Jeff Kahler: Wally’s owner worried limp may mean hip dysplasia

Fran and her 7-month-old dog named Wally are from Eureka. Wally is a large dog, about 80 pounds, and has developed a limp in his right rear leg. She has noticed him limping on and off for about two weeks, and lately it has gotten a bit more severe.

Fran’s not positive, but she thinks she may have noticed a limping on the left rear leg as well. She has heard about hip dysplasia and is worried that Wally may have that disease.

Anytime a dog, especially a larger dog, has lameness in the rear legs, we think about hip dysplasia as a possible cause. Hip dysplasia is a disease process resulting from a malformation of the hip joint. This joint is made up of a ball and a socket that the ball fits into.

In the case of dysplasia, the ball and socket do not properly fit together, resulting in arthritis and changes in the bone, all resulting in pain and lameness. Certainly this is a possible cause of Wally’s lameness. There are, however, other possible causes.

A trip for Fran and Wally to the veterinarian for a physical examination and some radiographs should give us a diagnosis. Another possibility from Fran’s description of Wally’s symptoms is panosteitis.

Panosteitis is a term used in dogs to describe a disease that involves inflammation of the long bones of the body, in essence, the legs.

This disease generally occurs in young, growing dogs of larger breeds and seems to be most common in German shepherds. The disease is characterized by lameness in one or more of the legs. It is common for the lameness to switch from one leg to another, either side to side or front to back or both. The cause of this pain is inflammation inside the effected bones in what is called the medullary cavity.

The long bones are composed of an outside ridged support structure called the cortex, much like the structure of a pipe. Inside this cortex is the medullary cavity, which is filled with, among other things, the bone marrow. It is this area, the medullary cavity, that becomes inflamed with panosteitis.

Diagnosis of panosteitis is usually a straightforward process involving a physical examination to isolate the area of pain and radiographs of the effected area to examine the bone or bones involved. Once diagnosed definitively, panosteitis can be treated with appropriate anti-inflammatory medications to help with the pain.

The really good news about this disease is that dogs will usually get better without treatment. I do, however, prefer to use medication because it helps the dogs feel better.

Please make sure never to give your dog any medications without discussing their use first with your veterinarian. Many of the over the counter anti-inflammatory medications are potentially very harmful to dogs.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.