Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a terribly painful disease affecting mostly puppies. The long bones of a puppy’s legs have what are called “growth plates”, which are responsible for the bone growing. In HOD the bones are fragile and fracture just above those growth plates, twisting, bowing, and excessively elongating as they heal. So puppies who are refusing to stand or whose joints are horribly swollen should be immediately x-rayed. As with most illnesses, the longer it goes untreated, the more deformity will occur. Below is an xray of the bowing and breakage of the bones.


There are two primary factors in HOD, which not all “experts” agree on, but are certainly on everyone’s concern list: diet and possible vaccine reactions. Diet, just as with hip dysplaysia, is a tricky business for giant dogs. The ratio of calcium to phosphorous, and the relative amount of protien and calories has little room for error with a dog that grows almost 3 feet in one year! And there is some evidence that Vitamin C supplementation can make it far worse (links below, and Feeding page to right). Prevention is the best cure!




Vaccine reactions in Danes has become enough of a problem that the Great Dane club of America has funded research into protocols used by veterinarians. Some 5200 cases have been evaluated, but it is highly probable that there are many more that have been misdiagnosed as nutritional HOD. Before you accept a diagnosis of nutritional HOD, have a blood test done to rule out septic infections, vaccine reactions, and other arthritic conditions. As an aside, some vets will skip the blood tests and go straight to antibiotics for treating the problem. Insist on the blood test, and be very careful about antibiotics–some will cause even more problems with Danes. Check it out at http://www.greatdanelady.com/articles/vaccine_reactions_in_great_danes.htm to find out which antibiotics to avoid.

HOD can be an almost cyclical disease, with periods of quiet between the flare ups. Sometimes the disease just never quits and can cause the most horrific of disabling deformities. Treatment is sometimes corticosteroids as anti-inflammatories and pain medicines, but the steroids are falling out of favor because of the viral or bacterial possible cause. And they have potentially severe side effects. My Taj had HOD (past loves page), and all the side effects of corticosteroids used to treat him. Recent research points to the effectiveness of antibiotics and whatever pain medicine is needed to give comfort.

As for my Taj, I couldn’t stand to see him suffer, and he was 23 months old when I put him to sleep. When he didn’t “snap out of it”, and all the steriods had done damage to the rest of his body, I knew it was cruel to keep him alive just so I could avoid the grief of his death. So don’t play games with HOD–your puppy is walking around on 4 broken legs and he cannot take himself to the vet.

Leave a comment


  1. carol lawton

     /  September 27, 2009

    i am writing in regards to my almost 6 month old puppy-born april 14—honey….9/26 we noticed she was having a hard time walking, very shaky on her legs and lethargic. she seems to have an enormous amount of pain in her leg joints, particularly her front legs above her knees. she will eat but must be coaxed to walk far enough to go to the bathroom outside, and other than that seems to be in extreme pain and has fallen when applying any pressure to her legs.. she has had all of her vaccinations, the last one 9/14. should i return to the same vet or go elsewhere and if it is an allergic reaction to the vaccinations, will she get better? does she absolutely need to have a blood test and are they extremely expensive? we own her mother and father and they have never had any problems such as this and her brothers and sisters are also well with the exception that 2 of them have cysts on their left shoulder where they had their shots– any advice would be greatly appreciated–i am just sick with worry and don’t know who to see or turn to for the proper diagnosis— thank you so much–carol lawton

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  9. Old Dane Owner

     /  May 16, 2011

    I am curious if anyone has long term information on Danes that have previously had HOD as puppies. We have an 11.5 yr old Dane that has remained under weight since having HOD as a puppy. Though she eats regularly and tests are negative for everything else, she is only 108 lbs. Curious to see if anyone else has encountered this.

    • Aubrey

       /  December 6, 2014

      How old was your puppy when she got it, mine was about 4 months, she’s ten now and runs and plays normal but has curved knees and it’s still 20-30 lbs underweight even though she eats alot

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  17. Crystal

     /  July 25, 2015

    I have a 7 month old Great Dane mix, he got diagnosed with HOD may 17th of 2015. He gots a king period of time doing fine and walking. Then randomly will not have the appetite to eat and his legs will swell up. Before I euthanize him is there any information someone with experience can give me, I. Desperate for any help. But if he keeps randomly going through these episodes I don’t want him to suffer or be in pain.

