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Osteochondrosis

By: Dr. Robert Parker

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize OC and exclude other diseases that may cause lameness in young dogs. Many times, the veterinarian will suspect OC based on signalment (age, sex and breed), history and clinical examination. In addition to obtaining a medical history and performing a thorough general physical examination, other tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

  • A thorough orthopedic examination. This usually shows lameness and joint pain or swelling.

  • Radiographs (X-rays) of the affected joint. These can illustrate the primary OC problem or show the secondary DJD that results from it.

  • Joint contrast studies (arthrogram). Occasionally injecting dye into the joint and taking a radiograph may be helpful in establishing a definitive diagnosis of OC.

  • Blood tests. These can be done to determine your pet's general health, particularly if surgery is being considered. They are also done to assess the risks to your pet in undergoing anesthesia.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT).
    These are specialized tests that are sometimes performed at large referral centers.

    Treatment

    Treatment for OC may include the following:

  • Surgical treatment is usually recommended for dogs suffering from OC, but the exact type of surgery performed depends on the joint involved.

  • The goal of the surgical procedure is to remove any loose pieces of cartilage from the joint surface and curette (scrape) the cartilage defect to stimulate filling of the defect.

  • In the elbow joint, fragmented coronoid process (FCP) and ununited anconeal process (UAP) are reported to be manifestations of OC. Fragmented coronoid process is a very frequent cause of foreleg lameness and surgical removal of the loose process is recommended.

  • At some centers, arthroscopic surgery is used to treat lameness associated with OC.

  • Chondroprotective nutraceutical agents such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine (Cosequin®) are probably beneficial, especially during the time of cartilage healing.

    Home Care and Prevention

    After your pet has joint surgery, you will need to limit exercise for three to four weeks after surgery. Follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding physical therapy and medications.

    Since many of these animals have experienced rapid growth, some veterinarians feel that feeding lower protein diets without supplements may be helpful in decreasing the incidence of the disease. Discuss this issue with your veterinarian.

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