Panosteitis (inflammation of the long bone) is a spontaneously occurring lameness that usually occurs in large breed dogs and is commonly known as growing pains. German Shepherds seems to be particularly predisposed to this condition. Due to this, it is possible that the disease may have genetic causes. Affected dogs are usually in the 5 to 14 month age range and male dogs are more commonly infected than female dogs. The disease has been reported in dogs as young as 2 months. The lameness tends to occur very suddenly, usually without a history of trauma or excessive exercise. In most cases one or the other front leg is affected first and then the problem tends to move around, making it appear that the lameness is shifting from leg to leg. There are often periods of improvement and worsening of the symptoms during the growth cycle. This makes evaluation of treatment difficult since many dogs will spontaneously recover with or without treatment and then relapse.
X-rays usually reveal that the bones have greater density than is normally found. If pressure is applied over the long bones, pain is usually present. The X-ray signs do not always match the clinical signs. In most cases, the worst pain lasts between one and two months but, usually resolves itself and symptoms cease by the time the dog reaches 18-24 months of age
This condition is self limiting, meaning that it will eventually go away, with or without treatment. Pain control can go a long way towards helping the dog feel more comfortable.
Hydrotherapy is renowned for being a gentle, non-weight bearing form of exercise that can help to reduce pain and swelling following. It enables the dog to move freely in the water boosting circulation and reducing stiffness. Dogs appear to get a new lease of life as they realise that they can have a bit of fun and exercise without being in so much pain and it tends to rejuvenate them.
The benefits of hydrotherapy for panosteitis include:
- Decreased pain perception (hydrostatic pressure)
- Increased sensory perception
- Relaxation of muscle tension and/or muscle spasm
- Non-weight bearing – easier to move
- Non –weight bearing – less joint concussion
- Increased active range of motion
- Feeling of well-being due to release of endorphins
- Reduction of frustration for dogs on cage rest or reduced exercise – less likely to be “uncontrollable” as on land
- Increased joint range of movement
- Increased muscle strength
- Improved muscle patterning and recruitment
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Decreased pain and inflammation