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Panosteitis in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Panosteitis is an inflammation involving various layers of the bones of young, growing dogs. This condition occurs spontaneously and ultimately resolves on its own. Other names for panosteitis include enostitis, eosinophilic panosteitis, juvenile osteomyelitis and osteomyelitis of young German shepherd dogs.

The exact cause of panosteitis is unknown, but the disease tends to occur in large and giant breed dogs between five to 12 months of age. The German shepherd breed is most commonly affected. Males are more commonly affected than females. In females, the problem can be associated with coming into heat for the first time.

Panosteitis can cause severe lameness in more than one leg. The degree of pain may be such that the dog develops a fever, stops eating and starts to lose weight.

What to Watch For

  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite


    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize panosteitis and exclude other diseases that cause similar symptoms. In addition to obtaining a medical history and performing a thorough physical examination, tests or procedures that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

  • Orthopedic examination. Your veterinarian will usually watch your dog walk in order to assess the lameness. Each individual limb is then usually examined. Front legs are usually affected first. Pain can be found on deep palpation (applying pressure) over the areas of inflamed bone.

  • Radiographs. Radiographs (X-rays) can be helpful to make the diagnosis, but the changes in the bone can be very subtle and difficult to visualize on radiographs.


    If panosteitis is diagnosed or highly suspected, treatment will consist of rest and anti-inflammatory pain-killers such as aspirin.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Home care is primarily aimed at limited your dog's movement. Keep your dog quiet and rested in a small area of your home or in a crate.

    A short course (seven to 10 days) of aspirin or another anti-inflammatory such as Rimadyl® or Etogesic® may be recommended. Do not administer any drugs that have not been prescribed by your veterinarian.

    There is no way to prevent this problem from occurring. However, you should take comfort in the fact that this disease usually runs a short course and almost always disappears without specific treatment. It has an excellent prognosis.

    Be prepared for the possibility that the clinical signs of pain and lameness may wax and wane, come and go, and shift around to different legs before it disappears entirely. It will usually resolve by the time your pet reaches maturity. Appreciation of the "shifting" nature of this disease will minimize your frustration when it reoccurs in another leg.

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