Bone Infection in Dogs

Bone infection in dogs is also known as osteomyelitis. Although most dog owners may not be aware of it, the structural bones of a dog are living tissues just like any other organ, leaving them susceptible to infection. Fortunately, bone infections in dogs are typically very treatable. However, dog owners must learn how to recognize the signs so that they know when to seek medical treatment for their dog.

Bone Infections Explained

In dogs, bone infections can be either acute or chronic in nature. While most bone infections result from bacterial infections, they can also be caused by fungal infections. Acute bone infections present almost immediately, while chronic bone infections may persist for months before being recognized. With bone infections, the bloodstream is often the main carrier, so any type of infection that can permeate to the bloodstream can also permeate to the bone.

Acute bone infections typically occur as the result of bite wounds, bone fractures or complications during surgery which lead to infection. However, chronic bone infection in dogs is often caused by the staphylococcus bacteria, or even fungal organisms, found elsewhere throughout the dog’s body, which infiltrate the bloodstream until they reach bone.

Signs and Symptoms of Bone Infections

Because bone infections in dogs are true infections, they do require treatment. Without treatment, and depending on which bone is affected, the dog may actually require amputation if the infection persists and becomes life-threatening. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of bone infections in dogs:

  • Lameness
  • Fever
  • Generalized weakness and fatigue
  • Appearance of pain while walking
  • Lack of desire for normal activities
  • Swelling of the limbs

Diagnosis and Treatment of a Bone Infection

It is important to understand that the signs of bone infection in dogs could be representative of other medical conditions, so a qualified veterinarian must examine the dog before the diagnosis of bone infection can be made. If the injury is obvious, such as with a bite wound, the diagnosis and treatment process will be much quicker and easier.

Typically, the first step to diagnosing bone infections in dogs is to obtain a complete blood count and a urinalysis. These tests will detect for the presence of infection in both the bloodstream and the urine, identifying the presence of internal infection. In conjunction with positive test results and the symptoms that the dog is experiencing, an x-ray of the suspected bone is likely to be the next step. This will help to determine if there are any changes within the structure of the bone that may represent infection of the bone. If the results of the x-ray are abnormal, then an ultrasound may also be done to determine if there is any pus accumulation within the bone, which would need to be biopsied and sent for culture to determine the exact type of infection.

Treatment of bone infection in dogs begins with identifying the underlying cause. In acute cases, cleaning, drainage, surgical trimming of the dead tissue and antibiotic administration will be required. In chronic cases, however, the underlying cause must be treated. If antibiotics are not effective, amputation may be required if the infection is life-threatening to the dog.