  18. Michael

     /  September 15, 2015

     My Dane was diagnosed with HOD just shy of sixteen weeks. His first attack lasted five days during which time he could not ambulate on his own. The vet administered two subcutaneous IVs in order to keep him hydrated. He began to recover, i.e. he was able to walk on his own and was improving. Five days later he suffered another attack. We sought a second opinion and took him to an orthopedic surgeon in Tacoma, WA. They performed a number of tests including radiographs of all of his limbs. It was classic HOD. He was given an anti-imflammatory and pain medication. The surgeon wanted him to have complete rest for a period of four weeks with the treatment above. He is now eighteen and a half weeks. Four days ago it attacked his hips and rear legs. He has relapsed to the point where he needs assistance outside to urinate and defecate. We are in the very fortunate position of being able to take time away from work to spend with him. He is on a very strict diet (Great Dane Lady) with nutritional supplements, etc. This is a very difficult experience for him. I feel for Crystal because I know exactly what you are going through. There are times where I see his eyes sparkle, ears perk up and tail wag and it gives me courage to stay the course with him. Other times when I hear him cry or whimper after he’s done his business I feel selfish for making him go through this this. My daughter is a dane owner and physician. We have scoured the internet for anything that can give us some solace on treatment path and best outcomes. There just isn’t much out there. Ive found that talking about it with others is theraputic for us. We’ve read success stories and are encouraged by those….but we are also realistic in the sense that we know he has a more serious case of HOD. If anyone needs anything – information, conversation or support please let me know. If there are any thoughts or things you’ve come across that have been successful please let me know. Thanks to the individual who started this page. It is very much appreciated.

    • Heather

       /  September 16, 2015

      I am having a difficult time with this disease. We bought our great dane when she was 7 weeks old. She was born 5/2/15. She is 4 1/2 months old. She was diagnosed with HOD 9/5/15. She was given Rimadyl and Tramadol. She got better. Then 9/11/15 She couldn’t walk and cried out constantly. Took her to the pet hospital and they did IV methadone, rimadyl, and tramadol. Gave her fluids under her skin. She got better. Would on eat if I mixed her food with canned food and bottle fed her water. Then yesterday she started to relapse. Not wanting to eat or drink. Collapsed when she got up. Called the hospital today and they are prescribing her a steroid and antacids. I’m terrified of what will happen if this doesn’t work. We lost out mastiff last Oct. I can’t go through another tragic death. She doesn’t want to eat or drink. I’m so upset. I can’t imagine how she feels. This is so unfair. I’ve changed her food to the lowest protein diet I could find. Any advice?? Heather

  19. Michael Morgan

     /  September 18, 2015


    Don’t lose hope. We are working through it with our Dane. Your pups symptoms and treatment are exactly what Max has gone through. It takes time, patience and love. He is going on three and a half weeks but based on our last vet visit he is on the downhill side. Every day we are getting a little bit of our Max back. I’d be happy to give you more of an in-depth overview of what we’ve learned and done to date. You can contact us directly at backcountryhigh@ gmail.com.

    Michael & Nicole
    Washington state

  20. Michael

     /  October 5, 2015

    Hi this is an update on our five month old Dane Max. We completed his four week rest with medicines period. The first three weeks were very difficult for him which in turn was the same for us. However we began to notice slight improvements in his attitude, personality, disposition and ultimately physical activity level during the last week. He began to retain his appetite, barked (for the first time in over a month), played and wagged his tail. His mobility improved. He began to exhibit signs of his independence. These were are great signs albiet we still approached the changes with caution and skepticism since we knew relapses were possible at any time.
    I wish I could say he was perfect as it relates to 100% recovery. In our eyes and hearts he still is, however he has physical issues that cannot be corrected without surgery. Further, he cannot lead a pain free life that he deserves unless surgery is done. Indeed it may be more than just one surgery; possibly two on his front legs and an additional one on his hocks.
    He went in for his four week check up this past Thursday. The doctor concurred on his improvements but counseled us on next steps to begin repairing his front legs. Specifically, she recommended removal of sections of bones in the ulna which would enable the radial (sp?) to continue to grow straight while also protecting the elbow against potential misalignment within the joint itself. We elected to have the surgery immediately given the circumstance. He was operated on this past Saturday and after spending a day in hospital he is home with us. It is now another four weeks of healing, puppy jail and love. While we know this is not a path everyone chooses to take for a variety of very good reasons it is the one we have chosen for ourselves. We are glad to share anything we have learned and experienced with whomever would like information on his path. Thanks again to all of those who have contributed to this blog. It has meant a lot to us.


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