Panosteitis and Puppies

Published: August 19, 2019

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood

Panosteitis, sometimes referred to as “Growing pains” or “pano,” is a painful inflammation of the bone, usually found in puppies. This illness is more common than you might think, and if your puppy is suffering from pano, you might have some questions.

Today we will look at what Panosteitis is and how it should be handled.

What Causes Panosteitis?

Unfortunately, the cause is unknown. There are theories that it is an infectious disease, possibly viral, as no specific bacteria has been cultured from animals with this condition. Other theories point to a genetic component, as most cases are found in specific breeds, specifically German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, Labradors and other medium to large breeds.

What are the signs and symptoms of Panosteitis?

Pano can be painful, so the first sign that your puppy may have it will likely be limping or laying around more than usual. The limping may vary from leg to leg, as the inflammation may move from one leg to another. Your dog may not want to go outside, run, and play, or go for walks.

Dogs with pano may become lethargic and may not eat as the usually would, resulting in weight loss. Some puppies may present a fever, higher white blood cell count, and tonsillitis. Severe pains can lead the dog to self limit their behavior to the point that their muscles begin to atrophy.

What Are Some Risk Factors for Panosteitis?

Pano can present in most any large breed dog, but seems to particularly affect German Shepherds. Other major risk factors for pano include dog size (larger breeds seem to be more susceptible to pano), rapid weight gain, and diet – particularly a diet too high in calcium or excessive calcium supplements.

How is Panosteitis Diagnosed?

The vet will likely begin with a typical physical exam, as well as gather a full patient history. They will want to rule out other potential diseases that present with limping and “lameness” with no outward signs of injury, such as Lyme disease and OCD (osteochondritis disecans). A blood test will rule out Lyme disease and can note elevated white blood cell numbers. For further verification, the vet may recommend an x-ray of the affected limbs.

It is important to note that panosteitis may be underdiagnosed in general veterinary practice; many owners may write off a pup that is limping off and on as having a minor injury like a sprain, attributed to crazy puppy antics. If the clinically recognized signs of pano resolve, an x-ray to the pup’s affected limbs— which is the sure way to diagnose pano— may not be made.

How is Pano Treated?

Rest, rest, and more rest may be just what the doctor orders. Panosteitis pain comes and goes, but even in the periods where pain seems lower, highly strenuous exercise is not advised. Light exercise, like a short walk, can be beneficial in keeping the blood flowing and the muscles moving as they should.

There aren’t any specific treatments for panosteitis in particular, however NSAIDs have shown to be effective in reducing the inflammation and pain. The veterinarian may prescribe heavier pain control if the standard NSAID isn’t helping. Antibiotics should only be administered if there is a secondary infection present and steroids can have longer term negative effects beyond the pano running its course. They should be avoided unless the pain is very severe and other treatment options are not helping. A healthy, balanced diet will be recommended as well.

Panosteitis, painful as it may be, will eventually resolve itself, and rarely returns once it has run its course. Once you have a confirmed diagnosis of pano from your vet, if the symptoms seem to be persisting beyond a few months, or the pain is continuing even with prescribed medications, you’ll want to make a second visit to the vet.

Do you have a large breed puppy that is showing these signs of panosteitis? Has your pup been diagnosed with pano, but doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment, or the symptoms are persisting beyond 2-5 months? Connect with us at Academy Animal Hospital for further evaluation. We would be happy to help your puppy as they grow.