Merck Manual

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Disorders of Bone


Stephen B. Adams

, DVM, MS, DACVS, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University

Last full review/revision Oct 2014 | Content last modified Nov 2014

Bone diseases are generally congenital or hereditary, nutritional, or traumatic. Congenital disorders include in utero malformations and atavisms, such as polydactyly or persistent ulnae or fibulae in foals; examples of genetic defects are atlanto-occipital malformations in Arabian horses or certain cases of spinal ataxia (see Large Animals), canine hip dysplasia, and abnormal bone formation such as that caused by parathyroid hypoplasia.

Bone defects due to nutrition are caused primarily by imbalances or deficiencies in minerals, particularly the trace minerals such as copper, zinc, and magnesium. Calcium and phosphorus concentrations must also be present in the correct ratio. Osteomalacia represents the classic example of imbalanced or deficient calcium and phosphorus intake. Other nutritional disorders are caused by excessive protein intake of growing animals. Either deficiency or excess intake of certain vitamins, particularly vitamins A and D, may influence growth and development of bone. Aseptic physitis or special osteochondrotic conditions of the physes may be caused by zinc toxicity or copper deficiency.

Traumatic causes of bone disorders represent the vast majority of cases and include fractures, fissures, periosteal reactions as a result of trauma, sequestrum formation, and insertion desmopathies or tendinopathies, respectively. Lack of weight bearing, lameness, reduced motion, instability, pain, heat, or swelling usually accompany these disorders.

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