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What are Growing Pains?

Some dogs, particularly giant breeds and breeds that are large boned, are prone to disorders of the bones and joints during the growing stage. These disorders, most notably panosteitis, osteochondritis dissecans, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy, generally strike between the third and twelfth month of the animal’s life and can be quite painful, leading to sensitivity to touch and to a reluctance to move. Most dogs afflicted with this condition grow out of it as they mature, however anti-inflammatory medication is often prescribed to manage the symptoms until that time.

Disorders that trigger growing pains frequently strike giant and large-boned breeds when they are between three and twelve months of age, although any young dog may be afflicted.

Symptoms of Growing Pains in Dogs

The disorders that result in growing pains are typically restricted to dogs who are between the ages of three and twelve months, although in rare instances it can occur in puppies as young as two months and dogs as old as five years old. Females are less often afflicted than males, and their symptoms frequently occur around the time of their first heat.

  • Acute lameness
  • Fever
  • Lameness that shifts
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain reaction to touch
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Unexplained whimpering
  • Weakness

When the affected bones are palpated, they are most sensitive to the touch at the middle of the bone rather than at the growing region or at the joints.

Types

Three of the most common disorders to cause growing pains in puppies and young dogs include:

  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

    - The pain and swelling of this particular disorder are usually felt most intensely at the growth plates rather than in the middle of the bone and can cause permanent structural damage to the bone in severe cases; this disorder is frequently accompanied by a fever that waxes and wanes, occasionally reaching as high as 106 degrees

  • Osteochondritis Dissecans

    - Instead of affecting the bones of the patient, osteochondritis dissecans affects the joints, causing pain and stiffness; dogs that are affected by osteochondritis may require surgery to remove lesions that develop on the ends of the bones 

  • Panosteitis

    - This disorder affects the middle section of the bone, causing shifting lameness that lasts between two and three weeks at a time; the animal is most likely to show signs of pain when the pressure is placed on the bone or when the bone is squeezed

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Causes of Growing Pains in Dogs

These diseases are growth diseases, and the causes are still relatively poorly understood, although there are multiple circumstances that may have a factor in the development of the disorder. Some of the situations that may influence the development of this temporary disease include: 

  • High calcium
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Infections
  • Metabolic disturbances
  • Parasites
  • Stress

Any dog can be afflicted with the growing pains of panosteitis, osteochondritis dissecans, or hypertrophic osteodystrophy, but large-breed and large-boned dogs are most often affected. It has a tendency to strike German Shepherd breed dogs more often than any other dog, and at more diverse ages. There are, however, several other breeds that are somewhat overrepresented as developing this painful condition. These can include breeds such as:

  • Airedale
  • Basset Hound
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Irish Setter
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Scottish Terrier
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Diagnosis of Growing Pains in Dogs

If your young dog is presenting with symptoms of pain, particularly in the long bones of the body such as the leg bones or at the joints, then your veterinarian may suspect that some form of growing pains are at the root of the symptoms. A thorough physical examination will help rule out many injuries and the standard diagnostic tests such as a urinalysis, a complete blood count, and a biochemical profile will help to rule out infections and imbalances that may cause similar symptoms, and frequently uncovers a high white blood cell count as well. 

A definitive diagnosis will usually be obtained by x-ray technology. Several views of the joints and bones will most likely be required, and different characteristics will be seen, depending on which disorder is at the root of the pain. Dogs with panosteitis may have patchy white areas of density within the cavity that houses the bone marrow, and dogs that are experiencing hypertrophic osteopathy will typically have a thin, dark line at the growth plates at the ends of the long bones.

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Treatment of Growing Pains in Dogs

These disorders are typically self-limiting and tend to disappear on their own once the dog has finished growing. The treatment method in the interim will typically depend on the disorder that is causing the growing pains. If the patient has developed lesions from osteochondritis dissecans, these lesions will generally require surgical removal in order to allow for full movement of the joints. All of these conditions can be extremely painful for the animal, so medications designed to mitigate this pain may be prescribed for your pet.

The most commonly prescribed medications for pain and inflammation for dogs are NSAIDs such as carprofen, deracoxib, meloxicam, and in some cases, buffered aspirin. It's essential that you do not give your pet any pain medications without consulting a veterinary professional, as some medications may be inappropriate for some patients due to breed, size, or medical conditions. Steroids may also be suggested in some situations, however, steroids also reduce the effectiveness of the immune system so if any infections are suspected they may not be recommended.

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Recovery of Growing Pains in Dogs

If your pet's condition requires surgery then ensuring that the recovering patient has a calm and quiet environment to return home to will help speed healing, as will having appropriate food and water within reach of them. Dogs that are experiencing severe growing pains should not be forced into exercise, and a comfortable, warm bed to rest in will go a long way in easing sore bones and joints. All medications should be administered according to the veterinarian’s instructions. Canines of different breeds, genders, or overall physical condition may have differing needs.

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Growing Pains Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Benny

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Newfoundland

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16 Months

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

My Newfoundland started whining when he was 12 months one night. Then when he was 15 months it happened again. Was crying getting up an down steps in/ out car. Crying it you touched the middle of hip. Went to ER Vet was a weekend. Gave pain meds an anti inflammatory meds. Was fine in less than 48 hours. It’s happened again 3 more times an when given the meds was gone in 12 hours. Back bad now again. Whiny an wont let you touch. Will go out to pee but acts very agitated like he was bit an nervous.

