Panosteitis in Dogs

Overview of Canine Panosteitis 

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

Symptoms of panosteitis in dogs may include: 

  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diagnosis of Panosteitis in Dogs

    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.

    Treatment of Panosteitis in Dogs

    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.

    In-depth Information on Panosteitis in Dogs

    Lameness in young, growing dogs may be caused by a number of diseases. Some of the more common causes of lameness in this age group are:

  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) HOD causes inflammation and swelling in the growing region of young bones. This differs from panosteitis, where the pain and inflammation tend to occur in the mid-section of the bone.
  • Osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans Developmental cartilage abnormalities in the joints of growing dogs, such as osteochondrosis (OC) and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can produce a similar lameness. But with these conditions, the problem exists in the joints, and pain is elicited when the joint is manipulated, rather than when pressure is placed on the bone as in panosteitis.
  • Bone cysts Bone cysts can occur in young dogs that have a history of lameness. Affected dogs exhibit pain when the diseased bone is palpated (technique of examining organs and body parts by touching and feeling them). This is an uncommon disorder.
  • Hip dysplasia When the hind legs are affected owners may mistake the lameness for hip dysplasia.
  • Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

    In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Panosteitis in Dogs

    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize panosteitis and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. Many times the diagnosis is presumptive and response to treatment is the only way that the presence of the disease is actually “confirmed.” Tests or procedures that your veterinarian may wish to perform on your dog include:

  • Orthopedic examination After taking a detailed history concerning the lameness problem, your veterinarian will usually ask to see your dog walk and trot before beginning a thorough palpation of the affected limb(s). Panosteitis will usually produce pain on deep palpation of the bone (usually the mid-portion of a long bone). The forelimbs are more commonly involved than are the rear limbs. Observing pain on deep palpation of the bone will make your veterinarian consider this disease as being more likely than osteochondrosis (OC) or osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) (both of which usually produce joint pain) or hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) (which usually produces pain at the growing ends of the bone).
  • Radiographs (X-rays) Radiographs are usually taken of the affected area to help confirm the diagnosis of panosteitis and exclude other problems, such as a bone cyst. Radiographic changes with panosteitis are often extremely subtle or even absent. It is not uncommon for the X-rays to show the “classic” changes seven to ten days after the problem first starts, by which time your pet may be pained in a different bone or lame in a different limb altogether.
  • Repeat radiographs Your veterinarian may wish to take radiographs of the affected area seven to ten days after the initial examination to confirm the diagnosis. Radiographic evidence of panosteitis may be present at this time, even if the initial radiographs appeared normal.
  • Nuclear scanning or nuclear scintigraphy These tests may be performed, but are rarely required to diagnose panosteitis.
  • Blood work There are no consistent blood work abnormalities in affected dogs.
  • In-depth Information on Treatment of Panosteitis in Dogs

    Treatment for panosteitis in dogs may include the following:

  • Rest, supportive care and painkillers are usually the mainstay of treatment for panosteitis. The most commonly recommended medication is aspirin, preferably buffered or Maalox-coated (ascriptin). These drugs help to lessen the pain of bone inflammation and can be given with food.
  • Warning You should be aware of the possible side effects of aspirin, particularly gastrointestinal upset associated with vomiting, diarrhea, bloody or dark colored stool, inappetence (avoiding food), or just not feeling right. Consult your veterinarian and stop the medication immediately if any of these signs occur.
  • Other anti-inflammatory medications, such as Rimadyl® or Etogesic®, may be recommended by your veterinarian. Do not give a painkiller without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Steroids should probably be avoided in young dogs.
  • Follow-up Care for Dogs with Panosteitis 

    After diagnosis, it is important to keep your dog quiet and rested for several weeks. Do not allow your dog to go up or down stairs or jump on/off furniture. To enforce rest, some dogs benefit from the use of a crate.

    Allow your dog to go outside just to go to the bathroom (on a leash) and then bring him/her back inside the house.