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A disease of the long bones in dogs

[From Tufts August 2010 Issue]

My 1-year-old male golden retriever has just been diagnosed with panosteitis, and I have been searching for more information on it. I’m told it is more common in shepherds and wolfhounds. My vet said it’s a bone inflammation that may stay with him for two to five years. We have changed his breeder-recommended kibble (evidently, the protein amount is higher than the original). He is now on a senior blend, 50 mg of Deramaxx for pain and 500 mg of vitamin C two times a day. I have read the condition reflects growing pains or is a virus of the bone marrow, and we were advised we not train him during this stage because he will associate training with pain. We have had goldens our entire lives and never had this issue. He is otherwise healthy and active except for a limp and sometimes a “sewing machine” tremor. You have been so helpful in the past. I hope you can shed some light on this.
Mary Forbes
Pine Mountain Club, Calif.

I am sorry to hear about your dog. The good news is that if your veterinarian is correct about the diagnosis, the disease is self-limiting and should resolve fairly quickly. It is unlikely to last two to five years. Panosteitis is an inflammatory disease of the long bones seen most often in young German shepherd dogs but occasionally in other large breeds. The cause is unknown, but the disease in any particular bone usually runs its course within a few weeks to months. In some cases, the disease affects two or more bones in sequence, producing a lameness that shifts from one leg to another. The characteristic physical examination finding is pain on deep palpation of the affected bone. The diagnosis is easily confirmed with X-rays. If panosteitis is the correct diagnosis, the lameness should resolve within a few weeks, although it could spread to another leg. After a year and a half of age, there should be no further lameness in any leg. You don’t say how long the lameness has been present, but if it has already been present for more than two months or so, the cause may be something other than panosteitis, and you should ask your veterinarian about referral to an orthopedic specialist. Deramaxx is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and may be helpful, but should be given under your veterinarian’s supervision. Dogs are able to synthesize their own vitamin C, and supplementation is unnecessary. As far as training goes, it might be best to wait until the lameness resolves.However, again, if the lameness persists much beyond 18 months of age, consult your veterinarian to assure that you have the correct diagnosis.
John Berg, DVM, ACVS
Chair, Department of Clinical Sciences
Cummings School

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