Panosteitis is an inflammatory disease of the bones of young dogs. It causes a sudden onset of lameness, resulting in recurrent limping. It occurs in many breeds of dogs, but German shepherds, especially males, seem more prone to developing it. Dogs between five to twelve months of age are most often affected, although it can strike as early as two months and as late as five years of age.
Panosteitis usually affects the long bones and seldom involves more than one leg at a time. Once it has affected a bone, it is not likely to reappear in that same bone again. As a result, a dog may limp on one leg for a short while, stop limping, and then limp on another leg. The cause of panosteitis remains unknown. Some experts believe that hereditary factors are involved, especially since this disease seems to occur along familial lines. Nutrition does not appear to be implicated, but allergies, metabolic disturbances, infections, immune system dysfunction, parasitism, and hormonal problems have been suggested as possible causes.
Most affected dogs recover without treatment by two years of age. Until then, episodes of lameness may occur with varying degrees of severity and for varying lengths of time. These episodes may occur at irregular intervals two to three weeks apart, and may last from several days to several weeks. Each episode can range from mild lameness to complete disuse of the leg. As the dog gets older, the severity of the lameness episodes should gradually lessen and the periods of remission in between the attacks should last longer. Eventually, the disease runs its course and the patient is free of pain and clinical signs.
To diagnose this disorder, your veterinarian takes an x-ray of the affected leg. Once a diagnosis of panosteitis has been made, your veterinarian may suggest medication to relieve inflammation and pain. Treating with prednisone is effective in relieving pain and resolving lameness, but does not alter the course of the disease. Restricting exercise or enforcing rest does not appear to make any difference. Too much exercise, on the other hand, should be discouraged.