Wednesday, 8th August 2012
Panosteitis is an inflammatory bone disease that typically affects young, rapidly growing dogs. It can also affect cats, but not very commonly. It can be very painful, and causes the dog to have a lameness or limp that comes on suddenly, but appears to often come and go, and can affect more than one leg.
It is a common problem in young dogs, usually aged between five and twelve months that are of a large breed. Breeds that are commonly affected include German Shepherds, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers and Bassett Hounds. Males are more commonly affected than females.
This condition has been referred to by some as "growing pains" due to the association with the time of the dog's most rapid physical development and bone growth. Although the precise cause of panosteitis has not been established since it was first observed some fifty years ago, it is believed to have a hereditary element.
When the dog is lame or limping, there is a variable degree of pain involved, but in many cases I have seen, the dog is in severe pain and will whine or yelp during a routine physical examination. The symptoms appear suddenly, usually in a young dog with no previous history of lameness. The sudden lameness will generally affect one leg at a time but can shift from one leg to another. Some dogs will be reluctant to get up and take part in normal activities such as exercise and play. Others will be quite lethargic and may go off their food.
The fact that panosteitis has such a dramatic onset and causes obvious suffering to affected dogs and cats means that it can also be very distressing for worried owners. If a vet suspects panosteitis on the basis of a clinical examination, he/she can then take x-rays of the legs and carry out other tests, if necessary, to confirm the diagnosis and also to evaluate the dog for any developmental or traumatic abnormalities, such as joint dysplasia, osteochondrosis or injuries. Treatment of this condition involves controlling the pain suffered by the young dog so that it can carry on normal activities with as little discomfort as possible. Anti-inflammatory medications are given by injection or orally to manage pain and inflammation, and the dog will need rest and restricted activity, until the condition resolves itself as the bones of the skeleton develop.
The timescale of the condition means it usually lasts for only a few weeks and it generally causes no permanent problems with either pain or mobility. However, monitoring and correct diagnosis and treatment is essential for the dog's well being, and will avoid a lot of upset to the owner.
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