Panosteitis in Dogs – Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Picture of 2 labrador retrievers

Canine panosteitis, also called eosinophilic panosteitis or osteomyelitis, is a somewhat common inflammatory bone disease that affects young dogs. It is fairly similar to the syndrome of growing pains that shows up in young children.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the commonly affected types of dogs that can get this medical condition, its clinical signs, its possible causes, how it can be diagnosed, and whether or not there is any effective treatment available.

Dogs Most Commonly Affected by Panosteitis

German shepherds are most commonly diagnosed with this medical problem, but all large breed dogs are at risk of developing it. Some of the other breeds that have been known to be genetically predisposed to getting it are Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, as well as Basset Hounds.

It usually occurs in puppies with ages from 5 to 18 months and it can revolve by the time the pet grows into a full adult, meaning that he or she reaches the age of 2 years.

As for gender, many studies have shown that male dogs are about four times more likely to develop panosteitis compared to females.


Panosteitis is painful and it can occur in more than one bone at a time. It can also move around, which causes shifting lameness that can go from one bone or leg to a completely different one.

Unfortunately, the cause of this disease remains unknown, but genetics, infections, stress, as well as metabolic imbalances can all be factors. Autoimmune diseases are also suspected.

Given that German Shepherds seem to be at a higher risk compared to other breeds, the genetic component is what’s most likely to cause the disease. It is suspected that some dogs can also develop it due to inappropriate nutrition.

Clinical Signs

The classic sign is represented by a sudden and painful lameness of the dog’s one or more legs. The lameness can be mild or severe. The most common bone affected seems to be the humerus (upper arm). However, panosteitis can be found in the ulna or radius (foreleg), the tibia (lower rear leg) or femur (thigh). The dog experiences pain whenever he or she is touched on the affected area.

There are other symptoms associated with this disease. A dog can have a fever, have no appetite for food, be lethargic, or even lose weight. Panosteitis has a somewhat cyclic form, which means that the dog experiences times when the symptoms get worse, and there are also times when he/she seems to get better.

As for the pain, it can easily shift from one bone to another. Every lameness episode can last for anything between a couple of days to a couple of weeks or more. The improvement period between the crises can last for a month or more.


A medical history survey is first necessary in order to assess the amount of physical activity that a dog suffering from panosteitis is getting. The vet will also ask you about any physical limitations that you might have noticed, such as the dog not wanting to perform some types of movements, not wanting to jump on the couch, or just refusing to support his body weight on the affected leg.

Panosteitis can at least be suspected if the dog shows any pain when pressure is applied to the affected limb.

The diagnosis can be reached with the help of X-rays performed on the affected leg. A radiological investigation will often show evidence of the condition, meaning that an increase in the density of the affected bone or bones will be noticeable. The problem with this type of diagnostic method is that it is effective only about ten days after the dog has started to exhibit the symptoms. Repeat X-rays might have to be performed after two other weeks in order to confirm a clear diagnosis of panosteitis.

It might seem unusual, but the X-rays can show something on the first visit to the vet and a completely different thing the next time you bring your dog to the clinic. Radiographs are extremely important as they can be used to rule out any other type of condition that affects bones. Bone inflammation can show up in processes such as bursitis or hip dysplasia, as well.


If your dog has been diagnosed with panosteitis, there is no specific treatment for the disease. However, since the pain can be difficult to manage without any medication, your dog will be prescribed analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs are typically used in this case, although given the age at which panosteitis appears, even corticosteroids can be used for a very short amount of time, especially since they are very powerful.

Pain control can make your pet feel a lot more comfortable. While he or she experiences lameness, exercise is not recommended. Between the episodes, engaging in light exercise is advised, but make sure not to overdo it. Don’t take too long walks and don’t make your dog play catch as this will run the risk of the inflammation coming back more quickly.

It’s quite likely that by the time your Fido reaches the age of 2, he isn’t going to experience any of the symptoms any longer. Therefore, the disease simply resolves on its own, but it does take time and a lot of patience, both on the part of the dog and on your part, as well.

Since anorexia can be one of the clinical signs noticeable in dogs that have panosteitis, it is highly recommended that they receive supplements containing antioxidants, nutraceuticals, and Omega-3 fatty acids.


Can panosteitis be prevented? There is no clear answer to this question. Besides the genetic component, there is no specific cause that’s at the root of this disease. Therefore, there’s no particular type of prevention that you can use to make sure that your dog doesn’t end up suffering from this medical condition. It is recommended that breeders not use dogs that have had panosteitis for reproduction.

If you have a large dog breed, you should use common sense, especially if you’ve noticed that your pup is growing rapidly. Avoid feeding your young dog diets made for adults as they contain less calcium or dietary protein.

Feeding your puppy a high-quality diet that’s formulated specifically for large dog breeds or adolescents can make it easier for your pet to grow strong and healthy bones. Last, but not least, try to prevent your dog from becoming overweight as the bodyweight will put more pressure on the bones, thereby increasing their fragility and vulnerability. Before making any changes in your dog’s diet, have a talk with the vet.



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