Weak Bones in Dogs


With the amount of activities that dogs engage in over the span of a day, it’s important that they have strong, healthy bones for support! The dog’s skeletal system is an extremely important mechanism for all things running, jumping, digging, and catching, and it is vital to monitor and improve the condition of your dog’s bones – especially with age.

However, there are a number of diseases and abnormalities that can occur during your dog’s lifetime that can drastically affect his bones and skeletal structure. Being aware of the symptoms and types of conditions that your dog may have regarding weak bones can help with more serious issues down the road if recognized in earlier stages.

Susceptibility to fractures or broken bones can be an indicator of one or more of these conditions. The most common of these bone diseases include osteoporosis, panosteitis, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD). Read below to learn more about common causes of weak bones in dogs and how to manage.



Knowing the general healing process for fractures, which can occur in various regions of the bone, is important as a pet owner. Traumas from impact, pressure, or force are the leading causes of fractures or breaks in dog bones.

While older dogs have weaker bones and are therefore more predictable victims of bone injuries, these accidents are common among younger dogs as well. In cases of bone disease, fractures can be frequent and will often be indicated via x-ray scans. These images will be analyzed by your veterinarian or an experienced specialist, who will be able to make treatment recommendations.

Closed Fractures

When a dog’s bone is cracked but the overlying skin remains intact, the area will likely inflame. Casts can help with the healing process of the bone, of which recovery time can range from five weeks for younger dogs to twelve weeks or more for older dogs. More serious fractures may require more serious treatment to ensure proper realignment.

Greenstick Fractures

Because the bone is intact, but cracked in several areas, greenstick fractures are classified as “incomplete fractures.” This may make it difficult for your dog to walk due to slight inflammation of the affected area. In this case, it is wise to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the fracture heals correctly, which will mitigate the possibility of long-term issues that arise with improperly healed bones. Failure to do so may result in reduced joint mobility or lameness.

Compound Fractures

When the bone is broken through the skin, which is usually complemented by aggressive bleeding or swelling, it is considered a compound fracture. This type of fracture is extremely dangerous and must be handled cautiously.

Because the bone is exposed, it is highly susceptible to infection from contamination with debris or dirt. Surgical treatment or steel plates and screws are often used to treat these fractures, but your veterinarian should ultimately make the final call regarding course of treatment.

Epiphyseal Fractures

Epiphyseal fractures occur when the dog’s growth plates, which are soft and spongy in younger dogs, are fractured. Because their bones are still growing, these non-calcified areas are more prone to damages than the rest of the bone.

These soft areas are found at the ends of the femur and humerus, or any long bones that are in developmental stages. These fractures are likely to heal faster due to the fact that they generally occur in younger dogs with stronger immune systems, but it is a good idea to check in with a veterinarian to make sure the bones heal properly when they do.


Osteoporosis is a bone disease that affects many humans, but it can also be found in dogs. When dogs are diagnosed with osteoporosis, bone density decreases significantly. This leads to debilitation, chronic pain in multiple areas of the body, and extremely high susceptibility to fractures – telltale signs that yield a trip to the vet.


However, osteoporosis symptoms are not always apparent, especially in it’s earlier stages. Dogs with fractures are often screened for osteoporosis for this reason. Pet owners are often unaware that their dogs have this condition, since dogs typically won’t develop symptoms until bone loss reaches a point of risk and severity.

Causes of osteoporosis are still an ongoing discussion in veterinarian communities, but there are several factors that specialists associate with the disease, including a lack of proper nutrition and prior developmental issues that concern the dog’s bones.

If your dog is being treated for another disease or illness that may affect the bone structure, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for bone-related diseases like osteoporosis in case conditions worsen. An x-ray scan will usually tell you whether the bone is affected.

There are several treatment methods available that help to alleviate the symptoms of osteoporosis in dogs. Because many different parts of the dog’s body are affected by osteoporosis, your dog will require ongoing treatment in order to cover longer-term issues that may stem from a more serious root problem.


Panosteitis is another bone disease that can be found in dogs who experience leg pain. This disease is most commonly found in large dog breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Great Danes. While the disease usually presents itself when a dog is 6 to 18 months in age, it can sometimes occur in middle-aged dogs as well.

The disease typically lasts two to five months – but can last longer in more serious cases. Panosteitis is most easily be identified when pain or lameness shifts from leg to leg due to bone proliferation or an increase in bone density, which creates roughness or misshapen bone structures.

Common symptoms of dogs with panosteitis include high fevers, elevated white blood cell counts, a reluctance to walk or exercise, and sometimes, associated tonsillitis. Sudden lameness in the legs is also an indicator of this disease. The causes of panosteitis are presumed to stem from many different factors that are entirely situational.

Because the presumed causes of panosteitis are not confirmed by specialists, there are no treatments that are guaranteed to cure the disease itself. However, the pain can be controlled while the disease runs its course. Painkillers or pain medications are typically prescribed by your veterinarian to mitigate the pain.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, or HOD, affects many of the same dogs that are also affected by panosteitis. Also referred to as skeletal scurvy, Moller-Barlow disease, or osteodystrophy type II, HOD typically presents itself through lameness or ongoing leg pain. However, HOD differs from panosteitis in that it affects multiple legs at the same time and often comes with more severe pain and debilitation, making it difficult for the dog to walk or move.

Because the disease provokes inflammation, many of the treatments recommended to dogs diagnosed with HOD are focused on mitigating this swelling. Dogs that are between three and six months old tend to contract this disease more often than others, and it is more common among males than females. Like panosteitis, HOD usually runs its course and resolves itself.

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