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Panosteitis is a sudden, painful inflammation of the leg bones in growing dogs. This condition affects young, rapidly growing dogs. It manifests with sudden, unexplained pain and lameness that may shift from leg to leg, usually between 5 and 14 months of age, earning the nickname “growing pains”.

Although it can occur in any breed of dog, larger breeds, such as German Shepherds (most common), Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Basset Hounds, are more prone to this problem.

Fortunately, this disease can resolve by the time your dog reaches the age of two years though cases have been known to last up to five years. Many veterinarians will recommend lifestyle changes, diet changes, and perhaps a prescription to help manage the condition.

Causes of Panosteitis in Dogs

Unfortunately, the cause is unknown. There are theories that it is an infectious disease, possibly viral, as no specific bacteria has been cultured from animals with this condition. Other theories point to a genetic component, as most cases are found in specific breeds, specifically German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, Labradors and other medium to large breeds.

Symptoms of Panosteitis in Dogs

Lameness is often characterized by trouble walking on the front legs. There is often a deep pain associated with the bones. While the inflammation is more common in the front legs, it is also found in the back legs.

Some dogs also exhibit fever, depression, weight loss, and anorexia. Additionally, if the condition is not corrected, some dogs may experience loss of muscle mass (atrophy) over time with the lack of muscle usage.


When your veterinarian examines your dog, panosteitis will be suspected if the patient shows pain when pressure is applied to the affected bone(s). The diagnosis is confirmed by radiographs (X-rays), which usually show a characteristic increase in the density of the affected bones.

The degree of change may not correlate to the severity of the lameness. In some cases, radiographic evidence may not be present for up to ten days after lameness begins; in these cases, repeat X-rays taken 2 weeks later will confirm the diagnosis. After the condition has resolved, the bone density normalizes and the bone looks normal on radiographs.

Treatment of Panosteitis in Dogs

As mentioned, the only treatment is pain relief until the dog outgrows the condition. For most dogs this means one of the anti-inflammatory pain relievers made for dogs. If this is inadequate,combinations of adjunctive therapy and pain relievers can be used. The ultimate cure, however, is time.


Prevention of panosteitis is best achieved through careful attention to nutrition. Large breed dogs should take care to receive diets that do not provide an excess of calcium. Slower growth is key–meaning that lower concentrations of protein and fats should be administered. “Large breed” diets are now widely available commercially and these are perhaps the go-to diets for natural growth in larger breed dogs.

Because heritability of this disease is a very real problem. Affected dogs and parents of affected dogs should be spayed and neutered to prevent hereditary transmission of this trait.


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