growing up pup: bone growth in young dogs

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Dr. Kim Smyth
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jun 21 2012
Three young German Shepherd puppies | bone growth problems in young dogs | Petplan

Puppies are like little furry balls of energy, and they can easily run circles around you on any given day. But there are two painful bone conditions that can stop even the rowdiest puppies right in their tracks. Lameness in medium to large breed puppies is often caused by either panosteitis or hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Let’s take a look at both, just in case your puppy ever experiences a hitch in her get-along.

The conditions are similar in that they generally affect the long bones of your dog’s body (like the long bones of the front or back legs) and usually affect young, growing large breeds of dogs. Both can also be accompanied by fever and cause generalized symptoms like depression and inappetence due to discomfort.

Panosteitis

Panosteitis is most common in large breed dogs between the ages of five and 18 months old. Male German Shepherds tend to be more commonly affected than other dogs. The condition is a result of the degeneration and regeneration of fat cells in the bone marrow of the long bones. This causes both the clinical signs we see and characteristic changes on radiographs (or X-rays) of affected dogs.

Patients with panosteitis often exhibit shifting leg lameness, pain on palpation of the long bones and fever. The condition produces pain in the middle part of the long bone, and this pain can come and go. In general, the condition subsides over the course of a couple of weeks, but it may recur throughout your dog’s puppydom.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy affects the bone that lies next to the growth plate and usually occurs in the long bones of the front or hind limbs. Again, this condition occurs in young, growing large breed dogs. Unlike panosteitis, which causes pain in the mid-bone, hypertrophic osteodystrophy causes pain near either end of bone, where the growth plates are located.

Like patients with panosteitis, clinical signs include episodic pain, reluctance to move and fever. Most patients recover within a week to 10 days, but the condition may relapse after initial presentation.

Diagnosis of these conditions is similar. Characteristic changes seen on x-rays can easily determine panosteitis from hypertrophic osteodystrophy, though occasionally radiographic changes lag behind actual clinical signs of lameness.

Once diagnosed, treatments are also very similar. Rest or cage confinement is important, although difficult – we all know how hard it is to keep a puppy calm! Some patients need a little bit of temporary relief from the discomfort they are experiencing, in which case your vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. If you made the decision to protect your best friend with a dog insurance that covers hereditary and chronic conditions it can greatly help with the costs of treating these issues.

Luckily, both conditions are usually self-limiting. While it’s hard to see your young pup in pain, you can rest a little easier knowing that he will soon be back to his rambunctious ways again. (On second thought … maybe some rest will be good for you both!)