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What are Growth Plate Injuries?

Puppies have growth plates associated with their long bones that slowly ossify as they grow.  Once he is completely grown, the growth plate completely ossifies and your dog has finished growing.  It is possible for your dog to injure his growth plate acutely or chronically.  Acute injury involves some form of trauma such as being hit by a car or jumping off the couch.  

A chronic injury, while less likely, is possible; he can have some sort of injury or condition that causes stress on the growth plate that eventually leads to injury of the growth plate itself.  Either way, you will likely see symptoms of lameness and discomfort of the affected leg. Your veterinarian will want to take radiographs of the leg to confirm and diagnose the severity of the injury.  The treatment will depend on the condition of the injury as well as the prognosis of recovery.

If your dog is showing any sign of a limp or discomfort in his leg that lasts for more than a couple days, it is best he be evaluated by his veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Symptoms of Growth Plate Injuries in Dogs

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Stiffness of the limb
  • Abnormal bone conformation (abnormal angle, abnormal length)
  • Early development of osteoarthritis

Types

There are growth plates associated with the long bones of your dog.  There can be acute or chronic injuries, as well as mild to severe.  Acute injury happens all of a sudden, typically from some sort of trauma.  Chronic injury is the result of damage to the area over a longer period of time.  In this situation, it is possible your dog had an abnormality since birth that is just now showing signs of clinical symptoms or it may be that you have been training him for agility and his bones are exhausted to the point of injury.  For a mild injury, it may be simply a bruise while a more severe injury would be a break.  The source of injury may be trauma, such as hit by a car, or may be accidental such as your rambunctious puppy jumping off a too high bed.

Causes of Growth Plate Injuries in Dogs

In a developing puppy, ossification of the bone growth plates begins in the center and at each end of long bone.  Eventually, it all ossifies and unites and results in a formed bone.  When ossification remains incomplete, it leaves the bone weak and vulnerable.  If there is injury to the growth plate, it can lead to malformation or improper ossification of the bone.  This can lead to an abnormality that may affect your dog for his lifetime.

Diagnosis of Growth Plate Injuries in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin her diagnostic process by collecting a verbal history from you in regards to your dog’s symptoms.  She will want to know all details surrounding when you first noticed your dog acting abnormally.  She will then continue by performing a full physical exam on your dog.  While the injury may be obviously affecting a specific leg, your veterinarian will want to check for other signs of injury in different areas as well.  

To confirm your pet’s condition, the veterinarian will want to take a radiograph of the affected limb and the joints above and below it.  This is the only way to get a 100% diagnosis to see if the growth plate is involved.  It will also show if it is a fracture, break, or other type of injury. This radiographic image will also assist the veterinarian with deciding how to proceed with her treatment plan.  

Your veterinarian may also recommend routine blood work to see if your dog needs any other medical assistance to develop and heal properly.  A complete blood count and chemistry panel will give the veterinarian information on how the organs are functioning, how the blood is supporting the body, and whether your dog is fighting off any type of infection.  The red blood cell count results can also indicate how the bone marrow is functioning as it is all tied together.

Treatment of Growth Plate Injuries in Dogs

The severity of the injury will determine your dog’s treatment plan.  If your dog simply has a deep tissue bruise near or including the growth plate region, your veterinarian will likely suggest symptomatic treatment and monitoring of the situation.  She will suggest kennel rest for your dog with no extended exercise, jumping or running while the injury is healing.  She may also suggest pain management to keep your dog comfortable.  As for an additional treatment options, laser light therapy treatment may be suggested as a way to promote healing and offer pain relief.  

If your dog fractures or breaks the growth plate, his treatment plan will be more involved.  He will likely need some sort of brace, but nothing permanent if he is still in his growing process.  If you apply a brace in the incorrect position or do not adjust it as he is healing, it can lead to an abnormal healing angle.  He will need to be kept quiet and calm for as long as possible while it is healing.  However, puppies tend to grow quickly so it may heal quicker than a different region of the bone.  She will also offer pain medication and a possible joint supplement to promote comfort and good bone health.  Laser light therapy will also be beneficial in the case of a fracture or break.  

While the injury is healing, you will likely need to go in regularly for checkups.  Radiographs may be taken at every visit to allow the veterinarian to visualize the healing process.  This will allow her to monitor the progress as well as adjust her treatment plan accordingly.

