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What Is Panosteitis in Dogs?

Panosteitis in dogs, also known as pano, is a condition that affects the long bones of the legs. Because it most commonly affects large-breed dogs that are less than 2 years old, it has been called growing pains in dogs.

Although it might not sound serious, it can be very painful and cause severe limping when a dog’s bones are touched. Unfortunately, it can occur in multiple legs and move to a different leg after the first leg gets better. 

It’s a self-limiting disease, which means that it will resolve on its own over time, but you should also see your vet to prescribe pain medication until it does. Here’s what you need to know about panosteitis in dogs.

Symptoms of Panosteitis in Dogs

The predominant symptom of panosteitis is limping and leg pain. The pain can come on suddenly and then resolve very quickly. You usually won’t see any signs of injury or trauma—your dog just wakes up limping one day.

It can also be hard to know when your dog is in pain. If you gently squeeze the long bones of their leg, sometimes your dog will cry out or pull the leg away in pain. It can be so painful that they will not want to use the affected leg.

Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs

Panosteitis in dogs is similar to growing pains in people.

Because large-breed dogs—especially German Shepherds—are prone to it, there is a genetic component to this disease, but there is no identifiable gene mutation that causes it. Typically, it occurs between 6 months and 2 years of age, but you can sometimes see it in German Shepherds over 2 years of age.

The disease affects the mid-shaft of the long bones and causes production of bone inside of the marrow cavity. Luckily, it does not affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood cells, and there is no lasting injury to the bone marrow.

High-protein diets may predispose large-breed dogs to panosteitis, so it is important to feed your dog a high-quality, large-breed puppy food to help prevent it.

How Vets Diagnose Pano in Dogs

To diagnose panosteitis, veterinarians start with your dog’s history and a physical exam. Your dog’s health information, such as being a young, large-breed dog with a sudden onset of limping, is often the biggest clue.

For the physical exam, your veterinarian first watches your dog as they walk to identify which legs are affected. Then, the vet performs an orthopedic examination by firmly pressing on all parts of the legs, back, and neck to check for pain reactions. They will also flex and extend all of your dog’s joints.

Dogs with panosteitis will feel pain when the vet presses on the long bones in their leg. Your dog may tense up or even cry out and look at the spot that is painful when the veterinarian squeezes the bone.

X-rays can also help diagnose panosteitis in dogs. Ordinarily, the bone marrow is darker than the outside of the bone, called the cortex. In panosteitis, the cortex bone can be seen extending into the dark marrow cavity.

However, signs of pain can occur up to 10 days before the x-rays show changes, so a normal x-ray does not necessarily mean your dog does not have panosteitis. But x-rays do help rule out other causes of bone pain in dogs, such as infections, tumors, and broken bones.

Treatment for Panosteitis in Dogs

Treating dogs for panosteitis primarily involves nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Restricting your dog's activity also helps.

Recovery and Management of Pano in Dogs

An episode of panosteitis typically lasts a few weeks and then goes away. It sometimes happens again, in different legs, weeks to months later. Fortunately, after your dog is 2 years old, pano usually stops with no lasting inflammation or pain. 

Panosteitis in Dogs FAQs

What can you give a puppy for growing pains?

Reducing your puppy’s activity will help alleviate growing pains. Your veterinarian can also prescribe a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as carprofen, to relieve pain. 

How do I know if my puppy or dog has growing pains?

Puppies or young adult dogs with growing pains often suddenly start limping with no known injury. Visit a vet for confirmation. 

How long do growing pains last in puppies and dogs?

Typically, each growing pain episode lasts 2-4 weeks. Once your dog reaches age 2, growing pains usually cease.

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