Labrador Retriever Puppy’s Leg Hurts

Large-breed puppies may experience shifting lameness as they grow.

Q. I got my Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy when she was 2 months old. She is doing a lot of running around, and when she runs she is fine. But when you go to pick her up or touch a certain spot by her front leg she’ll yelp.  Last night she did a lot of running and got a cramp in her back leg. Are we over doing it with her? Is it growing pains?

A. Dogs get growing pains. Large-breed dogs between the ages of 4 months and 1 year old often will have a shifting lameness that moves from one leg to another as they go through a rapid growing phase. They typically will be lame intermittently on one leg, then the lameness will shift to another leg.
This condition is called panosteitis (inflammation of all bones), and can be confirmed with X-rays, which show a typical swirling pattern of the bone.
Fortunately, just like teenagers, dogs will outgrow panosteitis. However, it can be extremely painful, and may be treated with aspirin or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). These should only be used under the direction of a veterinarian, since side effects such as bleeding ulcers are possible.
It is important not to give any kind of mineral or nutritional supplements to large-breed, rapidly growing dogs, because they potentially can cause deformities of the bones. There are some high quality diets specially formulated for these dogs.
Hopefully your dog’s aches and pains will go away as she gets closer to 1 year of age. If they persist, please follow-up with your veterinarian, because other joint or bone problems in growing puppies may require surgical treatment, and timely treatment is required.

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