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Osteochondrosis

By: Dr. Robert Parker

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Osteochondrosis (OC) is an important developmental orthopedic disease in young, large-breed dogs. It is considered to be a clinical problem of the same magnitude as hip dysplasia.

Cartilage is the tissue, normally at the ends of long bones, which contributes to pain-free motion. OC is a congenital defect in normal joint cartilage development that results in either a loose piece or flap of cartilage. This loose piece or flap of cartilage causes secondary joint osteoarthritis.

Secondary arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) is very different from the primary arthritis that occurs in humans. The dog's body recognizes the cartilage flap as abnormal and this induces the secondary arthritis. These problems generally occur early in the dog's life, as opposed to the "wear and tear" arthritis that people manifest later in life.

The joints involved with OC in dogs (from most common to least common) are:

  • Elbow
  • Shoulder
  • Stifle (knee)
  • Hock (rear leg, beneath the stifle)

    The amount of secondary DJD present when the OC condition is diagnosed is "there to stay"; however, most surgeons feel that if the condition is dealt with in a timely manner, further development of DJD could be lessened.

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