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Osteomyelitis in dogs is the Inflammation of the bone or bone marrow most commonly occurs due to bacterial infections, but also shows up rarely as a fungal infections. When we break it down into its components, it really just means bone (osteo-) and bone marrow (myel-) inflammation (-itis).

This condition can also be caused by injury (bite or puncture wound), dental disease or infection, and decreased blood flow to the area. In addition, osteomyelitis can be considered acute or chronic. The osteomyelitis may be considered acute or chronic, depending on how long the infection has been allowed to continue. Acute osteomyelitis shows symptoms right away while the chronic form is slow to form with the symptoms showing up over several months.

Types of Osteomyelitis in Dogs

It can be classified into four types:

  • Acute – With this type of bone disease, osteomyelitis symptoms show up right away.
  • Chronic – Osteomyelitis symptoms take longer to appear. It can take up to several months before you spot the signs.
  • Bacterial – This type of osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria such as Brucella canis, Escherichia coli, Pasteurella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus. This is the most common type of osteomyelitis in dogs.
  • Fungal – This type of osteomyelitis is caused by fungi such as Aspergillus, Blastomyces dermatitidis, Coccidiodes immitis, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Histoplasma capsulatum.

Causes of Osteomyelitis in Dogs

There are multiple ways bacteria can come into contact with bone to be able to establish an infection:

  • Fractures
  • Infections from implants
  • Penetrating wounds such as a gunshot or biting and claw wounds
  • Systemic infections in the dog’s body
  • Loss of blood supply to the bone or tissue surrounding bone
  • Tooth root infections from diseased teeth
  • Infections during surgery
  • Compromised immune systems

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis in Dogs

The symptoms of osteomyelitis can be acute or chronic. The acute form shows symptoms right away, but the chronic form is more gradual and hard to diagnose. However, the most common signs of either acute or chronic osteomyelitis include:

  • Episodic lameness
  • Persistent ulcers
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Limb pain
  • Wasting of muscles
  • Limb swelling

Treatment of Osteomyelitis in Dogs

Bone fractures are the most common cause of osteomyelitis, where the bacteria invade the dog’s body via a traumatic, open wound or through a surgical incision. The first step in treating your dog is stabilization of the bone and healing of the fracture. Stabilization methods could include use of plates, pins, screws or prosthetics, which are removed once the bone has mended.

Once the fracture has been stabilized, a course of antibiotic treatment will be administered. The antibiotic and dosage prescribed by your veterinarian will depend upon many factors including the nature of the causative organism, your dog’s medical history, the severity of the wound and the effectiveness of your dog’s circulatory system. Expect treatment to last for several weeks.


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