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dog parent must-knows

Panosteitis: Growing pains in puppies, explained

Your guide to the causes, symptoms, and treatments of panosteitis in puppies.

Updated August 23, 2021

Created By

Emily Johnson,
Cute English Cocker Spaniel puppy sleeping on blanket near owner indoors

What is panosteitis?

Panosteitis (pronounced “pan-aw-stee-eye-tis”) is a painful condition that occurs in rapidly growing young dogs. The long bones in a pet’s legs become inflamed, causing lameness and limping. Because panosteitis tends to strike juvenile animals and spontaneously resolves itself by two years of age, it is sometimes referred to as “growing pains.” Panosteitis can also occur in more than one bone at a time or may move around, causing a shifting lameness that goes from one bone or leg to another.

Causes of panosteitis

Although panosteitis can occur in any breed of dog, large or giant breeds are more prone to this problem. Some larger breed examples include:

Breeds prone to Panosteitis:

  • German shepherds (most common)
  • Great Danes
  • Golden retrievers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Basset hounds

Affected dogs are usually between five and 14 months of age, but the first symptoms may occur as early as two months of age or as late as 18 months of age. Males seem to be affected more often than females, although either sex can develop panosteitis. Affected dogs often have recurrent episodes of panosteitis until they reach two years of age. At this time, it will spontaneously resolve on its own.

Clinical signs and symptoms of panosteitis

The key symptom of panosteitis is spontaneous lameness. The lameness may be mild or severe, and may occur in one or more legs. The most commonly affected bone is the humerus (upper arm bone in the front legs), but the condition can show up in any long leg bone. The affected bone or bones will be painful to the touch.

Other symptoms that may appear with panosteitis include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Fever

How panosteitis is diagnosed

  1. The first step is a thorough, nose-to-tail vet examination, including vital signs and a temperature check, since dogs with panosteitis often have a fever.
  2. After the initial exam, your vet will watch your dog walk to locate the areas of lameness. With this condition, multiple legs can be affected and your dog may limp on different legs at different times.
  3. After observing your dog walk, the veterinarian should palpate the long bones (the humerus, femur, tibia, fibula, ulna, and radius); these are the areas where panosteitis is most commonly found.
  4. The next step is diagnostic testing. This usually includes bloodwork and radiographs of the legs. As the disease progresses, a white patchy “haze” will appear in the medulla (center) of the long bones.

There are more complex tests that can be done. However, the diagnosis is usually made based on a combination of signalment (age and breed), clinical signs and history, x-rays, and response to pain medication.

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How to treat panosteitis

Because panosteitis is a self-limiting bone disease that ultimately resolves on its own, treatment is purely supportive. The goal of treatment is pain control and management. Common pain relief treatment options include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Previcox, Deramaxx, and Metacam can reduce pain, inflammation, and fever. In severe cases, corticosteroids may also be prescribed.
  • Limiting exercise, especially during episodes of lameness. Vigorous exercise, long walks, running, and any other activity that creates a pounding effect on the legs that can worsen symptoms and should be avoided.
  • Nutrition/dietary plans. If your pet is losing weight or refusing to eat, your veterinarian will recommend a diet to help maintain weight. Some supplements may also be helpful, such as fatty acids.
  • Avoiding certain foods. Some veterinarians believe that avoiding high-protein, high-calcium diets and vitamin supplements can help to prevent or reduce the severity of the condition by inhibiting rapid growth. There is a good bit of research showing just how to feed your large breed puppy to help ensure optimal nutrition levels.

Is panosteitis preventable?

While there is no true underlying cause of panosteitis, prevention of this condition is best achieved through careful attention to your puppy’s nutrition. Large breed dogs should take care to receive diets that do not provide an excess of calcium. Slower growth is key — meaning that lower concentrations of protein and fats should be administered. If your dog is a larger breed prone to panosteitis, the best option is to feed them high-quality dog food that has been specifically formulated for use in large breed puppies or adolescents.

👉 When in doubt, you can always consult your veterinarian for further advice on the most appropriate nutrition for your dog.