Most people have heard about growing pains in children, but they may not be aware of growing pains in dogs.
If you have a young dog that is showing signs of lameness that switches from leg to leg, your canine friend may be dealing with puppy growing pains, also known as panosteitis or hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD).
To better help your pup navigate the growth process, you will want to understand panosteitis in dogs, the symptoms of pano in dogs, diagnosis of the disease, treatment options, and possible prevention of the disease.
What is Panosteitis?
Panosteitis in dogs is a disease of the bones in which there is excess growth and restructuring of the bone. It usually occurs in the limbs and results in elongation of the bones and accompanying pain.
Most cases of pano in dogs occurs in larger breed dogs such as German Shepherds, Retrievers, and Rottweilers between the ages of 4 and 18 months, so it is often referred to as puppy growing pains.
Other common dog breeds that experience pano include Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers and Basset Hounds. The cause of panosteitis appears to have several different factors that contribute to development of the disease.
Based on the tendency to occur within certain breeds, some believe there may be a genetic component. Others have suggested nutritional and possibly viral factors may contribute to the development of the disease.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Panosteitis?
Panosteitis or HOD in dogs often presents as a sudden onset of lameness with no known trauma or injury.
There may be periods of lameness that last for 2 to 3 weeks at a time and shifts from one leg to another. This is most common in large breed male dogs between the ages of 4 and 18 months.
Your pup may suddenly show reluctance to exercise or go for walks. He or she will react with pain when affected bones are squeezed.
The bones most commonly affected are the long bones of the front and hind legs, but the feet and pelvis may also be involved. Occasionally, a dog with panosteitis may have a fever or elevated white blood cell count.
How is Panosteitis or HOD diagnosed?
Growing pains in dogs is one possible cause of acute lameness in young dogs. Other diseases such as Lyme disease and osteochondritis dissecans in dogs (OCD in dogs) can also present with a lameness without a known source of trauma.
When your pup is showing signs of lameness, you will want to have a veterinarian examine your dog to make the proper diagnosis. He or she will be able to do a complete work up to determine the source of the lameness.
Two possible diseases to rule out when determining whether a dog with lameness has HOD are Lyme disease and OCD.
With Lyme disease, the pain is usually related to the joints rather than the bones, a simple antibody blood test will confirm exposure and, your canine friend will respond to antibiotic treatment.
Like Lyme disease, dog OCD can present with sudden lameness that resembles pano in dogs. OCD in dogs is a disease of the cartilage in which the cartilage in some joints is damaged and grows abnormally.
It cracks and separates resulting in considerable pain. The shoulder is most commonly affected, but other leg joints can also be involved. Like HOD in dogs, OCD is most common in larger breed dogs, and it usually affects young males.
To help rule out Lyme disease, OCD in dogs and other causes of lameness, your veterinarian will start with a complete physical examination. He or she will ask you for a history of your dog’s activities and how they have been showing pain.
If indicated, your veterinarian will take blood tests to check for presence of antibodies to Lyme disease or an elevated white blood cell count.
To clearly differentiate between dog OCD and HOD in dogs, the doctor will take radiographs of the affected bones or joints. In each case, additional radiographs of healthy bones and joints may be taken for comparison.
In the case of HOD, the bone will show changes from an increased bone density in the center of the affected bone early in the disease to a mottled and patchy appearance to the bone as the disease progresses and eventually resolves.
How is Panosteitis Treated?
There is no specific medication or treatment for panosteitis in dogs, but the pain can be managed with a combination of rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as Rimadyl or Deramaxx as needed to control the painful periods of the disease.
Antibiotics are not indicated unless there is a concurrent infection. Steroids should not be used unless the pain is severe, and your veterinarian recommends this course of treatment.
Because of the potential long-term side effects of steroids, it is best to try other pain killers first. You might also opt to use natural anti-inflammatory supplements to prevent any unwanted side-effects.
One excellent natural anti-inflammatory product is Zesty Paws Turmeric Curcumin for Dogs. Many pet owners have reported that it has provided pain relief for a range of joint problems in their canine friends.
Natural Remedies & Diet
Because many believe the disease is multi-factorial with a nutritional component, some people use supplements to help manage the disease. Over feeding of protein or fat might contribute to the disease, so you will want to provide a balanced diet.
You may elect to provide an antioxidant supplement such as Proanthozone to your dog’s diet. Proanthozone contains bioflavanol to help neutralize free radicles and thus promote cellular health. The bioflavanol is also instrumental in interfering with enzymes that cause cartilage break down, which may lessen the severity of the disease.
As the common name suggests, puppy growing pains are self-limiting. The disease usually lasts about 2 to 5 months but may last longer. Once it runs its course, it is rare to have ongoing symptoms or need for further treatment.
Because there are other causes of lameness, if your pup continues to show pain beyond the normal time frame or does not respond to treatment, you should have your veterinarian reevaluate your canine friend.
Can Panosteitis be Prevented?
There is no known way to prevent the disease at this time. Because there may be a genetic link to the disease, it is important to screen breeding animals to ensure they are not carriers.
As stated before, it is important to provide a healthy, well balanced diet with the appropriate balance of fatty acids and proteins.
Over feeding and over supplementation has the potential to contribute to the disease.
If you have a young dog that suddenly shows lameness, you may be dealing with growing pains or panosteitis. Because this disease and other diseases that may cause lameness in young animals are painful, you will want to consult your veterinarian for a prompt diagnosis.
A thorough examination and radiographs will help rule out diseases such as Lyme disease and dog OCD so you can provide the proper care and treatment for your furry friend. You will need to use NSAIDs as needed to control the painful flare ups and restrict exercise and activity during the course of the disease.
Providing a good antioxidant and well balanced diet may help to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Although there is no known way to prevent panosteitis, genetic screening and diet may have an impact on the incidence of the disease.