Recovery of Growth Plate Injuries in Dogs

A growth plate injury prognosis has a wide variety of outcomes.  Your dog may heal without any issues and show no symptoms that he was ever injured.  Other dogs never heal correctly and are left with a lifelong limp or angular deformity.  Your dog’s prognosis will depend on where exactly he damaged his growth plate and how severely.

Growth Plate Injuries Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

ace
Yorkshire Terrier
4 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Crying
crying, doesn't walk on leg

I was wondering how would i sleep through the night if i have to keep monitoring my pup, do i sleep on the floor with him or so i even sleep at all ? i'm worried something might happen

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
Monitoring may involve staying up all night (many people cannot sleep when their loved one is in pain), set an alarm to wake up every hour or two, sleep together on the bed (floor, sofa etc…) or another method. If Ace is in pain and is crying, you should visit an Emergency Veterinarian for an examination and for pain relief. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Rocky
pit bull terrier
5 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

My Pit Bull fractured a growth plate in his hip. The veterinarian said that the fracture was only partial and not all the way through. She recommended getting surgery and that he would most likely need FHO surgery. Is there any other option besides surgery to have him heal properly? It’s been 2 days since the injury and his behavior is starting to return to almost normal

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1063 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. WIthout knowing more about Rocky's injury, i don't have any way to comment on options other than surgery. It would be best to ask your veterinarian, as they know what his injury is, know what his health status is, and will be able to advise you on any other options. Puppies do tend to heal fairly quickly from some injuries, so there may be non-surgical options, but without knowing what is going on with him, I cannot assess that.

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Kepler
Miniature Schnauzer
9 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Fractured Shoulder

My puppy has been on Hip & Joint Supplement and this Advance Joint. He is now bearing weight on Fractured Shoulder with his leg previously bandaged up by vet.

Is this a good sign of healthy healing

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
Weight bearing is normally a good sign, but it is early days and you should ensure that Kepler doesn’t over use the leg which may put his recovery back; without knowing the full history and examining him I cannot give you any solid assurances but you should discuss this with your Veterinarian at your next checkup. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jaspi
Beagle Shepherd
8 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Honk instability

Hello my 8 month old beagle fractured his tibia and surgery was performed. His bone is healing and we began rehabilitation twice a week. He had three challenging obstacles, first was bone infection which healed, second was bone healing was not occurring but that changed and now is the mucscle contraction. His bottom leg, honk, is not bending. Any suggestions on what we can do to help his leg bend and perform correctly? We have started to massages, use warm presses, laser therapy, and water treadmill.

Could this be honk instability?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1063 Recommendations
Thank you for your question today. It sounds like you are doing everything that you can to help this injury heal! One very important component of surgical recovery for limbs is to perform range of motion exercises regularly. At this point, since his hock doesn't bending normally, it would be best to have either your veterinarian or the rehabilitation specialist look at it and decide whether range of motion exercises are enough, or if more extensive physical therapy will be needed, since I can't actually examine him. I hope that he recovers fully.

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Jaspi
Beagle Shepherd
8 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Honk instability

Hello my 8 month old beagle fractured his tibia and surgery was performed. His bone is healing and we began rehabilitation twice a week. He had three challenging obstacles, first was bone infection which healed, second was bone healing was not occurring but that changed and now is the mucscle contraction. His bottom leg, honk, is not bending. Any suggestions on what we can do to help his leg bend and perform correctly? We have started to massages, use warm presses, laser therapy, and water treadmill.

Could this be honk instability?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1063 Recommendations
Thank you for your question today. It sounds like you are doing everything that you can to help this injury heal! One very important component of surgical recovery for limbs is to perform range of motion exercises regularly. At this point, since his hock doesn't bending normally, it would be best to have either your veterinarian or the rehabilitation specialist look at it and decide whether range of motion exercises are enough, or if more extensive physical therapy will be needed, since I can't actually examine him. I hope that he recovers fully.

