate exercise should be encouraged, but hard or vigorous exercise is discouraged, as are very long walks.
Can growing pains be prevented?
There are currently no known preventive measures for this medical condition. In general for puppies, it is important to feed a high-quality diet that has been formulated for growth (there are diets specifically for large breed puppies) and to restrict the quantity fed to keep the dog at a lean, healthy body weight. Do not allow your puppy to become overweight. Consult your vet for further advice on the most appropriate nutrition for your dog.
When to Contact a Vet
A dog with panosteitis will present with acute lameness brought on suddenly, which can range anywhere from mild to severe. As is the case with any lameness in your pet, do not delay in making an appointment with your vet. It’s important to relieve your pet of pain and to rule out any underlying factors that may be in place.
Panosteitis can last from 2 to 5 months. If your dog has signs that last longer than 5 months, you should go to the vet for a re-check.
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