Osteoporosis is a bone disease that we usually associate with older dogs; yet the structural changes that occur in the bones of dogs with osteoporosis can be seen in young dogs as well. Indeed, juvenile osteoporosis leads to the degradation of the supporting tissue in the bones leaving a highly mineralized, brittle bone that is more easily damaged. Diet and exercise as well as vascular and hormonal changes are all associated with juvenile osteoporosis in dogs. In most instances of the disease, a lack of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the diet or an insensitivity to these minerals leads to juvenile osteoporosis in dogs.
While it occurs more often in cats, juvenile osteoporosis is relatively common in dogs. Dog juvenile osteoporosis first appears shortly after weaning. Dogs with this condition usually appear normal but their bones are much thinner and weaker than the average dog. In some cases, the dog’s front legs will be bowed and you will notice some lameness. In very extreme cases, weak bones may collapse as a result of a folding fracture leaving dogs with deformed bones and usually suffering quite a lot of pain. Diagnosing juvenile osteoporosis in dogs requires an x-ray by your veterinarian as well as a careful look at your dog’s diet.
Larger breeds are especially at risk of juvenile osteoporosis and the condition may be seen in the first six or eight weeks of life. German Shepherds and Saint Bernards are the most likely breeds to suffer from juvenile osteoporosis probably because of their greater need for calcium during skeletal development. Fortunately, dogs with juvenile osteoporosis can be treated; in fact, juvenile osteoporosis may be reversed given an adequate diet that is rich in calcium. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from juvenile osteoporosis, you should visit your veterinarian immediately to seek proper treatment.