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Oriin
Great Dane
6momths
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

My dog has been diagnosed with swelling in his growth plates in all 4 legs. I'm not so worried about him hurting himself he is pretty lethargic. What im wondering is would a bath or icing his legs help with some of the discomfort he is feeling? Or is there something else I can do for him?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
It sounds like Orin has hypertrophic osteodystrophy which occurs in young rapidly growing large breed dogs; there is no cure, but the condition is self limiting with treatment consisting of pain relief and other supportive care (fluids for example). There have been different studies looking at the treatment and management of this condition with no solid results apart from pain relief (it is a very painful condition) and other supportive care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/condition/bone-inflammation-hypertrophic-osteodystrophy https://wagwalking.com/condition/bone-inflammation-panosteitis

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Teddy
Yorkie
6 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

My puppy teddy is 6 months and Fell about 1 ft off the ground. My vet took X-rays and said it's a fracture of the proximal tibia and growth plate is enlarged. They said that surgery would be best and he would recover well. It's been a 8 days now and he is not limping as much but still limping. Do you recommend surgery? And how well do dogs recover from this ? Thanks so much

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1063 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. Unfortunately without seeing her, and the xrays, I can't comment on whether the surgery would be best for her. If she seems to be improving it would be worth a follow up with your veterinarian to reassess her and see how she is healing, and whether there are other alternatives at this time. If you would like a 2nd opinion, that is a common thing to request in situations like this, and you should be able to find a veterinarian that you trust by talking to friends, family, and other dog owners. You will be able to request a copy of the xrays to take with you, and they may be digital. I hope that he heals well.

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Jasper
Beagle
8 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My 7 month old beagle fell off my bed and broke his leg. I took him to my veterinarian and they performed surgery. Unfortunately, the first surgery was not successful because we weren’t instructed on how to properly take care of him during this process. The vet performs another surgery and two weeks later, the pins and screws are falling off. The vet then decides to remove the pins, plates, and screws. His fracture now looks worse than it started. It seems like the bone is not healing. It’s forming calcification but in the wrong areas. The vet said we have two options, letting the bone heal but it won’t heal correctly or amputate his leg which is not an option. We decided to take him to a orthopedic specialist. Any suggestions? Could it be that his growth plate is affected?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
You should definitely visit an Orthopaedic Specialist, you should use the ‘Find a Veterinary Surgeon’ link on the website below. The Specialist may be able to get a better result than amputation, but with two failed surgeries already it is not looking as good as when it first occurred. Have your Veterinarian send the x-rays through to the Specialist for them to determine a course of action. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/fractured-limbs

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Gracie
Labradoodle
14 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Medication Used

none

Gracie is now a 14 month old 45 lb Labradoodle. At around 4 months we saw her limping and her right front paw was turning out. We took ER to the vet and he x-rayed and sent us to an orthopedic vet. They did a scan under anesthesia and found that she had a growth plate injury. Her limping had stopped by the time we saw the specialist. They recommended an external fixative with 3months of kennel, daily tightening of the fixative to straighten her leg. The second option was to wait until she stopped growing and then have plate and screw surgery to correct the defect. We elected to wait, she has been a very active pup without further issues. Until 11days ago when she pulled up lame. Regular vet said strain/sprain and should resolve in ten days. She is still limping and holding her leg up to not bear weight. We are limiting exercise, but she does like to run in the yard with our older dog and sneaks out when she can. My question is what to do now? She the ortho specialist again? She hasn’t grown a lot lately, but she’s not two.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
If Gracie is sneaking out to run around with your other dog it may be a case that you need to give her some strict cage rest or keep her in a small room (utility room for example - but of course remove anything toxic from her grasp). I would give strict rest a chance for a few days but if there is no improvement or an increase in severity you should visit the Orthopaedic Specialist again. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Teemo
Mixed
10 Weeks
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

wimpering
no energy

Hello. My 10 weeks old puppy flew down the three stairs of our patio this afternoon. I witnessed the whole thing in shock as he screamed bloody hell for about 30 seconds. I held homme in my arms and he calmed down. He hit the ground (concrete) on his right side. He is not limping but seems to have no energy. He has been lying down and sleeping since. He has eaten and drank normally but wont play. He wimpers a bit in his sleep which is what worries me. Should i go to the vet? Thanks

