Panosteitis is a painful condition that occurs when the long bones in a pet’s legs become inflamed, causing lameness and limping. The condition is most common in young, large breed dogs, though it can also occur in young cats. Because panosteitis tends to strike juvenile animals and spontaneously resolve by 2 years of age, it is sometimes referred to as “growing pains.”
Read on to learn all about panosteitis in dogs and cats.
Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs and Cats
Panosteitis may occur in multiple bones simultaneously or it may move from bone to bone, causing shifting lameness. The pain is likely the result of pressure in the bones or stimulation of pain receptors. The underlying cause of the condition, however, is not well understood.
Many veterinarians believe that there is a genetic component, especially in German Shepherds because they are particularly predisposed. Other commonly affected dog breeds include the Great Dane, Basset Hound, Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and Rottweiler. The condition is less common in cats, but when it does occur it is usually in medium-to-large sized breeds.
Some veterinarians believe that stress, infection, an autoimmune response, and rapid growth caused by high-protein diets may also be contributing factors for panosteitis.
Symptoms of Panosteitis in Dogs and Cats
The hallmark symptom of panosteitis is spontaneous lameness. The lameness may be mild or severe, and may occur in one or more legs. The most commonly affected bone is the humerus (upper arm), but the condition can show up in any long leg bone. The affected bone or bones will be painful to the touch.
Symptoms may appear as early as 2 months of age, but commonly show up between 5 and 18 months. The affected pet is likely to have recurrent episodes that last from a few days to a few weeks with about a month in between. The condition usually resolves on its own by the time the pet is 2 years of age.
Other symptoms that may appear with panosteitis include:
Diagnosing and Treating Panosteitis in Dogs and Cats
Visit your veterinarian if your pet is exhibiting lameness or limping. Your veterinarian will examine your pet to check for pain, then use a radiograph or x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
Because panosteitis is a self-limiting disease that resolves on its own, treatment is purely supportive. The goal of treatment is to control and manage pain. Common treatment options include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Previcox, Deramaxx, and Metacam to reduce pain, inflammation, and fever. In severe cases, corticosteroids may also be prescribed.
- Limiting exercise, especially during episodes of lameness. Light exercise is OK between episodes, but vigorous exercise, long walks, running, and any other activity that creates a pounding effect on the legs should be avoided.
- If your pet is losing weight or refusing to eat, your veterinarian will recommend a more palatable diet. Supplements may also be helpful.
- Some veterinarians believe that avoiding high-protein, high-calcium diets can help to prevent or reduce the severity of the condition by inhibiting rapid growth. This theory is still the topic of much debate.
Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if your pet is exhibiting lameness. Even though panosteitis will ultimately resolve on its own, the pain in the meantime can be terrible, and your pet depends on you to offer them relief. In addition, the symptoms of panosteitis can mimic those of other bone conditions, so it is important to receive the correct diagnosis.
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