When Do Dogs Stop Growing? Panosteitis in Dogs Guide

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when do dogs stop growing, panosteitis in dogsAnother term for panosteitis in dogs is ‘growing pains.’ This condition most commonly affects young dogs from large or giant breeds.

The symptoms of panosteitis include lameness, lack of energy, and pain. This condition can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications. Indeed, panosteitis is self-limiting and once the dog stops growing the pain eases.

However, it is important to control the dog’s diet and exercise. Not to do so results not only in unnecessary pain but the possibility of permanent bone damage.

What is Panosteitis in dogs?

What do breeds such as the German Shepherd, Great Dane, and Labrador retriever have in common?

They are all large (or giant) dogs with long legs. Because of their size, they don’t stop growing until around 18 months of age. Much of this intense growth takes place in the long bones of the legs.

Healthy bone growth takes place at a certain pace. If this rate speeds up, then problems can occur. For example, the bone may grow faster than the blood supply, causing deformity. Another example of a problem caused by super-speedy growth is panosteitis.

Panosteitis is a painful condition, which we see as lameness. This discomfort is caused by pain receptors firing in the tough membrane (periosteum) that protects the outer surface of the bone.

No-one is 100% certain why the pain receptors are stimulated. Likely theories include a build-up of pressure within the bone, issues with the blood circulation to the rapidly growing bone, and a mis-match in the rate of growth between the bone and periosteum.

puppy growth chart x ray of pain

Once the dog has finished growing, panosteitis resolves. However, this doesn’t mean this condition can be ignored. It’s important that an accurate diagnosis is reached. Not to do so risks overlooking other conditions which require remedial action.

Also, correctly managing panosteitis helps get the pup back on their paws more quickly, so they can get back to the important business of having fun.

What are Growing Pains in Dogs? Why this Bone Problem Can Hurt Fido!

It sounds obvious, but pain hurts! Whilst ‘growing pains’ sounds innocuous enough, the reality is it causes distress to the pup.

This results in lameness and reluctance to exercise. Not only is this a blow, when you want to be playing with the young four-legger, but it has other knock-on effects.

For example, if the dog has a sore right back leg, their weight shifts so that the left hind leg carries more weight. Placing an extra load on growing bones places them at increased risk of stress injuries and joint damage. Thus, the dog could end up with two sore legs instead of one.

Studies also show that untreated, panosteitis causes patchy thickening of the adult’s long bones. Anything that causes distortion of the bone is undesirable and best avoided.

When Do Puppies Stop Growing? How do Dogs Acquire this Disease!

Dogs don’t ‘catch’ panosteitis, this isn’t an infectious condition. Instead, several factors such as rapid bone growth; a high calcium, high protein diet; excessive stress on the bones; and genetics all come into play.

Large and giant breeds seem to be affected because they have a lot of growing to do. Diets that are high in protein and calcium can ‘force’ the bones to grow. This accelerated growth then causes the symptoms.

The German Shepherd dog could be the poster-boy for panosteitis, and this is thought to be due to genetics and a strong hereditary element.

The Technical Stuff…

What causes the pain that is such a feature of panosteitis in dogs?

Bone is encased in a tough protective membrane called ‘periosteum’. The latter doesn’t stretch. When pressure builds up within the periosteum, this triggers pain receptors to fire.

It’s thought with panosteitis pressure builds within the bone marrow which causes the bone to expand. In turn, this pressurizes the periosteum and sets those pain receptors to “Ouch”.

Repeated cycles of inflammation stimulate extra bone to be laid down. This can sometimes be seen in the adult dog, on radiographs of their limbs. That extra bone shows up as localized thickening of the long bones of the limbs.

Basset Hound with panosteitis, renal osteodystrophy in dogs

Which Dogs are Most at Risk of Panosteitis?

When it comes to canine panosteitis, not all dogs are at equal risk. There are definite trends that mean some dogs are more likely to get panosteitis than others.

It can be said with certainty that if the dog is a mature adult or senior, then they won’t have panosteitis. Since this disease is linked to rapidly growing bones, a dog older than 18 months isn’t going to get this condition. In short, panosteitis is a disease affecting young dogs.

Another slightly quirky fact, is that male dogs are more likely to suffer panosteitis than females. No-one is sure why, but it might be something to do with male dogs being a bit taller than their female relatives.

Strangely, if a female dog does get panosteitis, it’s often around the time of her first estrus. Again, no-one is sure if this is down to hormones or that she’s young and actively growing at her first heat.

Last but not least, the dog breed is a big factor. Indeed, it’s large or giant breeds that get panosteitis. The condition is unheard of in small or toy dog breeds.

The classic breeds that get pano include:

This means on top of the heap for ticking all the boxes are young male dogs from a giant breed.

Pain in the Bones: Symptoms of Panosteitis in Dogs

Your male Great Dane pup yelps and pulls up lame. Could this be panosteitis?

Yes…and no.

Yes, panosteitis causes pain. One of the hallmark clinical signs of panosteitis in bone pain. Indeed, the pain can be worse in certain places within the bone. In practical terms, this means the dog tolerates you touching some parts of the long bone, but yelps when you press a different bit.

