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Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy In Dogs

A Painful Bone Disease Often Seen in Large Breed Pups

By Meredith Alling. April 02, 2014 | See Comments

A Sad Looking Pup Laying On His Stomach

Although most puppies do not run into health issues so early on, hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a bone disease usually found in large breed dogs. Learn more here about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options of this disease here.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a devastating bone disease that tends to affect large and giant breed puppies. Also commonly referred to as skeletal scurvy, Moller-Barlow disease, osteodystrophy II, and metaphyseal osteopathy, the disease occurs in the limbs of growing dogs and causes inflammation, severe pain, and lameness. In many cases a pup will grow out of the disease, but in other cases the pain may be so severe that a veterinarian recommends euthanasia.

Here we will look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments of hypertrophic osteodystrophy in dogs.

Causes of Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in Dogs

Unfortunately, the causes of hypertrophic osteodystrophy are not well understood, which makes the disease difficult to prevent. Some experts hypothesize that bone changes and the occurrence of high fever indicate that bacterial infection could be a cause. However, it has proven difficult to obtain bacterial cultures from affected dogs, and many do not respond to antibiotic treatment, which leads some to be skeptical of this hypothesis.

Another theory points to vitamin C deficiency: dogs with hypertrophic osteodystrophy show similar bone changes to humans with scurvy and have lowered blood levels of vitamin C. The arguments against this theory include the fact that dogs do not nutritionally require vitamin C and that affected dogs do not respond to vitamin C supplements.

A final theory blames the diet of young dogs. Growing pups tend to eat foods that are high in protein and calories, possibly to the point of causing excessively rapid growth.

There is no definitive answer, but what we do know is that large and giant breed dogs between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are most affected, especially males.

Symptoms of Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in Dogs

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy usually presents in episodes that last up to several weeks. Symptoms commonly include:

Diagnosing and Treating Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in Dogs

Contact your veterinarian if your dog is showing symptoms of hypertrophic osteodystrophy. A diagnosis will be made based on a physical examination, a full health history, and an x-ray that will reveal a dark line in the growth plate as well as inflammation and bone changes.

There is no cure for hypertrophic osteodystrophy, but symptoms may subside and the disease may resolve itself by the time the dog reaches 2 years of age. Before that time, treatment for the disease is purely supportive, and commonly includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications to manage pain and inflammation, such as Deramaxx, Metacam, Previcox, and Rimadyl. In severe cases a dog may require steroids for pain.

  • A broad-spectrum antibiotic will be prescribed if a bacterial infection or pneumonia is suspected.

  • Switching to a tastier food may encourage some sick dogs to eat. In addition, feeding a diet lower in protein and calories may promote steady growth.

  • Because of the vitamin C theory, some veterinarians will recommend vitamin C supplements.

  • Affected dogs will need a lot of rest, and a soft bed in a quiet room will help them get it.

  • Developing pups should not be allowed to run or walk for long periods of time on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete, as it creates a pounding effect on the joints and bones. They should also be discouraged from jumping up or down from any height.

In severe cases, a dog may be in extreme pain and unresponsive to treatment. In these instances, it is often recommended that the dog be euthanized in order to spare them the suffering, even if they have a chance at future recovery. Your veterinarian will help you to decide the right thing to do for your pup.

More on Joint Health

5 Ways To Prevent Joint Problems In Your Dog
8 Ways To Treat Joint Pain
Prevent Arthritis In Dogs - Starting With Puppyhood

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Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy at a glance

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  • 1Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a bone disease that usually affects large and giant breed puppies
  • 2Common symptoms include lameness, difficulty standing, fever, swollen joints, loss of appetite, and more
  • 3Many dogs will “grow out of” the disease by 2 years old, and treatment before then is purely supportive
  • 4In severe cases, a dog may need to be euthanized