What is Panosteitis?

Shannon Kietzman

Panosteitis is a painful bone condition found in some large dogs, mainly Dobermans, Retrievers, Great Danes, Labradors, Basset Hounds, and German Shepherds. In addition, the disease is far more prevalent in male dogs than females. Typically, panosteitis becomes prominent in dogs with larger bone densities. There are no warning signs to allow pet owners to seek care before the painful condition sets in. Even x-rays cannot catch the disease before it begins.

Labrador retreivers are prone to panosteitis.
Labrador retreivers are prone to panosteitis.

Typically, the front leg bones are affected first. Then the pain, which is so severe it temporarily cripples the animal, moves to the back legs. The inability to move and the obvious signs of pain are the only symptoms pet owners observe in their dog when the disease has set in.

A painful bone condition called panosteitis may be found in Basset Hounds.
A painful bone condition called panosteitis may be found in Basset Hounds.

The majority of panosteitis cases occur after the dog becomes two months old. The condition comes and goes, however, which makes it difficult to treat. Pain relievers are usually used to reduce the severe pain associated with panosteitis. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications are administered as well. If a dog is so debilitated that it is unable to move easily and seek water and food, dehydration and starvation are potential risks. In this case, a veterinarian may need to administer intravenous (IV) liquids.

Some experts believe panosteitis may be an undiagnosed viral infection. Others feel there may be a genetic link because a high percentage of German Shepherds and other specific breeds are diagnosed with panosteitis during their lifetime. The disease also became prevalent in the canine population after the distemper vaccine was released on the market. Since this vaccine is made from bone tissue, some experts think the bone tissue from the vaccine may interact with the dog's bones and lead to the condition. No matter the cause, there is currently no cure for the condition.

Typically, a case of panosteitis lasts no longer than two months, and it cycles on and off for a year before vanishing altogether. In fact, most cases disappear by the time the puppy enters adulthood around the age of two. No signs of panosteitis remain and the effects of the disease do not damage the animal's ability to run or walk.

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