The pain tends to show itself as lameness.

The lameness often comes on suddenly. It might be the pup went to bed without a care in the world, but wakes up severely lame. Indeed, the onset of lameness may not be linked to exercise but happens for no reason.

small puppy with growing pains in dogs

The pain can vary from mild to severe. At the lower end of the scale, the dog may limp a little on one leg. At the top end, the dog may carry the affected leg, refuse to eat, and lack energy.

In the early stages, the signs may be self-limiting and disappear as mysteriously as they appeared. Then the pup will experience a flare-up, which eventually settles again.

The time between flare-ups can vary. Sometimes they’re as often as a week apart, whilst for others, it’s once every eight months or so.

Why Do Dogs Stop Growing? Other Causes of Bone Pain in Dogs

Panosteitis causes pain, but so can other problems. But what other conditions will the vet have at the back of their mind?

  • Fractures: Broken bones! Speaks for itself
  • Growth plate injuries: Growing bones have a natural weak point from which they grow. Damage to a growth plate can end up distorting the shape of the adult bone.
  • Osteochondrosis Dessicans: This is where the bone grows faster than the cartilage lining the joint. As a result of this the cartilage tears and fragments. This causes marked lameness and can result in early arthritis.
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy:  This condition results from bone growth that is too rapid. It causes damage to the blood supply to the end plates of the bone, causing severe swelling and distortion of the legs.
  • United anconeal process: This is a small bone in the elbow joint. It can become detached in growing dogs, causing lameness.
  • Osteomyelitis: Infection of the bone.

Why Reaching a Diagnosis Matters

From this you can see that reaching a diagnosis matters. Panosteitis responds to pain relief and the dog will eventually outgrow the condition. But it is not safe to assume that all large dogs with sore legs have panosteitis.

Without radiographs and a definitive diagnosis, a serious problem could be missed. If the real problem is a damaged growth plate and it is not treated correctly, the dog could grow up with a deformed limb.

Thus, a diagnosis is essential in order to have the confidence to just give pain relief and wait out the problem.

The Power of Radiographs! How is this Condition Diagnosed

The vet will be suspicious of panosteitis because of the dog’s age, breed, and the symptoms. This will be compounded by a physical exam. The vet will be looking for local signs of discomfort (sore places!) over the long bones.

Radiographs are essential for diagnosis. Typically there will be thumbprint like patches of lucency on the long bones. Also, the surface of the bone may appear roughened in places.

Crucially, radiographs help rule out other causes of lameness in young dogs, such as greenstick fractures or osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD).

Treatment Plan for Dogs with Pano!

Treatment of panosteitis means balancing diet, pain relief, and exercise.  Each of these things has a role to play in giving the dog relief.

when do puppies stop growing, dog with broken bone

Medication

Anti-inflammatory drugs are the cornerstone of treatment. Of these, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as carprofen rimadyl are ideal.

These are painkillers that are not steroid based. They have excellent anti-inflammatory properties and provide moderate to good pain relief.

Non-steroidals should be given with or after food. They have a high safety margin when given correctly. The side effects can include gastric ulceration, hence the importance of lining the gut with food before taking them.

Lifestyle Changes

Running on a sore leg is asking for trouble. An unbalanced gait risks damaging soft joints and adding other injuries to the tally.

During a painful flare-up, rest is essential. Once the flare-up eases, then a return to activity is OK. But…the dog shouldn’t run wild. Lots of concussive force, such as agility jumps or chasing a Frisbee, has to potential to jar the bones and trigger another painful episode.

In short, be sensible. Don’t overstretch the dog physically or they will pay for it down the line.

Diet Changes

The long bones of a giant breed need to grow slowly. In the adult dogs, those limb bones need to be well-built and capable of supporting the dog’s weight as they run and jump. This takes time and careful construction.

Think of it like building a tower block. You could erect a wooden frame in a matter of days, but it would bend and flex in high wind. To construct a steel-framed tower takes longer, but then it can withstand greater stresses.

This is where diet plays a part. Counter-intuitively, it is rich diets that are high in protein and high in calcium that causes the problem. Likewise, poor diets that are low in vital nutrients are problematic. In other words, their food needs to be ‘just right’.

This is where puppy foods designed for large breeds come in. These foods are carefully balanced to provide enough protein and calcium, but without overloading the dog. Select a puppy food for large or giant breeds, and the risk of panosteitis is drastically reduced.

5 Facts You Need to Know About Panosteitis

The take-home message for panosteitis is:

  1. It affects the long bones of large or giant breeds.
  2. Once the dog stops growing, the clinical signs will stop
  3. A correct diagnosis is essential so that other problems are not overlooked
  4. Pain relief is required to manage the dog’s discomfort
  5. Do not overexert a dog with panosteitis.

Growing Pains: Helping your Dog live with this Painful Bone Condition

Correct management of panosteitis makes all the difference to your dog.

Speak to your vet about a bespoke protocol for your dog.

Factors to discuss with the vet include an appropriate diet, pain relief, and how much exercise the dog can have.

However, tackle things correctly now and the dog will grow into a healthy adult with strong bones that can keep up with the best of them. This is definitely something worth waiting for.

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