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations

Any trauma should be seen by your Veterinarian to be on the safe side as head trauma may present itself after a period of time; growth plate injuries are very serious and may cause limb deformities as a dog ages if there was an injury to one of the growth plates of the long longs in the legs, this is always worth keeping an eye on as in severe cases corrective surgery would be required as Teemo ages. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Oliver
Golden Retreiver
12 Weeks
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My 12 week old Golden Retriever puppy broke his leg a few weeks ago. We rushed him to the emergency vet hospital and they confirmed he had a break at his knee right at his growth plate. They sent us home with a "cast" (wrapped tight) and surgery was preformed 2 days later. They had to repair the cartilage in his knee as well as place pins to hold everything together. We had an appt 7 days later and the new cast was removed. He is not walking around, putting little to no pressure on his leg. I am nervous that he does not have a cast or anything protective on his leg. Is this a typical time-frame for the cast to be removed? Today he bumped his leg (or fell on it) and whimpered in pain for a few minutes. His leg was pulled up tight towards his body and it took several minutes to get it to straighten out again. We go back to the surgeon in 5 days, but I'm wondering if this is typical after surgery? Thank you!!!!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
A cast may be able to be removed after a week or two depending on the case, your Veterinarian may be thinking that it is better to not have the cast on as they may cause secondary complications from rubbing etc… It is important to keep Oliver rested and discourage moving as injury to his leg will cause significant pain. If you have concerns, speak with your Veterinarian and ask them the specific rationale for removing the cast. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bailey Dailey
Mix
Less than one year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

After viewing x rays, the vet diagnosis was malformed tibias. Bailey’s tibias on her back legs do not connect to her knees. The vet says she has never seen this and that it is rare with no known treatment. Would there be any surgery or treatment options?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
Growth plate injuries can stop bones from growing which may cause problems in places where you have two bones growing side by side (tibia and fibula). There may be some surgical options available but would need to be assessed by an Orthopaedic Specialist to determine whether or not it is a viable option. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Remi
German Shepherd Dog
8 months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My 8 month german shepherd starting limping on his right leg for a couple days now he limps on both front legs and is in discomfort, he dont like to put any weight on his front legs. he didnt injure himself anyway,out of the blue he started limping. Could it be Pano?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
Panosteitis is a possibility given Remi’s age and breed, I cannot say for sure without examining Remi and looking at some x-rays; I would recommend you visit your Veterinarian to confirm and to receive advice on management of this condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/condition/bone-inflammation-panosteitis http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/projects/saortho/chapter_49/49mast.htm

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Kody
Golden Retriever
5 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My four month old golden retriever puppy was bitten on the top of the paw by an older dog at daycare (was on back in submissive position). Had an open puncture wound and the tooth also scraped the bone and dented it. Vet put splint (going above wrist joint) and bandages on it to ensure it would not fracture. Went every week to have bandage changed. I came home just before 4 weeks of splinting and he was holding it in the air (my daughter watched him that day) and refused to walk on it. Cut off bandage & splint and noted his elbow had calcified bone of about 1/2 inch literally growing sideways into splint. Was now chafing him and bloody. Further noted that his leg looks crooked. Goes down straight from elbow, big deformity on wrist then paw now faces outward instead of straight. Paw is also raised up in the front with nails in air. Vet said this happened when you splint puppies and he should be able to walk it off. Limps after walking for a while. This just seems incredibly wrong and afraid he will be deformed for life and go lame. Need a second opinion here.. does this sound like something that will self heal? Vet is owned by same person as daycare.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
I would strongly suggest visiting another Veterinarian and having an x-ray done to check the bones and any damaged caused; without examining Kody I cannot say whether this could be walked off or not, limb deformities can be permanent if not managed properly. It is important to have an independent examination performed along with x-rays. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Maci
Shepard lab
4months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

4 month old puppy growth plate xray showed separated she didn't seem like she had pain just limping my vet put a splint on and bandage will this heal on its own without surgery

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2484 Recommendations
With correct placement of a splint, the healing process should be pretty straight forward; it would be advised to have a check up after a week or so to ensure that the healing is going to plan. The growth plates grow quickly and we can expect in a good situation that given Maci’s age that recovery will be fast; your Veterinarian would have made the treatment plan based on the x-ray findings. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Her splint/cast has been on for 5weeks due to come off this thursday if all healed how much exercise should she be allowed to have

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