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Panosteitis in Dogs: Growing Pains

Panosteitis (growing pains) in puppies is a painful but self-limiting inflammatory bone disease that causes lameness in one or more legs.

Canine panosteitis, also called osteomyelitis, eosinophilic panosteitis, or Eo Pan, is a fairly common inflammatory bone disease in young dogs. It is similar to the syndrome of "growing pains" in human children.

Breeds, Gender, and Ages Most Commonly Affected by Panosteitis in Dogs

  • Large breed dogs are most commonly diagnosed with panosteitis, especially German Shepherds.
  • The disease generally occurs in puppies between 5 and 18 months of age and usually resolves by the time a dog is two years old.
  • Male dogs are four times more likely to develop panosteitis than females (Brinker, 1990).

Signs and Presentation of Panosteitis in Dogs

  • Panosteitis in dogs is characterized by lameness in one or more legs.
  • This may be a shifting leg lameness that comes and goes.
  • The lameness associated with panosteitis comes on quickly, without a history of trauma.
  • The limping is usually quite pronounced, and the dog is extremely painful when the affected leg is palpated or felt.

Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs

  • Part of the fatty bone marrow in the affected long bones is replaced with fibrous tissue, then woven bone. Eventually the woven bone is replaced with normal marrow again, and the pain subsides.
  • The cause of the process of marrow transformation to bony tissue and back again isn't known with certainty.
  • Many believe that the cause of panosteitis is genetic because certain breeds are prone to it.
  • Some suspect an infectious cause for the disease, but no organism has been isolated from panosteitis-affected bones.
  • Feeding high-protein, high-calcium diets may play a role in the development of canine panosteitis but this has not been proven.

Diagnosis of Panosteitis in Dogs

  • When dogs with panosteitis are examined, they show extreme pain when the affected long bone is felt by the veterinarian.
  • X-rays of bones affected by panosteitis show a blurriness to the inner portion of the bone.
  • Very early in the disease process, bloodwork may reveal an increase in eosinophils, a type of white blood cell.
  • A fever may be noted in dogs affected with panosteitis during certain phases of the illness, but this is sporadic and cannot be used to rule the disease in or out.

Treatment of Panosteitis in Dogs

Panosteitis is a self-limiting illness in dogs. This means that the dog will outgrow the disease without any treatment. However, because panosteitis is so exquisitely painful for dogs, it is important to manage that pain with one or a combination of the following medications:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Rimadyl and Deramaxx reduce the pain of panosteitis by decreasing inflammation.
  • Steroidal medications are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can reduce pain in dogs suffering from panosteitis.
  • Pain medications such as Tramadol and others are very useful in controlling the pain associated with panosteitis with few or no side effects.
  • Limiting exercise, although it will not speed recovery, can help to alleviate some of the pain.

Steroid and non-steroidal medications can be dangerous if used together.

Never give your dog any medications at home without talking with your veterinarian first. Some medications that are safe for humans are NOT safe for dogs.

Prevention of Panosteitis in Dogs

Panosteitis may have a genetic component, so not breeding dogs that are affected by it may reduce its presence in the dog population over time. However, the cause of panosteitis is not known with certainty, so there is no real way to prevent it.

Prognosis for Panosteitis in Dogs

The prognosis for canine panosteitis is excellent. The condition completely resolves on its own after puppyhood, with no lasting damage to the bones.


References

  • Brinker, P. F.(1990). Handbook of Small Animal Orthopedics and Fracture Treatment, Second Edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company.

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