Panosteitis, also known in short-hand as pano in puppies, is a relatively common and relatively minor cause of puppy lameness. The easiest way to understand panosteitis is to draw similarity to “growing pains” seen in teenage humans.
Panosteitis Symptoms in Dogs
Panosteitis in dogs is most commonly seen as an acute lameness, primarily in large breed male dogs at the peak of their growth phase. One hallmark of panosteitis in dogs is “shifting-leg” lameness, meaning one time you look at him and you think he is limping on his left rear leg, and the next time it looks like his right front leg is the one bothering him. Canine panosteitis is usually considered a self-limiting disease, meaning by around one year of age, five years in German Shepherds, the puppies usually outgrow it.
What Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs
An underlying cause of canine panosteitis is thought to be feeding a protein-rich, high calorie food. Sometimes, just changing the puppy to a less “hot” diet, like an adult maintenance diet, will allow the disorder to resolve. There may also be a genetic influence, as more German Shepherds and Basset Hounds are most commonly affected, along with Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Dobermans.
Diagnosing Pano in Dogs
Pano in dogs is diagnosed on physical examination, X-rays, breed, sex, age, eliminating other disorders as causes of puppy lameness, and response to treatment as well as noting and monitoring the shifting leg lameness. On physical examination, pain is usually elicited by putting pressure on the portion of the bone where the blood vessel enters the bone. This helps to distinguish panosteitis from other disorders that involve joint pain.
X-rays, particularly if taken shortly after symptoms develop, may not show typical changes. One of the most valuable uses of X-rays is to make certain there is no other reason for lameness, such as a fracture, OCD lesion, or other orthopedic disorder.
Treatment of canine panosteitis involves the use of pain relievers, usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. If your puppy is running a fever or is not responding to treatment and rest, corticosteroids may be required. Many puppies will respond, and then have relapses up to about one year of age. With patience and an adult dog food, most puppies will return to normal by the time they have reached their full adult skeletal size.
If you have more questions on pano in dogs or have a specific question about your puppy’s health, reach out to your veterinarian or call our Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.