July 21, 2018

Benny's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Conditions like panosteitis normally occur at a younger age but may also occur up to around 18 months of age and large breed dogs are generally affected; I cannot say for certain if this is the cause of Benny’s pain but x-rays are the diagnostic method of choice and will show characteristic signs of the condition. If it is panosteitis, the condition is self limiting and will self resolve. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 22, 2018

Ok thanks! He has not been fixed yet. Waiting till he’s two. Would that add to the problem maybe? We would like to get him X-ray when neutered. Worry about putting him under twice. Just don’t want to injury him either if it’s something else.

July 22, 2018

Benny's Owner

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Mia

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German Shepherd

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10 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Fatiqu

Hi I have a German Shepard puppy 10 weeks old. On Friday she had her 2nd vaccinations and was sick all day Saturday so we took her to the vets and she had a sickness injection and was great until today where she hasn’t been herself since 9am this morning. She has slept all day not eating or drinking a lot and was sick around 5pm but hasn’t been sick yet. She’s weak and slept all day , also has a temperature. Not sure what to do is this growing pains? Is there anything I can do to help her? Heart rate at 161 bpm

July 16, 2018

Mia's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Mia’s heart rate is perfectly fine and nothing to worry about; lethargy, weakness, fever are all possible side effects of vaccination so it is important to keep this in mind. Keep an eye on Mia for the time being and follow up with your Veterinarian if there is no improvement over the next day or two as side effects of vaccination usually self resolve after a few days. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 17, 2018

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Marnie

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Rottweiler x Alaskan Malamute

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12 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lame

My 12 month old Rottie x malamute about a month ago was lame on her back leg, I thought it was from running around too much, it lasted about a week and a half. She is now lame on her front leg, doesn't want to get up and isn't playful, would this be growing pains

May 17, 2018

Marnie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

There are some 'growing pain' diseases of large breed dogs that do require treatment so that they are comfortable. It would be best to have Marnie seen by a veterinarian, and possibly ;have some x-rays taken, to determine what is going on and if she needs any treatment. I hope that all goes well for her.

May 17, 2018

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Titan

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American bully

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9 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

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Growing Pains

I have a bully and his only 9 month old but his growing pains are so bad he can barely walk and cries almost all night and I hate it . Is there anything I can do ? Or anything I can buy that isn’t super expensive?

May 9, 2018

Titan's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Some dogs are affected by painful conditions associated with growing bones, and Titan sounds like he is suffering. He needs to be seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and prescribe a safe pain medication for him. Many OTC medications are toxic to dogs, so having your veterinarian recommend something would be best.

May 9, 2018

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Kona

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Border collie and great dane

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8 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Stiffness
Stiffness, Limping On Getting Up

My puppy is 8 months old. In the last couple of weeks she has started limping when she gets up and begins to move around. It seems to be her back legs. After moving around some it seems to be better. What is wrong? She is border collie and we think great dane and she was fixed at 6 months.

Dec. 6, 2017

Kona's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If Kona has some Great Dane in her and has long legs, I would be suspecting something like panosteitis given the possible mix breed and her age; this would need to be discussed and checked with your Veterinarian. Panosteitis is generally self limiting in dogs and resolves itself by two years of age; again, check in with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/condition/bone-inflammation-panosteitis

Dec. 6, 2017

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Zara

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German Shepherd

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13 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Whining
Quiet

My puppy Zara is about 13 weeks old. She has just started limping for no real reason that we can tell. She is a very large GSD and has grown 5kgs in the last 2 weeks. She is usually very energetic but she was very quiet tonight. I have just read about growing pains so am wondering if this could be what is impacting her. I can't find any precise pain points on her legs, so this would make sense I guess. She is booked in for the vet in 3 days but I'm just looking for some reassurance.

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KC

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Pit Bullmastiff

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8 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepy

Our puppy is a rescue. He’s estimated to be around 8-10 weeks old. Mom is a pit. Dad we aren’t sure. We think maybe Rotty or Mastiff. The last couple days he has been very lazy. He’s eating and drinking just fine. And he will play and run hard with his brother. But he is sleeping more. Could this be a growth spurt? Or do we need to be concerned?

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Clifford

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Goldendoodle

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My goldendoodle is a little over a year old. He has been limping out of nowhere off and on for 2 weeks now. I took him to the vet and they said it might be growing pains, but I think he's prob done growing. They don't think anything is broken/fractured or torn. Will do x-rays if it's still going on next week. Im wondering if he pulled something since I'm pretty sure he won't grow anymore?

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Emma and Ellie

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Labrador Retriever

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13 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

We have two lab-pit female puppies that are 13 weeks old. This morning they didn't want to move, eat, and are acting very lethargic. Any idea's on what this may be?

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Puppy

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Labrador Retriever

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8 Days

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Pain

Li lys baby boy- 1 week old labrador retriever in a lot of pain. Grew from 1lb to 3lb in 7days. He is miserable. I have to lay him on his back and rub his body from head to toe. Feet rubs give him extra relief. What can I do to relieve pain other then rub him 24/7? He screams in pain. I'm desperate for anyone to help me help this litttle puppy.