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According to Pet MD, “panosteitis, osteochondrosis, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy are the three most common metabolic bone disorders seen in dogs.” Large breeds are disproportionately affected by these conditions and others having to do with bones and their development, which is something to be aware of when you’re considering breeds such as the German Shepherd or Great Dane. However, bone health isn’t limited to the presence or absence of a disorder. Other ailments, such as an infection in the bone, referred to in medical settings as osteomyelitis, and even bone cancer can occasionally afflict man’s best friend. So what are some of the symptoms you’ll want to look out for, and when should you bring your furry family member in for an exam? Let NOVA Pets Health Center be your guide!

First, the times during which your puppy is growing the most and quickly but are also some of their most vulnerable periods in terms of bone disease emergence and health. Oftentimes, larger breeds will develop bone conditions within the first two years of age! Always be on the lookout for limping, expressions of discomfort during movement (such as whimpering), lack of coordination, or sudden apparent inability to walk. If limping lasts for more than a couple of days and you have thoroughly examined the affected leg for any minor external injuries, bring your pet in to see our team immediately! If you notice any of the other symptoms at all, you’ll want to bring in your furry friend ASAP!

Let’s cover some common conditions mentioned above and some additional ones as well. Panosteitis is inflammation on the surface of the long bones. This is also called "long bone pain" or "growing pains." This may occur in more than one bone at a time and may cause a “shifting” lameness that goes from one bone or leg to another. It is self-limiting but may recur until rapid growth is over. Luckily, the pain associated with it may be relieved with several types of medication. Next, there’s osteochondrosis, characterized by cartilage separation from a joint bone. The separation may vary greatly and, in extreme cases, involves complete detachment of the cartilage. Luckily, an appropriate diet without too much calcium helps prevent the condition. Make sure you consult your vet about the best food for your dog! Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is the last of the conditions we mentioned in the first paragraph. This is inflammation in the growth plates of the long bones. It usually causes swelling and pain in the joints, which may lead to fever and loss of appetite. It is self-limiting in most dogs with no permanent damage. However, some dogs may suffer permanent damage to the growth plates resulting in deformed legs. Treatment with medication can relieve associated pain and suppress inflammation.

Another fairly common condition is hip dysplasia, an improper formation of the hip joint(s). The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. During growth, both the “ball” (head of the femur) and the “socket” (acetabulum) must grow at equal rates. If they don’t, however, and laxity or looseness results, your dog will likely receive a hip dysplasia diagnosis. Its symptoms include lameness and difficulty shifting from a lying to standing position. There are several choices of treatment depending on the severity. Some dogs can be treated with medication while others will require surgery. Finally, there’s osteochondrosis dissecans (OD or OCD), which is a defect in the smooth cartilage surface within one or more joints. It most commonly affects the shoulder joint, but the elbow, hip, or knee may also be involved. Some of these defects may heal with strict rest and restriction of activity for several weeks. Most cases of OCD result in a piece of cartilage breaking off and floating in the joint. This causes pain, which varies from mild and intermittent to intense and constant pain. Surgery to remove the defective piece of cartilage is the recommended treatment in the latter case.

Actions you can take to decrease bone disease risks include feeding your large breed a diet formulated for larger breeds specifically, keeping your canine companion at a healthy weight, only supporting responsible breeders if you choose to buy your dog, and of course regular examinations! You can call NOVA Pets at(703) 378-9791 to arrange an examination, which is just one service covered by our wellness plans. We look forward to meeting your furry family members and teaching you more about keeping their bones healthy and strong.