Osteomyelitis in Dogs: An Overview

by | Jul 23, 2021 | Dog Health

When your dog is wounded or injured, it’s more prone to exposure to harmful bacteria and fungi. These harmful microorganisms can infect the injured area, which can lead to osteomyelitis. This bone infection requires long-term treatment, depending on its severity and type.

Fortunately, with the right information, you can help your dog recover from this condition. In this blog, you’ll learn everything about osteomyelitis.

What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an inflammatory bone infection in dogs. The inflammation can arise due to bacterial or, in rare cases, fungal infections on your dog’s bones or bone marrow. It commonly affects the bones on your dog’s jaw and limbs. It can be classified into four types: 

  • Acute – With this type of bone disease, osteomyelitis symptoms show up right away.
  • Chronic – Osteomyelitis symptoms take longer to appear. It can take up to several months before you spot the signs.
  • Bacterial – This type of osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria such as Brucella canis, Escherichia coli, Pasteurella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus. This is the most common type of osteomyelitis in dogs.
  • Fungal – This type of osteomyelitis is caused by fungi such as Aspergillus, Blastomyces dermatitidis, Coccidiodes immitis, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Histoplasma capsulatum.

What are the Causes of Osteomyelitis in Dogs?

Canine osteomyelitis can occur because of bacterial or fungal infections. These organisms can enter your dog’s body in different ways. So if you suspect your dog has a bacterial or fungal infection, make sure you let your vet know.

Below we’ve listed the common causes of osteomyelitis in dogs:

  • Systemic infection from other body parts that reach the bone marrow through the bloodstream
  • Accidents or injuries affecting the bones and soft tissues (e.g., trauma, fractures)
  • Wounds (e.g., gunshot wounds, bites)
  • Post-surgical operations
  • Surgical implants
  • Prosthetic joint implantations

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis can permanently damage your dog’s bone if untreated for a long time. With that said, it is important to detect these symptoms as early as possible so your dog can promptly receive the care it needs.

To know if your dog possibly has osteomyelitis, look out for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Lameness in the legs
  • Pain and swelling in the affected limb
  • Wounds filled with blood or pus
  • Lack of appetite
  • Persistent ulcers
  • Whining

If your dog is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above, it’s best to contact your veterinarian.

How Does a Vet Diagnose Canine Osteomyelitis?

During your check-up, your veterinarian may ask for a thorough medical history of your dog. They may ask questions regarding your dog’s health status, the onset of symptoms, and the events that may have caused the bone infection. Physical examinations may follow to check your dog’s condition.

After this, your veterinarian may perform diagnostic tests to evaluate the location and severity of your dog’s bone disease. This can include bacterial and fungal cultures to pinpoint what type of infection your dog has. For a more detailed view of the affected area, they may conduct X-rays, ultrasound tests, MRI scans, or CT scans.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Osteomyelitis in Dogs?

Once your veterinarian has properly diagnosed your dog’s condition, they can recommend medical and/or surgical therapies. This will depend on the type and severity of your dog’s bone infection. For instance, chronic cases of osteomyelitis may need long-term therapy and surgery.

The treatment process can be a long journey, but with proper care and regular monitoring, your dog can recover quickly. To help you make an informed choice, here are the treatment options available for canine osteomyelitis.


Since this bone disease is caused by bacteria or fungi, your veterinarian may recommend an antibiotic or antifungal treatment to combat the infection. This can come in the form of intravenous (IV) drips, oral medicine, or topical application. They can also be used together if needed. 

If the prescribed antibiotics or antifungals fail to produce the desired result, your veterinarian can prescribe a different kind of medication. 


If medication alone does not work, your dog may require surgical procedures. This applies mostly to severe cases of bone infection. The procedure may vary depending on the cause of infection in your dog. Keep in mind that surgery still has its risks, so it’s best to discuss this option with your veterinarian.

Wound Sanitation

For dogs with wounds, the infected area needs to be sanitized first. Your vet will remove infected tissues and debris that can worsen the infection. Then, a tube will be inserted in the sanitized area until the infection is cleared.

After the procedure, your vet will prescribe antibiotics to help your dog recover. It’s best to keep the affected area clean to protect it against other microorganisms.

Surgery for Fractures

On the other hand, dogs with fractures require surgery for two reasons: to stabilize the broken bone and prevent further damage and the infection from spreading to other bones. This is especially important for severe fractures.

Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, your vet may use implants and other fixation material on your dog. These implants will be removed after the injury is healed. 

Follow-up Care and Recovery

Treatment doesn’t stop at surgical operations. To help your dog fully recover, they need to take antibiotic/antifungal medication and undergo regular x-ray exams. It’s important to consistently monitor your dog’s condition after surgery to ensure recovery in the long term.

After the procedure, your dog’s bones may feel unstable for some time. With that said, it’s best to restrict their activity during the healing process. If they need to move from one place to another, you can carefully carry them. 

To make your home conducive for your dog’s recovery, you can check out these tips.

Help Your Furry Friend Heal

Osteomyelitis can have devastating impacts on your dog’s bones when left untreated. Informing yourself about this condition is a huge step forward in ensuring your dog’s health and overall well-being. It may take a while for your dog to heal from osteomyelitis, but you can help them steadily recover by consulting our vet and getting them the proper treatment. 

For more dog health advice and tips, visit the TPLOinfo blog.


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